The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: General Gaming

Yui Needs A Weapon: Revisiting the K-On! Mod for Left 4 Dead 2 with Halo Weapons

“I need a weapon.” –Spartan John-117, Halo 2

Having now finished the original two Left 4 Dead campaigns, the only thing that was Cold Stream and The Last Stand, two community missions that rounded out the game. Cold Stream sees the Left 4 Dead 2 survivors fighting through a forest in the mountains to reach a helicopter to evacuate them before a forest fire catches up with them, while The Last Stand represents an alternate interpretation of what had happened in Death Toll had the survivors gone a different route. After abandoning their truck at a roadblock, the survivors make their way into a junkyard and eventually reach a lighthouse. Here, the survivors signal for rescue from a boat, fending off hordes of Infected while awaiting the boat. These community missions are quite unrelated to the stories portrayed in the regular campaigns, providing players with a remote forest setting to explore. At this point in time, the mechanics and objectives were simple enough: having beaten the last two campaigns (and fighting with the community workshop directory, which had been giving me some trouble with the character name plates), getting back into Left 4 Dead 2 to finish off the single player experience was not particularly tricky, and I ended up wrapping up both of the community campaigns with time to spare. As noted in my previous posts, the K-On! mod for Left 4 Dead 2 had been remarkably entertaining, completely altering the aesthetic and mood in Left 4 Dead 2. However, this time around, I’ve decided to further increase the mods introduced into the game: as amusing as it had been to run Left 4 Dead 2 with Houkago Tea Time characters, even new models and sound files can get old to write about. As such, I decided to introduce an additional set of mods into the game which would modify the experience somewhat without conflicting with the K-On! mods.

This mod takes the form of Halo weapon skins to replace the original weapons. While the weapons still function identically to their original forms, the weapons look and sound different. The end result is simple: I am now running with the automatics, pistols, shotguns and long-range rifles from Halo, rather than more familiar weapons. In addition to a new, highly-detailed skin, the Halo weapons also have new firing sounds. Altogether, these new weapons feel considerably more powerful and reliable than any of the classic weapons. Every shot fired feels powerful. The base pistols and Tier 1 weapons, which had felt diminished in power compared to the Tier 2 weapons in their original form, suddenly gave the impression of being viable, lethal tools that could hold their own against the hordes of Infected. The suppressed MAC-10 felt inadequate against special infected, but when replaced with the M7/C submachine gun, players suddenly appear to have a better fighting chance. The hunting rifle is replaced by the DMR, firing rounds with a slow but reliable outcome. The Tier 2 weapons themselves feel even more effective, and when the mods are properly applied, even the introductory pistol becomes a more entertaining weapon to use. I’d first heard about the Halo weapon mods from a friend who’d been interested in asking about why the modders had removed a particularly unique skin from the marketplace. I’d speculated it might’ve simply been because the mod needed more work and suggested said friend get in touch with the modders to inquire about it. After checking out the modders’ workshop, I became intrigued, and subsequently resolved to try the weapons out for myself. The end result was highly entertaining, and after ensuring that the new mods did not conflict with or modify the way my previous mods worked, I set about finishing off Left 4 Dead 2‘s remaining missions.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I figure it would be appropriate to open with the dual M6H pistols: the original pistols felt quite weak despite being useful weapons in practise, but upgrading them to the pistols seen in Halo completely changes the impact they have. In this post, not only do I have Halo weapons, but I have Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi wielding Halo weapons. I imagine that with this mod, once Google properly indexes my content, I’ll have the first result whenever one does a search for “K-On! Halo” or similar. All of the Halo weapon mods in this post are supplied by Adorabirb!, whose done a phenomenal job of rendering the weapons and ensuring they sound identical to their Halo counterparts.

  • The suppressed MAC-10 is replaced by the M7S suppressed submachine gun seen in Halo 3: ODST. While one cannot use the reflex sights, and the weapon handles otherwise identically to the MAC-10 in Left 4 Dead 2, there’s something incredibly reassuring about using the M7S against hordes of Infected. The Uzi is similarly replaced by the M7/C with the right mods, and with the Halo submachine guns, I suddenly feel a lot more optimistic about fighting Infected. There’s a psychological boost that results from using cool-looking and cool-sounding weapons.

