Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Curse of Lazar Castle

Title: The Curse of Lazar Castle
Author: Dereck (Kvothe Venture)
Survivors: L4D2

Notes: There are no rescue closets and the campaign is somewhat restrictive with items. Reading diary entries may be required to solve basic puzzles.

The Curse of Lazar Castle is the second L4D2 campaign by the author of the notorious Labirinferno. This campaign is vastly different, spanning five maps roughly of equal size, taking place in a gothic-themed manor, with themes of Transylvanian lore strewn throughout with diary entries. The first thing you'll probably notice from the campaign's extremely wordy description is that this is apparently a very difficult campaign. Fortunately, let me assure you that it is not. The campaign does have a strong focus on exploration for items, but its resource limitation is very reasonable.

The first map is one of the better maps, as it has open areas outside as well as some interesting interiors. There are some hedge mazes, tank fights, and plenty of vertical climbing to explore various areas. The campaign starts you off with tier 1's and extra pistols. Since the description made it very clear that there is only a single ammo pile in the entire campaign, this simply translates to forcing you to rely a little more heavily on your secondary weapon. It doesn't take long before the campaign throws you a melee, and it's also possible to find a magnum in this map, too. Diary entries with short bits of information can be found all over the place, and often they include hints on how to proceed forward (such as which switches need to be used).

The second map is rather large but unmemorable and pretty unremarkable. There are tons of crates and boxes strewn around the gigantic rooms, and while it has some interesting connecting sections (long staircases) it doesn't have many memorable events. It's also not particularly difficult, and at this point you'll probably find the earlier warnings to be overkill. While there aren't ammo piles or many medkits in the saferooms, you'll notice by this point that there are plenty of extra weapons and supplies everywhere. Often you'll find multiple medkits in the same room, relieving the tension a bit. This map will also introduce poison gas, which isn't much of a problem yet.

The third map takes place in the Death Labs, and as its name suggests, it's pretty industrial and features lots of little laboratories. There are plenty of traps in the beginning section, so watch out for the obvious floor traps before flicking any switches. There are a few tank fights in the enclosed spaces, which really serve as the only major challenge thus far. Frequent molotov spawns ensure that they go fairly quickly. The end of this map is a good ramp-up in difficulty, as you first fight one tank, followed by two, in a make-shift arena. The only thing that slightly bogs this map down is the monochromatic coloration of it all, since it's mostly all orange and brown. However, the layout is fairly fun to figure out without being too hard.

The fourth map is by far the most annoying in a bad way. A lot of issues compound together unnecessarily and this is probably where the most work should go in improving it. First of all, this is where you may find an encounter with a creature of red eyes that will insta-kill you if you get near it. Since there are no rescue closets, this is a big problem. Another issue is that there is a room filled with poison gas that will do damage to you. Apparently there is supposed to be a switch to disable the poison in the room before, but we searched and searched but couldn't find it. A lot of damage is dealt in these rooms by things outside of your control. Finally, once you go outside you're forced to deal with a witch or two blocking your path. If you can make it beyond that, there is yet another double-tank spawn, which is made painful by the fact that there's a horde on top of this all. Bad directionality in the outside area also negatively affects this map, but the thing that irks me the most about this is the mandatory witch spawns because it essentially means you have to take a shotgun (if you can find one). And if you fuck up, it's sayonara, your chance is gone because there are no rescue closets. There's really no excuse for this and it really takes the fun out of the earlier parts of the map.

The last map is somewhat short compared to the others, but at least it's a lot more fun than the fourth map. After reaching the attic and fighting off a few tanks, it'll be your task to make it all the way back down (during a horde event) and through the exterior areas you went through in the first map, but this time during a grey, misty day time. It can sometimes be a little difficult to discern the way to go, but overall you just have to remember that you're going back to the very start of the campaign, so try and remember the way you came in. There will be at least three tanks in the way to hold you up but it shouldn't be hard unless you have to fight them through the foliage. Also, I'm not sure why but the animation of the rescue vehicle leaving doesn't appear on the screen.

Difficulty: While this campaign isn't quite in the same style as a lot of more typical campaigns, it's certainly not as hard as the description makes it out to be. More often than not, the hard parts are due to dickish tank spawns (such as in tight corridors) and unavoidable witch spawns. There are plenty of tier 2 weapons around once you get to the third map, and finding resources in general isn't too much of a problem provided you go into enough separate rooms. Trust me, I hate campaigns where you have to find stuff and I didn't find it to be a problem, so you shouldn't, either. Aside from the lack of rescue closets, you should be relatively fine on Normal and in fact you might not even find it too difficult ramping it up to Advanced. Overall the difficulty is just right for a campaign of this size aside from the boss spawns.

