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Left 4 Dead 2 Demo Impressions

Screams of putrid lucidity that mesh together in the air to form the grating physical manifestation of barbarism itself. People turn on each other, each more narrow minded than their counterpart, savagely scrawling their hatred upon whatever they can find. A thick, pungent air of fear and ignorance cloak the Earth like a fog. Radiated men eat the flesh of radiated men, and there is the most beautiful silence, never to be heard. That's right, I'm talking about the reaction to the days, hours of waiting for Valve to release the Left 4 Dead 2 demo. (I ripped off Bukowski! Im uh riter!)

Was it really that bad people? I can't recall the exact day it was supposed to be out, but I'll give a generous guess of Tuesday, or rather, October 27th. Here we are 2 days later, and we have what we waited so long for. 48 hours. Jesus Christ. What were they doing all that time? Probably last minute server correction or playtesting that ran late, which is actually a good thing...why are we bitching about this again? As if bitching about waiting 48 hours to play a 45 minute demo of a game that's coming out in another 3 weeks anyways, now we have PC Elitists writhing in pain over the fact that Xbox 360 users got the demo first and for free. Holy shit, someone start a crusade, cause God forbid inferiors get to do things mere hours before we do! Isn't this how wars racial cleansing gets started?

For Christ sakes, why is Left 4 Dead 2 itself the least talked about thing on the topic of Left 4 Dead 2. First you have idiots that want to boycott it because...it's too similar? They might stop supporting Left 4 Dead? It's a full retail priced "Expansion Pack"? Whatever the argument, they're all bullshit. Think it's too soon for it to come out? Tell that to people that have been waiting 2 arduously dry years for even the slightest inkling of information on Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Boycotters: go back into your hole. PC Elitists: don't be so petty (As if the fact that you had any interest in the game before release you wouldn't have pre-ordered it anyways). Bitching about delays: It's called patience, virtue, etc. On with the show.

Now that it's finally out (Longest two days of my life! I've never had to wait for things before!), we can talk about our first impressions of Left 4 Dead 2 from the side of regular joes. What do I have to say about it? Well, my word on anything isn't necessarily going to tip anyone's hand or drive mobs to go buy the game, so who gives a fuck. But, for what it's worth, here's a little preface on the subject of where I'm coming from on this thing; I love Left 4 Dead. It's a game that has to balance being a First-Person Shooter, an increasingly overpopulated and increasingly stale genre, and being a Zombie property, an equally increasingly over overpopulated and increasingly (exponentially I might add, hold Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland) stale genre, and it pulls it off better than any other game has to date.

If you're unfamiliar with the story of Left 4 Dead, join the club; no one knows what's going on, where it's taking place specifically, who these people are, how any of this began, or how it may end. And you know what? Good. In fact, I'm willing to say, as far as I'm concerned,Left 4 Dead may be one of the first games to completely rely upon non-linear characterization to tell a story, and it does it well. You see, a story is only as interesting as the people in it and what they have to say, and in this regard, the characters of Left 4 Dead are stunningly realized, Three Dimensional people that you genuinely care about and like.

Now, lots of people will cry fowl when I say Left 4 Dead has a good story, but what they consider story, I consider filler. You don't need cutscenes, dialogue boxes, conversations trees, or any other thing to tell a story; all you need is a few people talking like real people in revelatory banter that doesn't sound like revelatory banter and a rich, textured setting, and Left 4 Dead has these things. Everything is darkly ambiguous, with no knowledge of where the zombies came from or where the survivors are going to go, much like the survivors themselves; you are trapped alongside these poor souls as they try and light up the dread with some fun conversations or reveal what they feel with smartly-written and perfectly delivered dialogue. Yeah, I like this game.

I tell you all of this because Left 4 Dead 2, from my first impressions, retains basically everything I just ejaculating all over mostly. It's too early to tell for right now, but basically most in-game chatter has been cut down a bit, save Ellis revealing something about his friend Kieth in the first saferoom, which I won't spoil here. The writing on the wall is still here; not as good as the masterful Crash Course campaign of the original, but still good, funny, revealing stuff. As for the characters, the most important element of Left 4 Dead's anti-narrative, they fit right in.

It seems Valve took particular care to make every character for Left 4 Dead 2 almost nothing like the previous brilliant characters, meaning there is no bullshit. These people are completely different and very interesting, and I'm dying to find more out about them. In fact, the place where you learn most things about them is between the lines of whats provided; it's the little things. Ellis is always getting into trouble in the intro movie, Rochelle pushes the pistol off of the map shes reading; things like this show us who these people are better than any dialogue can. Rochelle pushes the pistol off instead of holstering it because shes a rational thinker; get a plan, then action, much the opposite of Ellis. Nick and Coach are equally fleshed out, but I need to get to the game part of this game, but suffice it to say these people are likable, relatable, real people that are dying for more time in the full game.

How does Left 4 Dead 2 play? Well, in fact, extremely well. It seems that since the release of the last game, Valve has tightened things up a significant bit. Big things first, there are the new special infected, who are awesome. The Jockey is the most instantly noticeable, as he will no doubt be on your head within minutes of the demo. All of the new special infected add something to Left 4 Dead 2 that really makes a motif of weight noticeable; stakes. Now, with uncommon infected like the armor-clad riot zombies that must be shot in the back, which is easier said than done during a horde, and three new special infected along with the old, ever-present three, as well as walking witches and deadly tanks, every corner is treated as a challenge. Sticking together is more important than ever before, and it works.

