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Posts Tagged ‘left 4 dead’

the abv entertainment of 2008 award

I’ve been struggling to make my “best of entertainment 2008” list. Either there was a serious lack of quality entertainment this year, or I just spent way too much time reacquainting myself with things that used to entertain me. This is the time when I usually make my big (to me) ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR! (notice the all caps, that makes it important) announcement. What will it be? Will the winner be a movie? A book? I know, you are waiting with open-mouthed suspense. Or was that a yawn? Anyhow, let’s move on and mow down all my contenders for EVOTY.

Movies: We saw no movies this year. None. In fact, I think the last time we stepped foot in a movie theater was for that James Bond movie. No, not that one. The other one. I don’t think we even watched a full movie on cable tv, despite the fact that we have about 50 movie channels to choose from. This was a year of “get up and go” which left very little time for “sit down and watch.”

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t intrigued by some movies that were released in 2008. I’ll eventually get around to watching Dark Knight and, I might throw caution to the wind and actually go to a movie theater to see Milk. I just dread the thought of paying 10 bucks to have some idiot on a cell phone or a chair kicker or stale Milk Duds ruin the movie experience for me.

Television: I gave up on both of the Chef Ramsey shows I loved in previous seasons; Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen. Shtick gets old after a while, and Gordon Ramsey is all shtick. If I want to watch some guy cursing and screaming in a kitchen, I’ll just go over to my parents’ house while my mother is trying to “help” my father prepare a holiday dinner.

I watched no broadcast tv shows. There’s not a sitcom, crime drama or otherwise that I would set my watch for. Everyone tells me “You have to watch such and such a show. HAVE TO.” No, No I don’t. I know what’s out there in sitcom land. I know what’s out there in reality tv and shows where people talk to ghosts and where horrendous crimes are committed and mysteries are solved by pretty girls and hot guys in under an hour. I know because I listen to my coworkers converse every morning and wonder if Hallmark makes a card for “Sorry your really good friend was gunned down by a guy in a clown suit” until I remember the people they are talking about are not real, but from their “stories” and it makes me glad I don’t watch any of that. What I did watch: Lots of food shows. Ace of Cakes, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, any of those shows about the history of specific foods (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream), and my favorite food/travel show, No Reservations. Nobody wants to talk about Anthony Bourdain at the water cooler. Probably because he never solved a crime.

I do admit that my television entertainment tends to run sort of low-brow and I don’t know if that makes me better or worse than my coworkers, but hey, at least I don’t base my days emotions on who got kicked off American Idol. Shows that interested me this year (and past years): COPS never gets old. I don’t know what it says about me that I consider some meth head from Broward County running down the street half naked entertaining, but I do. Ninja Warrior, Intervention, anything with “World’s Wildest” in the title, anything that takes place in a prison, anything on the History channel and, by default (meaning, when I lose control of the remote), the Military Channel.

Books: I must have had very little downtime in 2008, because I read a lot less. And what I did read was not very new. I went through the entire Christopher Moore catalog, read two bios on Teddy Roosevelt, re-read two graphic novels, Blankets and Watchmen, and, for “I need a smile” reading, went through a bunch of Pearls Before Swine anthologies. Does spending the day reading 140 character dick jokes on Twitter count as reading? If so, I’m a prolific reader.

While there wasn’t really a best book of 2008 for my list, there was definitely a worst. I forced myself to read Twilight, just so I could review it. When I say it was a struggle to get through this drivel, I mean I felt like I should have nailed myself to a cross after martyring myself just so I could say: WORST. BOOK. EVER. WRITTEN.

The Internet: I read some blogs, watch a bunch of videos where strange women did strange things with pudding and cakes, gave up my TotalFark membership and got addiced to Twitter. I’m not sure if that’s so much entertainment as voyeurism.

Music: I bought no albums that were released in 2008. I purchased quite a few single songs, and some CDs that came out years ago, and some CDs to replace things I only had on vinyl, but no current music. Which is a complete anomaly for me. But in looking through a whole bunch of “Top 50 of 2008” lists, I can see why I didn’t buy anything. I don’t know 98% of what’s on those lists. All those bands like TV on the Radio and Kings of Leon all blend into one sound for me. I’m out of the music loop for the first time ever, and I’m ok with that.

There are a few albums that came out in 2008 that I still need to listen to/buy: Portishead, Nick Cave, Beck, Radiohead.

