For Rohan! Valve's Left 4 Dead team writes that Left 4 Dead 2 servers now run Team Chivalry and SeriouS Samurai's LOTR-inspired Survival mode map by default for players who subscribe to the map's Workshop entry. It's a celebratory move for a recent dedicated server fix and the ongoing beta for the Extended Mutation System, but c'mon—do you really need a reason to defend a massive stone fortress against waves of Saruman's mightiest undead?
I haven't run for my life in Left 4 Dead 2 in quite a while, but awaiting rescue from Gandalf while possibly yelling "AND MY CHAINSAW" into my microphone sounds like just the kind of fun to hook me back in.
In a first for the company, Valve let go an unspecified number of employees across multiple teams including hardware and Android development, according to a report by Gamasutra.
Valve hasn't released official word on the number of departures or how this affects its Steam Box project, but Gamasutra says it's hearing such descriptions as "great cleansing" and "large decisions" from those let go. "We've seen the number '25' tossed around, but are unable to confirm this," the Gamasutra article claims.
Yesterday, hardware hacker Jeri Ellsworth, who was hired by Valve to join its hardware team, tweeted a sudden announcement that she'd been fired and was moving on to "new and exciting projects." Elsewhere, the LinkedIn profile of Ed Owen, a senior mechanical engineer, shows an end employment date of February 2013 at Valve.
Though layoffs happen from time to time in the industry, Valve's reputation as one of the most secretive (and lucrative) studios in the business underscores the peculiarity of this development, especially when the terms "layoffs" and "fired" aren't normally associated with a company known for its free-form work philosophy.
We've reached out to Valve for an explanation and for further confirmation about how many people have been let go. We'll update this story if more information arrives today.
UPDATE: Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman tweets the appearance of a number of differences on Valve's staff page seen through Diff Checker. The comparison tool indicates the removal of nine employee bios from the People section of Valve's company page, listed below:
Moby Francke, Half-Life 2 character designer and Team Fortress 2 art lead Jason Holtman, director of business development for Steam and Steamworks Keith Huggins, character animator and animator for Team Fortress 2 "Meet the" video series Tom Leonard, software engineer for Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead Realm Lovejoy, artist for Half-Life 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. She was also part of the original DigiPen-turned-Valve team that created Narbacular Drop, the inspiration for Portal Marc Nagel, test lead for Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and patch updates Bay Raitt, animator for Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal Elan Ruskin, engine programmer for Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Matthew Russell, animator for Team Fortress 2 "Meet the" video series
UPDATE: Valve boss Gabe Newell sent along his response to Engadget: "We don't usually talk about personnel matters for a number of reasons. There seems to be an unusual amount of speculation about some recent changes here, so I thought I'd take the unusual step of addressing them. No, we aren't canceling any projects. No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or . We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here."
The extent of Left 4 Dead 2's mods already defies description, where the truly wacky shambles alongside the horde of new weapons and campaigns. Now, Valve wants to further slash at the barrier between a modder's creativity and what's possible in-game with the Extended Mutation System, an expanded scripting toolset and the future name of my progressive rock band.
As Valve explains it, the system "allows script authors to go past modifying existing scripts and write custom script logic, spawn and control entities, and much more." Think of entirely new game modes, a restructured Director, or custom HUDs. One of Valve's examples was a mode called Holdout that has survivors buying and erecting barricades against waves of undead similar to Call of Duty's Zombies spin-off.
The Extended Mutation System is in beta testing for now, but Valve's developer wiki already provides a few initial walkthroughs for sample custom modes. I'm keen on GnomeHunter—a CTF-meets-hot-potato mode where players have to lug that infernal garden gnome to a locker—but I'd love seeing a variation of Team Fortress 2's Prop Hunt in Versus mode. Why? Because the Hunter can't smell me if I'm a safety cone. Make it happen, modders!
As if slaying your way across a zombie-infested wasteland as a pack of gun-toting raptors wasn't awesome enough, modder Lurch of the L4DMaps community offers the Stay Puft mod which replaces Left 4 Dead 2's burly Tank with the soft and tasty juggernaut from Ghostbusters.
