Review – Valve Presents: The Sacrifice and Other Steam-Powered Stories

Writer: Various
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming, Various

VALVE has crafted a group of stories in the past years, the Left 4 Dead universe, Portal and even Team Fortress got a personalized story to it. During that time, VALVE also released mini-comics for Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2, showcasing the back story to certain events or releases. Today we got a greater look at the whole picture, starting off with the original Left 4 Dead crew in The Sacrifice.

For many, this is a tense and frustrating map in the DLC released with Left 4 Dead, having to pick a member of the team to go back and them having no hope to return, even worse if that survivor can’t actually make it to all the stops in time. In this case we find out how it really breaks down, a story not just of The Sacrifice, but everything revolving around the survivors and the real state of the world. For fans of the series, this brings some emotional twists and background to the original team, for those who always wanted to know more it’ll give that and so much extra.

Quality wise, the art is a bit wild, very raw but very detailed and keeping to the tone that made the series so eerie. The dialogue expands upon the one liners that guide players through the series including an in depth look into Bill and the limitless optimism of Francis. Everyone gets a moment in the spotlight and we even meet some outsiders along the way.

Team Fortress 2 takes over the reigns as The Sacrifice Wraps up, tackling the friendship conflict announced when the Soldier and Demoman got their new weapon load outs. After a dark passage for the survivors, the Team Fortress crew picks up the pace with some of the most insane moments. The history between the two sides is revealed, the mysteries of Mann Co are blown out and all out war fills the air. If you read the friendship comic, you’ll love how the rest of this pans out as even Saxon Hale sneaks in with his retro themed pages.

Fans of Team Fortress 2 will no doubt eat up all the amazing bits they’ve managed to store in the book, with so much explained it’s a must for any player to have.

Portal 2 wraps up the book, covering many comics already well known to the public, a few chapters do seem to wrap up the loose ends though, we learn about the mysterious doctor behind the scenes and even more on Chell and the battle with GLaDOS. For many this might not be worth the sole investment into the book, for VALVE fans though, this really is the icing on a delicious cake that we finally get to taste. The art is wild as is the story, the pace and control varies in the moment of the story and reads as a tale of madness until we find ourselves at the end.

Hopefully VALVE can incorporate these into continued volumes or at least use the thought put into these to segway their own games into new avenues. Look for it to arrive just in time for the holidays this year. Unfortunately, while amazing, don’t expect it to drop teasers on a certain Mr. Freeman though.

Publication Date: November 16, 2011
Price: $24.99

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★½ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Left 4 Dead 2 Suicide Blitz 2 Easter Egg

PC modding is always awesome, today we get a glimpse of how far that can go in Suicide Blitz 2 for Left 4 Dead 2. The mod takes you from the regular map through a series of custom challenges from Portal 2 with GLaDOS dropping motivational quotes to keep you pushing on. To top it off, the maps throw in some good pokes between both series with a number of custom sequences that are fun for all.

Check out the video on youtube of a pair that found this Easter Egg.
Download: Suicide Blitz 2 for Left 4 Dead 2

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[Updated] Stack up bodies in Left 4 Dead 2’s Cold Stream for DLC!

Killing zombies is a tough task, Cold Stream in Left 4 Dead 2 actually makes that to new levels. Valve is trying to sweeten the deal as the add-on is slated for release, if they can get 20,000 people to survive the onslaught they’ll release Dead Air for L4D2 early on July 10th. Players can beat the campaign on any difficulty to earn the new achievement and help everyone enjoy the goods a little earlier.

Check out the official blog post for more information or jump on Steam and lend a hand. I’ll be in the fight in just a bit as well.

[Left 4 Dead Blog]

Update – Playthrough tips:

  • When you can grab a second pistol do so, you’ll have 30 rounds to unleash when your primary weapon goes out of ammo
  • Melee strike as much as possible when reloading, try to maintain the high ground and if you’re playing in SP, grab high range weapons like the sniper rifle to pick enemies off before leading the AI in.
  • The waves rely on users moving forward after the first attack, doing so leaves you open to being surrounded, fight the first flood and then wait for the second before going forward. If your team is tightly held you can last through these waves.
  • Solo players will die, you can’t rush in these maps, trying is pretty much suicide and leaves the team with one less person
  • On the bridge, beware of some glitches in crossing the beams, if someone falls there is a chance they’ll get stuck on the side railing until they die, trying to save them is pointless as they’ll instantly go into falling mode again.
  • In the final map have at least one person get the grenade launcher, save the rounds as much as possible, in the final zone unload the rounds to reduce the swarms to 0.
  • Heal your team often but always try to keep 1-2 med packs in reserve, in some cases the game will ask for a sacrifice, if you survive they’ll have a med pack waiting unless someone hijacks it and leaves you for dead. (Bridge scene has a charger that blows you off the scaffolding if you don’t have grenade rounds).