I did enjoy a few single songs here and there. Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” got about 200 plays on my iPod. Kevin Rudolf’s “Let it Rock“was pure fun, even if I thought the Lil’ Wayne part ruined it. I love Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight,” but the video makes me want to punch the singer in the face and tell him to man up.

I spent a good portion of my listening time this year revisiting old albums, which is what led to This is not Pitchfork. It’s good to get reacquainted with old friends when you’re having a hard time making new ones.

Gaming: This is where my true entertainment was found in 2008. We stole my son’s Xbox and played through all three Halos. We got a Wii in February and while Super Mario Galaxy was fun, and the bowling and boxing made for good family time, it was Mario Kart and all the Lego games that sucked up most of our time. For the record – Star Wars Lego: AWESOME. Indiana Jones Lego: MORE AWESOME. Batman Lego: Not so awesome.

And then Left 4 Dead came out and we bought our own Xbox because my son is addicted to NHL ’08 and we couldn’t steal his.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I finally found my ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR.

Left 4 Dead is, simply, the best game I’ve played in forever. Or at least since the first Zelda. It’s fun, it’s fast paced, the controls are simple (important for someone like me who still thinks the original Nintendo had the greatest controller ever), there’s no complicated storyline and…ZOMBIES.

This game is nothing but a killing spree of the undead. And we play it every spare minute we have. We have given up eating, sleeping and sex to spray zombies with automatic gunfire. I have spent hours just trying to get my head count shot up. I have startled the witch, been vomited on, got beaten to death by the Tank and called Zoey a health pack stealing whore more times than I can count. I am always Francis, Todd is always Bill, and together we run through a world filled with smokers and hunters and places filled with guns and ammo in search of safe houses. We have played every level a zillion times and we keep going back for more. I’ve perfect my pipe bomb throwing strategy and reveled in the power of a shotgun blast to the head and ok, maybe I have set my teammates on fire with a misplaced Molotov and maybe I hear “FRANCIS!” a little too often when I engage in some friendly fire, but I’m working on my aim!

How often do we play? I see the hunter in my dreams. I hear the witch in the wind. Just yesterday, I saw a guy on the roof of a building and my first thought was to shoot him. One day, we were in a parking lot and some big, fat guy came waddling toward us. Todd and I both shouted at the same time, “BOOMER!” How much fun is it? We bought Fallout 3 and neither of us have played it yet, because we can’t stop playing this game.

Left 4 Dead is the most fun I’ve had playing a video game since I walked out of the 2D scroller world.

And so, I award my Best Damn Thing in 2008 Entertainment to Left 4 Dead. Everything else can suck it.

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We’ve been playing Left 4 Dead for a few days now. As usual when we get into a game, we pretty much immerse ourselves in it until we finish. And by immerse, I mean we’ve been talking about nothing but zombies for four days. And we’ve played so much that when I got to work today and encountered a crazy little lady in the parking lot, my first thought was “I startled the witch!”

The best thing about Left 4 Dead, as with most games Todd and I play together, is the cooperative play. It’s fun to work together, help each other out, save each other’s lives. But playing together has also pointed out our glaring gaming differences.

I’m ten years older than Todd. This never, ever comes into play in our relationship except for when we are playing video games. I’m a gamer of the 80’s, an adventurer. He’s a gamer of the 90’s, a killer. I grew up on Zork and Zelda and I need to investigate every room, look in every corner and turn over everything I can. You never know where a secret door may be or when you’ll find something important underneath a garbage pail. Todd grew up on Mortal Kombat and Total Carnage. He shoots first. And second. And third. My gaming instincts tell me when to open a door or go up the stairs. His instincts tell him when to get into shooting stance.

Which brings me to thinking about my history with video games and how one game led me to where I am today.

Atari’s Adventure. It was simplistic and crude, but it thrilled me nonetheless. The thrill of slaying the dragon/duck, searching for keys, opening doors, finding the chalice – I had never played anything like it before. It had all the makings of one of those fairy tale adventures I loved so much when I was young. Well, minus the prince and the knights, but I had a good imagination. The best thing about the game was finding the Easter egg.

Select game 2 or 3 and enter the maze in the Black Castle. Move screen to the left of the first maze screen. At the bottom center of this room is a closed cubicle. Use the bridge to enter that area and collect the “dot”. Carry this item to the screen just above the catacombs, located one screen down and to the right of the Gold Castle. Note: The “dot” is the same color as the ground outside, so care must be taken not to lose it in transit. Drop the “dot” here, and bring two other items onto the same screen. Move through the line on the right side of the screen to view the programmer credits.