It's a pretty basic mod—a simple reskin of the Tank is all you'll get for less than a megabyte's download. Some default animations don't exactly translate well in those rolls of sugary goodness, as the model's arms stick out awkwardly and ragdoll effects are anything but smooth. Rock tosses are subsequently hilarious-looking. (You'll see what I mean in the short video I recorded above.) Still, making the conscious decision to shoot at and be chased by a grunting behemoth of marshmallow should count for something.
You can pick up Puft at L4DMaps' website. Be sure to also check out Left 4 Dead 2's freshly launched Steam Workshop listing for more mods.
Valve have posted a patch for Left 4 Dead 2 this morning. Along with the regular old incomprehensible patch notes, ("Cleaned up DLC add-on file dependencies and simplified talker file structure." Huh?) they've finally enabled Steam Workshop support, creating an easy system for browsing and installing new weapons, campaigns, items and - er - clothing. I guess the Venn diagram of fashion enthusiasts and mod creators does have some crossover.
As it's only been live for a few hours, L4D2's Workshop listing is still a bit barren. It shouldn't take long for some top content to appear, though - Left 4 Dead 2 already has a healthy modding community, so, with any luck, some of the best will be uploaded in the coming days.
Adding mods to the game was already a relatively simple process, but of course the Workshop streamlines it down further and, perhaps more importantly, will automatically each mod with any patch the creator uploads.
Hopefully we'll soon see some of the great community created campaigns start to appear, like these brilliant Back 2 School maps.
Australia's newly minted R18+ rating for video games is starting to work its magic. In a post on the Steam Forums, Valve's Chet Faliszek has confirmed the company is "exploring options" for resubmitting Left 4 Dead 2 for classification in Australia, where it was released as a censored version in 2009. Of course, enterprising and bloodthirsty Australians simply opted to order a copy from overseas, but technically that's illegal. Now, there's a chance you'll be able to inflict gratuitous harm safe from prosecution.
According to the post on the Steam forums, Faliszek said the company was on the case. "We have been exploring the options here and what we can legally do," he wrote. "We will have more information on this when we understand the issues fully and how we are moving forward, but don't worry, any cost associated with it doesn't worry us, this is something we want to do."
The Australian Classification Board introduced the new R18+ rating on January 1. Since then, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge for the Wii U has been the first to earn the rating, while Warner Bros has confirmed they will resubmit the previously banned Mortal Kombat for classification.
Someday, Valve will eventually run out of wonderful features to pack into its mega-gaming-hub Steam. Let's hope it's a long way off, because we'll all be busy poring over the user-written manuals, walkthroughs, and tips for our various games in the newly launched Steam Guides section of Steam's Community area.
Anyone can create and submit a guide for the game of their choice by clicking the new Guide tab on a game's Community Hub page. You can pretty up your words with images and embedded YouTube videos as well, and the guides also appear upon Steam's overlay whenever you're running a program. Neat. I can finally whip up my "How to avoid tigers" guide I've been planning for Far Cry 3 quickly and easily.
Head over to the Steam Guides page to take a look at the over 1,000 guides already created.
Contrary to popular belief, the anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality headset doesn't run on pixie dust and elf tears. Like all hardware, it needs software drivers. And while its 20-year-old creator, Palmer Luckey, focuses on manufacturing more developer kits to meet the exceedingly high demand, enthusiastic 3D fans are already planning homebrewed custom drivers. One such project is CyberReality's Vireio Perception which extends Rift 3D support to first-person greats such as Portal 2, Skyrim, Mirror's Edge, and Left 4 Dead.
As CyberReality describes it, Vireio (or Virtual Reality Input Output, but we like how the shorthand name sounds like an enemy boss) can "pre-warp the image to match the Oculus Rift optics, handle custom aspect-ratios (needed for the Rift's strange 8:10 screen), and utilize full 3D head-tracking." As we describe it: Whoa.
