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.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Author: James D. Carnahan
Notes: Best played with human companions.
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.
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.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Author: Special KBS/2K Games/Irrational
Notes: A "Let's Build" map. Best played with human companions. Unlocking the pipe wrench may crash your game.
Arcadia is a single-map let's build campaign that takes place in the underwater city of Arcadia, a location from the first BioShock game. The recreation is faithful to the multiplayer version of the map (seen in BioShock 2) and contains a lot of custom details and homages to the original BioShock game. Obviously, it has Left 4 Dead 2 elements and doesn't take liberties with different gameplay elements, it simply uses Arcadia as a backdrop for the let's-build concept.
Final Verdict: For a let's build map, this is one of the best in my opinion, if not the best. However, it does have optimization issues. It can lag or even crash. The dispersal of build trees and the goal is good, but the constant waves of infected and frequent tanks is a bit of a detraction. If you're into let's build maps, this one is a must. It's a bit difficult to rate this as a campaign in general because it's so different, but I still recommend this to players who enjoy campaigns if they can find some people to play it with.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Notes: Just a cheap, long boss fight against an ugly huge machine.
Aquarius is a single-map campaign that is just a boss fight in a large arena against a huge machine that looks like a giant hamburger with flying orbs. This is a completely intolerable map because it takes ridiculously long to kill the orbs and the boss, the bots are absolutely helpless, the arena slowly loses platforms, and the campaign constantly sends hordes and chargers to try to deathcharge players.
The machine thing sprays out these hideous red beams that do damage to you periodically, as well as missing texture effects. This clutters up your screen and makes it difficult to see anything, not only when you're shooting the machine, but also when fighting the hordes and chargers. This makes playing this campaign, let alone seeing anything, excruciating.
I actually beat this with another player and after three retries, we eventually destroyed the power core. All that’s left is just kill a tank, kill a witch, board the helicopter and watch it circle around and the mission ends.
Difficulty: AIDS level difficulty. The boss hits you with random unavoidable beams, the arena falls out beneath your feet, the boss is nigh-impossible to kill solo, and the bots are absolutely useless, so for all intents and purposes it might as well be considered essentially impossible to play without a team.
Final Verdict: The concept is bad, the map is terrible, and the boss fight is even worse. This is literally one of the worst campaigns I've ever played. This map is literally just like taking a kick to the balls. Avoid this at all costs.
Title: Apocalypse 2
Notes: From the same author as Escape From Toronto.
Apocalypse 2 is a five-map campaign that is probably a port of a L4D1 campaign. It is fairly extensive but very simplistic and ugly. The maps mostly all succumb to the same issues, that there are too many ideas and they're not implemented well. There are several environments and they mostly look like a first trial run through making them. The environments are relatively unrelated and there isn't an adequate feeling of sense between the transitions. They're not unrealistic enough to be considered abstract but not realistic enough to represent anything real. Instead it just seems like a bunch of poorly made sections.
There are lots of entities and a lot of shit flung at a wall to see what sticks and the answer to that overall is not much. This kind of results in a ton of open areas and empty rooms. There are some semblances of okay environments, such as an underground tunnel or a sewer that isn't too bad, but the open areas outdoors are all far too big to be challenging.
There are plenty of places where you can peer out over the edge of the world or where there aren't player brushes where there should be. What this means is that you can easily go out of bounds. This is easily reached just by not knowing the way. Very rarely are there actual indications of where to go, so often you'll be running around just trying to figure out where to go. The majority of the time it is not in a building unless it's very obvious.
The best part of the campaign is the sewer section since it's wide enough to give you space to move but also in tight enough quarters for it to actually be kind of a challenge, and even better, there isn't any water to slosh through. Unfortunately this leads to yet another blocky, ugly section that doesn't make much sense.
The fourth map is huge, very random, and full of monstrosities of buildings that make no sense, are incomplete, and aren't even necessary to go into, yet they're huge and have random details. It's hilarious how incredibly easy it is to reach areas you're not supposed to get to but when trying to figure out the actual direction of the map, it's quite headache-inducing because nothing indicates a correct path. I managed to get outside the boundaries of the map just by thinking I was going the right way.
The finale is pretty horrendous because it's a huge bridge map that doesn’t tell you anything about what it expects you to do. The idea is to go down one side of a bridge, climb up some ladders to turn a lever, cross the bridge, do the same thing on the other side, then climb into a barge that magically appears for some reason. It has tanks mysteriously disappear when running from them because the map is so big. The outro is really weak and once it’s done, there’s nothing exciting or fulfilling at the end.
This campaign is really weak and honestly looks like someone cleaned up some discarded scrap maps that wasn't ever intended to be released. Everything technically works, but there's just nothing challenging about it except trying to navigate the poorly directed, oftentimes poorly crafted designs of the maps. None of the saferooms had ammo piles, just a stock of new weapons, which was a weird and unnecessary design choice. There are very few director hints, though I noticed quite a few custom models. It also incorporates the “Funny Louis Voice Mod” as well as some other sounds that were not as funny (such as farting when you save or heal a player, swearing from the common infected).
Difficulty: The most difficult part is the first map, which withholds any weapon from players until the halfway point. Otherwise it's just a pain to figure out the direction you're expected to go. The maps are so big that special infected and commons shouldn't pose a problem.
