Left 4 Dead Survivors (Part 2)
by Alex Hill

I am unable to talk about Left 4 Dead 2 for an extended period of time. I cease being a calm and rational adult and turn into a hate-spewing volcano. There isn't enough internet to criticize everything this game does wrong anyway, so here's the two basic things I learned from it:

1.) At some point, Valve stopped caring,

&

2.) You people make no sense. Time and again, I hear from people who love this game, which is like hearing them tell me they love breathing on Saturn. You are describing a scientifically impossible scenario. A frightening number of you like it, and I can only assume you supplied Revenge of the Fallen and Twilight their success as well. People are so starved of rich experiences, they will consume shit.

Fine, whether or not Left 4 Dead 2 is the Gulf Oil Spill of video games is debatable. What about the Survivors? Even if the last game was an affront to entertainment, at least it had a good cast of characters! Valve still knows character design, right?

...

...RIGHT???


CHARACTERS:

Name: "Ellis"
Commentary: OMG YOU GUYS ELLIS SI LIK SOO FUNNIZ YOU GUYZ HES ALL KILL ALL SONS A BICHES'" LOLOLOL LOL LOL LOL LAWL EL OH EL

What Worked: The only reason I permit his existence is because he's often the catalyst to Nick's best lines. These are the only two characters in the game with any sort of dynamic, and half the time Ellis fumbles the Laurel and Hardy routine again and again. Either from a bad delivery by Eric Laden, or a line that makes you wonder how Chet Faliszek is still employed.

Other than that...I like his name?

What Didn't: He is to Left 4 Dead what "Elmo" is to Sesame Street: An overrated, over exposed piece of shit beloved by idiots. I'll admit he's cute for about an hour. After that, he is no longer funny or appealing. His stories about Keith are also passingly amusing the first time you hear them. So it's a good thing you have to hear them 40 googol times LOLRITE.

"If one rubber chicken is funny, then 7,000 rubber chickens must be 7,000 times funnier, right?"

I so wished for a scene where Nick would fly off the handle midway through one of these -delightful- anecdotes.
"NOBODY CARES ABOUT KEITH!!

KEITH'S DEAD, YOU PROBABLY SHOT HIM ON THE WAY OVER HERE!!"




Shining Moment: The first time you hear his "Keith" story where he's describing an event that just happened to him days before, with people who were there at the time it happened. And when he realizes it, you realize that anyone else would say something along the lines of: "Oh shit".

But Ellis? He is just excited to tell his friends how he gets himself out of this jam, like he's a sitcom character. He is absolutely convinced no harm will come to him. And for a brief moment, you almost forget the braying jackass he is, and see what this character could have been.

Personal Rating:
One point five horse out of five!


Name: ...He doesn't have one. They just call him "Coach", which is really pathetic when you consider even the Master Chief has a real name.
Commentary: He's fat.

What Worked: He's fat.

What Didn't: Oh, the wasted potential. This guy was the most interesting of the four from the start. He was the first new Left 4 Dead character revealed, and it looked like they were going somewhere with it. When was the last time you played a video game where the main character was a tough, middle-aged, overweight black man with semi-religious values and a defined family? Who looked like Uncle Phil.

It turns out they forgot to give him a backstory, or even a personality beyond "I like the taste of food". Instead, they gave him an eye-searingly terrible design that looks unlike his actual motion-captured actor in every way. From his skin-tight golf-shirt, to his anatomy that looks like it was assembled out of leftover parts on the cutting room floor.

And his face! Good LORD, his face. This is a man who was beaten by the ugly tree's c***.



But that's all superficial. How does he relate to the other characters?

He doesn't. He has absolutely no chemistry with any of the other players. It's like he's just a figment of their imagination, or a tiny green space alien only Nick can see. He never feels like he's actually a part of this world. He has exactly one (1) memorable line, and the lines that might have stood out Chad Coleman usually borks.

Shining Moment: Coach: The Movie.