Xbox 360 users:The L4D team has confirmed that the 360 version of Cold Stream will arrive later this summer.

Completed using: Dual Handguns, Grenade Launcher, M249 SAW, Sniper Rifle (primary)

Hopefully these lend a hand in getting through Cold Stream and get you a new badge. Completed it in 49mins solo on hard, well designed but the boundary boxes need work still and the AI enemies and team often get stuck or make really odd mistakes through the entire campaign.

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Left 4 Dead 2 – Dark Carnival shots

Ok this time we have a variety of shots from the latest level shown at PAX this year, the game is shaping up really well from the stills and limited video going around right now, hopefully we get a hands on preview as we come into November for the final piece of the puzzle.

Check out the shots below and we apologize for the resize on the artwork, it was 30mb and that’s just insane for a JPG

Left 4 Dead 2 – Dark Carnival

DarkCarnival_shot1

Ok, so we’re not going to PAX this year, but we can bring you a teaser from the upcoming Dark Carnival campaign in Left 4 Dead 2 and a slew of new pictures to enjoy.

I know I said that I had no idea when more info or assets would drop and I really didn’t at the time. Anyway enjoy this and as soon as more videos or pictures come out we’ll have them here.

Enjoy!

BTW: yeah that’s right we just posted a boatload of amazing Left 4 Dead 2 concept art in full res. 😀

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Left 4 Dead 2 – The Updates

Sure it has been a little while since Comic-Con and news has been dead but we’re here to kick game back up a little while we wait for the latest info from Valve. Unfortunately future play testing for us does look limited. I managed to get a hands on at E3 and at Comic-Con, but I don’t think we’re going to see a preview build in our Steam list this year as the game has so much attention already. We will have a review once it lands though.

Anyway, lets jump into some fun media. First up the Left 4 Dead 2 E3 trailer:

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At E3 we hit the French Quarter with guns blazing, health packs equipped and fire axes ready to rumble. The game was fast paced with large swarms operating from multiple angles. The melee option was troublesome and slow with large groups making it hard for one to pull their own weight in a fight. One false move and a player was zombie bait hoping to escape to their friends before they got mowed down.

At Comic-Con things spiced up with the “I hate you so much for this” Mudmen, why do I hate them so much? The reason is simple, Mudmen attack with melee and eventually clog up the screen with a film making it incredibly hard to figure out what you’re doing and in the event of a swarm this means the player has to shove like crazy hoping that in the end their friends will have protected them and that they don’t get mauled in the process as the screen clears up. For some this may feel like a move out of an arcade shooter but really it works in the moment. The other big shift was that the melee in the game seemed to take a back seat, weapons were there but the swarm response seemed slower and staggered for those packing melee special items to allow players to have a chance while maintaining their rules about recharging energy. Lesser attack groups and a focus on accuracy to survive works for the game but really I could do without it, in a zombie outbreak I think it would be funner to let the silly person with the frying pan get eaten while the survivors escape loaded to the teeth with ammo and grenades.

Let’s hope we see some more news for Left 4 Dead 2, right now Crash Course is slated to arrive this September to hold Left 4 Dead players over until the sequel hits this November.

Brief Impressions – Left 4 Dead 2

With Comic-Con around the corner and word of L4D2 being on scene with new features I figured it would be nice to drop firsthand impressions that I got over at E3 in the Valve suite.

The game mechanics are always a key focus with these things, the gameplay to L4D is very much preserved from the state of the first preview, gameplay was fast and the hordes were still in heavy numbers from multiple angles, players had decent reload speeds, a good variety of power with weapons and of course melee for when things got dirty. The biggest introduction into the game is the new secondary weapon system, as it stands it feels a bit rough, sure you get really cool weapons to swing around but there’s a lag on the weapon, the gesture is a slightly delayed getting off, the execution is epic but the recharge on the next swing feels like a millenia especially given that these have to be used face to face with zombies. Major attacks upon the player end up causing the weapon to be released and overall it’s just not the most effective way to get out of being violated by a giant swarm right now. They say that they have 20 new items to debut at Comic-Con so we’ll see how that pans out.

Enemy mechanics have changed up slightly, high speed dashes to safety or to turn of sirens or reach safe points are all new, in the stage we played we hit a mid-way safe house to go through before hitting the next branch of fighting, things like that keep the game interesting and let newer players learn how to get their act together by healing in a safe area for the most part, they do have tanks around them or witches, the game also rewards those who run into the fray with a brand new friend. The Charger, a tank like creature dedicated to penetrating breaking your body in ways you never thought possible, is he easy to take down? kinda, if you don’t get drilled by him first as he has the potential to ruin a whole team in a single charge.

As it stands L4D2 is shaping up to be quite an entertaining game, given I have about 350-400 hours on L4D I can say I’ll be looking forward to the next installment when it lands this November unless something terribly wrong happens at SDCC next week.