The drivers work with nine games so far: Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2, Portal 2, Skyrim, Mirror's Edge, AaAaAA!!!, Unreal Tournament 3, Dear Esther, and DiRT 2. CyberReality plans to add additional games in the future after spending more time with the kit. If all goes well, the possibilities are enormous: Think of revisiting classics such as Thief or Deus Ex with full head-tracking vision. Oh, yes, this is exciting.
Reclusive Valve boss and mighty beardsman Gabe Newell spoke with The Verge in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show today, sharing precious additional details on the studio's Steam Box hardware project. Among other topics, Newell discussed his interest for biometric control setups, the "giant sadness" of Windows 8, and the changes to Valve's game design structure. Oh, and Half-Life 3. (Just kidding about that last part, but we saw you jump a little in your chair.)
Newell said Steam Box's team explored ideas surrounding both motion-control and biometric controls, ultimately leaning towards the latter after tangling with "super boring stuff" involving latency and precision. "Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we’re a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method," he said. "Your hands, your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth, so to try and talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying, 'Oh, we’re gonna stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up.'"
When asked about Steam Box's supported features, Newell stated the Linux-based hardware allows Netflix streaming, Internet browsing, and networking across multiple TVs.
"The Steam Box will also be a server," Newell said. "Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaneous game calls. So, you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors—now we’re saying lets expand that a little bit."
Photo from The Verge — click for source
As for the wide-ranging Steam storefront itself, Newell hoped Valve will continually distance itself from inclusive alternatives such as Apple or Microsoft's digital shops by soon giving gamers the power to create custom listings to share with everyone else.
"Our view is that, in the same way users are critical in a multiplayer experience, we should figure out how we can help users find people that are going to make their game experiences better," he said. "Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, and some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar. Somebody is going to create a store that says, 'These are the worst games on Steam.' So, that’s an example of where our thinking is leading us right now."
Newell also revisited his great displeasure of Windows 8, calling the operating system a "giant sadness" and a detriment to the PC industry.
"It just hurts everybody in the PC business," he said. "Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC and buying new software to run on it, we’ve had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales. It’s like, 'Holy cow, that’s not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.' There’s supposed to be a 40 percent uptake, not a 20 percent decline, so that’s what really scares me. When I started using it I was like, 'Oh my God...' I find unusable."
Check out the rest of the interview on The Verge for Newell's thoughts on Valve's "theory of fun," user-made content, and the level of control over Steam Box's design.
Games get a bad rap for being a solitary, violence-obsessed form of entertainment. But they can also be a collaborative, violence-obsessed form of entertainment. Just ask the close-knit PC Gamer team.
Tom F: Co-op based games teach us the value of teamwork better than any kitten based motivational poster, by showing us how many more of our enemies we can crush if we can just learn to work together.
Graham: They’re not just violent either. We can build giant penis statues together in Minecraft. No, wait, that’s bad. We can control egotistical millionaires in FIFA! Oh God, no. Rich?
Rich: Well, Supreme Commander celebrates the pioneering spirit, by asking us to build a host of clanking deathbots... I got nothing. Chris?
Chris: Uh. Diablo III shows that hell is easier with other people? Hm. Senior? Bail me out?
Tom S: I can’t, I’m too busy shooting these damn zombies. Stop intro-ing and let’s go play together.
Portal 2 - 2 players, Online
How does it work? You and a friend play comedy robots in co-op-only test chambers.
Why is it good?
Tom F: The puzzles get magnificently complicated when designed for two. You can jump through each other’s portals, so you’re often setting up a jump that your partner will perform. And because every puzzle requires two players, you’ve got to figure out where to put four different portals, and coordinate your approach. It bent my brain in the same ridiculous ways that Portal 1 did.
Graham: I use my portals to make a corridor slick with gloopy paint. Tom places his at either end of the corridor, creating the world’s first infinite slip ’n’ slide. I run down it and build absurd momentum, and as I reach terminal velocity, Tom moves one of his portals so that when I exit, I’m flung out over a chasm filled with acid. Co-op Portal 2 means entwining not just your portals, but your brains.