Final Verdict: I'm not sure what the story with Lazar is all about, but thankfully you don't need to pay attention to the story to enjoy the campaign. The map layouts speak for themselves and are well and good enough to warrant playing through. The limited resources was more of a fun than anything really difficult. The most annoying section was the unavoidable taking of damage (poison gas), unavoidable witches, tanks in enclosed spaces, and occasionally not knowing the way. The overall polish and presentation of the campaign could be better (lots of diary entries have typos and certain areas look primitive), but more often than not, the maps offer good gameplay. All of the maps are large and if you enjoy basic puzzle-solving, there is some good stuff here. Plus, the finale being a gauntlet is a nice change of pace from the typical holdout. The campaign isn't perfect and there's definite room for improvement, especially with the fourth map. However, all things considered it's pretty fun to play through, plus there aren't many campaigns of this setting yet (even though they're supposed to be vampires and not zombies, but whatever). Recommended.

Rating: 3.67/5.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Title: hehe13
Author: Chen Chen
Survivors: L4D2

Notes: This is a troll campaign and is only enjoyable if you enjoy unconventional twists of the game to torture you, if you're quick to the draw with kicking special infected, and you have friends to play with. If you don't match all of the criteria above, you're likely to have a bad time. Note also that it is very possible to end this campaign early in the second map (out of six).

This is the thirteenth entry into the hehe series and it doesn't look like the author has any intention of stopping any time soon. It's another six-map campaign that breaks the barriers of the typical campaign and forges its own. As usual with hehe campaigns, it is laid out as six short and disconnected maps. The maps are only really unified in the fact that it is very jockey-centric and there also seems to be an underlying motif involving a K-pop artist.

The first map barely qualifies as a legit hehe map and only really serves as an introduction to the campaign. It begins in the same vehicle that hehe12 ended (the back of a truck with a jockey prop) as it floats above the ground for a couple of minutes while you don't do anything. Once it lands, there is a building to approach. All you have to do is simply wait while the music plays and the turrets take care of any infected, then once you hear the saferoom door sound effect, you're free to enter it. Honestly

Map 2 is a short little map that serves as an introduction to the main idea of this campaign, which is to throw jockeys at you while taking away your guns. That's right, you won't have any weapons to use for the next three maps and you're expected to dodge jockeys. To be fair, there is a turret around, but here it seems to be more inclined to shoot survivors than jockeys. If you activate the switch on the right, a platform will be sent across the gap and you'll be able to cross, but you'll have to avoid jockeys. Usually this means you have to get your kick function ready or rely on your friends to get pounced first, then run past them and get into the saferoom. If caught, ledge-hanging is a good way to get the jockeys killed, since the survivors can then be rescued.

It is very possible to end the campaign early through this map. If you push the left button instead of the right, you'll get a camera zoom-in on the saferoom while some music plays. If you let it stay like this for a minute or two, the saferoom door will close and the campaign will be won. I'm not sure why this is a feature, because you downloaded six maps so you might as well play six maps, but I felt it was worth mentioning. 

The third map is a step up in difficulty and annoyance factor. This is where you'll start to hate the no-weapons jockey feature. This is a spiral design typical of many other hehe maps, usually involving the player dodging tanks and branches thrown by said tanks. Here, you are still deprived of your weapons and now jockeys will instantly spawn in front of you. You'll have no defense against these jockeys except Louis, a very bad support character because his weapon does so little damage, he only looks in one direction, and he doesn't shoot consistently. Even with four people, I don't think this map is possible without kicking jockeys via console. At certain points it will just spawn four jockeys and all four players will be defenseless. I suspect that this campaign (as well as probably all the other hehe campaigns) was made for a modded server, probably with low gravity and/or 8-survivor support, so I assume it wouldn't be that bad if you played it on a custom server like that. But as it stands, I don't see any realistically feasible way the average player could be expected to beat this without typing "kick (1)jockey", "kick (2)jockey", etc. over and over.

The fourth map is where you'll hate life. If you thought the last map was bullshit, just wait until you try to dodge instantly spawning jockeys while also trying to jump across moving platforms. You can time everything correctly but because of the shitty jockey latching mechanic, fail every time. There's really no way to get through this without being extremely lucky and have great timing on the rotating platforms. It's not impossible as we did get one person across to the end, but you may have to restart this a number of times only to have one person make it to the end.

