Left 4 Dead (2008)

Left 4 Dead is a better game than I expected. Shortly after it originally came out, I co-op’d the first stage of the first campaign. The game had a heavy feel of the Flood from Halo. And, quick frankly, the flood stages in Halo are always the worst, so I got a sour first impression.

Now, a year later I have finally got an opportunity to play the game in earnest. And, I have to say it was pretty fun. Wes and I started playing yesterday. And, we got off to a bit of a rough start. The rooftop of the first campaign was particularly brutal. I don’t even know how many times we replayed that rooftop.

Eventually one of Wes’ friends, Ryan, came on, and after several more attempts we were successful…sort of. Wes got himself killed, and Ryan sacrificed himself so I could get to the copper. Good times.

My brother joined in for the next area, Dead Air. And, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the game is amazing with four people. We had a great moments, particularly when Wes was off the comm. It was a part where we needed to turn on a van to break down a barricade. This triggered a huge horde flood. The three of us on the comm coordinated into a closet so we handled the flood without incident. Wes however, was left out and the open. The zombies picked his bones clean in seconds.

Today we finished up the other two areas. And, I think I actually liked them a bit more than the ones we played yesterday. However, they were rather similar. I liked how they were a bit more open. The hospital and the airport consist of primarily enclosed areas. Vanberge joined in the carnage so we were able to get another four player slaughterfest going. Highlights included Jason and Wes going toe to toe with a tank and getting obliterated.

Since I am not sure when Left 4 Dead 2 is going to come from Amazon, I think that I am going to purchase the DLC to check out the other areas.

Based on the past two days of game play, I am going to give the game a 2 (above average) on the undecim rating scale.

Halo 3: ODST

Let me begin this by stating, this game has an awful title. The original working title “Recon” was considerably better. Just throwing together a bunch of random letters is not particularly helpful. I can understand if they did not want it to be confused with Halo Reach, which is supposed to come out some time next year. However, they could have just as easily gone with something simple, like “Shock” or “Trooper,” but whatever I guess.

Last week I managed to procure this game. Sadly, I had to put it on a credit card since I am too broke at the moment to be able to pay for it in cash. Hurray for interest. Sadly, since my purchase was delayed, I missed a marathon session with vanberge, and vanlandw (who wussed out and played on Heroic). Luckily, vanlandw was up for a second play through so I was able to obliterate the campaign on legendary with him and my brother, Jason. Good times.

The game itself is basically halo 3, but a little suckier. There is HUD system that obscures a lot of screen, and sucks on split screen. Additionally, they decided to put health back in to the game. So, it effectively works a lot like the original halo, where you have a “shield” and health. I have to say that the past two games have made me a bit soft, because it sucks to have to find health packs again. There are a few quirks in the system as well, for example, if you pick up a turret it makes you run faster, whoops.

When we started there were some serious lag issues. For the first couple of levels the game was lagging so much it was barely playable. However, during this time vanlandw was experiencing smooth game play, so I assume my degraded performance was due to caching data to the hard drive or something. Anyhow, after a few levels everything started working smoothly.

The campaign was pretty fun, not as good as Halo 3, but better than Halo 2. I hate the flashback aspect of it it though. And, the story is not particularly interesting, especially if you listen to the audio clips. The whole “save the girl” storyline…give me a break. The campaign was effectively short though, as the three of us were able to beat it on legendary in under five hours. And, there are not really any tough choke points like there are in Halo 3.

Firefight kind of sucks. It is not fun to solo, period. And, while you can play with friends, there is no matchmaking so if none of your friends on online you’re by yourself. Also, the skull handling is pretty annoying. I would really like to have more control over it. I tend to prefer things that are set so you know specifically what is required of you. This constantly changing the terms of battle only deters from the experience. Even if all they had was a way to “buy” disabling of a skull with points kind of like you do in Cal of Duty: World at War in Zombie mode.

Most of the achievements in the game are pretty easy to get, in fact you get about half of them just by playing through the campaign. However, there are some tough ones, particularly the vidmaster challenges. I am not sure about the fightfight achievements. I haven’t been able to get four people together to play it, and so far the best I’ve done with a group is 120,000, and that took quite a while to get.

I am not exactly sure why, but I think the game designers took a page out of the Gears of War book with the way things are setup. The level designs are much more muted than what I’m used to in Halo. And the “visor mode” just washes things out worse.

Basically, I’d say the game was fun, but not great. I would recommend it to every Halo fan. However, I think that most casual gamers would not get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I’m giving the game a 3 on my undecim rating system.

Final Fantasy X, One Post Wasn’t Enough

It would seem that I was not detailed in my last post about FFX, vanlandw pointed out a couple of critical areas I missed. So, I have decided to do a follow up post.

Exciting World of Micromanaged Combat

There is a huge problem with the combat in FFX. Characters can only get experience if they are actively involved in combat. For example, if you had three people in your party and only one person killed the enemy that person would be the only one to get experience. Your other team members would be left with nothing. This violates a convention that RPG gamers have gotten used to over the years. That standard is everyone in a party splits experience regardless of what they did during the battle.

While this new system may be innovative, and slightly more realistic is makes battles a pain in the ass and utterly tedious. This is because you have to swap out party members during battle so they can do something. This requires constant juggling of characters and a lot more micromanagement that I’d like to think about while grinding. My preferred method is what was used in FF7: everyone in the party gets full experience, and everyone not in the party gets half experience.

Wretched Crystal Room

I do not even know what you would call this area, but people who have played the game will know what I am talking about. Within Sin there is a room you have to run around and collect gems that appear, and disappear (usually just before you get to them). While you are running around trying to collect the gems before they fade away there are crystal shards that jut up from the ground at random. Normally, this isn’t that big of an issue, but the way it is setup is just sadistic. You spend almost the entire time running blind across the circular area trying to find the gems, because the camera is facing your character so you cannot see where you are running. I can only assume the game designers did this to be dicks, and to increase your chances of running into shards.

If you hit one of these shards you are instantly propelled into battle. And, these battles are nothing to laugh at. Most of them just force you to spend precious items you have collected. But, one in particular is just sadistic. The Great Malboro is an insidious creature that has a special attack called “bad breath.” This horrible ability utterly screwed my team, as it inflicts various status ailments, including some kind of confusion. The result was that it could slowly pick away at my characters while they slaughtered each other, and all I could was watch.

Sadly, I had never encountered anything like it in the game up to that point. As a result, I was not at all equipped to face it. Luckily, I happened to have a return sphere so I was able to add first strike to one of Auron’s weapons. I charged his overdrive and held it until I fought the creature. I was pretty strong when I faced it, so that over drive was usually enough to get it before it could get me. Ugh, I still get furious just thinking about it.

Moonflow

Be careful what you name things. I have read several books that use the term “moonflow” to refer to menstruation. Unfortunately this made much of this sequence of the game quite disturbing, and / or just gross. The thought of moonflow glowing is just wrong. And, riding a creature the lives off of organisms in the moonflow, ugh. The stories about Yuna repeatedly jumping into the moonflow as a child…and then, when Tidus and Wakka just jump into the moonflow…the thought of that battle still makes me feel dirty.

Although this should be an unwritten rule, it is an important one: do not name things after menstruation.