Minecraft - 2 to many, online or LAN
How does it work? Join a server and collaborate with friends – or strangers – to build the biggest, best, and most phallic structures you can.
Why is it good?
Rich: Within minutes, I was building a spa. I don’t know why I was building a spa. No one had said “let’s build a spa” in the chat channel, but there it was, forming before us. Graham, now-departed Craig Pearson and I, had hollowed out an underground chamber, constructed a raised dais of glass, and diverted water to create a lovely jacuzzi pool. Our subterranean sauna was lit by lava, and we sat in it, content.
Graham: My first time was on a new, private server with a few folks from the PCG community. In three hours we dotted the landscape with giant Darwinians, and built an underground bunker with launch missiles, library and steam rooms to avoid a player who had built an ugly golden bridge around the world. It felt like I’d spent an afternoon building sandcastles with friends.
Fifa 12 - 2-5 players, local
How does it work? Two or more players join forces to defeat the nefarious forces of Computron, the dark lord of kicking.
Why is it good?
Rich: Football is incredibly frustrating. FIFA recreates that frustration perfectly: genius moves undone by idiot players. But in co-op, I managed to reduce that frustration through one simple method: blame someone else. I think I’m great at FIFA 12 at the best of times; when I’m playing in co-op, I’m flawless. Graham, on the other hand, is terrible.
Graham: And Rich smells bad. For a while, we were playing two-on-two, but then our fourth man lost interest. We started playing two-on-one. Here’s what we found: the player controlling a team on their own has the advantage. To work together in FIFA is to anticipate the other’s moves, making runs and pulling away defenders. If you do it right, you’re unstoppable. If you’re Rich and I, Rich smells bad.
Diablo 3 - Up to four, drop-in, drop-out co-op across the whole campaign
How does it work? Every player you add to a game of Diablo III boosts the health of your enemies, increasing the challenge – but far less than it did on launch, when damage increased as well. Otherwise, it’s just Diablo III with more people.
Why is it good?
Chris: D3’s normal difficulty is very easy, but it gains a lot of life if you’re doing it with friends. Experimenting with new skills adds a slapstick dimension to demonbashing that’s better with other people. It’s basically that bit from Lord of the Rings where Legolas and Gimli are competing to kill the most orcs, strung out over 15 hours.
Tom S: Having a friend or two around gives you more freedom to experiment with new abilities. If you’ve got a Barbarian chum to wave and shout and take punches to the face, you can sacrifice a defensive ability for that demonic ghost bat bombing run skill you’ve been dying to try. Few things amaze and terrify a co-op partner as effectively as an unannounced demonic ghost bat bombing run.
Chris: It used to be that co-op Diablo III didn’t work: it was too diffi cult, and actually reduced the amount of loot you seemed to get. Patches have since redressed the balance, and working together to crack Inferno is a satisfying challenge.
Alien Swarm - Up to 4 players, online
How does it work? It’s a top-down shooter where you control a squad of four marines shooting aliens in a scripted campaign.
Why is it good?
Rich: People love swarms. The swarms of aliens in Alien Swarm (clue’s in the name), are best dealt with by coordination: one of your group becomes point-man, clearing rooms with shotguns and flamethrowers. Another takes up the rear, machinegun blaring to dissuade any would-be alien pouncers. This coordination is the result of a kind of natural, happy trance that players fall into, rather than tiresome enforcement.
Tom F: I’m a Medic, which used to mean I was the sensible, cautious, team player. Until I realised I could take a chainsaw. It’s terrible. It’s a terrible weapon, don’t use it. You can’t just charge into alien hordes, blade revving. OK, just one more go.
Trine - Up to 3 players, online or LAN
How does it work? Each player can transform themselves into a thief, warrior or wizard at any time. In the mode we play, you can have two Thieves at once if you like.
Why is it good?