Personal Rating:
1 Cheeseburgah out of five!



~~~~ Name: "Rochelle"
Commentary: Proof that this game couldn't have been worse if it made us play as the Cheetahmen.

What Worked:                    

What Didn't: Rochelle is the worst character in any Valve game. She's the worst character in any BUNGIE game. Her design is fuglier than the Spitter. Her script is the death of writing in video games. Here is a character with absolutely no redeeming features, no history, no family, no personality, not a single interesting aspect to bring to this fiction whatsoever. She reacts to horrible mutations and the downfall of civilization as if her least favourite episode of Friends came on. When other characters die, instead of giving a shit about the value of human life she makes cracks about the recently deceased (even the asshole character shows more respect). She is nobody's favourite character.

Time was, video games with a female character would often have tense, pre-game bickering over which one of you and your friends had to play as "The Girl". Why bring this back? This was not a problem with Zoey, because Zoey is awesome. But she didn't overshadow the other characters either. People are happy to play as her, or one of her three allies. No one, anywhere, WANTS to play as Rochelle. If anyone plays as her, it's because all of the "good" characters were taken.

And her jewelry is tacky.

And she smells. (probably)



Valve went through hundreds of character designs during production. I can't imagine how they could have been worse than Rochelle. There is virtually no character or inanimate object who wouldn't be an improvement from Rochelle. A talking jar of mustard would have improved the team-dynamic.

How did the creators of Alyx Vance unleash this shark-eyed travesty into the world? How did they take two hotties like Shanola Hampton and Rochelle Aytes, combine them, and end up with Gracie the Mule-Faced Woman? Why is she always squinting and sticking her ass out?

My guess is they got sick of all the Zoey porn. So they tried to make a character so revoltingly unlikable or unsexy, that no one, anywhere would want to draw nekkid manga of her. It worked. Instead of a character perverts liked, they made a character that NO ONE likes. DeviantArt practically threw up its hands, said "I give up!", and decided to draw nothing but Nick/Ellis slash fiction instead.

Thanks Valve. No really, that's much better. >_<

Shining Moment: Team-killing her on purpose, bringing her back to life with a Defibrillator, and then team-killing her again.

Personal Rating:
Polly wouldn't let me post a picture of Goatse, but you get the idea.


Name: "Nick"
Commentary: A ramblin', gamblin', slick-haired con-man with a diamond-edged cynicism. Despite his pessimistic clashes with the team, he eventually learns to depend on, respect and eventually care for them. That's no small feat, considering just how repulsive the company he keeps is.

He's the guy who starts off as the loner. The one you shouldn't get attached to. The seedy guy you probably shouldn't trust. And somehow he becomes the most endearing and human of the bunch. We learn he has had an ex-wife, that he doesn't win every game he plays, that he's been in and out of jail. Why is the game of chance such a crucial part of his life? Many things in life are out of our control, gambling especially. But perhaps just -his choosing- to participate in back-alley card games makes him feel like he's in control of something. People with addictions say "they can quit at any time". A zombie-apocalypse may be the most bizarre (and effective) form of rehab there is.

Like Francis, he talks a big game. But I detect a vulnerability in Nick, something that serves as an excuse to always "look out for No. 1". I think Nick's got some self-loathing going on. He teases Ellis and Coach, and I can't help but wonder if that's so he doesn't have to focus on himself. In fact, I think he cares more about his traveling companions than anyone else has in the L4D series.

What Worked: Everything. Nick is perfect. By that I mean he's exactly as he should be in this context. He's a sinner, but not a monster. He is a flawed human being. He's perfect because he's imperfect, you could say. He is also the greatest video game character I've seen in years, and I curse the Gods that he made his debut in such vomit.

What Didn't: I spent a good hour trying to think of a way to improve this character, and all I could think of was "Rockin' pair of tits". Modders, you know what to do.



Shining Moment: When the crew finds out that the GUV'MENT was executing uninfected civilians, the seemingly cold and distant Nick is the most visibly appalled. He's done some bad stuff in his time, but he is confronted by a human injustice far outside of his scope. This scene is robbed of all poignancy when the other three cast members react to this as if they were at a donut shop and found out they were out of danishes.

For some reason he reminded me of The Arbiter from Halo 2, another game I would describe as bio-hazardous. Both conflicted characters, both having committed wrongs in the past. Both came to the conclusion that they can't make it on their own, and to place their trust in others may be their only chance at salvation. And both were voiced by some stellar talent.

A few months ago, I wrote about Nick:
"Hugh Dillon gives perhaps the only worthy performance in this game. He does not play a good man, but through the apocalypse we find he is capable of humanity, more than he may give himself credit for. Under those expensive clothes there's actually a person inside."


Personal Rating:
Six Swan Maintenance Rooms of Love out of five!



Conclusion:
So there you have it. Out of eight characters, five were great, and three were hate-crimes. I don't blame anyone for thinking I'm trolling. But you have to understand: Ellis, Coach and Rochelle could have actually meant something, and that goes double toward their games. This series is littered with great concepts, fun ideas, and it pains me to see them wasted like this. There is no good excuse for a developer like Valve to be coming up with results this lazy and insulting. You should demand better from your entertainment.

And if you think I'm wrong about the cast, here's something for you to noodle on: Why has all of the new downloadable content for L4D2 made a big deal about ignoring the new cast, for the characters from the last game? Fans have universally expressed interest in either playing as the original cast, or the Midnight Riders. Nobody bought The "Passing" for Ellis and Rochelle, and they're not even going to be in the next DLC. Do you really think anyone wants to see more of Coach's adventures?

I can't be the only one who thought most of these guys have all of the personality and appeal as possum afterbirth. If Valve still thought these guys have any potential, wouldn't they be making DLC with them instead? It's not like they're too busy working on Half-Life: Episode 3.






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