09 September 2009

Left4Dead (or left4Hawaii?) flight of terror

Picture it - an obliterated airport. Charred wreckage marring the runways as grim reminders of the carnage that befell a once bustling and energetic town. Luggage lies strewn across the departure lounge, the rancid, acrid stench of death and decay filtering through the hallways. Yet not even this vivid portrait of despair comes close to the foreboding portent that is the silence. The grim, deathly silence serves to overwhelm the visual nightmare, deafening a small team of survivors who are crouched hiding inside a safe room. "Should I close the door?" whispers Zoey... "I don't like this one little bit..."

"No!" snaps back Louis "We need to heal up first! Watch that door!". The oppressing silence is broken by the quick snapping of shotgun shells being loaded into the chamber. Zoey repeats her earlier request "should I close the door?" - there's a very clear element of fear in her voice. "There's a smoker out there..." she warns.

"No! Let's heal up first! I'm going to heal Louis" responds Francis. Zoey keeps her eyes and pistols trained on the aisles of departure lounge seats. She can hear the wracking cough of a smoker nearby. The eerie silence returns, only occasionally being interrupted by a wheeze or a sputter somewhere outside the safe room. Somewhere. Out there. Zoey knows it's out there. Zoey wipes the sweat from her brow. The bite wounds on her arm continue to ache. She clenches her grip around the pistols even tighter, fighting the pain that is ebbing through her body. She has to remain calm. She has to focus. The team needs to recover. She has to keep guard.

"SMOKER!!! THERE'S A SMOKER OUT -" Zoey's screams are brought to an abrupt halt as a tongue lashes around her body and drags her out of the sanction of the safe room. The team is caught completely off guard. Louis bolts for the doorway, trains his gun onto the smoker, and lets fire a clip-full of ammo into the Smoker's rotting body. Zoey scrambles back to the safety of the room, and with a pleading tone shouts "we have to close this door! We're sitting ducks like this!" ... at that moment Francis exclaims "okay, done patching up! We can go!" and Zoey closes the door, thinking to herself "why after all of this senseless proximity to death and my added pain, does Francis look decidedly fresher - almost angelic - and Louis is still bleeding all over me as badly as he had a few minutes ago? "...

And so begins the final level of the Dead Air campaign, with the team of survivors nearing death (Louis [Oltman] on 45% and Zoey [me] on 24%, with Francis [Simon] on 96% health, and Bill [Wayne] on 72%). Our esteemed guest back from the UK - Simon - had healed up himself from 80% to 96% instead of Oltman, and after all of that, I had been dragged out into the gaping maw of a Smoker for NOTHING much.

Anyway, the final level is spectacular - the plane-crash scene [spoiler averted] is phenomenal and draw-droppingly good, and it doesn't take long before you're in the horde/rescue stage.

First round, Simon manned the minigun, and I was on the ground watching his back and shoving away infected. Oltman and Wayne were stationed on the gas tanker's top. We became sitting ducks for the Boomers and in the end the Tank mauled through us.

Second round, we didn't fair much better with that strategy.

Third round, I suggested we go up my little hideaway nearby, and we adopted that strategy. It worked pretty well, except version 1 had Oltman watching at the end nearest the stairwell, to the left with Simon covering his back to the right (the front of the fuselage is 12 o'clock, so Oltman was watching 9 o'clock, and Simon was watching the stairwell at 3 o'clock). Wayne and I took up position at the far end away from the stairwell, with me on sniper duty, and Wayne on shoot-everything-that-moves (including me ... once again, byebye SAFETY FIRST ACHIEVEMENT) duty.

Simon bought it first, and the rest of us amazingly survived the Tanks and all of it, and made a run for the plane. The ramp never dropped in time and I was overwhelmed. Wayne was nailed before me, and Oltman made it onto the plane, but heroically, answering my Jedi-mind-trick advice, he didn't end the campaign, and hopped off the plane to die so we could try it again.