The fifth map is the closest to a real map as this campaign gets, aside from maybe the finale. The gimmick here though is that it's a total nightmare on the eyes. Every texture is this bright gray color, and it's impossible to differentiate where walls are without seeing the huge swarm of infected. Oh and believe me, it's obvious that the infected rates are boosted for this map. You'll encounter dozens of commons at a time while getting bombarded by all six specials. As if the terrible visual style weren't enough, you're constantly getting swarmed and charged, pounced, and ridden into spit. Thankfully though, it isn't too short and not impossible to get everyone inside the saferoom because there are quite a few supplies like bile jars and molotovs here and there.

The sixth map is not that bad and is probably the best out of all of them. The worst part is just the beginning, where two or three last jockeys will spawn out of nowhere and probably ride you. But if you kick them or get someone to free you, the worst is over. Really the only thing you effectively need to do is get a gun, go down a corridor, and then fight a suped up version of a tank (with a skin showing him as the K-pop artist), then get to the saferoom at the end of the arena. This was by far the most fun and with molotovs and tier 2 weapons strewn around, it's the most legit part of the campaign. The campaign ends when you enter the saferoom so you don't even need to faff around with running to a rescue vehicle.

Difficulty: I'm not sure how to even qualify this campaign's difficulty. I mean, I don't think it's actually possible to beat the third map without using the console command to kick jockeys, so there's that. Plus, the only real legit maps are the fifth and sixth ones, where 5 is aggravating and 6 is downright easy by comparison. Since this is a troll campaign, there isn't much I can say except that if you have difficulty with any regular campaigns, avoid this. In some cases, it might be preferable to play certain maps on Expert because you'll die faster (which can be a good thing if you're prone to having to restart over and over).

Final Verdict: Well, like every campaign where it's not possible to beat it without abusing the kick function, I'm not inclined to rate this highly. I assume this is for modded servers so I guess if it's for people who don't like playing normal campaigns, I guess someone got a kick out of it. I suppose removing all weapons and items doesn't help the author's cause, but it's pretty clear that criticism has never stopped him from going through with his ideas. Personally I don't play Left 4 Dead 2 to have all my items and weapons taken away from me, and then be expected to avoid jockeys while relying on AI to do my job for me...shittily, I might add. So no, I don't think this is a very good campaign. The finale is the only decent part, but there are better maps to have you fight a tank.

Rating: 0.5/5.

Friday, April 5, 2019


Title: hehe12
Author: Chen Chen
Survivors: L4D2

Notes: This campaign is only enjoyable if you enjoy unconventional puzzle maps, you're good at the game and knowledgeable of all the mechanics, have a high tolerance for bullshit, and you have friends to play with. If you don't match all of the criteria above, you're likely to have a bad time.

This twelfth entry into the hehe series (a series by Chinese map author Chen Chen who has no indication of stopping) is a six-map campaign that follows the typical hehe tradition. As one can expect, the campaign is full of tricks and traps in much the same way as the Tricks and Traps map from Doom II features a bunch of unconventional shit that you wouldn't encounter on any normal campaign. The maps explore entirely different concepts and aside from all (or most) sharing the tiny nondescript box of a saferoom, which functions more or less as a sort of teleporting phone booth, all take place in locations entirely different from one another. There is no sense of typical progression in environments, since these are essentially just unrelated maps that load in sequence.

As I mentioned above, you should only try this campaign you like enjoy unconventional puzzle maps, you're good at the game and knowledgeable of all the mechanics, have a high tolerance for bullshit, and you have friends to play with. That being said, I did try this with a friend (and for the hardest map, two friends) so the pain was alleviated a fair bit. In general, the campaign is slightly easier than the others aside from the third map. The first map takes place on a small set of platforms created by floating vehicles. In typical hehe fashion, a couple of tanks will spawn once you leave the starting area, and honestly this is a decent warm-up if you've played the other hehe campaigns. Thankfully this only spawns two tanks, which are more than manageable. The witch in front of the saferoom poses a challenge if you're playing alone, and as usual, another tank will spawn inside the saferoom once you open the door, but it's the only saferoom that does this. The best plan of attack is first to put enough distance between the players and the tanks to take them out before getting close to the saferoom. Then either take out the witch first (by crowning or molly-staggering because a horde will appear, preventing melee-staggering and sniper-staggering) or let the sacrificial player open the saferoom door and startle the witch to at least allow the other players get inside.