  • Cold Stream was a particularly fun campaign mission – despite being non-canon, its setting makes it the next best thing to being out in the mountains for myself. It’s now been over a year since I’ve taken a hike in the mountains and had any poutine from the best poutine shop this side of the country, and I do miss it greatly. While games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Skyrim do allow me to visit the mountains and their beautiful forested trails, there is no substitution for a full day spent hiking the mountains for real, followed by a hearty Montreal Smoked Meat poutine and spruce soda afterwards.

  • My yearning to return to the mountains means that I have recently returned to Skyrim with the aim of finishing the main story off: a year ago, while writing about KonoSuba, I mentioned an interest in playing Skyrim again, and it is only now that I’ve managed to do so. Returning to Skyrim, I am impressed with how immersive and detailed the game is. I will be sharing a full post on my experiences once I am finished: at the time of writing, I am pursuing Alduin through Sovngarde, and expect that in a few weeks or so, I should be done with things.

  • Before then, however, I determined it would be best if I wrapped up my thoughts on Left 4 Dead 2 with K-On! and Halo mods first. Here, I’ve picked up the DMR: it replaces the Hunting Rifle, a weapon that I typically did not play with much on my old play-throughs on account of its poor firing rate and small magazine size. Again, the psychological changes brought on by a Halo skin were profound – the DMR’s firing rate feels faster than that of the Hunting Rifle even though the weapon stats remained unchanged, and I had a blast using it to pick off distant foes.

  • The fact a simple re-skin completely changed up the way Left 4 Dead 2 feels, despite having no actual impact on gameplay, speaks volumes to how something as simple as changing up a weapon’s appearance and sound could completely refresh an experience to the extent where Left 4 Dead 2 could feel like an entirely new game. Prior to switching out the Hunting Rifle for the DMR, I’d never used the weapon simply because its low rate of fire and limited situations where a long-range weapon made it less useful to have. However, in Halo: Reach and Halo 4, the DMR is intended more of a precision weapon filling the range between the sniper rifles and Battle rifle.

  • I ended up swapping out the FN SCAR-L for the Battle Rifle: the Combat Rifle in Left 4 Dead 2 fires in three round bursts, and while dealing less damage per shot than the other assault rifles, it compensates for this with a good accuracy. With this in mind, given how often engagements were close quarters, I generally preferred the AK-47 or M-16 where available. The Battle Rifle I ran with is the Halo 2 variant, which is my favourite iteration of the Battle Rifle in any Halo game. The mod lacks the original’s heavy-hitting sound: besides performance, the Halo 2 Battle Rifle feels solid and sounds lethal.

  • The one weapon I was most impressed with in the mod was the SRS99-AM sniper rifle, which is seen in Halo 3. This weapon excels at long range combat, and equips an advanced optic for sighting distant foes. I chose the weapon to replace the semi-automatic sniper rifle in Left 4 Dead 2, with the end result that what was originally an anti-materiel rifle with a four-round box magazine now could hold thirty rounds. The weapon sounds powerful and looks even better: the optics will depict the same view, just as the sniper rifle in Halo 3 did.

  • One of the things I needed to get used to was the fact that I’m technically still using the semi-automatic sniper rifle in Left 4 Dead 2, which behaves more similarly to the DMR than the Halo sniper rifle. If I were to go purely for accuracy, the Hunting Rifle would be better represented by the Halo sniper rifle, and the semi-automatic rifle would be replaced by the DMR skin. This would allow the mods to be more faithful to their original weapon’s roles.

  • While crossing the bridge, I ended up picking up a grenade launcher: the M319 grenade launcher is a single-shot break-action grenade launcher that functions identically to its real-world equivalent, the M79. In fact, aside from a superior construction and digital display, the weapon is more or less a M79: the M79 is the original weapon in Left 4 Dead 2, and this Vietnam-era grenade launcher was intended to give platoons additional firepower. The M79 proved effective and reliable, but being a single-shot weapon left operators at a disadvantage, limiting how much firepower they could put out downrange.

  • Moreover, carrying a dedicated launcher meant grenadiers were limited to their sidearms as a ranged weapon. In Left 4 Dead 2, this is definitely to one’s detriment, unless they were carrying dual pistols, as well. While fantastic for clearing out hordes of Infected and even making short work of the Special Infected, the grenade launcher’s utility is quite limited, and the weapon itself is also quite rare: I only encountered the grenade launcher a handful of times while playing through the original campaign.

