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No. of Recommendations: 9
As many of you know, this is the newest game from Valve, the geniuses behind Half Life, Team Fortress (sort of), Counterstrike (sort of) and Portal. 4 of my favourite games of all time... So I was pretty much a shoe-in to like this game, and I did.

I hadn't planned on buying this, as it's primarily an online game, and all the reviews I'd read said that it's best played with three friends. Unfortunately, I saw my brother and another friend playing it one day (as I have Steam running constantly) and caved in and bought it on the spot. Boy am I glad that I did!

The game doesn't really have much of a story, merely depositing you and three chums (in the campaign mode) into a scenario where you have to run along a reasonably well defined path to the exit of the level, you do this a few more times and then there's a set piece finale and then you escape. Well, that's the theory. In between you and "escape" are a whole ton of zombies and a bunch of "Special" zombies with various abilities:

1) The Hunter - your basic uber-zombie. This bad news arrives with an ear splitting scream. At great pace. From above. When he leaps on you you're pinned helpless to the floor as he merrily eviscerates you - it'll require the help of a companion to get him off.

2) The Smoker - his hacking cough is a give-away that he's in the area and you need to keep your wits about you. His main attack is to shoot out an immensely long tongue to ensnare you and drag you away from your companions. If you're not quick enough to shoot him or his tongue you'll be immobilised until someone else helps out. He won't kill you quite as quick as a hunter, but he doesn't have to get close to you either and can drag you over a hundred yards from your chums.

3) The Boomer - This wobbling tub of lard is much more dangerous than he looks. He may not have a strong attack or the ability to isolate or gut you, but he does have an upset stomach and he's not afraid to use it. When the Boomer vomits you (think Poltergeist for a visual) not only is it completely disgusting, but you can hardly see anything and your lovely new odour will attract a rampaging horde of zombies to give you a good kicking. If you manage to spot the Boomer before he hurls he's very fragile and explodes in a most satisfying manner, but make sure he isn't close when he does or you'll still get the horde chasing you.

4) The Witch - First time you see her you'll be inclined to approach and see if you can help what looks to be a cute girl sitting on the ground crying. Best not though... Turns out she's a particularly nasty zombie who's tougher than the Hunter and twice as deadly. If you're lucky she's not sitting directly where you need to go and you'll be able to sneak past without disturbing her - but be warned a stray bullet or even a flashlight playing across her is enough to set her off. Moody cow.

5) The Tank - as the name implies this is the grand daddy of them all. The first few notes of his theme song will, after the first few times you hear them, have you reloading your weapon and panicking ever so slighty. Very very hard to kill, faster than you, tougher than you and with a devastating punch this guy is really tough. Luckily you won't normally have to deal with more than one at a time. Normally. They're also able to pick up chunks of concrete and hurl them at you. Ouchie.

The game has what is supposed to be a fairly advanced AI running the show called The Director who'll send waves of zombies at you, or Specials, in just the right amount and frequency to spice up the tension and keep you excited/terrified. No matter how many times you play through an episode (and you'll do it a bunch because there aren't all that many levels) you'll never know when or if you'll find health, ammo, grenades or better weapons. You'll also never be able to predict when you'll get swarmed by zombies. I find that it's normally when I'm about to run out of ammo, or some other really inconvenient time, but you can never tell.

The game does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes, you can only carry one health pack each, the game is pretty dark and you need your flashlights to see well - which isn't helpful when trying to sneak around a Witch in the dark - and there's a constant sense of tension. It's great fun though to chuck a petrol can at what seems like a hundred zombis charging towards you, set it on fire with a burst from your Uzi and watch them stagger about in flames. The pipe bombs you can pick up are also fantastic - the beeping red light on them attracts zombies and it's hilarious to watch them all crowd around one until suddenly they're no longer all crowding around but are instead flying across the landscape as little Zombiechunks.