Tom F: It’s a physics-based platform puzzler, which in co-op means dropping heavy objects on each other for fun. The wizard can create boxes and levitate them, and your co-op partner can stand on them. Most of our solutions involved carting each other around on telekinetic elevators.
Graham: Trine’s best class is the grapple-hooking, arrow-firing thief, because of the arrow-fi ring but specifically because of the grapple-hooking. In the singleplayer game, you’re forced to switch away from the thief to navigate obstacles and fi ght larger enemies. In co-op, two thieves are better than one, and combined you’re able to spend more time as a swinging idiot. The best kind of idiot.
Left 4 Dead 2 - Up to 4 players, online or LAN
How does it work? - There are lots of game modes now, but the one we play most is still the campaign: four players against the AI-controlled zombie hordes.
Why is it good?
Tom S: I ran through Left 4 Dead 1’s campaign on its hardest diffi culty setting with a group of regulars. We played in the 4 6 5 same small room for many hot, panicked hours until our cries of fear overruled the rattling pistol fire coming out of our speakers. The defence events and climactic mission fi nales offered us a chance to take stock and plan, but the best moments happened when those plans disintegrated in the face of an unexpected Tank charge, or a perfectly placed Witch.
The AI director never quite offered the longevity that it promised, and the monsters lost their scare factor after a while, but Left 4 Dead is still a superb, if harrowing, co-op experience. Ever since Valve ported the fi rst game’s superior maps into the sequel, Left 4 Dead 2 has been the better choice of the pair.
Tom F: There’s an achievement for winning a garden gnome on the fairground level, and taking it all the way through the rest of that campaign. For me, that is the game. It takes both hands to carry the gnome, so whoever’s holding it can’t fi re their weapons. You can set it down and grab it later, but among huge crowds of zombies and charging Tanks, it tends to get kicked around with alarming force.
So you take it in turns to sacrifice your firepower and carry the precious cargo, relying completely on your friends to protect you and your porcelain companion when it’s your turn. If a zombie does get to you, all you can really do is bash him with the gnome.
The carnival finale, set in a huge stadium, was just too intense for any of us to survive it gunless. So when the helicopter finally arrived to bail us out, the real challenge was a frantic scavenger hunt for a chipped red hat among the seething infected. Finding him, grabbing him, and making it out alive was the most nail-biting co-op experience I’ve ever had with the game.
Half Life 2 - 2-10 players, online or LAN
How does it work? The Synergy mod enables two or more of you to jump straight into Half-Life 2, Episode One or Episode Two’s singleplayer campaign.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Half-Life 2 is a huge and amazing adventure. And while there are a lot of great co-op games, there aren’t many that are huge and amazing adventures. People don’t make long, varied, story-driven journeys through meticulously detailed and gorgeous places when they’re making a co-op campaign. So a mod that makes Half-Life 2 and its two episodic expansions work cooperatively is an amazing discovery. I don’t know how it works, but it does.
Graham: Tom and I played through the entire of Half-Life 2, and into Episode Two, over many happy lunchtimes. The best part is the Highway 17 segment in Half-Life 2. You’re both given your own buggy to drive across the countryside, and the solitary bungalows that dot the coast are perfect for cooperative assault: one person bursting through the front door while the other circles around the back. The Combine only seem to be expecting one of you, for some reason...
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 - " players in campaign mode, 2-4 players in terrorist hunt, online or LAN
How does it work? We play Terrorist Hunt: you and the other players have to clear out a big, complex building in which a fixed number of terrorists run around and try to ambush you. It’s brilliant.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Terrorist Hunt is an immediately exciting concept, because it feels more like a simulation of a real armed-response firefight than any campaign level could be. You can’t be sure the level designer isn’t going to have the terrorists suddenly come from behind you, because the level designer doesn’t make that call: the terrorists do.
Graham: It’s doubly cool in co-op, because the challenge is so overwhelming. Even with the foresight of a snake camera under the door, it’s just tough to take out six terrorists in a room before any of them kill you. So you plan: I’ll take the left two... You throw a frag... I’ll come from the other door... You rope down to the window. And then you completely screw it up.