  • Conversely, the M60 (replaced by Halo 4‘s M739 SAW) is an excellent special weapon, and when outfitted with a laser sight, becomes the ultimate weapon for taking on common and special Infected alike. Halo 4‘s SAW features a 72-round drum magazine and, while firing the same calibre rounds as the assault rifle, had a higher rate of fire and accuracy, on top of a larger ammunition capacity, making it a straight upgrade to the assault rifle. Spartan Ops missions went more smoothly the instant I picked one up. In Left 4 Dead 2, the M60 is similarly powerful, limited only by the fact that its belt cannot be replenished.

  • At the time of writing, the mod did not replace the weapon icons for the M16 or AK-47. The M16 is replaced by the MA5C assault rifle, which was featured in Halo 3 and for the first time, felt like a proper assault rifle. While the MA5C’s skin does not accurately reflect on the actual amount of ammunition remaining, the modders have taken the effort of ensuring that the digital display uses an emissive texture: in dark environments, the display will glow in the dark, which is a nice touch.

  • Towards the end of the final chapter, I picked up an M90 shotgun with a reflex sight, which replaces the SPAS-12. However, since the final part of the mission entailed pushing through a horde, the shotgun proved inadequate and I ended up dropping it for any faster-firing weapon. Shotguns have always had a limited utility in Left 4 Dead 2, and in Halo, I found them more useful against the Flood rather than the Covenant. With this being said, shotguns have always been fun to wield against the Elites, and my strategy in Halo games has always been to use the battle rifles, assault rifles and marksman rifles against weaker foes, saving shotguns or other powerful weapons for swiftly putting away groups of tougher enemies.

  • The last segments of Cold Stream requires that players reach a tall tower for extraction, and unfortunately, during my run, I ended up losing Tsumugi to the Infected. In spite of this, I still finished the mission in a reasonably efficient manner, earning myself a nifty achievement for my troubles. My best friend has indicated that there is an elegant and simple way to get the toughest achievements in Left 4 Dead 2 without breaking a sweat. I’m not sure if this is something I’ll seek to be doing in the foreseeable future just yet.

  • The last of the community missions, The Last Stand, returns perspective to Azusa, Ui, Jun and Nadoka’s perspective, as well as the grim and foreboding dark of a coastal forest. This mission starts players off with the Uzi, which the mod switches out for a M7/C Submachine gun. Insofar, I’ve referred to the Halo weapons mod in singular, but it’s actually a collection of mods one can download. Like the M7S, the M7/C feels distinctly better than the Uzi, even though the damage model remains completely unaffected.

  • It’s reassuring to know that the modder behind the K-On! mod made certain that the smaller details were properly rendered – I half expected the character models to clip or be hollow underneath, but thankfully, this is not the case. When I first played the K-On! mods, I’d heard that the modders even took into account the special attributes surrounding Mio, and while I’d never had the characters walk up onto a higher surface in campaigns with Yui and the others, I have played as Mio before. Being ensnared by a smoker demonstrated that those rumours surrounding Mio were true, and this level of attention to detail is commendable.

  • The darkness of The Last Stand meant that unlike Cold Stream, the weapons I pick up won’t be in sharp relief for everyone to check out. With this being said, having seen the M7S’ model, it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince readers that the M7/C is equally as well-designed as the M7S. Besides the same report when fired, the modder had also ensured that the submachine guns’ reloading sounds are identical to their Halo counterparts.

  • Somewhere along the way, I decided to swap out my dual pistols for the Tactical Magnum. In any real cooperative matches, such an action would be unthinkable: dual pistols offer firepower and accuracy nearly equivalent to that of an assault rifle, and so, players will hang onto dual pistols for the duration of a match if they can find them. However, since this isn’t a match with other players, I am able to switch things up for the sake of discussion.

  • I replaced the basic pump action shotgun with the M45D Tactical Shotgun. This weapon, I’ve never actually seen in a Halo game for myself before, but it’s supposed to be a straight upgrade to the shotguns seen in earlier Halo titles. I’ve heard that it is unlikely that Halo 5 will ever come to PC: of the Halo games, Halo 5 had suffered greatly from a series of decisions that dramatically altered the campaign, and this in turn led the game to receive poor reception. 343 Industries’ decision to leave Halo 5 without a PC port was likely a consequence of knowing that Halo 5 wouldn’t sell very well if brought to the PC, and instead, it appears 343 chose to focus their efforts into Halo: Infinite.

