Top Five Left 4 Dead 1/2 Custom Campaigns

In August 2010, Chet Faliszek announced Valve would begin to rotate biweekly custom-made campaigns on the official servers of Left 4 Dead 2:

Every two weeks we are going to feature a new community campaign on our servers. We will feature one campaign at a time to make it is easier to find games. We’ll be keeping it featured for two weeks so people can familiarize themselves with the maps for competitive play.1

Though we wholeheartedly agreed with Valve on their choice to start their campaign off with 2 Evil Eyes, their subsequent picks have not been as bold as we had hoped, as the team has since gone on to pick Detour Ahead, City 17, Haunted Forest, Dead Before Dawn, One 4 Nine and I Hate Mountains. Now that the slow trickle of maps seems to have dried up – sans Cold Stream, of course, which is still a river running wild – we wanted to introduce to old and new players alike a list of five great Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 custom campaigns – that is, the best maps Valve is yet to highlight.

We applied a loose criteria to this list of Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 maps. First and foremost, each level was to be available for both games. Second, we expected proper playability on the “expert” difficulty setting. Third, all these levels enjoy a degree of popularity in the community, so as to make finding servers and players easier.  Fourth, we did somewhat consider artistic merits like overall look and feel, setpieces, setting and brushwork.

Fifth, we also sought out campaigns that would adhere to the gameplay standards and Left 4 Dead fiction as defined in practice by Valve. This meant no nasty surprises, traps, or major changes to campaign flow. The reason all the campaigns below have been tested and completed on the “expert” difficulty level is because we found that this particular setting best reveals the extent of balancing (or lack thereof) in terms of campaign length, pacing and structure.

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  1. http://www.l4d.com/blog/post.php?id=4194 []

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Steam Holiday Sale 2010

For the past few months, Steam has operated in permanent discount mode – and this year’s “Holiday Sale” isn’t exactly a change of pace. In fact, its daily discounts are progressively more preposterous still! May cooler heads prevail, and do absolutely remember not to purchase any non-daily deals until the very last day of the sale.

SavyGamer have a flat list of each deal on their website, if you fancy that sort of thing. Other current sales events you might want to check out:

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Steam Treasures: Shatter

The Great Steam Treasure Hunt, a large-scale metagaming event organized by Valve this holiday season, has had Steam users complete objectives every two days in order to win games from the Steam store catalogue. Tasks have ranged from using various community features to completing specific in-game achievements in discounted games.

That moaning sound in the background? That’s just the good ladies and gentlemen from Impulse, GamersGate and Direct2Drive sighing audibly – the Treasure Hunt has been a devilishly good move from Valve to get more players introduced to Steam’s lesser-utilized features. It has also turned out to be an excellent opportunity for highlighting many smaller titles from developers that may not always have the marketing muscle to stand out from the admittedly crowded Steam storefront. Indeed, the Hunt has been a time to shine for games such as Bob Came in Pieces, Beat Hazard, Droplitz, The UnderGarden and Chime.

Another such game is the aptly titled Shatter from New Zealander niche developer Sidhe. Originally released on the PSN, Shatter is on the surface a high-definition rendition of the Breakout genre, perhaps resembling most closely the classic Arkanoid. Shatter’s claim to the throne, then, is its frustration-free flavour; where other games of the genre may have traditionally strained players with punishing difficulty, Sidhe have altogether subverted the problem by introducing a mischievous sucking/blowing mechanism for your bat, used not only for gathering shattered energy fragments that dissipate from broken bricks, but also allowing players to gently guide their ball’s trajectory curve both left and right.

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The Road More Traveled: 5TH Cell’s Hybrid

Cowabunga! Washington-based Scribblenauts devs 5TH Cell probably could not have done a more complete 180 degrees in licensing Valve’s Source engine for their latest game, Hybrid. The just-announced game is unfortunately going to be released on the wrong platform – that is, as an XBLA exclusive, at least for the time being:

5TH Cell is proud to announce Hybrid, a revolutionary new video game available in 2011 exclusively for Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Hybrid is a pioneering third person shooter set in a devastated post apocalyptic world, giving players a completely new gameplay experience never seen before in the genre.1

Revolutionary, schmevolutionary, pioneering, schmioneering – so far, Hybrid files under “just another post-apocalyptic shooter.” As much flair for creativity as 5TH Cell have exhibited with their past track record, and as much as we love the Source engine, it is hard to compute exactly how 5TH Cell went from the “revolutionary” and “pioneering” Scribblenauts to this:

While some interesting mechanics seem to be in store for players, including wall-walking – the red Variant soldier walks upside down on the ceiling in the trailer above – the little dialogue in the trailer does not exactly get points for originality:

When I was little, my father used to say, “Son, god didn’t create money… man did. God didn’t create war… man did. God didn’t create hell… the Variants did.”

After all, the post-apocalyptic landscape has been utilized very often in video games as of late, as a visual metaphor of the basest kind, using the entirety of the external world to blatantly affect and reflect on the internal, resulting in the strength of the metaphor diminishing further with every use. This is also why players are beginning to tire of it – post-apocalypse it is no longer unique, it is ubiquitous, especially now that even the pioneers of the post-apoc genre are once again being remade for a new audience (Fallout).

Therefore, despite being an exciting announcement from a very well-esteemed team, thanks to its thematic constraints, it’s hard to be excited just yet. The same restraint applies to the project’s utilization of sci-fi (E.Y.E.), religious themes (Scivelation), warring factions (Nexuiz) and clashes between races (Half-Life, Halo etc). Throw in Afterfall for good measure. In a way, the simple fact that the teams are red versus blue for the NTH time just underlines all this.

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  1. http://www.5thcell.com/ []

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The Source of a Bloody Good Time

One of the most surprising video game announcements in recent memory – honest! – is Bloody Good Time, a new eight-player multiplayer game “regrouping ambitious teen actors ready to kill for fame” from Scottish The Ship developers Outerlight, who have suddenly made their return to the gaming headlines. Bloody Good Time, launching today on the 29th of October and available on XBLA and from Steam, has the ignoble distinction of only being the second Source title to be published by Ubisoft, the first being the classic Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

As perhaps evident from the trailer above, the game pits eight hopeful first-time auditioners against each other in an audition to the death on three different movie sets. The game’s cast of characters is a who’s who of movie caricatures, ranging from a surfer dude to a mall goth. Players will get their chance to off the rest of the competing aspirants in four different game modes: Hunt, Elimination, Revenge and Deathmatch.

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