A Date with Zombies

January 13, 2009

I do take breaks from WAR every once in a while.  Few and far between as those breaks may be, I think it’s good to get a little variety.  With that in mind, I and two of my WAR buddies set a date last night with the undead. 

The three of us had picked up Left 4 Deadvia Steam over the Christmas break, but only cracked it open a couple brief times, mainly due to focusing on our WAR duties.  So we planned ahead, decided to lay off the MMOs for a night, and fired up the zombie shooter. 

For those that may not know, L4D is a co-op shooter released by Valve in which four teammates face off against wave after wave of zombies.  Fast zombies – think 28 Days Later style.  There are 4 campaigns, each of which are broken into 5 stages.  The stages are separated by safe houses, where players get to heal up and reload.

If I had one word to describe L4D, that word would be “intense”.  A couple minutes into the game you are facing your first wave of zombies, pouring out of every imaginable space in the environment.  It really makes you feel like you’re in a zombie movie.  The zombies are everywhere, and they’re relentless.  Boss zombies (five different types) are interspersed throughout the world and provide some much-needed variety compared to the drone zombies.  The lulls in the action (besides the safe houses, which double as loading areas), while few and short-lived, provide a nice contrast to the balls-to-the-wall franticness (is that a word?) of the game.

L4D is a co-op game.  Do not play this game by yourself, it’s not the same.  (Luckily Valve has implemented a matchmaking system for this game, which is nice for those of us that do not like to mess with selecting a server.)  The fun of the game has nothing to do with how good a shooter it is, even though it seems passable enough (coming from a non-FPS guy).  The fun is in the interaction with your teammates.  You’ll quickly grow accustomed to hearing someone call out “Boomer” when one of the fat, vomiting boss zombies wades onto the screen.  You’ll hear them scream for help when pinned by the horde, or thank them when they come to your rescue by pushing a Hunter off of you and reviving you to fight again. 

It’s amazing the camaraderie the game builds, even with people you haven’t even met before.  By the end of one of the scenarios (which typically take a bit around an hour, maybe a little over depending on skill level), you have formed a bond with your teammates, whether you knew them before or not.  In all likelihood, you’ve bandaged, revived, rescued, and protected each other countless times.  Actually that’s not true – it was counted.  Just check out the end game “credits” that roll by, showing all the statistics you could want in a movie-style credit roll, dedicated to the characters that did not make it, of course. 

We had a great time with the game.  Time will tell whether we keep coming back to it.  One nice feature is that the so-called “Director” AI manages to randomize the zombie movement for every playthrough, so you’ll never play a level exactly the same way twice.  That said, the best parts of the levels are generally the big showdown moments, culminating in the final stand right before rescue at the end.  The “wow” factor wears off a bit from those moments on multiple playthroughs.  It’s still fun, but running through the cornfield and holing up in the farmhouse in Blood Harvest is never going to be as atmospheric as it was the first time through. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: it’s a great game, and I’ll keep playing it, but the replayability is not infinite.  It’s not tearing me away from WAR any time soon, but it is certainly a nice distraction.


Back to life, back to reality

January 5, 2009

It’s not everyday I get to slip a Soul II Soul reference in there, right?

At any rate, my holiday vacation is now unfortunately at an end.  And what a 2 weeks it was.  Lots of time with friends and family, including some great gaming experiences.  It’s back to real life for me – time to get back in the groove of the job and to try and get over my impending WAR withdrawal.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve made a significant amount of progress on my Archmage main (now at level 35.5) as well as my Bright Wizard alt (lvl 13).  Lots of surprisingly good T4 questing along with a decent amount of ORvR.  As I mentioned earlier, I picked up my first warded gear (3 parts of the Annihilator set), and once I hit level 36/RR33 I’ll be able to actually wear it.  I also managed to get two real-life friends hooked on WAR, which has only deepened my enjoyment and fed my desire to play.

Along with a pretty absurd amount of WAR time, I got to dive in to Left 4 Dead and blast some zombies, which was incredibly fun.  It’s definitely a nice change of pace coming from an MMO to a frantic co-op shooter.  I also did a bit of Red Alert 3 online, but I think I’m to the point now where I’m just getting owned all the time and it’s not fun anymore.  I’ll probably give that one a rest until I can recruit some friends to join me to finish the campaign.  Rock Band 2 was a hit with the family, as usual, and my wife found out she’s a pretty good drummer.  And I saw just the tip of the iceberg on what promises to be a nice little JRPG in Lost Odyssey – I just hope I can give it the time it appears to deserve.

All in all, it was one of the more relaxing vacations I’ve had in years.  Although my pace in WAR will undoubtedly slow down now that I’m back at work, I’ve gotten a good chunk of the 30’s out of the way.  I think I’ll be able to relax through the last 4 levels without putting too much pressure on myself (especially if they keep that XP bonus – HINT).  I’m going to try and spread my gaming time between a variety of games, with WAR always being at the forefront.  I can honestly say I’m having a great time with Warhammer right now, and I think the future looks very bright as I march on to 40.

Back and (possibly) better than ever

December 30, 2008

I realize I haven’t been posting too much lately, which was mainly due to the Christmas holiday.  Well folks, that is all about to change, as I am back and better than ever – and ready to provide you with plenty of unsupported opinions and pseudo-news.