  • Because shotguns aren’t really my jam, I ended up switching it out for the MA5D with the reflex sight. Informally referred to as the recon assault rifle, this weapon differs only from the M16’s replacement in that it has a reflex sight. I’ve always wondered how Halo weapons would look with contemporary weapon attachments: in Halo, the presence of smart-link scopes means that soldiers don’t really need dedicated attachments to aim with, as a computerised system would do the work for them. Of course, with Halo 5, when the Battle Rifle was given a reflex sight, people took to complaining about it loudly online.

  • In Left 4 Dead 2, since there’s no aiming down sights for weapons without a magnifying optic, the presence of a reflex sight is purely cosmetic, and I chose this rifle purely to differentiate it from the MA5C replacing the M-16. Like the MA5C, the digital ammunition counter doesn’t actually reflect the amount of rounds one has left to them, but in the dark of The Last Stand, the glowing display is rather more visible: here, I make my way through a burning forest with Ui, Azu-nyan and Jun after fighting my way out of a junkyard to reach the safehouse.

  • The Last Stand was so-named because the original mode was about the survivors fending off wave after wave of Infected, at least until ammunition and supplies ran out entirely, leaving them to be overwhelmed. Conversely, in the campaign, players actually can escape successfully after reaching the lighthouse. Here, after exiting the safehouse, I came across a warden’s outpost.

  • Curiosity soon led me to ascend the watchtower, and I picked up another machine gun for my trouble. Whenever holding a special weapon, I’ve always found that having the dual pistols is most effective, giving me enough firepower to deal with the horde. This leaves me free to save the special weapon for the situations that demand it the most. Of the special weapons, the M60 (SAW in my case) is my favourite: possessing the same accuracy as the AK-47 and dealing the same damage as the magnum pistol per shot, the M60’s 150 round capacity eliminates the need to reload.

  • I wasn’t able to do so in The Last Stand, but locating a laser sight and equipping special ammunition dramatically increases the M60’s accuracy and damage further, to the point where it can destroy tanks and witches in the blink of an eye. On my play-through, I wound up saving the SAW for the final confrontation, anticipating that I would need its firepower.

  • This turned out to be a good decision, since a few tanks did crash my party, and with the damage the SAW deals, they were quickly eliminated. Looking around, I’ve noticed that there are also weapon mods for the melee weapons, but because I’d been interested in keeping Yui’s Les Paul Gibson, I chose not to install anything that could conflict with them. The challenge about running a large number of mods at once is that conflicts could be introduced, and it’s up to the players to choose which mod they’d prefer.

  • The mod prioritisation function in Left 4 Dead 2 is actually pretty well-written in this area: if a conflict is detected, the game will automatically load the one that’s higher up on the list, but if this doesn’t produce the desired result, one can always go into the mods menu and deactivate the ones that one isn’t interested in running. There is one more nuance about running the K-On! mod: by default, the game won’t always show the modded names correctly. Online, people suggest moving the mod .vpk files out of the workshop directory into the addons directory, which prevents Steam from automatically fetching newer versions, but also allowing all of the data to be read.

  • I’ve actually found that this doesn’t work: if one is subscribed to a mod, the game will automatically query the server for updates every time it loads. This means that every time I started up Left 4 Dead 2, a fresh copy of the mod .vpk would be downloaded into the workshop directory. Instead, to preserve my settings, one only needs to subscribe to the mod to download it, then move the .vpk out, and unsubscribe. This method is a bit cumbersome, but it does allow me to keep my settings as I like them.

  • Of course, having now completed every campaign and bonus set of levels in Left 4 Dead 2, I’m not too sure if I’ll be returning in the near future: while it could be fun to get those special achievements my friend mentioned and also re-run the game with Halo weapons, there’s quite a bit on my plate, and I’m just glad to have finally gotten the game done. Towards the end of my run, after depleting the SAW’s ammunition, I returned to the trusty BR-55 rifle to round things out.

  • Unlike my Cold Stream run, this time around, I managed to escape with everyone. Having brought back K-On! into my life in a big way, I am inclined to write one more K-On! related post before the month’s out. Once that post is done, I’ll enter May with a clean slate, ready to go through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War: while perhaps a bit pricier with respect to how much time I get out of them, I’ve always had a blast going through them.

