This is going to be a strange kind of cranky: I think about a hundred games of versus are enough.

Left 4 Dead is a great game, and I still like the campaigns.  And any game you can replay dozens of times obviously has a lot going for it.  But versus mode (where 4 survivors face off against 4 special infected) has been in the not-fun zone for some time, for several reasons.

  • All too often it’s rolleriffic. And unlike TF2, where a roll is over in 10 or 15 minutes, a game lasts more than an hour.  That’s a long time to not be having fun doing something that’s supposed to be fun…
  • Playing specials is great fun when it works, but missing a single jump can mean a quick death and then half a minute waiting for respawn.   The long respawn was probably put in during early testing when survivors were easily overwhelmed.  There’s other ways to get a breather anyway (e.g. hang out in a small room).
  • Everyone knows all the safe spots now.  Certain spots, like the farmhouse finale, are virtually impossible for the specials now.  No wonder L4D2 is going to have finales that require the survivors to move from point to point.
  • It’s really frustrating to be auto-spawned in the finale, often in terrible locations.  (Especially as a Boomer.)
  • The scoring system seems designed to maximize annoyance.  It’s fine to reward surviving, but the best games are close ones.  And teams are often closer than they appear… the difference between making it to the safe room or not can be pretty minor, but the scoring system turns it into a roll.
  • At the same time, when there is a skill differential, the game magnifies it, perhaps because of the smaller teams and focussed gameplay.  In TF2, if someone is dominating the game you can always change classes or change strategy.  There’s not much recourse in L4D.

One plus from tonight’s game to balance the crankery… my friend Skotty did some mighty fine stealth tanking in that finale.  He must’ve stayed alive for about five minutes, avoiding fire, constantly harassing the survivors from afar, despite the very open areas.  It was a nice demonstration that rushing in is often not good tank strategy.

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