>Good Times All Around

>Last night was epic.

Last night was the sort of night that makes me seriously reconsider my pick for GOTY. As said previously, I’m refraining from doing the big GOTY post until after Prince of Persia arrives – I’m a huge fan of the series, and with all the positive reviews it’s been getting, it could very well have an impact.* But as I’ve also said previously, I entered the 2008 stretch run still feeling confident in my GOTY choice.

I’m having some serious questions now.

Last night was a night spent with Rock Band 2 and Left 4 Dead.

Let me start with Rock Band 2. My wife and I have a band together: “Lilo and Two Poots”, named after our two dogs and their farts. In this band, I play drums (on hard) and she plays guitar (on easy). We’d been hitting a wall in our tour progression, though – Medium is too hard for her on guitar, and there were a bunch of competitions that had Medium difficulty as the lowest available option. And so, as she was out of the house, I took it upon myself to pick up the guitar and plow through the stuff she couldn’t do.

And, as a result, I ended up beating the game (I think). There was a 5-song set that we needed in order to open up some new venues, and then there was an 8-song set in Shanghai that would get us on the cover of Rolling Stone. After the RS show, I opened up every other venue in the world, and so obviously there’s still a tremendous amount left to do, but the credits rolled anyway. Having only really played RB2 on the drums, it took me a little while to get used to playing guitar again, but I quickly got the hang of it, and I had a friggin’ blast. There’s so many great songs in that game, and all of the guitar parts are sensible. My biggest problem with Guitar Hero 3 was that the difficulty level often had nothing to do with the actual music that was being played; playing a song on Medium was often times harder than actually playing the actual song on an actual guitar. RB2 does not make that mistake at all – I did my guitar parts on both Hard and Expert last night and the difficulty was absolutely fair; if I screwed up, I knew it was my fault, and if I was able to get 4 or 5 stars at the end, I felt like I’d earned it.

And in the middle of this RB2 insanity, I played some Left 4 Dead with some good friends. We managed to get through an entire story (I can’t remember what it’s called off the top of my head, but it’s the one that ends with the last stand at the boathouse). L4D might not be the most complete game package out there right now; it really just does one specific thing, though, and it does it exceedingly well. We were constantly keeping tabs on each other, racing in to fend off a Hunter on a downed teammate, calling out Boomers, making sure we all had our flashlights turned off if we heard a Witch, setting up gas can traps for oncoming horde assaults… and all the while, the excellent AI-controlled 4th member of our party was watching our 6, healing us when necessary, and never, ever getting in the way. The game is remarkable in its pacing, but also in terms of communication; the three of us were constantly talking to each other, but then (also) our in-game characters would chime in with situationally-appropriate comments which often cracked us up. Not to mention, we all scored a number of Achievements as we progressed, most of which were pretty cool and not really things we were consciously aiming for.

This is a long way of saying that RB2 and L4D are now firmly entrenched in my top 5 of 2008, which is getting more and more crowded with every passing day.

*According to Amazon, I won’t be getting my grubby little mitts on PoP until Friday, the 5th.



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