While Left 4 Dead 2 is very much a squad-based game that is best played with friends, mods like K-On! and Halo weapons transform the way the game feels, while simultaneously leaving the central mechanics intact. This seemingly minor set of changes alters enough of the look and feel such that Left 4 Dead 2 appears as a completely different game. Admittedly, the base Left 4 Dead 2 never really appealed to me in terms of its aesthetic, and I’d only picked it up because the sale price was excellent: my friend is very big on Valve games for their ease-of-modding, and I imagined that we’d spend more time messing around as a two-person team once I’d picked the game up. While we did spend a few fun-filled hours blasting zombies, the base game never really excited me to the same extent as I imagined. However, with things like the K-On! mod, Left 4 Dead 2 became considerably more entertaining, to the point where I can say with confidence that it would be worth buying Left 4 Dead 2 solely for the K-On! mod alone. At that point, the variety of mods available in the Workshop means that, were one so inclined, they could completely transform the way Left 4 Dead 2 handles: particularly well-done and extensive mods allow players to replace the existing Infected with Halo‘s Flood, and similarly, the very same techniques for using K-On! characters as character models allow for one to run with Spartans. Such mods even provide a means of changing up the HUD to closely resemble the Mjolnir armour system, customised for Left 4 Dead 2‘s inventory system. There is no ceiling on what is possible with the mods in Left 4 Dead 2, and while Valve currently has no plans for a continuation, the ability to change the experience via mods has meant that Left 4 Dead 2 has proven unexpectedly fun: what had initially been little more than a curiosity became a full-fledged, meaningful experience that was well worth the price of admissions. Thanks to mods, I’ve now finally completed Left 4 Dead 2‘s single-player experience in full, and while my friend and I are unlikely to co-op in Left 4 Dead 2 with any frequency owing to our schedule, knowing that I’ll be able to retain a highly customised setup should we take this up means that I’d be happy to co-op if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

Azu-nyan startled the Witch: Revisiting the K-On! Mod for Left 4 Dead 2 and the Classic Campaign

“But, you can always count on her in the end.” –Azusa Nakano

Left 4 Dead 2‘s campaigns also holds a pleasant surprise for players, in the form of the original Left 4 Dead campaigns being available for players to check out. This campaign sees the original group of survivors fighting their way to a hospital, where they hope to catch a ride from a news helicopter. After the helicopter crashes, the survivors make their way to a turnpike and find an armoured vehicle, which they use to reach the town of Riverside. Here, they fight through the sewage system, through a church and the town itself, eventually reaching a boathouse. Later, the survivors make it to a city and decide to head for the airport, fighting past Infected-infested city streets, a construction site and eventually, the airport terminal itself. Upon successfully refuelling a C-130, they manage to escape. The survivors land in a heavily forested area and make their way past a train-yard, arriving at a farmhouse. Upon radioing the military, the survivors manage to escape when an armoured personnel carrier arrives to pick them up. It turns out the military had been interested in capturing them, as the survivors are asymptomatic carriers of the Green Flu, and seek to study them. However, when the military base is overrun, the survivors escape, making their way to Georgia and eventually, the Florida Keys, where it is hoped that they can find a new home. That Left 4 Dead 2 comes with the complete Left 4 Dead campaigns and its original survivors in a refreshed environment was most enjoyable indeed, and being able to play through the original game’s levels with the additional weapons, consumables and infected from the newer game demonstrated that the Left 4 Dead mechanics have worked very well. As with my last play-through of Left 4 Dead 2, I’m running with the K-On! mods that allow me to substitute the base survivors for Azusa, Jun and Ui: the model for Nodoka remains incomplete at the time of writing, but the mod has seen additional improvement to voices, resulting in a doubly entertaining experience. As with the Left 4 Dead 2 campaign, having K-On! characters means improved visibility and differentiation between allies and infected, making the missions a bit easier to go through.

