The Super Awesome Gamers are recovering mid-thirties gamer dads, who sneak in a few random Monday evening encounters on (mainly) multiplayer co-op games after the kids are in bed. The following are the minutes of our latest meeting. Warning: graphic content.
Sadly, the Super Awesome Gamers have been meeting without me lately and my attendance sheet is looking a little weak in the knees, lacking a volume of participation that allows me to proudly wear the coveted membership title without a few pangs of guilt.
But just the other evening, Mr. Big Red and I, chatting over a freshly baked, homemade apple pie smothered in a (generous helping of vanilla ice cream, of course) suggested that with the revival of the post-summer, school-year season, that perhaps we were both due for some much needed zombie slaying. Thus a plan was hatched, a rendez-vous set, and a notion of some virtual mayhem neatly aligned with our schedules.
Or, at least, some tip-toeing mayhem … as I had resorted to logging into the Cold Stream campaign on the laptop, and my daughter had just gone to sleep in the next room. I would be whispering my participation, at least for a few minutes until I heard the other kind of zees from the next room over.
Game commenced, I was moderately surprised to find that the zombie-infested realms that I’d remembered from my past meetings had evolved. Don’t ask me why, or how, or how-can-I-do-that. When you play a game so rarely, you often forget that you may have even installed a skin on the software at one point that changes how the game looks and acts. Who can say. Red didn’t react, so part of me assumed he was experiencing the world slightly different than I or just used to it, but the merging of the zombie-killing confusion, with a blocky-quasi-paradise that is Minecraft threw me for a loop for a few seconds before I quickly adapted.
Either way, my unwillingness to ask stupid questions, and my somewhat cautious under-use of the radio in maintaining a quiet-as-possible-while-fighting-zombies zone in my living room meant I didn’t clue in until after I was in bed after the Super Awesome Meeting that only I was seeing creepers, spiders, and bright-green zombies. I’d mod-skinned my game when I installed it a few months ago on the laptop … and promptly forgotten.
Advantage? You’d think. Bright green zombies in the earth-toned, slightly-desaturated world of Left 4 Dead 2 stick out like a (bright green) sore thumb, particularly hidden among the dullish grey of the dead-tree flora. It almost –not quite, but almost– made up for not having played for nigh-on six months.
But there is something about slashing zombies to bits with a fireman’s ax that is a whole lot like riding a bike. You pick it up, start swinging, and next thing you know the first chapter safe-room door is swinging shut behind you with a satisfactory clunk and you’ve breached the first swarms of angry undead without even resorting to wasting a single health pack.
The Cold Stream campaign finds you and your three companions standing ankle deep in the cold water of a small rural stream as the level opens and the groans of countless zombies echo through the nearby forest. And through the course of the four chapters, water –and particularly chasing through water, over bridges, and into dark and z-infested culverts seems to be a major theme.
The goal is to get to the waiting helicopter at the end of the forth chapter, climb aboard, and be whisked off to safety (or at least the next level … that’s never fully explained.) The official marketing blurb from the l4d.com website says “This community created campaign throws you deep in the back woods to face thousands of zombies as you battle your way to a helicopter rescue. Don’t let the water or waves of zombies sweep you away to your death.”
Uh, yeah… that sounds about right.
Just the Two of Us… We Can Make it if We Try
Of course, having conspired to revive the SAG meetings just a day earlier, Red and I were the only attendees to Super Awesome Game night. Which was fine, of course. lacking any other participation, the other two of our co-zombie-slayers were the computer AI. And while some may argue that an out-of-practice guy whispering dumb questions as he tried to keep up was ideally served in his efforts by a pair of self-sacrificing bot players who provided spot-on coverage, always-there-when-pounced protection … uh … yeah, so I won’t draw much attention to that fact.
I followed Red who had previous experience with the campaign and a good sense of knowing when we needed to, say, blow up a pair of oil barrels to unlock a route, or demolish a tanker truck blocking our way on the bridge — unleashing a swarm of angry (bright-green) zombies hidden behind it, of course but — revealing the emergency stairs that led us back down to river level on the far side of the gap.
To me, it seems that there were a lot of close-calls, and there was a stretch when I decided that I was probably going down permanently because either (a) I was unknowingly playing the role of zombie bait, (b) forgetting my strategy and walking just a few too many steps ahead of the pack or (c) had pissed off the game spirits and they had it in for me. I was being pounced repeatedly: one minute a charger would slam me up against a rock. I’d be freed and seconds later a jockey would be riding around on my back. Boom! One of my companions would blast that off, but a moment later there was a hunter popping out of the mute-toned foliage to pin me into the cold stream waters.
But through numerous gauntlet crescendos, chases through seemingly endless hoards towards an unknown finish line, we somehow made it. And then, as the finale began, my health waning and no pack to offer me that last level of protection, I just ran.
I was the second aboard the helicopter, and only three of us made it, the bot player sacrificing herself for the victory of her companions as we were flitted off into the end credits. Victory, sweet victory… well past my bedtime.
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.