There were also little quirks like different ways to get around the bat or make it so the dragon can’t eat you. And really, was there anything more terrifying than the noise the game made when that dragon tried to chomp down on you?

I dreamed about Adventure. I played it in my head. And I thought how cool it would be if they would expand the game because I wanted more. More dragons to slay, more treasure to find, more quirks to discover.

Enter Nintendo. I clearly recall sitting in my living room one night with my sister Lisa, watching the Olympics. We saw a commercial for the Nintendo and made up our minds right there that we had to have one. An hour later, we were at the Video Vault buying ourselves a Nintendo.

I don’t remember how long we played for. I know our eyes probably glazed over at some point and thumbs were aching and our asses had gone numb, but we were hooked.

I described Super Mario Bros. as Adventure times infinity. It had all the magic of Adventure – the quest, the hero, the villains, the scrolling from screen to screen as you tried to find your way around. But it was so much more. It was that expansion I was looking for. More worlds. More hidden features. More surprises. You never knew what would happen next. Would this brick bring a star or a mushroom? What will happen if I crouch down on this pipe? You can go up into the clouds!! Every time you played, there was something else to find, another clever trick or hidden surprise.

And the graphics! No more was I running from a pixelated dragon! Everything was so well defined. The colors were plentiful, the characters had real shapes..this is the stuff I had been dreaming of!

It was not all about gaming, either. It was about life lessons.

“Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” That was awesome. That, my friends, is how you learn coping skills. That’s how you learn to handle disappointment. Put your kids in front of Super Mario Brothers and let them play their little hearts out until they think they won, and then those lowly mushroom retainers appear with the bad news and your kids will have learned one of life’s greatest lessons. Disappointment sucks, but you must go on! I taught my kids how to play SMB at an young age just so I could let them know early on in life what if feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you. It comes in handy later. “I know you completed the entire project on time and you did a great job, but I think I want you to write me a ten page essay, too.” THANK YOU MARIO! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!

You just can’t beat a video game that’s not only fun to play, but gives you a harsh dose of the realities of life to boot.

I still have so much love for the 2D side scroll games. In fact, I prefer them over today’s 3D games that tend to be more about art than gameplay. I’m more interested in finding secret rooms and hidden weapons than I am looking at my heroine’s perfectly formed tits.

Which brings us back to zombies and Left 4 Dead. Yes, gameplay and graphics have come a long, long way. I sometimes just stare in amazement on what’s on my screen and think back to my days of playing Pong or Odyssey or Atari and I’m sure my mind then could never imagine what video games today would look like. I love Left 4 Dead and games like Halo because they are, more or less, Adventure. But with zombies instead of a dragon that looks like a duck.

That I can slay my dragons with someone else is the best part of today’s gaming. I get to go on my adventures, peeking in dark rooms, trying to find new weapons, and Todd gets to shoot everything in sight. And there’s always, always that lesson of our princess being in another castle.

Also: Great blog post on retro gaming here.

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deck the halls with music reviews and zombies

Been playing Left 4 Dead so much that I have neglected to put up any Christmas decorations this weekend, as I told myself – and my kids – I would.

My kids said they are taking our Xbox away unless we get our priorities straight. I’m blaming Todd. It’s always “one more level, please one more level,” and I give in because I want to rectify the fact that I left Todd laying in puke while being pummeled by zombies. But hey, they don’t call it Left4Dead for nothing.

I did manage to get three reviews done today: Deadbolt, Talking Heads and I totally surprised myself by gushing over a Billy Joel album.

As far as the Deadbolt goes, one of the things I hope for with these reviews is that I turn some people on to music they might not have heard before. So if there’s a band there that you haven’t heard, click the link of my favorite song and give them a try. You never know when you might find something interesting.

Going to get to some requests tomorrow. I still have a whole list of requests, and I’m running them down, but I have to be in a certain mood to do certain kinds of music, so if your’e still waiting, I’m still waiting for the mood to strike. Still taking requests, of course.

Tomorrow morning I’ll have another musical QOD here.

Right now it’s back to killing zombies.

No. Putting up Christmas decorations.

Zombie Santas, anyone?

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