I can't tell what the challenge of the second map is. This map is a large, extremely flat and bland open map in the rain with a bunch of foliage. It just requires you to find the saferoom, which can be hard considering there's a lot of crops in the way, so it's easy to get lost. This is either painfully bland and boring or a welcome respite from having to put up with bullshit. This is boring but just take it for what it is, a breather before the real pain in the ass.

The third map is the hardest and most excruciating by far. If you've ever played the map cc_pa (also by Chen Chen), this is basically the same thing (if maybe a little easier?). The idea here is that you have four or five consecutive small rooms separated by saferoom doors, which spawn in a bunch of shit as soon as you open them. First it will spawn in a tank and a witch in front of you, which is just getting warmed up. The next rooms will spawn in a fuck-ton of witches, or special infected (like jockeys), etc. The idea here is to make them spawn in and then immediately retreat and close the saferoom door, killing everything from safety. This is sometimes easier said than done, but it's not impossible. 

The fourth map is another rehash of another map by this author, which I can't place right now. However, it's much the same, if not exactly identical. There's actually a map layout here and you have to make progress through this decently spaced map while fighting tanks one at a time, about six in total. The hardest part here is actually staying stocked with ammo as there isn't any in this map. This map is easier than the previous but its challenge is in conserving ammo and dealing with hordes and tanks with few resources, so I recommend relying on secondaries unless you absolutely have to use your primary.

The fifth map starts you at the top of a large building, and heading out of the starting room puts you with a direction to kill seven witches in order to open the path to the saferoom. This map is huge because it has a ton of floors you need to search in order to find highlighted witches that you need to press "use" on in order for them to count. There are also regular witches in here too, but not many. This is more of a pain in the ass than fun, since you're searching a very large number of rooms for these witches, so hopefully you're in voice chat with friends or listening to music to pass the time.

The sixth and final map is the one from the cover image. Thankfully it's just a regular holdout in a somewhat normal, large spot. This is actually kind of interesting, if somewhat not utilized to its fullest. The obvious holdout spot is after climbing a ladder, camping on top of the building, overlooking the large area on the bottom. There are two waves before the rescue vehicle arrives, but once it does, the challenge is then in climbing back down the ladder, since tanks and large waves of infected will start climbing it. The best idea is to either make sure everyone gets down quickly after the second tank's death or kill any tank climbing up and then throw a molotov at the base to prevent infected from climbing up. The waves of infected after the rescue vehicle arrives is very high so the bots will almost assuredly not make it.

Difficulty: The campaign's most difficult spots are the first map (for the uninitiated) and the third. For the most part, otherwise, this is just a regular campaign, with certain spots of expected dickishness. One can be forgiven for starting this one on Easy, otherwise if you have decent experience with this game under your belt, you can do this on the average difficulty you go with for new campaigns. But since this is a hehe campaign, you should really know from the outset that you're getting yourself into an unconventional campaign.

Final Verdict: This is one of the better hehe campaigns. Since I've played them all so far, I knew what I was getting into, and this delivered what I came to expect. It's definitely beatable although the third map is such a pain in the ass that I wouldn't try to go through it alone. If you can scrounge up other players who enjoy the kind of weirdness of unusual gameplay-focused campaigns that have no sense of real progression through consistent environments, then you could do worse than start with this one. In the grand scheme of things, the look and design here are decent enough, although the second and fifth maps really drag the gameplay down from the adrenaline rush of the first and third maps. Also since this recycles two maps, I'm not really sure how much else is totally original here. There's just enough normal gameplay as to not be too off-putting for beginners but those who are looking for campaigns like the original ones from the base Left 4 Dead games, look elsewhere.

Rating: 2.6/5.

Thursday, April 4, 2019


Title: chenchencity

Author: Chen Chen
Survivors: L4D2

Notes: N/A

This campaign is by the prolific Chinese map maker Chen Chen, known most notably as the author of the hehe series and also as the designer of many ridiculously challenging maps that push the limits of what should normally be expected of most players. Over the years, his skills as a map maker have improved from a technical standpoint, but what qualifies as "good" or "quality" in regard to his maps are still questionable and inconsistent. This campaign is no exception.

Unlike the hehe and somefun series, this campaign at least attempts some coherent form of progression. That is, it's not simply a string of disconnected maps that take place in wildly different areas that solely exist to test different things of the player. You start out at the top of a building and make your way down to the bottom and outside. That much is already more normal than what you can expect of a typical Chen Chen map, but it wouldn't be a map of his if it didn't have something ridiculous on the way down, which it does. The elevator shaft you have to descend has an elevator that's falling, and you have to make it out without missing a jump (which will mean plunging to your death), but you also have to get through fast enough to avoid being crushed by the elevator. After that, you'll find yourself in a large open area outside. The saferoom is being guarded by a man who won't let you inside until you find his five friends first. This begins an annoying scavenger hunt, which becomes a pain once a constant stream of infected is triggered.