Despite my absence from this space, and from my home in general for a three-day span, I have been doing a decent amount of gaming over the past week or so.  I’ll use this post as a quick update and get into more depth later on the specific topics.  Here’s what I’ve been playing lately:

Warhammer Online

I’ve been playing both my main and my alt, though I am starting to focus in again on my main the Archmage for my grind through the 30’s.  I will reach my original goal of 34 shortly, so my new goal for the Christmas holiday is to hit 35.  It is slow going though.  That said, I’ve had some EPIC open-RvR advancements lately that I am looking forward to sharing with you in my next post.

Lost Odyssey

I picked up this little Japanese RPG off Half.com for around $20 in order to play it over break.  Unfortunately with the re-emergence of WAR for me lately, it hasn’t gotten the attention it apparently deserves.  I’ve put about 5 hours into it thus far and have been really impressed.  The combat is nice, the enemies are creative and varied, and the story is quite interesting thus far, even if the main character is a little bit unlikable.  I look forward to putting more time in with this over the next week and into the future.

Red Alert 3

When I’ve got just an hour or so to play games, I tend to fire up Red Alert 3 for some quick online strategy.  With the latest influx of Christmas players, the competition has gotten closer to my level, and my record is leveling off as I climb closer to the .500 mark in 1v1 matches.  My faction of choice is the Soviets, at least for now.  Yes, I know they’re probably the most vanilla and boring of all the factions, but I seem to have the most success with them so far.  Although I haven’t learned the Rising Sun faction yet, so once I get around to that I may change my mind.  Also, my buddy and I haven’t continued the campaign mode yet, partly because of leveling in WAR, but mostly because of…

Left 4 Dead

I’ve only had one extended play session with this game, and it was only with one other person, but it was great.  Me and my buddy ran through the No Mercy scenario on Easy, and have plans with another guy to do some extended co-op gaming on harder levels and different scenarios in the very near future.  This game is undoubtedly going to be taking up a lot of my gaming time over the next couple months.  And I must say, it looks great on my computer, which although recently upgraded is far from top of the line.  Kudos to Valve for yet another quality offering (what else would we expect?).  I can’t wait to get deeper into this one.

+1 to my nerd cred

December 21, 2008

Not quite two years ago, I built my first computer.  It was a pretty budget-style gaming PC; I think it cost me ~$600 to make from scratch.  And it was a rite of passage in my life as a card-carrying nerd.  Being a lower-priced build, there are now games coming out that I want to play that won’t run all that well on the original system.  I’m not wanting to run Crysis on high settings or anything.  I would just like to run Left 4 Dead smoothly, maybe see a bit better performance in WAR, and be able to play Starcraft II when it comes out (although that may be another upgrade cycle away, knowing Blizzard).  I had already upgraded my video card a few months back, but I’ve done that many times before, so that wasn’t too big of a deal.

Replacing the CPU is a step up from a video card upgrade, as far as technical knowledge goes.  Sure, I had installed the original CPU in the system, but I have had very little experience with processors and heat sinks.  I was pretty confident I would be able to get the old parts out without messing up the motherboard, then get the new processor and heat sink in.  I had less confidence in my ability to solve any BIOS problems or other compatibility issues that arose after installation. 

As it turns out, I got the new processor into my system without much problem.  It did take a bit of effort to remove the old heatsink, but after using a flathead screwdriver to help pop it lose, everything was downhill from there.  What really pleased me was thatit was strictly plug-and-play with the new processor.  I didn’t have to adjust any BIOS settings, or anything like that.  At least I don’t think I had to – everything seems to be working fine, and the system recognizes the new processor and its increased speed.  So all in all, pretty easy installation.

For those that are wondering, I went from an Athlon 64 X2 3800 to a X2 5200.  Not a huge upgrade, I know, but it’s one of the fastest processors my aging motherboard can support.  And I have seen a bit of an improvement in WAR already.  I also meet all the recommended requirements for L4D now too, so I’ll get that sometime in the next couple weeks and give it a spin.  I’m also going to drop another 2 gig of RAM in there, which will get me up to 4 gig total (3.5 effective in XP, of course).  So overall, a great upgrade experience and another notch in my nerd belt!

Gearing up for the holiday gaming season

December 19, 2008

Well, it’s that time of year again – the holiday season is upon us. Along with the normal joys of the season, I am blessed to have a job that affords me a lot of vacation. Accordingly, today will be the last day I work in 2008 (WOOT!).

In the absence of work, I plan on playing an absurd amount of games. As much as the wife aggro will allow at least. I thought I’d put together a list of my gaming goals/planned fun for the next couple weeks.

1. In WAR, level my archmage to at least 34. As I just hit 32 and fully plan on leveling a couple more alts with friends, I think this is a reasonable goal. Sieging a couple keeps and seeing another fortress would be nice as well.

2. Purchase Left 4 Dead on the PC and mow through the zombie menace.

3. Purchase or rent Gears of War 2 and play through the co-op campaign.

4. Play a game of NBA 2k9 with my brother without spewing a stream of profanity.

5. Not playing any Call of Duty 4. No amount of good intentions will stop my profanity while playing that accursed game.

6. Finish the Red Alert 3 campaign with my buddy, and dominate an unsuspecting online opponent in a 1v1v1 game that is in reality 2v1.

7. I recently bought Lost Odyssey for cheap off half.com, so I want to sink a few hours into that to see if I want to invest more time in that.

I think those are attainable goals to mix in with all the sleeping, eating, and not-working I’ll be doing over the next two weeks. Undoubtedly some of them won’t get finished, but that’s what goals are for. What goals do you guys have for the holiday break?