Unlike Left 4 Dead 2, whose campaign was largely set in the Deep South, more levels of Left 4 Dead‘s campaign is set in environments by nightfall, creating a much more compelling and gripping environment where enemies’ appearances are more unpredictable and terrifying: everything is shrouded in darkness, necessitating slower, more methodical movement. Left 4 Dead may have a more generic set of locations in urban areas, but the familiar setting, in conjunction with a zombie outbreak, creates the sense of unease that the unfamiliar is lurking around every corner. More so than the humid, muggy conditions of the Deep South, Left 4 Dead‘s choice of location and lighting results in a more convincing atmosphere. With the updated graphical style and visuals of Left 4 Dead 2, classic environments are sharpened and made more detailed without compromising their original aesthetic. The end result is that the Left 4 Dead campaigns end up being rather more successful in conveying terror through its ambience far more than the Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns, which ended up being a little more corny and humour-driven by comparison. The sharp contrasts between the aesthetics of Left 4 Dead 2 and Left 4 Dead levels are noticeable, but the actual campaigns themselves still handle as one would expect from Left 4 Dead 2: for folks who became accustomed to playing the original, they’ve remarked the originals are more challenging and rewarding to beat. Conversely, as someone who’s still relatively new to Left 4 Dead, I found that Left 4 Dead 2‘s inclusion of the original campaigns greatly extended the sequel’s replay value, as well as giving new players a chance to play old and new maps alike depending on their inclinations. On top of smoother mechanics and more options in-game, Left 4 Dead 2 remains the game of choice to pick up owing to its support for mods, which was the primary reason why I ended up returning to check out the Left 4 Dead campaigns to begin with; it’s not every day one gets to slaughter zombies with Azu-nyan, Ui and Jun as squad mates, after all.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Altogether, I found the atmospherics and aesthetics in the original Left 4 Dead campaigns to surpass those of the Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns: it is a badly-kept secret that I am no fan of the festering, dank swamps of the Deep South and their unparalleled ability to conjure up images of swamp monsters and the Slenderman. While Left 4 Dead‘s campaigns are set in a more generic urban area located near the mountains of the United States, the setting actually works better for a zombie outbreak. There’s a solid combination of rural and urban combat, and to kick this post off, I’m rocking the G3SG/1 semi-automatic rifle.

  • Over the past little while, I had a few conversations with my friends, and they wondered why the Hunting Rifle was classified as a Tier 2 weapon. It turns out that the Tier 1 and 2 weapons differ primarily in damage, with Tier 1 weapon requiring a few shots to take down common infected, and Tier 2 weapons can smash special infected in as few as five shots. The Hunting Rifle deals the most damage on a per-shot basis in Left 4 Dead 2, but is offset by a low rate of fire that leaves its damage-per-second as being the lowest of the weapons in the game. I’ve never run with the hunting rifle for this fact.

  • Back in the Left 4 Dead 2 campaign, there was a bonus mission called “The Passing” which saw the new survivors meeting the old ones. Playing through one of the other bonus missions allow players to see what things looked like for the survivors in Left 4 Dead: the mission is called “The Sacrifice” and ultimately requires that one of the survivors die to keep the others alive. Since I was playing as Bill (Nodoka), I ended up making the sacrifice to conclude the game. Throughout my entire run of the Left 4 Dead campaigns, I played as Bill simply because the model for Nodoka had not been completed in the K-ON! mod.

  • I appreciate that the modders are busy people, and for me, having three of the four survivors completed was all I needed to push forward: I can’t see my own character model, so playing as Bill/Nodoka meant being able to see everyone else as Jun, Ui and Azusa. Since I last wrote about Left 4 Dead 2, the K-On! mod has undergone a few more updates, adding voices to the characters. This is a minor but hilarious addition, since the characters now speak in squeaky anime voices, making them more distinct from Left 4 Dead 2‘s aesthetic. Here, I make use of a mounted 50-calibre MG to shoot the rock from a tank, earning me a rare achievement.

  • I begin the Left 4 Dead campaign proper here in the streets of Fairfield, a fictional city named after Pennsylvania’s Fairfield: unlike the Left 4 Dead 2 Fairfield, the real Fairfield has a population of around five hundred people, and Left 4 Dead‘s Fairfield looks like a city of at least a quarter million prior to the infection. The game starts on a moody, rainy night that feels perfect for a zombie apocalypse, and here, I equipped a suppressed MAC-10 to start things off. Where given a choice, I’ll almost always pick a submachine gun over a shotgun in the campaign, since it gives me a bit more RPM and reach over a shotgun.

  • The eternal question of equipping a pistol or melee weapons is the subject of no small debate amongst Left 4 Dead 2 players: my buddy believed that the best weapon in the game to fill one’s secondary slot was the combat knife, which had no delay between strikes and dealt solid damage. For me, I typically prefer holding onto the default P220 pistol and then pairing it with a Glock if one can be found: dual pistols offers solid all-around performance and allows one ranged capabilities should they ever run out of ammunition for their primary weapons.