The second map is painfully boring. It takes place in the same exterior as the first map but requires you to hold out for several long minutes in order to progress. I guess the idea behind this is you have to cover some dude who's going to blow up the barricade. The problem is there's absolutely zero challenge in this, especially since you have an aimbotter NPC assisting you the whole time, as well as having turrets placed conveniently at your defense. It's almost embarrassing if an infected hits you once. This map concludes with a rescue vehicle taking you to the city.

The third map is Chen Chen City I suppose, and it's probably the best map. There's enough detail to warrant decent progression and exploration. However, in order to proceed at a certain point, you need to find six items to resuscitate a downed Zoey. This wouldn't be so bad if the objects were highlighted, but they aren't. As such, you have to search a rather large area for unmarked pills, medkits, and other random items. You won't be sure if they're the right thing so you'll just press "use" on everything. It's not particularly fun to do that kind of guesswork. Once the path becomes clear though, the rest of the map's layout isn't terrible and is probably the most normal in terms of gameplay. 

The fourth map, which brings about the second half of the campaign, is where things start to get really stupid. It takes place in the sewers but they open up to a convoluted mess of pipes above an instant-kill river. It wouldn't be so bad if there weren't a couple of traps. The first is a fake pipe that looks like it leads to a medkit but breaks, leading to death. The second is when you hit a switch that you need to open in order to progress, a bunch of tanks fall from the ceiling, which will surely punt someone off the narrow ledges. A forced witch spawn in front of a ladder also ensures that the team will have to deal with her. The latter part of the map takes place outside but it has low gravity, and you'll have to figure out how to get into a blasted out section of a tall building in order to make it inside the saferoom of a florist's shop.

The fifth map is the biggest pain in the ass, though. If you're anything like me, you'll probably be confused as to what to do when the map begins. After you realize that there's no way to progress, you'll probably start to press "use" on everything until you discover that you need to use the television, which of course isn't highlighted. Only after that will the elevator work. However, once you go down the elevator, you'll find it's an absolute nightmare. You'll get torn apart by turrets and aimbotting NPCs who do a ridiculous amount of damage to you and will explode barrels that do an insane amount of damage. Even if you're lucky enough to make it past the first hurdle, the turrets will shoot you no matter where you are through the rest of the section, even through walls. There's just really no feasible way to do this, and this is why I fucking hate most of these Chinese maps. I always feel like they're made for servers that grant god mode, infinite ammo, and low gravity, and that they aren't intended for people who play normal servers.

I mean just take a look at what's going on in the above picture. Does it really look like the design of this campaign is particularly inspiring or motivating me to finish, to see what comes next? Of course not, it's just a mess. The last map is yet another example of this campaign just not working, albeit for the opposite reason. It's a huge stadium where you have to hold out against a three-wave finale. Just like the second map, there's so little challenge here that it's really uninteresting. The only plus I found was that the interior stadium is so massive that it actually makes the grenade launcher a decent weapon for once, I'm not kidding. But honestly having to entertain myself by experimenting with a weapon that nobody uses shouldn't be a good thing. The finale isn't bad, just really boring, like the second map. Again, I can't help but feel that this inconsistency is part of the problem with the way these campaigns are designed around custom servers. Oh yeah, and the music that forcibly plays is pretty terrible, but it's another trademarked move by Chen Chen so it's hard to expect something different. 

Difficulty: The unavoidable turrets in the fifth map don't just make this campaign hard, they make it impossible. Even if not, having to restart countless times because of something that isn't even related to infected just makes this feel like the challenge is one of manipulating shitty elements of L4D2 rather than posing an actual challenge. I don't like platforming in L4D2 but at least those challenges from the first and fourth map are doable. The holdout sections are beyond easy, and it becomes apparent that the sections that deal with the most normal elements of L4D2 are boring. The only way these Chinese maps are made ridiculously difficult if not impossible is by forcing the player deal with absurd obstacles that aren't even really part of the base game. Personally I find it idiotic to release a map that will just kill the player by non-zombie elements beyond platforming. Even if this is on Easy, you're most likely not going to have fun because these elements can't be tweaked.

