Published and developed by Valve (well, really, developed by their newly-acquired studio Turtle Rock Studios in LA) and using the very beautiful and speedy Source engine, Left 4 Dead does very right what i was attempting with Daikatana – going through a story with sidekicks. There have been some great decisions made with the way the L4D sidekicks are handled (some learned from MMORPGs like having character names above the sidekicks and being able to run through them) and the very limited options for interacting with them because they basically do all the things you’d want them to do without telling them. In Daikatana, commanding the sidekicks could become a hassle, especially when they didn’t do what you told them! LOL.
Aside from Painkiller being a decent attempt at DOOM-for-the-21st-century, L4D does the best job i’ve ever seen at being able to recreate the DOOM atmosphere and insane action of hordes of enemies coming to destroy you. The pacing of the gameplay is perfect with lots of slow and fast sections, a lot of that determined by how observant you are to your surroundings. The AI Director system in L4D is also a major help for replaying the game over and over. I’ve already blasted through the entire demo twice in a couple hours and loved seeing the gameplay change the 2nd time through.
And for me the most awesome feature is the CO-OP gameplay that i’ve been waiting for since Duke 3D and Quake in 1996. FINALLY! The sidekick AI is already excellent but playing CO-OP online is going to really make this game stand out. In the demo you can check it out – it’s really cool.
I also wanted to close with a quick note about Portal – if you haven’t played this short game, you absolutely need to. It’s a breath of fresh air in the FPS genre and tells a great story without actually telling it. The final level and credits are just …..wow. You have to play this game. Even when you’re finished, there’s more to do with Advanced Maps and Challenge Maps. Made me feel the same way after finishing Resident Evil 4 and unlocking a bunch of new content that felt like the dev team really put a lot of love into their game.
Oh, and Far Cry 2 and Fallout 3 are tons of fun as well. Ok so now you know all the games i’ve been playing LOL.