Final Verdict: For people who love post-apocalyptic settings, you could do worse than this one, but I just don’t think there's that much to enjoy from it. It’s not a completely broken or horrible campaign, but There may be errors for models. It's incredibly mediocre, ugly, directionless, and not very fun in my opinion.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Title: A Path To Exit
Links: http://gamemaps.com/details/19892, http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1331266928
A Path To Exit is a three-map campaign that has an abstract setting. It mostly takes place indoors and all of the areas are blocky and primitively geometric, as in the above example (the first room past the starting point). In addition, the walls, platforms, floors, and ceilings are crudely textured and look very basic in style. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it fails to make good use of the Source engine's much higher capabilities, as well as the standard Half-Life 2 textures that were put to better use in so many other campaigns. The saferooms in particular are incredibly basic and feel like so little work was put in to make them feel lived in that it's almost confining.
There were few problems with directionality. Lighting is tends to be on a "hit you over the head" level, with standing lights pointing extremely bright beams in the area you're supposed to go. Again it contributes to the feeling that only the most basic things were added. An adequate number of directional arrows are included for good effect and the game instructor messages are sufficient.
The first two maps contain areas that fall into either bright and well-lit rooms or very dim and extremely dark ones. These are used to good effect for contrast, although it's very clear that the concepts behind the rooms were given more thought than how they work in L4D2. That is, these maps don't promote any special kind of challenge or difficulty in the game, as it doesn't seem like the inclusion of infected, common or special, pose any particular challenge at all.
Rather, it's pretty obvious that the first two maps were created with certain puzzles in mind. They're very basic to figure out, such as shoot the floor or jump over/crawl under damaging wires, etc. These are easy to figure out and at most they entail pushing a button at the end of a path. There was just one alcove that eluded me for a bit because it's hidden and you can't proceed without finding it. I appreciated this break from linearity but everything still looks crude, blocky, and unrealistic, so it just seems conceptual rather than something interesting.
The third map is literally just a holdout in, again, a very primitive setting. There were several invisible wall sections in the previous maps where only infected could come from, but this is made very obvious in the finale. The holdout location is actually here designed with strategy in mind, but it's so easy that you'd have to be brain dead to find it legitimately challenging. On top of this, the buildings don't even have anything other than the wall facing you, so it's very clearly just made for the simplicity of it without much care for polish or visual quality.
This looks and plays somewhat like the typical Chinese map without all the bullshit. It's very easy and not much to look at, but it has some basic concepts of what it wants to be, just without any polish. It's serviceable though mostly too easy. I do think it could potentially work well for mutations, such as Tank Attack (from Rayman's Mutation Mod), Hard Eight or something with a bunch of hunters. The standard way through is just not as rewarding as it could be. I get the feeling that this is the author's first attempt at a map, and that's very clear here. Otherwise, there's not too much wrong with it, it just feels like there isn't much to it. Resources are distributed well but the design isn't polished to deal with certain facets of L4D2. For example, defibs are strewn around because the author must've figured out that the bots will kill themselves off ladders, rather than the ladder being fixed in some way.
Difficulty: Pretty easy all things considered. The only sticking point may be finding all of the buttons to proceed in map 2, otherwise no concerns here. Regular players may find it more rewarding to start on Advanced difficulty.
Final Verdict: A crude and abstract 20-minute campaign, but A Path To Exit has some kind of semblance of a vision nonetheless, and doesn't have any bad tricks or traps. Easy, short, and not very polished, this is probably more valuable as a backup map for some mutations than for campaign. Adequate enough for a one-off if you're desperate for a new map, otherwise skippable.
Notes: Unfinished campaign, aka Amsterdamn.
This is a campaign with two working, completed maps and a third unfinished map. As its title suggests, it takes place in Amsterdam on a lake and through some houses, restaurants, and sewers. Since it's only two maps, it's fairly short although the maps are made decently competently. Some wooded areas open up to a more urban, residential area with some interesting architecture that is somewhat reminiscent of European style, including older style street lights and cobblestone streets. The atmosphere conveys a humid, misty morning or evening and although it's nice at first, it's fairly gray and monotonous after a while.
The most noticeable thing that drags this campaign down is that there are no primary weapons in the first map at all, even though there are witch spawns. This looks like one of several probable oversights on the part of the author. The directionality is in some cases also somewhat problematic, when a lot of pointless wandering around in an apartment building or sewer doesn't really yield any results and you're just waiting to run into an arrow to tell you which is the right way.
Some of the areas show promise, such as some creatively designed restaurants and an interesting sewer design. However, it gets marred either by directionality issues, lack of resources, or things looking too bland overall. The second map ends with a short gauntlet run in a small rock venue to find an alarm to turn off. Again, things look pretty boring and dark here, which is understandable since this may just be an alpha of a campaign that was never finished. Ammo piles and tier 1 weapons were scattered throughout the second map, while throwables were nearly non-existent. Ultimately the goal was to make the way around a crashed subway car (I guess it's supposed to represent a trolley) in the middle of the street, which didn't make much sense.
Difficulty: This campaign's difficulty is fairly average, the only thing that makes it tricky is the lack of primary weapons in the first map and lack of tier 2 weapons in the second.
Final Verdict: This campaign has promise but still only strives to reach good quality. The areas overall are passable but since it's only two maps, there's really no point in playing this unless you absolutely have to.