Hot Koehls

The more you know, the more you don’t know

This content is a little crusty, having been with me through 3 separate platform changes. Formatting may be rough, and I am slightly less stupid today than when I wrote it.
23 Jan 2009

How to not suck at Left 4 Dead

When I’m not coding, I’m gaming. Pretty standard formula. My latest gaming indulgence is Valve’s Left 4 Dead, offering the most original take on the first person shooter formula that I’ve ever seen (and I play a LOT of FPS). Okay, 30-second summary. L4D sets itself apart through its 4-man survivor team mechanic. Whether you play cooperatively or versus, you and 3 buddies have to navigate a level chock full of zombies. How many zombies? Your pistol has unlimited ammo, if that helps put things in perspective. While you’ll enjoy a surplus of zombies to shoot, you’ll simultaneously suffer from a strong lack of health. Maps will usually have 4-8 health packs, but each person can only carry one at a time. When — not if — you run out of health, you don’t die right away, but become incapacitated, lying on the ground with only your pistol. Your health slowly ticks down until it runs out, or a teammate picks you back up. Fall three times and your done. Finally the big kicker: friendly fire is not a selectable option, it is always on. The fastest way to failure is through the back of your teammates, so you must watch where you run and shoot. Suffice it to say, it’s new, different, and I love it. With a little practice I quickly learned to check my fire, leave no man behind, and keep an eye behind for flanking hordes or player-controlled zombies when playing versus. Unfortunately, I seem to be in a very select group of players who have grasped the best tactics for these mechanics. I’ve never seen such extended suckiness in a multiplayer game. We’re well past the window of general introduction, and I’m still finding n00bish behavior to be the norm (I play L4D on PC, jackass console gamers are almost a rule). Co-op campaigns going horribly awry when someone runs way ahead, lags way behind, or empties half a clip into a teammate. Outclassed versus matches where survivors don’t make it 30 feet, or zombies that don’t scratch said survivors. I try to instruct the unenlightened, but alas, he’s been killed by the tank, or wiped out by survivors after running headlong out in the open as a boomer. It’s so bad that I now start each map with the same phrase: “Stick together, keep moving, focus on the tanks.” Here’s some more detail on what I’m trying to convey. Be sure to pass the information along to any rage-quitting ass-clowns you may encounter… Stick Together

Can’t over-emphasize this one. All zombie classes have an incapacitation ability: general horde impede your movement, which can get bad when you’re hit by boomer puke; hunters and smokers both eliminate your ability to do anything. The solution is obvious: you count on your teammates to rescue you…which is really tough when you’re halfway across the map! Your teammates should always be 1 turn away or less. Don’t go off on your own. Ever. Clear enough? Keep Moving

Running behind is just as bad as running ahead. Aside from slowing everyone down (boring!), you also run the risk of incurring the random horde. If your team lingers for too long without advancing in the map, the game penalizes you with an automatic and unscheduled horde assault. Special zombies also pop randomly from behind when you stall. Campaigns are often slow and steady, but keep emphasis on the “steady.” Keep Moving FASTER

After applying the previous rule in campaign mode, double triple it in versus. Your team scores points in versus based on how far you make it through an individual area. Even if your team dies, you still gets points for distance. In addition, your zombie opponents can maximize their damage when they have time to set up coordinated ambushes (e.g. hunter-hunter-smoker-boomer). It’s much more difficult to cause damage when they’re chasing a track team. Don’t scour every room and kill every zombie. Take the shortest, fastest route, and never, ever stop! “Everyone on the tank!"

I say it every time I encounter one. When a tank shows up, everyone has to unload on it. At once. Until it’s dead. No exceptions. If you are not shooting the tank, you are passively contributing to your team’s imminent demise. All other targets are secondary, including special zombies. The “stick together” rule works fantastically here, because you’ll kill the tank really fast — I’ve seen him go down in versus in less than 30 seconds — and cover each other from special zombies. Shape up, L4D n00bs. I’m begging you. It feels like an endless suckfest far too often. Win or lose, I just want a good game!

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