As I mentioned above, the game is designed around team play. You can play it solo with fairly able computer players standing in for the friends you don't have but it's not nearly as amusing or satisfying. Rushing back from safety to help up one of your friends who's being beseiged by zombies is much more fun than doing it for a computer character. Even more fun is NOT doing so and hearing their anguished screams coming over the built in voice chat.... :)

It's very possible to pick up and play with randoms from the internets and I've found it to be a normally pretty fun experience. However for Campaign mode I generally prefer at least one chum to be with me. Luckily however there is also another even MORE fun mode to play, where although teamwork is important it's not required for you to have a good time. That mode is Versus mode - two teams of four play against each other, alternating turns as Survivors and Zombies. My favourite thing in the world right now is to play as a Zombie and try to stop the survivors from making it to the exit. You spawn as either a Hunter, Smoker or Boomer (with rare occasional appearances from a Tank) and can decide where and when to spawn before waiting for your best chance to strike. Generally splitting up the Survivors is the best strategy so teamwork is very helpful, but it's still entertaining to stand on top of a building and vomit all over the guys below and see them running around panicking as a vast wall of zombies washes over them.

As you might have guessed - I'm pretty enamoured with this game. It's even more fun to play with friends than with strangers so please can you all go out and buy it. Right now. It's a digital download so you really can get it tonight... On Steam you can find me either as [SG] Gooner or Beerio I believe, so give me a shout if you see me online and we'll go slaughter zombies together.

Cheers
Jon
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No. of Recommendations: 4
Ok, I know it's poor form to be replying to one's own posts, but WHY HAVE NONE OF YOU PEOPLE BOUGHT THIS GAME YET?!?

It's the most fun I've had in a shooter in ages!

You HAVE to cooperate to win. One lone survivor running off on their own and making a break for the end of the level will very very quickly be overwhelmed and killed. Unless there's at least two of you left you're totally shafted, and you really need three to have a decent chance.

It really is a great game mechanism to force even the n00biest internet kiddies to play properly. I would say this is a ground-breaking game for the cooperative genre. One you should own.

Regards
Jon
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No. of Recommendations: 2
Jon,

I feel sad for you, talking to yourself like this, so I'll offer up a point.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

I expect to be playing Left for Dead shortly after I get back from Calgary. I very much look forward to playing it and hope that I'm not the only one in my time zone playing. I still have reservations playing with people I don't know on the internet but have also heard that the AI is competent enough to assist if you find yourself soloing this game.

No worries, you won't be alone soon enough.

Simon
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No. of Recommendations: 0
WHY HAVE NONE OF YOU PEOPLE BOUGHT THIS GAME YET?!?

Asked.

in a shooter

Answered.

(at least for me)

dsbrady
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No. of Recommendations: 1
WHY HAVE NONE OF YOU PEOPLE BOUGHT THIS GAME YET?!?

Christmas. My relatives never have a clue as to what to buy for me, so I end up giving them my current game wish-list. Which backfires since I'm sitting here re-hashing old games for the next month even if I don't end up getting it for Christmas.

- Gus
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No. of Recommendations: 0
WHY HAVE NONE OF YOU PEOPLE BOUGHT THIS GAME YET?!?

Budget - gotta prioritize, and Fallout 3 was higher on the list. To be honest, the co-op sounds neat, but Survival Horror has never held a strong attraction for me.

System - since the Recommended is just about exactly where I'm at (C2D 2.4 & 7950), and FPS benchmarks for a 7900 were around 16-20 at ~1600x1200, it's likely that it'd play no better than Crysis did on my 4-generation-old box. Which leads me back to the "Budget" item.

I'll see if there's a demo on Steam and get it and try it out, see how it runs, and if it seems like it's worth inserting into the budget, post-videocard upgrade.

JT
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No. of Recommendations: 0
Budget - budget - budget -budget.

Seems like everyone has them these days! I know how you feel... I've been coveting a new PC for ages now, and can get a very nice one for what I think is a bargain price, but sadly the budget doesn't allow. Not going to be a great year for bonuses....

