FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 1, 2009

zombies and more zombies

A little while back when I was ruminating on recent horror-flavored video games, I mentioned Left 4 Dead and how I dig it. Well, thanks to the repulsive, disgusting consumerfest known as Black Friday I scored a copy of the recently-released sequel (cleverly titled Left 4 Dead 2) for but a pittance. Hooray, more zombie-blasting action!

In Left 4 Dead 2, players assume the persona of a survivor making their way through zombie-infested hordes in search of rescue, stopping in safe rooms across the way. While this is essentially the same idea as the original L4D, the gameplay has been tweaked and ratcheted up to new levels of insanity.

First and foremost comes the addition of melee weapons. In addition to blasting away the undead with shotguns and pistols, you can now hack 'em up with axes and machetes, or whack 'em with a frying pan (which results in a rather satisfying "gonnnggg" sound), or mow 'em down with a chainsaw. It's visceral and immediate and really, really gross- holy moly, the grue flies in this game. The screen is splattered with blood, zombie entrails leave trails on the ground, and body parts are everywhere; the gore, in fact, is so prevalent that the game has been banned in Australia.

These are new era zombies, the kind that run straight for your face faster than the wind and/or Flo Jo...and there are just so many of them, they never seem to stop coming at you. Several times I've cautiously stepped out of a safe room only to be set upon by a mass of the undead gunning for me. The difficulty level, it seems, has been ramped up a bit in L4D2, and I'm not complaining- it's total madness.

Both the sequel and the original game feature intermittent "crescendo events", wherein players are forced to make enough noise to attract the horde. For example, you've got to open an alarmed door to proceed, and the blaring sound will infuriate the hundreds of zombies in the surrounding area. In the original game, the sound would eventually stop on its own; now, however, you've got to figure out a way to stop the noise yourself. You know, open a door and fight your way through a store (and masses of the undead) to reach the alarm's off button. It's a welcome addition that adds incredible tension- and frequently has me running out of ammo.

In addition to your run of the mill rotters, L4D2 features "special infected"- sort of uber-zombies who have abilities above and beyond running fast and biting hard. All the special infected from the first game return- the Boomer is back to puke more undead-attracting bile on you- but there's a whole new batch of them to avoid as well.

Story has never been a hallmark of Left 4 Dead- it's all action, and the plot is boiled down to the simplest "the world is fucked, let's get out of here!" terms. That's much the same here, although the 5 scenarios ("campaigns") are loosely intertwined and somewhat sequential; at the end of one, for example, players drive off in a the start of the next campaign, they're forced to abandon the car when the highway becomes impassable. The setting (Louisiana, from the bayous to New Orleans) is on a larger scale than that in the first game, and you truly feel as if you're making your way across the land in search of help. Along the way are abandoned evac sites and refugee stations, and it quickly becomes obvious that the government agency dealing with the zombie outbreak ("CEDA") has, for one reason or another, failed the local population. Hints of Hurricane Katrina can't be ignored, and it's easy to surmise that yeah, this is probably the way shit would go down if this ever happened....which, who knows? Walls covered with graffiti claiming that "THIS IS NOT A FLU!" have turned my horror-loving brain to thoughts of the media's incessant, alarmist swine flu coverage.

I hope it is just a flu, of course, because if my Left 4 Dead 2 skills are any indication, I'll be royally screwed if there's a zombie outbreak. I'm always getting puked on by the Boomer, or pummeled by the Charger...I'm always accidentally shooting my teammates and running out of ammo. Of course, if there was a zombie outbreak, I wouldn't know about it for days because I'd be inside playing video games.

Speaking of which, my fellow nerds, I'm finally on Xbox Live- see my badge over yonder to the right and add me or whatever it is you kids do there. I don't know why my rep is anything less than stellar- I've yet to actually interact with anybody, and quite frankly I'd give myself 5 stars, whether I accidentally shoot my teammates or not.


Koompa said...

I've always wanted to try Left 4 Dead but my gaming budget has suffered greatly the past year or so. Maybe now that the sequel is out I can find the original for cheap.

Unfortunately I don't have a Live account. I never really got into that online stuff. I'd much rather play with my buddies in the same room, where the threat of immediate violence deters any cheating/trash-talk.

Stacie Ponder said...

I'm with ya on the online gaming thing. I got Xbox Live, really, so I could download extra content. DLC is becoming the norm with games, it seems.

None of my local friends are gamers, really...or they're PC players. So, online will do once in a while, although I'd rather just do it with people who are familiar, at least. I doubt I'll jump into matches with people I don't know...that seems weird for some reason.

Verdant Earl said...

Is there an option to play all by one's lonesome?

I like the old single-player games, but it seems like most of the new stuff is multi-player and often online. Blech to that.

Anonymous said...

I added you...but your score is more impressive than mine. :)

I haven't played online for awhile...Left for Dead has had me intrigued... I want it, but I wonder if it will freak me out to much... But I don't have a lot of friends who are gamers either...

Stacie Ponder said...

There is a single player option- that's all I've ever done, and I find it highly entertaining. Online, though, I guess you get to play as one of the special infected, which sounds rad.

I'm not much for the multiplayer, but maybe I'm just saying that because I haven't really done it. I've never played Call of Duty, and any Halo I've done has been the 1-player campaign. I dig story-based games the most (for lack of a better word)- not so much simply playing to blow people away...and fighting games don't interest me at all.

Andrew said...

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are incredible. I just picked up part 2 lat week and am deeply resenting my girlfriend for not giving me the 2 hours or so each night that I need to complete every level.

Lots of fun!

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean...I rarely use the online multi-player option...I just like knowing I have that option. :)

I'm somewhere in the middle. I love Crackdown because I get to just blow crap up. And if I spend more time watching the story than playing the game I get impatient. One of the things that drives me nuts with Dead Rising is every time I put the game in, I am at square one, even though I saved my progress the last time I played. It's a blast otherwise...which is why I am thinking I might really dig Left 4 Dead. I like killing me some zombies...even though in real life, I am the guy standing on the street saying, "Hey, what are those gu-AAARG!!! Gurgle..." at the beginning of a zombie story.

Mik said...

Game looks cool have to check it out, haven't played a video game in a while.

spazmo said...

Dang. By the time I get around to shelling out the cash for a PS3 or an X-Box 360, all the games I've been dying to play will be considered antiques.

I still love reading your game reviews, though. It would be cool if you uploaded some gaming videos, where you film your screen as you play, and we could listen to your comments/cursing/startled shrieks.

Did you ever get into the Fatal Frame series? Meeting the Crawling Woman in her little crawlspace under the Manor of Sleep for the first time will test anyone's bladder-control abilities.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of purchasing an Xbox just so I can play this.

Stacie Ponder said...

It's a great game for the casual gamer- there's no huge story to get wrapped up in. Each campaign takes around an hour, but you can choose to play just a segment of each, if you want. It's all pick up and play.

I have played Fatal Frame- I'm slowly working my way through the 3rd game right now. Really creepy stuff!

I love the gaming videos, I must say, I'm at my most creative with regards to profanity when I'm playing! :D

Dee said...

I added you!

I love L4D but I agree that online matches with strangers can be a hassle if not downright infuriating. Still, not to play L4D as the infected is not to play L4D. Getting a crew together is almost a must, but once you do, everything's golden.