My brother (Ben) and his wife (Jill) are pretty awesome. They bought me a copy of Left 4 Dead 2 for my birthday, and they bought it with express purpose of being able to play with them online so that I could join in on their zombie killing shenanigans.
If you are not familiar with this series of games, let me summarize:
You are one of four human survivors in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. Your goal is to survive, working your way from one safehouse to the next, ultimately trying to get to a military evacuation point where you will (hopefully) be choppered away to safety. Everyone else is a zombie, and every zombie wants to curb-stomp you to death and eat your brains. Some of the zombies can strangle you with their tongues from 100 feet away. Some of them blow up and cover you with zombie-attracting puke. Some of the zombies spit corrosive acid. Some of them wear overalls (which is, in many ways, much scarier).
You and your three human buddies have to shoot, bludgeon, hack, and torch your way through the hordes of undead. If you wander off from the group, you will likely be picked off and eaten before you can say George A. Romero. You have to rely on your teammates to save your butt, patch you up with medkits, and not shoot you by accident too often.
Now, there is something funny about playing this game with my brother. We used to play this game called “What Would You Do If Society Crumbled?” We would plan out what sites in the neighbourhood would be strategically located for defense, where we could get guns, how much food we could horde, and who would get the title of “El Presidenté” (me) and who would get the title of “Warlord” (Ben). In some ways, Left 4 Dead 2 is like playing out the first few days of our hypothetical apocalypse.
But, as all good simulators do, Left 4 Dead 2 has also shown us where we might have some trouble.
- We are all spazzier than a bunch of cats with fireworks taped to their tales (not recommended). Every little noise sets off the entire group into a fit of random automatic fire, spraying bullets at walls, ceilings, windows, propane tanks, and the occasional low-flying bird.
- We are not great shots. There are a lot of friendly-fire incidents, most of which come from point #1, where we start running in front of each other’s fields of fire. There are also some really bad decisions being made in the heat of combat, like when I see Ben surrounded by zombies and I decide that I can “pick them off” by repeatedly firing my shotgun at the entire group.
- We don’t have a great collective sense of direction. And by that, I mean that I don’t have a good sense of direction, and I keep trying to lead people around. In the last outing, that meant that I led the lone computer-controlled player on our team (Coach) along a precarious catwalk “shortcut,” lost the rest of the team, fell 20 feet, sprained both ankles, and got us trapped in the far corner of an abandoned sugar mill. Ben and Jill had to rescue us both.
- I don’t relinquish control very well. Carrying on from point #3, I often try to grab control of the team. This happens every time that I play a game with my little brother since we have been gaming together since the days of the original Gameboy. I actually have to say, “You’re team leader,” to him at the beginning of each game (breaking the long-standing tradition of me being alpha dog), and we both know that the instruction is meant as much for my benefit as it is for his.
- Jill has a stronger sense of self-preservation than the rest of us. While trying to escape a carnival amphitheatre, everyone on the team except for Jill was incapacitated by one form of freaky zombie or another, but we were all still alive. Jill took one look at our three prone forms, flipped us off, and hopped in the helicopter to fly away to safety. Her laughter still echoes in my ears.
Now I know that this is only a game, but the zombie apocalypse could start at any point, leaving us surrounded by the undead with nothing to save us but our wits, a machete, and some scavenged firearms. All I know is that I am going run like a man on fire to keep up with my sister-in-law, because I now know that she won’t leave the door open for me if I lag behind.
(I’m so joking about that one, Jill. I’ll just “accidentally” shoot you in the calf to slow you down if I think you’re making a break for it.)