A fell wind — oh, and a fighter jet, too — haunted our screens with a rumbling low pressure sound wave as the basement-bound gamer guys locked into yet another round of Monday evening gaming, loaded up Left 4 Dead 2 and convened our weekly meeting. With a virtual bounty of virtual ammunition, and oh-so-many zombies lurking just around the corner, it was promising to be another adrenaline-fuelled Super Awesome Games Night.
We were relatively prompt to start. Past participants understand that while the invite suggests a starting time of eight-thirty, it is often well past nine before there is any semblance of organization, decision, or anything resembling actual game play that occurs. But somehow the green-toned notions of the newly initiated found us lingering on the docks of this particular scenario and nudging our chats in the direction of ensuring everyone picked up the requisite health packs and appropriate weaponry before we set out through The Parish at a time that was within spitting distance of eight-thirty, or at least well before nine.
Promptly, we were off. Four of us filled out a completed quartet in the simulated ruins of the French Quarter: b8s, red, analog and myself, the double-foured, 8r4d rounded out the set. And for the first fifteen minutes or so, the game trudged in a fairly standard fashion: gore dripped from the walls as countless zombies were laid to waste on the crumbling streets of post-apocalyptic New Orleans. The so-called infected leaped from yet more dark corners and revealed themselves in hurtling screams with enough reaction-time leeway that most were left smudged on the side-walk before they finished their flight of attack.
I picked up my standard melee approach to game-play, opting to rotate between a not-quite satisfactory collection of night sticks and dull machetes and the occasional head-thumping guitar over the more standard double-pistol and random automatic fire-power approach the others in the group tend to employ. Call me old fashioned, but beating zombies to pulp in close quarters seems so much more effective.
And you never need to reload a billy club, right?
We shortly encountered a number of obstacles and a cluttered, maze-like chase that led us through the cracked-open remains of a memorial garden of some kind.
My memory of the exact sequence of events here might be fuzzy, but it was right around this time, pursued by a rampaging hoard and desperately seeking the switch to some unfortunately-placed alarm system when we lost b8s for the first time. Red called out for a kind of every-man-for-himself dash for the switch and I blazed into the fray with my weapon in hand, hacking and slashing through the oozing masses. I happened to look back and see the crumpled mass of b8s behind a chain-link fence, still breathing but pile-driven by raging zees and not long for this virtual world.
By the time I pulled a one-eighty and attempted a revival it was too late. There was nothing I could do, buddy… nothing at all. I fought my way back, onward, and we rebooted our lost comrade at the next act-break.
My own near-brush with digital mortality approached as we dropped into a mysterious and infected-infested sewer system. I was down a health pack and biting at the yellow in my status, cautionary but not quite down-and-out.
We ventured bravely into the dark and damp depths and our flash-lights illuminated a narrow tunnel cluttered with the emotionally-vacant rage of so many un-dead growling and screaming and gnashing to get at us as they pushed through the horizontal pit of doom. Their doom, of course, because as analog and I dropped in and unleashed some automated fury upon them, their rage was extinguished like so many fleshy dominoes.
That victory was short-lived however, and the tunnel opened into the firm and unforgiving dark of an underground reservoir of some kind. In a wide-open-but-enclosed space, me and my slowly-reloading weapon, and my yellow-tinged status were quickly put in our places.
By the time I hobbled out the ladder at the far end of the pitch-black-pitch, I was in the red and an ill-timed clobbering from a zee lurking in ambush had me seeing monochrome whilst my character muttered for her impending demise in pitiable whispers through my headset.
The Bridge Dash
But I recovered. Somehow.
And we played through a few more virtual miles of ruined city only to find ourselves at the wrong end of a lengthy and half-way demolished bridge.
Now, why the helicopter couldn’t come pick us up on the near end — save for narrative exposition and level design reasons — I’ll never know. But a bit of two-way-radio instruction from the pilot and a bit more chatter among we gamers over the voice chat, I opted to forge forward. Some instinct in me burped out an enthusiastic “Leeeeroy Jenkins!” and we raged forward onto the bridge.
This time is was most definitely every man for himself. The game was putting in a concerted effort to expel us from its domain, pushing an unrelenting assault of not only regular infected, but a statistically increased quantity of special infected leaping from behind buses and bits of shattered and ruined bridge bits — smokers and spitters assaulting us with clear objective — and even holding us back with significant success with the appearance of a path-blocking tank hurtling bits of concrete in our direction.
We crossed the bridge and descended the traffic ramp towards the waiting helicopter and…
I could taste it. I could see it there, waiting. If my arm had been a few inches longer or my legs a few beats faster. What ifs linger in the breeze and fall stale in the echoing thunder of so many other sounds of combat. We were at the brink of glory and then… nothing.
Mr. Big Red adds, in a follow up email a few days later: What [8r4d] didn’t tell, maybe cause he didn’t know, is I made to the escape helicopter. Basically I ditched my team mates and ran for it with a Tank hot on my trail. Unfortunately my team mates where still alive so the helicopter didn’t take off and the Tank chased me into the helicopter and beat me senseless. Only after my death did the rest of team fall the horde. If only my team had been considerate and died sooner so I could live.
Rather than replay our final fail in late-night repetition, the SAGers opted for sleep and resignation. “Good games” and “good nights” followed, and we signed off for another week.
Feel like some super awesome gaming: request to join our Steam Group and clear your Monday night calendar. Next week? Ah… if I don\’t even know how am I supposed to tell you?
The Really Important Disclaimer Part: I’ve got no affiliation with any of these games. Screens have been captured during my game play (press F12) are used (probably) without permission but as “fair use” — check out the game! — and this is all just my random, amateur opinion. Share and Enjoy.