The next few rounds had mixed success, but we reviewed our strategy and had all of us at the far end of the fuselage, sheltered by the sidewalls and mentally overwhelming the infected, who couldn't seem to figure out how to run up the stairs, turn, and get to us. They create a tad logjam at the stairs and we could dispatch them quickly. Once in a while someone would get smoked, and then our plan would fall to pot with us sending out rescue attempts and dying. Armed with the only pipe bomb, I would throw it to distract the horde enough to rescue the incap'ed player, but this fell flat when a Tank starts to throw concrete blocks at a group in one corner.

We revised our strategy even further, with Oltman ingeniously planting propane tanks and gas cylinders around the base of the plane ramp so we could quickly clear a path on our escape route. We ended up refining our equipping of molotov's and pipe bombs in the end, and Oltman and I would have pipe bombs and the others would have molotov's. Simon had become a pro at hitting targets with his molotov, and had whooped for joy earlier when he had actually hit a Tank in the face, even though it was killing him. He died with a look of satisfaction plastered all over his face. Of course, I was a little less impressed, since he also managed to splash a Tank *and the team* in the corner in another round, and quickly expired all of us.

The final - winning - strategy was a masterpiece of execution. I must also congratulate the team for their quick-thinking rehash of an old strategy and their thinking on the run.

Here's how it came about (for the four people reading this post...):

I don't recall setting up any gas tanks around the plane - maybe - but I'm not sure. A comment below can help clear that up.

We healed up at the station, all grabbed a health pack, and made a run for the salvation airlines flight 4v10000. Oltman summoned the horde, and while he was running, I was aimed clearly down the stairwell to keep it clear for him. Wayne was firing off anyone in the pathway for his sprint to the stairwell, and Simon was ready to slow down the horde coming from the 9 o'clock plane.

Simon got up, we got to the far end (6 o'clock), and prepared ourselves. Interestingly, a crouched person doesn't seem to be shoved along as much as a standing person. At any rate, Simon watched the stairwell and a bit of the 9 o'clock show, Oltman watched the stairwell and more of the 9 o'clock show, and Wayne was standing at the back potting off anyone that got through the stairs. My job was to be about three paces in front, crouched by the gap in the side wall on the right side, ready to be smoked whenever a Smoker got to the stairs, so someone behind me (usually Simon) would despatch the death-grip and I could return to action.

This worked so well, that I think pretty much all of us just used our pistola. I was smoked three times or so, and rescued every time, and no-one was incapacitated. I do believe we even made it past the first Tank.

Then the side walls started to fade a bit, and the Smoker got greedy. Oltman (I think?) was the first to be smoked, and he hit the stairs, but we managed to rescue him before he was incap'ed and he bolted back upstairs. Next it went for Wayne, but this time we freed him, and he was disoriented, and he fell off the stairs. That's when the nightmare began to unfold a bit. I lobbed my pipe bomb to distract the hordes from him while Oltman valiantly leapt to his aid. Up, down, up, down the two went. I sprayed covering fire around them (I could only see about 270 degrees of their side, because they were UNDER the fuselage that we were inside), and when my pipe bomb didn't rescue them, Simon (or Oltman?) lobbed his, and bought them some time. Oltman managed to revive Wayne, and they made a run for it. Boomer! They were stenched. And another wave came. I was down to 54 bullets in my assault rifle, and I realised the end was night unless we intervened. I started to feel it was a lost cause, so I shouted "leave him! you've got to get up here!" and Simon quietly concurred. Oltman left Wayne and made a hobble up the stairs. Wayne was bleeding out; 50... 40... 30... and sadly we watched him die. I gave Oltman a revive from his 40% to 80%, in the middle of an impending Tank battle, and then he did the same for me. We managed to fend off a lobbed concrete block, and someone managed to spark flames around the sucker. A flaming Tank ran around haplessly and we felt quite safe in our position. Our little safe-haven soon became a death-cradle, as the Tank made his way up the stairs, and Oltman barked out the captain's orders "abandon ship!" abandon ship!" ... we could hear the plane starting up its engines, so we knew we had a hope to make it. We jumped out the 3 o'clock side, hopefully bracing our fall by bouncing off the broken fuselage next to us. I hit the ground. Oltman hit the ground. Simon hit the ground. I ran away. Oltman ran away. Simon whimpered. I think his legs were broken. Or his neck. Whatever, he was down, and a flaming Tank was making his way to the coup de grĂ¢ce.