Mass Effect 3 - Up to 4 players online
How does it work? Fight to complete a mixture of objectives on small but open levels against randomised enemy forces. Level up characters and promote them into the singleplayer campaign to improve Shepard’s chances.
Why is it good?
Chris: ME3 multiplayer takes what is good about co-op survival modes – last-stand heroics and impromptu acts of daring – and adds incredibly varied races, classes and weapons that prevent it from ever becoming samey. Right now, I’m enjoying a Quarian infi ltrator that disintegrates enemies at close range with the Reegar Carbine, a gun we’ve come to call THE PLASMA HOSE. I’m just as happy charging around as a Krogan vanguard, or racking up headshots as a Turian sentinel carrying a Black Widow.
Tom S: New classes and bizarre new weapons are added regularly through free updates. You’re always holding out against waves of familiar enemies, but the variety of ways in which you can off these enemies expands every month. The N7 classes BioWare added recently push the boundaries of what the Mass Effect universe can sensibly contain. The Shadow can dart across the map and slash foes with a psychically infused katana, the Destroyer’s weighty carapace gives him the grounding to wield a rapid-fire grenade launcher with decent accuracy and the Slayer is a teleporting martial arts expert. With so many powerful abilities to choose from, playing with friends becomes more about showing off than anything else.
Chris: BioWare’s free updates to the game have been excellent and generous, particularly the new maps. They’ve drawn me back to the game and kept it feeling fresh, which is essential for co-op.
Supreme Commander - 2-7 players, online or LAN
How does it work?
Start a multiplayer game, put all humans on team 1, and some nice tough AIs on team 2. Crush.
Why is it good?
Tom F: It’s not the first co-op game you think of, but playing it cooperatively is how we’ve had the most fun with it. It can be dauntingly complex, so it’s great to have friends in there to help out if you forget to build anti-air or crash your power economy. In theory. In practice what usually happens is we beaver away on our own bases in silence for seven minutes then one of us says “Shit, fuck, they’re dropping in my base and I forgot to build point defence again, have you got anything that can help?” and the other says...
Graham: No, soz :(
Tom F: It’s about hatching your own masterplans, surviving long enough to see them complete, then raining the giant robotic fruits of your labours down on the enemy at the same time. My giant laser spiders are ready! Your flying fortresses are ready? Let’s go! My towering Galactic Colossus is ready! Your swarm of invincible death bricks is ready? Let’s go!
Dawn of War: Last Stand - Up to 3 players online
How does it work? - Unlike the main game, Last Stand gives you only one hero each. You’ve got to fi ght off increasingly tough waves of enemies until you die (likely) or beat wave 20 (unlikely). After the match, you usually unlock new equipment for your character.
Why is it good?
Tom F: I didn’t really get Last Stand until I levelled up a few times. The fun is in discovering new builds, and the role they can play in your group. As the Ork, I thought I was the longrange damage dealer: my autocannon certainly works for that, and when enemies get close I use my teleporting armour to get away. The notion of using the much tougher set, the one that can’t teleport, seemed pretty ridiculous. Until I unlocked the knife. The knife doesn’t do much damage, but it regenerates your health. Add some armour bonus trinkets, a self-healing trait, and an item that stops me being knocked down, and I can turn myself into an unstoppable tank. Suddenly I’m the guy charging into a nest of Tyranids to keep them off my friends, and coming out at full health.
Tom S: In the grim darkness of the future, three dudes battle ridiculous odds in a small stone circle. The setup may seem contrived, but DoW2’s overlooked co-op mode does a much better job of realising the Warhammer 40K fantasy than the campaign. Absurdly powerful heroes dominate the fiction, so I got a kick out of levelling up my venerable Space Marine captain and testing him against the hordes.
Last Stand understands 40K’s scale as well. The final waves throw more foes into the arena than you’ll see in any of the singleplayer missions, so victory may seem impossible. After a few levels you can start combining your heroes’ most powerful abilities to create a maelstrom of death. The glorious slaughterfest that results is worthy of a Space Marine’s final heroic moments.