Final Verdict: Well, considering you take constant damage in map 5 even by getting shot through walls, I'm convinced that the campaign is quite literally impossible so of course I can't recommend this. Even if it is technically beatable through some obscure manner, maps 2 and 6 are beyond boring, while the scavenging for non-highlighted objects in maps 1 and 3 drag the gameplay through the mud. The traps of map 4 are just dickish and there really isn't anything particularly inspiring or motivating the player to progress. The maps aren't very complex and level geometry is mostly just generically blocky. There are some interesting concepts but they're either not employed fairly or in any meaningful way, and requiring the player to press "use" on everything to progress is lazy design. I guess the only real positive I have to say is that it's not the ugliest campaign I've ever seen, and at least it works. But campaigns for Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 should enhance the basic gameplay elements of those games, not be ridiculously easy when it comes to killing zombies but utterly insane when it comes to adding elements that were never intended to be used in the manner that they are.

Rating: 0.6/5.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Our Mutual Fiend

Title: Our Mutual Fiend

Author: Valve, SNW
Survivors: L4D2

Notes: The Steam version requires the player to subscribe to four parts on the Steam Workshop.

Our Mutual Fiend is a three-map campaign with Versus support that is essentially a port of the Half-Life 2: Episode 2 section of the same name. It starts the player off just outside White Forest (near where Dog attacks the alien ship) and takes the player through the rocket silo and back out to the top where the player has to hold out while waiting for a rescue chopper.

As far as straight ports, it probably works a bit better than the ports of Route Kanal and Water Hazard, but that's not saying much. There are plenty of references to Episode 2 but it definitely feels like the campaign was made because the maps were there, not because there was any idea behind making it work as a full-fledged campaign. As such, it's short and it really does feel short because, as the author noted, you're pretty much just going straight through. The plus side to this is you'll never really get lost (especially if you played Episode 2) and if you don't like it, it's over relatively quickly. The downside to this is that it's pretty lackluster and the huge download size isn't justifiable.

The maps still look good and it's not like the porter didn't not do the maps justice. It works about as well as the maps can. You have some mandatory elevators, and map 2 has a couple of holdout events. The maps still look fairly good for a Source game (they were made by Valve, after all). There were also a couple of good dialogue choices. Resource distribution is very liberal throughout the campaign, and you should never come up short with supplies. Ammo piles are where they need to be and if anything, you may find too many supplies (for instance we found three defibs in relatively close proximity).

The highlight in terms of gameplay is probably the close quarters combat of the second map, since the openness of the first map is fairly easy. However, for some reason smokers seem to really make life a pain in the cramped quarters of the second map. It also seems to fit the general run-down industrial setting of L4D2. The hordes are adequately intense and it's pretty fun fighting off special infected and a possible tank in the hallways of the silo.

Unfortunately it all kind of feels a little too easy, but that's the nature of the maps. The author acknowledges this and recommends players try out the campaign on Advanced or Expert, and I agree with that sentiment. The early section of the second map is probably the best part, but the sections in the tunnels and the holdout after the climb up the ladders is okay as well. Those definitely benefit from added damage from infected because otherwise they would feel too easy.

The real problem of the campaign is the third map though. It's nothing more than a boring holdout in a spot where you can easily cheese the AI. All you have to do is get to the top of the structure with the stairs and hang out on the railings. It actually feels deliberate considering how easy it is to reach and how obvious a spot it is. The only thing that can obviously get you is a smoker but if you take care of that, then there's no trouble. The issue is that this holdout lasts for way too long and is really un-fun to sit and wait through. Even if you do hold out by the turret on the opposite side of the helicopter, I can't imagine that being any more enjoyable. The location just doesn't lend itself to a good holdout. You're obviously not even really supposed to stay in that place very long in Episode 2, so it's pretty clear that it wasn't designed for such a holdout in mind. Regardless, once you do have to run to the rescue vehicle, it can be a bit unclear as to where to go. You're best off saving a bile jar for the end.

Difficulty: This campaign is fairly short and easy. The hardest part is the second map where combat is most intense, but even so, the player should consider starting off on Advanced to extend the gameplay a little. The plethora of resources also affords the player a lot of variety of weapons as well as the occasional bonuses fire and explosive ammo.