I wasn't going to leave anyone to die, so I turned around, screaming to Oltman that we had to save Simon. Simon was whimpering like a jack-russell discovering his own shadow, and I ran into the fray. Oltman declared unilaterally that it was time to make an escape and to leave Simon. No ways Jose. I hadn't had my heroics for the round yet. Oltman was a bit "half-empty" because of his failed rescue on Wayne (which admittedly was a success, except for the meaty bits of Wayne that ended up on Oltman's clothes).

I ran into the burning Tank, and let rip a full auto of my assault rifle on him. He didn't flinch. Bugger. I then gave him a shove to distract him from Simon, who was now also on fire, and on about -40% life remaining. The Tank turned to me, let out an almighty roar, stamped his fists (which squished Simon), and then rolled over and died. [at this point I must submit that had we had a few more bullets into the Tank, perhaps Simon wouldn't have died... Oltman!! But nevertheless, had Oltman responded to the rescue attempt, perhaps the rest wouldn't have transpired as it had]

I turned to flee, hearing the horde surrounding us. I had NO bullets except for my akimbo pistols, and I wasn't going to go down again this time. I ran around a corner, and heard Oltman declare "pipe bomb by the plane" - the little genius had gone back to the ammo supply and grabbed a pipe bomb to clear the plane area - that was what my pipe bomb was SUPPOSED to be for, but the rescue raid on Wayne had depleted my reserve. Great job Oltman, we have a clear run for the plane - Oltman was on the left side, I was on the other side of the tanker. Around the corner, one step to freedom, and ... SMOKED! I was smoked!!! Pulled away into an icy kiss of death!!! SO CLOSE!!!

Oltman stopped, turned, aimed, fired, and freed me. My hero! I lumbered (I was that broken) to the plane, and as I was getting in, I saw Oltman make a dash, and get vomited on. Oh dear. I dispatched the Boomer, and told Oltman "come to my voice!" ... he managed to stagger blindly into the plane, and off we flew to freedom.

Strangely, and unofficially of course, the game closed with the credits "in loving memory of Bill (buddy), Francis (BadKat), and Louis (oltman)"... he may or may not have bled out on the deck of the plane in my arms... or maybe the door closed on his hand or something, but at any rate, he got the achievement, and he did make it to the plane twice, so that counts for a win :)

"Here lies Oltman's Louis... he may or may not have died, but he was the representative black IT guy"

"Here lies Simon's Francis... he died a happy man, because he had molotov'ed a Tank in the face"

"Here lies Wayne's Bill... he shot teammates. And he died"


oltman said...

finally i get rescued, even if it was just to be buried (or dropped from 35 000 feet)!

to clarify the gas cylinders on the last effort: we nromally placed them strategically around the back of the plane so that one shot would set them all off and clear the back of the plane. we did not try and save any pipe bombs for that last ditch effort as we hardly ever reached that stage of the fight.

in the last effort though, due to the randomness of the game, there was not a single cylinder to be found ANYWHERE! so left my pipebomb at the gas pump and rather switched it for a molotov (which eventually dispatched the first tank).

however, i have to say that trying to save poor Wayne was my feel-good-moment. sure, we failed, but we all gave it our everything. amazing how hard it is to move, let alone run, when you have 30 zombies on your back, hey Wayne?

favourite player comment was Simon in a slow, dry tone: oh no... the toungue thingy got me... again...

KateY Johnston said...

I know I've been a way for a while honey but this is a little bit concerning. I think you jumped into another planet :P

Sounds like loads of fun though - wish I had been there to be Zoey :)

oltman said...

Ah, such good times! I even found my Caps Lock button since then!

BrYan (aka Brattex) said...

It never gets old :) ... and it's been nearly ten years! Crazy!