Killing Floor - Up to 6 players, online or LAN
How does it work? Fight together to fend off waves of mutants, then stock up on guns and ammo at a shop that’s never in the same place twice.
Why is it good?
Chris: Without its guns, Killing Floor would be the bleakest, muddiest depiction of Britain at the end of the world since a bunch of Romans said “let’s go home, it’s cold and everyone here is mental.” With its guns, it’s one of the most satisfying co-op shooters around. My favourite is the bolt-action rifl e, which takes mutant head-popping and turns it into an avant garde musical genre. Bang! Chunk. Click. Bang! Blargh! Splatter.
Rich: I like the dual desert eagles. They go ‘whump’, like a pie dropped down a hole. But a really big pie, one that kills anyone unlucky enough to be standing under it in a spray of arterial blood. And when it kills them, this pie, it makes everything slow motion for a while, so your team can marvel at your incredible pie-dropping-stroke-gun-shooting skills.
Chris: Definitely play it with voice chat, though. Partly so that you can coordinate properly and warn your friends when they’re about to be sawn in half, but mostly so that you can talk over the truly, deeply dreadful voice acting. I started playing it during the Portal 2 promo campaign, when all the shopkeepers were replaced by GlaDOS. It was a huge improvement.
Borderlands 2 - Up to 4 players, online or LAN
How does it work? The whole campaign is playable in drop-in, drop-out co-op.
Why is it good?
Tom F: Two reasons – for one, the different abilities of each class mix well in a team fight. It’s great to see your Siren pluck a boss up into the air, and into range of your Commando’s turret and your Gunzerker’s... gunzerk. Secondly, cooperative play is good for diffi culty spikes, and Borderlands 2 sure has those. Dealing with an inordinately tough boss is less frustrating when there’s a whole a bunch of you coming up with new ideas and tactics, and a wider variety of weapons to try.
Tom S: Almost anything can pop out of Borderlands 2’s unfolding robot boxes. It could be a revolver that shoots lightning grenades, it could be a glowing, five-foot-long sniper rifl e with an enormous bayonet on the end. Whatever you get, it’s always better to have friends there to go “WOAH” or “whaaaat” or “give me that immediately.” Borderlands 2’s batty enemies are more fun to fi ght in a team, a constant stream of new gadgets to crow over makes it feel like the best sort of trick or treat trip, the sort where you get bazookas instead of sweets.
Arma 2 - 2 to many, online or LAN
How does it work? Players can join and play custom missions with each other, or mess around in the weapon playground add-on pack, Private Military Academy.
Why is it good?
Rich: The first time I played an Arma 2 custom mission with Marsh and Owen, it ended with me rolling sideways up a hill and giggling like a maniac. The second time, we were shot before we realised what the ‘open backpack’ key was mapped to. The third time, we found ourselves on a hillside, standing next to a crumpled chopper. It was dark, but the sky was brightening slowly as the sun rose somewhere off in the east. It would’ve been idyllic, were it not for the crowd of ornery locals taking potshots at us.
Together, we made it into a nearby settlement, where our rendezvous chopper was settling down into the dust. We sprinted towards it, tracer fire whistling over our heads, as we howled fears for our safety down our microphones. We were silly men, but Arma 2 quickly made us feel like (mildly inept) soldiers.
Marsh: Most of the time, my Arma 2 experience seems to consist of dying instantly or getting stuck in rocks. But occasionally, you roll the incredibly-complex-emergent-behaviour dice and get a scene as gripping and fluidly dramatic as anything from Full Metal Jacket. I don’t mean the toilet-suicide sequence. Running for that chopper with a busted leg and three shots left in my pistol as the enemy tightened the noose was one of the most extensive workouts my heart has undergone in many years. And it wouldn’t have been half the experience without Owen and Rich bellowing, “COME ON! YOU CAN DO IT!” as I lurched the final few yards.