Final Verdict: There are worse places to port from Episode 2
I'm posting this before the inevitable port of that Strider map as a scavenge finalebut Our Mutual Fiend doesn't work as well as White Forest, the other Episode 2 port, and definitely not as well as City 17, the Episode 1 port. Its events are fine, and it doesn't really do anything wrong (the port is about as good as one could expect from those maps), but the main issue from which it suffers is that it's usually boring, especially the finale. It has some potential in spots of the first and second map (plus, another Versus map is always welcome) but otherwise it's generic and forgettable. The maps still look decent but it's not original and maps don't always translate well to other games. It's certainly not unique or different enough to warrant its large download size. As of right now, it's okay if you're looking for a new time-waster and you love Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Otherwise if you're ambivalent, there are better campaigns out there.

Rating: 3.13/5.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Update 3-23-19

Hello to any and all readers! I wanted to break format a little and write up a short post about updates and where things have been. Let me start off with the important stuff first.

If you haven't noticed, I hadn't been regularly updating this blog for the past year. I plan on changing that. I want to get more reviews done on a somewhat consistent basis. I don't have a specific timeframe in mind but I'm going to try to be more productive on the review front. Now, if you are familiar with my earlier review document on Google docs, you would know that my style for that document was, simply put, fairly short summaries in pure text format. The style for my reviews on this blog is that I'm putting down a lot more for each campaign, plus I'm including screenshots of my own games through the custom campaigns. This is something that I enjoy doing but it does take a fair amount more work than the earlier style. Additionally, aside from the few campaigns that have newly released this year, this is mostly a revisit of the campaigns that I've previously played. That's not a bad thing, but I am rewriting the reviews instead of copying and pasting what I've said before. My thoughts will inevitably change and on occasion my overall opinion might be different from what I've written before. Basically what this means is I'm starting more or less from scratch. As such, it does take some time for me to clearly articulate what I'm thinking for each campaign. It's kind of like starting over, so it will take a while before the campaigns are completely reviewed again. Besides, it would be boring for me to just reiterate what I've already said! In any case, I hope to get a little bit better at turning out reviews on a little bit more of a consistent basis. I may also break my previous alphabetical order to get the reviews out.

The second order of business is the campaign listing. Let me say this right here: as of right now, the current campaign list on this site is the only accurate list. I have spent a couple of nights adding in new links and new campaigns, as well as removing dead links that no longer work. This was much more work than you might expect. It doesn't help that the campaign list is done in HTML format, so it actually takes a lot longer than you might think. However, that's really the only way to do it without the table getting screwed up. I have checked Gamemaps and the Steam Workshop, and all the links should work. Additionally, I have added certain maps to my Mediafire account that weren't up there before so they should all be good to go.

One thing that has somewhat put a dent in things is Timelord's Emporium. Don't get me wrong, it's a great repository, but it might actually contain too much. It's difficult for me to discern the best versions of the campaigns, or whether or not campaigns work at all. I have found the Emporium to be best for people who want to clean up these campaigns, which are for the most part unfinished or broken. Realistically, there are almost undoubtedly over a thousand links on the Emporium. I'm sorry, but for what mostly amounts to broken campaigns that you probably can't even finish, I just don't have the time, energy, or resources to go through downloading them all and testing them. For now, I won't be linking to any of those campaigns. If you want to help out and go through those campaigns and let me know which ones definitely work, then you can let me know via email, comment, message on Steam or Discord or wherever. I'm always open to feedback.

Now on to something different. I'm currently working on a couple of mod projects for Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. These are purely aesthetic things, not campaigns or gameplay changes, so don't expect anything mind-blowing. I don't really have anything I can share about them right now, and I also don't want to tease them too much in case anyone's hopes get high and I don't deliver. In any case, if anyone here who reads this has design talent and mod experience and wants to help out, feel free to send me a message.

- Olde

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Let's Build Our Hideaway

Title: Let's Build Our Hideaway
Author: James D. Carnahan
Survivors: L4D1
Notes: Best played with human companions.

Let's Build Our Hideaway, jokingly also referred to as "Let's Rebuild Society Our Hideaway," is a four-map campaign that actually implements more of a scavenge element than the "let's build" mechanic. You start out on a sailboat having crashed into a plane on an island (it's unclear as to whether or not you were on the plane or boat first). You explore the island to find out that other people attempted to build their own community to escape the infection but due to inevitable circumstances, didn't make it. The first map is where most of the building takes place; you have to gather resources all around the island to set up a house. The other maps entail leaving the island, going to a city to grab windows and other materials, and then finally adding the windows to the house.