  • I will switch out for a shotgun if it’s the only option available and I’m running low on ammunition for my primary weapons. While devastating at close range, the shotguns’ general lack of use at long ranges, and lengthy reload times mean that they’re only really useful in a limited set of situations. I have heard that with a shotgun, one can one-shot a Witch with a body-shot if their aim is true and all of one’s pellets connect. Witches were the one opponent I was absolutely terrified of fighting, and since they blocked access to critical areas at times, I often was forced to startle the Witch, become incapacitated and then dump magazine after magazine into it while hoping my AI teammates would help finish the job.

  • As I got increasingly familiar with Left 4 Dead 2‘s mechanics, I was able to detect Witches more easily and do around them, or else engage it from at range using a combination of Molotov cocktails and gunfire. Here, I’ve finally entered the hospital and cleared out an entire horde of infected. Early in my time with Left 4 Dead 2, special infected would always give me trouble, and I was always wondering how the AI teammates would always melt them so quickly. A part of the reason why this was so common was because I’d originally treated Left 4 Dead 2 as run-and-gun shooter, causing the Director to spawn more special infected.

  • By playing more cautiously and sticking with the team, I ended up setting off the Director less often. After fighting through the hospital, I reach the rooftops and signal to a news helicopter for evacuation, making use of an M134 on the rooftops to fend off the hordes. Left 4 Dead had the M134 Minigun in place of the M2 Browning 50-calibre heavy machine gun: both mounted weapons are powerful, but oftentimes are placed in strategically meaningless locations, so one can’t hop on and mow down infected en masse. However, they can still be useful.

  • Owing to how the campaign missions were, I ended up playing them in order, and here, I played through Crash Course, another DLC mission set between the No Mercy and Death Toll missions. Set in a rural small town just outside of Fairfield, the objective is to secure a vehicle and get on to Riverside. Like Fairfield, Crash Course is set during the night and has a similar aesthetic to Half-Life 2‘s Ravenholm: set purely in an industrial area, the eerie blue lighting creates a very cold feeling that brings to mind the narrow alleys and empty miner’s residences.

  • Of course, having K-On! characters around completely changes the aesthetic – I previously commented that there is a practical reason this mod is so enjoyable, and this was because the characters stick out so much, I have no trouble spotting them difference between them and the infected during a given firefight. Like Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi, Azusa, Ui, Jun and Nodoka stand out from the hordes with their unique look, and in between combat sequences, small animations the characters have add to their authenticity.

  • Since I already wrote about a Jockey riding Mio previously, this time around, I’ve opted not to title the post after a Jockey riding Jun. Jun is Ui and Azusa’s friend in K-On!, having joined the jazz club after the light music club felt a little unusual to her. After hearing Azusa’s adventures with Yui and the others, Jun becomes jealous and in her final year, ends up joining the light music club. She didn’t really stand out too much in K-On!‘s first season, but took a greater role during the second, and becomes an integral member of the Wakaba Girls after Yui and the others graduate.

  • A common enough occurrence in Left 4 Dead 2 is that every time a powered door needs to be opened, or a radio call be made, the noise will draw the hordes of infected out. In general, I find the Molotov Cocktail to be a better throwable than the pipe bomb, since its large area of effect allows it to act as an area denial weapon, perfect for blocking off one direction of attack whenever holding an area. Pipe bombs are better used for pulling infected away from certain areas, making them a better distraction tool, and I’ve never really been too effective with the bile jar. Of course, players with more hours (and correspondingly, experience) will probably have different experiences and remarks.

  • The Riverside campaign, Dead Toll, has a distinct Alan Wake feel to it: a dark, foggy night in an eerie town. However, unlike Alan Wake, my arsenal is greater, and without a shield of Darkness surrounding the infected, it becomes a simple matter of blowing them away. I have heard that the K-On! mod for Left 4 Dead 2 is not without controversy – the exact original creator of this iconic mod is disputed, at least from what I read. If it was the case that there was a previous creator, it would’ve fallen on them to ensure they’d done a satisfactory job of maintaining and advancing things, otherwise, one can hardly fault new modders from taking up the mantle.

  • With this being said, this is not particularly relevant to me; the fact that the mod is actively being worked on and improved is what matters, and so, when I received word of the mod a few months back, I was more than happy to return to Left 4 Dead 2. Back in the sewers of Riverside (a small town quite unrelated to Riverdale, home of Archies’ Weird Mysteries), I managed to pick up a .44 Magnum, modelled after the Desert Eagle Mark VII chambered for the .44 rounds. The weapon’s large size and chrome-plated finish speaks volumes about its stopping power per shot, although most players have noted that the magnum is inferior to the P220 on the basis that it cannot be dual wielded, has a slower firing rate and a lower rounds per minute compared to the P220 or the dual-wielded P220 plus G17.