Oh well, hopefully see more of you all after Christmas :)

Jon
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I've been coveting a new PC for ages now

This from the dude with a dual-8800GTX machine? If you've got no further use for those I know a guy who knows a guy who could give one a good home. ;-)

JT
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No. of Recommendations: 1
Got it off Steam over the weekend, finally started it up last night. BTW, it's on sale for 25% off through 2 January (along with lots of other stuff on Steam). I've got other stuff to play at the moment (Fallout 3, Baldur's Gate) so I won't be on every single night, but when I am, it'll be around 11pm US Central time.

Thoughts:
- runs surprisingly well on my 7950GT @ 1600x1200 at medium graphics settings & one notch of AAxAF; Valve & the Source engine are to be commended for bringing a new game out that still runs well on 3-generation-old hardware. I'll probably put off that GTX 260 upgrade until I see how LotR:Conquest runs on it with the newest nVidia drivers (I'm a few months behind)
- the multiple interchangeable campaigns are a different approach, as each is a completely self-contained episode where the survivors get rescued at the end and you go back to the menu to pick a different one to play through - there doesn't appear to be any cohesive story at all to follow (though, I've only played through the first campaign, No Mercy)
- interesting approach for single-player, can pick any campaign, any chapter, to just start playing straightaway, rather than having to start at the beginning
- the "special" infected are a cool touch, having to watch out for certain things and respond appropriately, rather than just hosing down everything in sight; I really enjoy saving survivors from smokers & hunters!
- the three random players I got paired with were fairly decent to play with; all used voice, all were mature & level-headed
- one guy though got a little fed up with us n00bs taking so long rather than just blindly following him at a dead run (he obviously has been playing this thing to death and knows exactly the shortest route through all the maps), so hopefully that won't happen too often; he actually did apologize for getting so far ahead when I mentioned I was playing my very first round; "hey bro, didn't you notice when you joined the round that it was set to Easy?"

JT
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No. of Recommendations: 1
I got it last night but am annoyed at Steam. I had the game preloaded from the Beta but when I bought it Steam re-downloaded a whole new copy - very annoying.

I played through No Mercy last night with 3 AI players on the default setting (normal?) in an hour and a bit. Great fun. When I do this though I set myself up as a server and am allowing friends to join. So if you see me in-game just join on me and we can play together. AI isn't as fun as real people.

No Mercy only lasted a little over an hour so the great thing is it isn't a huge time commitment. There are 4 campaigns and varying levels plus a Vs. mode (players are Survivors and Special Zombies - I have yet to try it). Definately worth $37, even if it is US$.

Simon
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I've been playing almost exclusively Vs mode as it's rare I know in advance I'll have an hour or so free to coincide with friends having the same amount of time.

That being said, I'll be playing in the next hour or so as the market is entirely dead!

Laters potaters.
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No. of Recommendations: 0
... as it's rare I know in advance I'll have an hour or so free to coincide with friends having the same amount of time.

Personally, I don't care. I'm pretty sure when a player leaves the AI takes over so even if you might have to leave at the drop of the hat it doesn't leave anyone hanging.

See you online!

Simon
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I'm pretty sure when a player leaves the AI takes over so even if you might have to leave at the drop of the hat it doesn't leave anyone hanging.

I believe that was my experience last night as well. Our campaign started with just two humans & two AI, just after the start two more folks dropped in and took over those two characters, one had to leave and when he disconnected his character kept moving and fighting without him.

JT
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No. of Recommendations: 0
I'm pretty sure when a player leaves the AI takes over so even if you might have to leave at the drop of the hat it doesn't leave anyone hanging.

This is true, but it's far more fun to play through an entire campaign with your mates than just a few levels.

The beauty of Vs mode is that it's easy to drop in and out of without massively disrupting the experience. And you get to eviscerate your chums of course....

Jon
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