(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the May 2009 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
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Hello world, and welcome to GameCola: the only videogame Web site on the entire Internet.
In my “Dear Readers” column last month, I talked about stupid design mistakes developers make that nearly ruin their otherwise awesome videogames. Specifically, I talked about Fable II, and how the game would be a much better package overall without the oh-crap-the-game’s-due-next-week-let’s-just-slap-together-an online multiplayer mode.
Surprisingly, nobody threw rocks at me for daring to criticize such a well-liked game. I’m hoping I’ll have more luck in soliciting hate mail this month, as I’ll be taking on the Internet darling Left 4 Dead and telling you exactly where it went wrong.
To begin, there are three things you should know about Left 4 Dead, an Xbox 360 and PC first-person shooter that came out late last year.
The first thing you should know is that its main mode, Campaign—in which you team up with three other people in a B-movie-inspired story to take on hordes of zombies that, among other things, throw up on you—is awesome.
The second thing you should know is that Campaign mode is only four hours long.
The third thing you should know is that the game’s other main mode, Versus, is broken. In Versus mode, you generally do exactly the same thing you do in Campaign mode. You play through the same levels, in the same order, killing the same enemies with the same weapons while trying to reach the same objectives.
There is only one difference between Campaign mode and Versus mode: in Versus mode, the zombies, instead of being controlled by the AI, are also controlled by human players. Once the zombies kill all the humans, or the humans reach their objective, everyone switches sides; people who were controlling humans get to control zombies, and people who were controlling zombies have to control humans.
Now, getting to play as the zombies sounds totally sweet. Who wouldn’twant to throw up all over some jerk on Xbox Live? The big, huge, Versus mode-breaking catch, though, is that you don’t get to decide which side you play on. Half the time, you’re a human, and the other half, you’re a zombie. There is no way around this.
This means that, 50% of the time, you’re stuck playing as a human, doing the exact same thing that you already did in Campaign mode. Campaign mode is a lot of fun, but you know what’s not fun? Having to play through it again before you get to the parts you actually want to play. That’s tedious. It’s like you just watched Lord of the Rings, and now you want to eat a sandwich, but before you can eat a sandwich, you have to watch Lord of the Rings again.
In my expert, I-couldn’t-program-a-print-statement-in-QBasic opinion, there are two simple ways the developers could have fixed this:
They could let you choose whether to play as a human or as a zombie (duh),1 or
There could be a separate mode in which you only play as a zombie, trying to kill AI- or player-controlled humans.
Since Versus mode is nearly unplayable (unless you only check it out months after you finished Campaign mode), people are left with a totally awesome four hours that they paid fifty bucks for. Maybe Left 4 Dead should have just been a $15 Xbox Live Arcade game that includes only the Campaign mode. That way, it wouldn’t be a massive rip-off.
And that’s what I have to say about Left 4 Dead.
Actually, no; wait. There is a fourth thing you should know about Left 4 Dead: the “4” they use in its name instead of the word “for” is really, really stupid and almost kept me from buying the game at all.
Thus ends Part 2 of our look at dumb developer mistakes. I still have 12 more games I want to discuss, but don’t worry—most of them can be taken care of in about one sentence, such as “Fallout 3 desperately needs to not have a level cap,” or “Civilization Revolution really ought to let you earn achievements when you’re playing online with your friends, too, instead of just when you’re playing offline by yourself.”
Hey, sweet! Now I’m down to only ten.
While you’re working on that e-mail about how I’m wrong and Left 4 Dead’sVersus mode is actually a great deal of fun,2 why don’t you read the rest of this month’s issue of GameCola? Here’s just some of what you have to look forward to:
“Quantum Geek” is totally unrealistic, because, in it, a girl is way better than a guy at videogames.
In this month’s “Inside the Guide,” Michael Gray responds to last month’s “Gamer Girlfriend,” and talks about whether it’s cheating to use an FAQ while you’re playing a game.
Sprite Monkey’s back! Remember him? Yaaay, Sprite Monkey! He wrote three reviews for us this month.
Completely unrelated to Sprite Monkey’s return, Myrtle T. Blinkin, Senior Citizen, is also back, with a new column that previews upcoming videogame releases.
And that’s not all! Richo Rosai joins us for the first time since January, writing a column about a new videogame song he wrote that, as of yet, isn’t actually in any videogame.
“The Gates of Life” artist Kate Jay weighs in with a review of all three Sly Cooper games.
Mortal enemies Meteo Xavier and Nathaniel Hoover team up to review the original Final Fantasy, though I don’t know why, since I already gave the final word on it two years ago. That word? Sucky.
Mid-Boss blames Sonic fans for Sonic‘s rapid descent into awfulness.
Zach Rich debuts a new column: “Things Zach Rich Demands to See Before He Dies in 2020.”
And finally! The Internet pushes Terrence Atkins too far in “Be Careful What You Search For.”
Enjoy the issue!
editor in chief
P.S. In case you missed it in our blog, or in this month’s edition of “Inside the Guide,” GameCola was recently discussed in an article on IGN. Score! GC’s Michael Gray, who’s made video walkthroughs for every single Nancy Drewgame released on the PC, was interviewed for the site as its FAQ Writer of the Month. Check out the interview here.
1. One argument I read against this is that it wouldn’t work, because nobody would ever want to play as the humans.
There are several things wrong with this argument.
For one, if nobody in a game wants to play as the humans, then maybe they should be able to have AI-controlled human opponents. Problem solved.
For two, if nobody wants to play as the humans…doesn’t that mean the developers screwed up somewhere? They developed a mode wherein, if you want to have fun, you have to play through real boring parts first. Shouldn’t they, like…find a way to make it not boring?
2. Or, while you’re posting a comment about how I forgot to talk about the game’s new Survival mode that was just released as DLC.3
3. I didn’t forget about it. I just don’t care about it, except that I’m annoyed that the developers spent time on it instead of fixing Versus mode.