While the campaign's premise is okay, it unfortunately doesn't hit the right notes. The first map is overburdened with finding materials and constructing a house. This isn't a typical let's-build in that there's a progression of items from a low tier to a high tier. Rather, you actually start off with a tier 2 weapon at the campaign's beginning, and building is relegated to holding 'use' to take piles of bricks or rooftops or to place walls or roofs on the house, or constructing an electric fence surrounding the house as a light barricade against infected. The first map has most of the building elements out of all the maps and it will probably take the longest by far. If you don't know what to do or if you miss some necessary materials, you might be wandering around for the better part of half an hour. Resources really aren't too much of a problem but there's a lot of aimless wandering.

I think that one of the worst parts of the map is this armory shelf in the house that takes two whole minutes of holding 'use' in order to lockpick, when by that point you'll already have access to a Tier 2 weapon and an ammo pile. I just don't get it. I did in fact hold 'use' for almost the entire amount of time, but right at the very last second, I got pounced by a jockey that came through the open door because the bots will freely leave that door open. The thing that's really annoying is that you are completely reliant on the bots for two entire minutes if you attempt to lockpick that weapon stash. My recommendation is just to not even bother, honestly. I want to iterate that holding 'use' to pick up materials or construct part of the house, whether it be for ten, fifteen, or even twenty seconds isn't necessarily bad. However, two minutes is just beyond the pale to be reliant on the brain dead AI of the bots.

The second map is really short but we had a situation where Bill spawned outside the saferoom and got destroyed by a charger, so Francis also left the saferoom to try to rescue Bill on his own. You can see by the above screenshot how well that went. In any case, once you leave the saferoom you'll be greeted with a terrible sight, a ton of boxes to search to see if you just so happen to choose the right one by accident. Once you do, you leave on the same sailboat you arrived on. Apparently someone said they wanted windows. In a zombie apocalypse... Because that makes sense. But whatever.

In the third map, you'll arrive at a city where your goal is to find some windows and other supplies. This just boils down to having to find two trucks containing the objects you need and then returning to the start. If you know where you're going or just happen to be lucky, you can finish this map in about two minutes. If you don't you might be stuck wandering around the town for ten or more minutes. The last map has you back at the island where you make your way to the island, carve holes out of the brick walls, round the ends off, and insert the windows. Once that's all done, you go inside the house, close the door, and end the campaign. Seriously, that's it.

This campaign is a real anomaly. It makes little to no sense and gets bogged down in its own ridiculous attempts at logic. The island would be an okay idea if the map was polished, looked good, and had some better indicators as to where to go. As it stands, there are some areas that are a bit hidden and aren't even that interesting to look at. Another thing that really bogged the game down for me was a ton of notes strewn all around that were supposed to be both journal entries and a dialogue script. There's really some attempt at a story here but it just doesn't make any sense and I really don't care. I wouldn't expect any other players to care, either.

The "let's build" part of the title is pretty misleading. There's no real relationship that this has to other let's builds that use Rimrook's mechanic. The let's build aspect of this is finding enough arbitrary materials and holding use on a house. If that sounds fun to you, I wonder if you really enjoy Left 4 Dead 2's gameplay. From a level layout perspective, the main island map that you're on is okay, but not good enough to warrant playing on for three maps unless it was really much better detailed and polished. The third map, taking place in the city, is fairly barren and doesn't have much to look at or admire. In any case, you're not making much progress there, only going to find materials just a fair bit away from the starting point and return. Seeing as the design of that map is fairly open, it doesn't lend itself to much interesting gameplay.

I can tell that the author did put in time into making this campaign, and it has the initial stages of some kind of unique ideas here. There are even some creative little additions like allowing the toilet or sink to restore health. However, those small positive aspects don't keep this campaign from getting bogged down in a slow pace of building arbitrary pieces of a house. Plus the story doesn't appeal to me and it doesn't make any sense as to why you would want to make your shelter from the zombie apocalypse structurally weaker.

Difficulty: In terms of gameplay, this campaign is easy. The difficulty comes in figuring out where to go and leaving yourself in the hands of the bots if you play by yourself. 

Final Verdict: While the idea could have been interesting,
figuring out where to go isn't actually fun. Nothing looks particularly good and there isn't a lot of good sign-posting as to where to go. If you play with friends, I suppose you can take turns building parts of the house while you cover each other from infected, which could be a little fun. However, this doesn't stop the campaign from halting the gameplay dead in its tracks for the players who do have to stop and do nothing while they build very small portions of the house one by one. If holding down the 'use' button for long stretches at a time sounds fun to you, then by all means go for this campaign. But here it doesn't even serve a purpose like it would in a more traditional let's build map and so it just comes across to me as a big waste of time.

Rating: 1.75/5.