Our sometimes-host, Mr. Big Red, dropped a last minute email to inform the crew that he was busy fighting a different kind of infection altogether, and that the gamer dads were on their own facing the hoards of inevitable and infected zombies that were about to be stirred from their digital slumber and drawn to our naive encroachment on their lands.
I was fighting off no such infection, merely an invasion by my in-laws lurking in my living room and taking over my television to watch boring sorts of things, like non-interactive sporting broadcasts.
I was early to my man-cave, logged in and ready when b8s appeared in my console pondering such deep and philosophical questions as “what you wanna play?” and the like.
The promise of all-out zombie warfare had been lurking in the dark corners of my imagination since earlier in the day when Red had planted the suggestion there, so I was already poised and read with my finger on the Left 4 Dead 2 launch button.
I was locked, loaded and booted, in fact. The decision was made.
Of course, there was no argument from far side of my networked connection and it was only a few moments and a minor technical hiccup later that we were both geared up and and skittishly prowling the boundary of the starting gate with itchy trigger fingers for a bit of angry Swamp Fever. Supported by two AI team-mates, we two gamers entered; but would we both of us escape?
Into the Fray
The newly initiated b8s still unfamiliar with his arsenal — and supported weakly and barely by the sputtering ramblings of yours truly — did not figure out the control scheme for his voice connection until we entered the second act. It was then something of a eerily quiet slum through that first mile or so if infested territory.
Swamp Fever leads the four survivors towards a bayou-like wasteland of infected fun-times, and clearing that first run up to the water, in and out of wood shacks crawling with zees in the creepy silence of a chat-less game and with little more than awkward gesturing for comms was tough.
But we pulled through. Moments were had. Epic fire fights were probably observed to be closer to chaotic wildfires than usual. But the human survivors survived, our two digital companions pulling some extra weight, weight yours truly should have been carrying, and taking the fall for us at least once.
That first vision of a safe house door pulsing with the light of digital reprive was most welcome, indeed.
It occurred to me in the brief moments of calm as our act-break stats were marqueed upon the bokeh-backwash that my fellow gamer dad might not be pushing the ‘C’ key a he talked into his headset, activating the command that would allow for a but more free communication. Score one for the good guys, and we resumed our trek through the swamps with much improved, now-two-way verbal strategy.
So. Many. Tanks.
But comms would prove to be the least of our worries. As we ventured deeper into the wood planked swampland, the sheer quantity of special infected seemed out of proportion to my memories of the place. I’d cleaned out this shooting gallery on previous adventures, usually as the noob-zombie-fodder guy pulling up the rear, so perhaps I’m mis-remembering. But around every corner there always seemed to be a jockey or a hunter scrambling across the crumbling rooftops.
And then there were tanks. Those behemoths of infected muscle that require nigh on a sputtering of a double digit quantity of your precious ammo before they quiver and fall to the ground dead and harmless. Meanwhile, they are charging and hurtling bits of wrecked scenery in your direction or ram-charging your position as you pepper them with a non-stop shower of rounds from your suddenly pitiful-seeming weapon.
The number of tanks we encountered from the second act on… It seemed high. Not insurmountable, but high.
Yours truly took more than one rumbling body slam as the game wore on.
Hung Up On a Branch
It was not a tank, however, that proved to be our arch nemesis this night. While b8s was fearlessly facing down his share of the more invulnerable of our enemies — charging with abandon upon whimpering witches and scattering raging hoards in solo, much to my curiosity and unseen shirking flinches — I was a little more cautious.
A little more.
As we approached yet another safe-house, climbing up a teetering ramp, I charged a few steps further ahead than was cautiously recommended. My curious enthusiasm tends to be one of my weak points, I find. I see something lurking in the shadows ahead or a shiny-object in the far-off distance and I stray out of assistance range from my companions.
I got a few steps ahead of b8s and the bots and the next thing I know I’m being body-slammed by a raging charger who has poured out of the darkness. Normally — and particularly while playing with a pair of AI companions — this is a minor inconvenience that drains a few points of health. But when said charger slams you from atop a platform and crushes you into submission in the unreachable branches of a tree it pretty much spells doom.
Human and bots alike scoured around for me, but my virtual life came to a untimely end a few steps from the glowing door of another act break.
The game resurrected me a few minutes later and after b8s congratulated me with a bit of a pitiable chuckling at my foolhardiness, we made our way to the final showdown.
I’ve played Swamp Fever a few times: as one nears the end the goal is simple. The four players find themselves in a ruined plantation-style house on the edge of a waterway. After a bit of spring cleaning, scouring the premises for any lingering zees, the final scene is triggered by a call for help. A radio is used. A promise of a boat is offered. And the survivors are left to defend the house from an all out onslaught of zombies and infected — tanks, tanks and no-more-thanks — for about five minutes of steady shooting until the boat arrives, the gate is blown, and the mad dash for escape is made.
This is exactly what we did.
And as the gate disappeared in a cloud of confusion, fire and smoke, I shouted into the mic, my voice barely audible above the fray, that it was every man for himself and “head to the boat.”
I ran. One of the bots ran, too, following me out onto the pier but falling somewhere out of either my reach or assistance.
By the time I reached the boat and looked back everyone had fallen and the flood of infected was a maelstrom of horrors. I made the split-second decision to stay in the safety rather than run back and salvage my crew who were each within the last lingering points of their health, and when the last of them fell the boat pulled away from shore.
We’d won. But only sort of, I suppose.
These reports just keep getting longer and longer, don’t they? Can you believe I wrote the second half of this thing on my phone on the way to work? This timely blog posts is brought to you courtesy unexpected transit delays — and the letter Z!
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.