Continuing what I stated earlier, there is a gameplay motif of weight that I'm sensing personally, and while probably not strictly intentional on the part of Valve, I sense lots of things that add weight to the experience. There is the added stakes of a ton more enemies, but there is also the new weapons as well. Melee weapons are extremely satisfying and visceral, even if a bit archaic, but more than that, guns pack a much more noticeable punch, and this is due in part to two things; added power and new enemy reactions. The guns, while new and pretty and fun to use, are also very different then before; sure they're basically the same style weapons, but they're all feel much more powerful, with the SCAR in particular being a semi-automatic kick in the chest to undead bastards.

Also, like I said before, enemies react differently than before; not in the way the move, that's basically unchanged, but it's all in the new level of violence. Now, in most games, this means nothing, but zombies offer something that most enemies don't: fragility. These things, now three weeks into the infection, are falling apart. They'll rip you to shreds in seconds, but a shotgun blast to the stomach will create a satisfyingly large hole in the chest filled with viscera, gore, and bone that will make an Aussie burn their national flag. Blowing off limbs and the subsequent recoil is such a terrific indicator that the gun your using is a gun, not a plastic imaginary toy that goes "bang"; this is a bullet-spitting, zombie-gibbing son of a bitch machine, and it feels good.

Added to this continuing motif is the movement of you and the undead, which seems much different. For one, the undead seem a bit slower than in the first game, and much in the same way, you do as well. This isn't problematic in any way, as much of the design of the campaign is based upon tight corridors and rooms that chute you through the campaign at a brisk, intense pace, with only a few sprawling moments that feel all the more large in comparison. What it comes down to, is that while small and hardly noticeable, Valve may have adjusted the movement, but in a way that improves upon Left 4 Dead, which could sometimes feel a bit floaty when the momentum of your character seems a bit odd. It's idiosyncratic for series to say the least.

There are lots of things about the map itself that I want to talk about, but I'm not going to spoil it for you here. Suffice it to say, this is one of the best-designed maps that the series has offered to date, with an incredibly intense crescendo event that raises the stakes of the campaign in a way that is unlike any other before it, including Crash Course. The levels are well-designed, well-populated with zombies, and weapon pick-ups aren't limited to "find all three second tier on one desk"; instead, you can find any random amount of any tier weapon lying around, including melee weapons, which include police batons, machetes, frying pans/skillets, and even a Gibson SG.

Well, before this post gets too long (like every other one of my blogs), let me just say, this is the game we've been waiting for, distilled into two brisk, adrenaline-fueled stages that highlight most of the new aspects of the game to come. It's still far from what we're getting on November 17th, but it's enough to bet that Left 4 Dead 2 may just surpass it's predecessor in many ways; go and check it out if you have any interest in good games period. Also, this applies to Left 4 Dead as a whole, play it with friends. Not public people you'll never talk to over the mic; play it with people you know, friends in real life or over the internet, but playing with real buds is what really makes the experience, because when you're shooting a Jockey that is riding your screaming friend like a Coin-operated mall machine, it's euphorically fun.
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About Canti-samaone of us since 9:47 PM on 08.03.2009

Hello, I'm Trevor Johnson, also known as Canti-sama. I like to write about things including videogames (that should be paramountly obvious at this point...) music, film, and anime, so what you see in this blog is just one part of my pretentiousness! I'm a nit-picky bitch when it comes to basically everything, so excuse me if I seem like kind of an elitist, even though I try not to be. If I had to sum up who I am, I would do it through top 5 lists, so how about we a do a few right now! But before that, since DTOID tends to remove frontpage posts from my c-blog, here's the list of my frontpages, which I thank everyone very much for!

Frontpage Posts:
1. Monthly Musing - I suck At Videogames: Nostalgia's Curse, 8/12/09
2. Promoted Story - Suda 51 and the "Art" of Videogames, 9/6/09
3. Monthly Musing - Nothing is Sacred: Videogames, 10/7/09


Top 5 Favorite Videogames:
5. Fallout 3, PC
4. Mega Man X, SNES
3. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, PS2
2. Braid, PC
1. Shadow of the Colossus, PS2

Top 5 Favorite Albums:
5. Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm a Machine, 2004
4. Radiohead - O.K. Computer, 1997
3. Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92, 1992
2. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam, 2007
1. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation, 1988

Top 5 Films:
5. Brazil, Directed by Terry Gilliam
4. Fargo, Directed by Joel Coen
3. Fight Club, Directed by David Fincher
2. Shaun of the Dead, Directed by Edgar Wright
1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Directed by Sergio Leone

Top 5 Anime Productions:
5. Spirited Away, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
4. The Big O, Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama
3. Cowboy Bebop, Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Directed by Hideko Anno
1. Fooly Cooly, Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki

Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks
PSN Name: MetalLink1979
Wii Friend Code - 8089-7286-5497-4717
XBL - Metal Link 904 (Note: My Xbox 360 is in possession of my brother, so this is no longer technically my XBL Tag)
Xbox LIVE:Metal Link 904
Steam ID:MetalLink1979
Mii code:8089-7286-5497-4717


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