  • Making my way through Dead Toll, the grim atmosphere really creates a proper sense of horror. The dark night-time setting makes every encounter unpredictable, and conceal enemies that would otherwise be easily spotted during the day. Both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 make extensive use of forests in their settings to great effect – whether it is the swampy forests of the latter or the Appalachian forests in the former, there’s something unsettling about a forest by nightfall that evokes imagery of the Slenderman or similar. Left 4 Dead‘s choice to use the night creates a more compelling atmosphere; in Left 4 Dead 2, the daytime setting diminishes from the horror piece.

  • With the Dead Toll mission resembling the original Alan Wake, I recall that it’s been about eight years since I played through Alan Wake, having purchased it for five dollars during the Steam Summer sale. I’d been intrigued by TheRadBrad’s playthrough of it – one of my friends had sent me gameplay of Deadly Premonition, and at the time, the game was not available on Steam (curiously, it did release a few months later). While watching TheRadBrad’s Deadly Premonition videos on YouTube, one of the recommended videos was one of his play-throughs for Alan Wake. The concept in Alan Wake intrigued me and I ended up picking the game up along with the spin-off, American Nightmare.

  • At present, I can’t say I have too much interest in playing Deadly Premonition for myself; TheRadBrad’s play-through was very comprehensive and gave me a solid idea of what ends up happening. With respect to Alan Wake, I’ve yet to actually beat American Nightmare despite the game being in my library for over eight years; it typifies my tendencies to procrastinate when it comes to entertainment, and Left 4 Dead 2 is proof of this, as it took me eight years to finally sit down and complete the game. To be honest, my Steam library’s grown larger than I have time to game on account of the Steam sales, and in recent years, I’ve not bothered partaking in sales, knowing I’ve got enough titles to last a very long time.

  • Towards the end of the Dead Toll mission, after arriving in Riverside and reaching a boathouse, the goal will be to fend off the hordes again. I’ve switched off the G3SG/1 to the M16A2: while my favourite weapon in Left 4 Dead 2 is the AK-47, for being a slow-firing, hard-hitting weapon, the M16A2 is reasonably versatile and its large 50-round magazine and rate of fire makes it a great choice for both CQC combat and medium range firefights against common infected.

  • Here, I’ve equipped a laser sight for my M16A2: this weapon mod greatly improves a weapon’s accuracy, transforming the assault rifles into makeshift marksman rifles. They’re able to improve hip-fire accuracy on all weapons, but on the shotguns and grenade launcher, they’re not as effective. Offering tremendous advantages when equipped, laser sights also indicate where allied players are pointing their weapons. To offset their usefulness, laser sights are incredibly rare, and players usually go through entire campaigns without finding one. Having the laser sight made the final fight to keep the infected away while waiting for a boat at Dead Toll proved useful.

  • The Dead Air mission entails fighting through the city streets until reaching an airport, which is host to a range of aircraft the survivors could use to fly out of town to the next area. Of the Left 4 Dead missions, I enjoyed Dead Air the most owing to its setting: there is something unsettling about an orange-tinged night sky that implies the world is burning now, folding from the weight of the infection. The survivors start on a rooftop greenhouse and must make their way over to the airport, which appears to be located very close to the city if one could simply walk up to it.

  • Most airports are located away from urban areas so the noise from air traffic do not disrupt residents and businesses, but smaller airports are often located in the heart of a city to act as an auxiliary facility for domestic flights. En route to the airport itself, this is the moment that lent itself to the post’s title: because one of the AI teammates had startled the Witch, the Witch’s attention was focused on them: a swift finger on the screenshot button landed me this screenshot, and I subsequently dumped a few magazines into the Witch before it could take me out.

  • The Dead Air campaign marked the first time I’ve been in a video game airport since my previous unsuccessful attempt to explore the Washington National Airport in The Division 2. I fought through a concourse area before entering the parts of the airport with the gates: the saferoom is located just inside the gate before the sky bridge. The K-On! mod for Left 4 Dead 2 adds the riff, Kendama-kun, as the song for whenever a chapter ends, and I keep thinking in my head, in Yui’s voice, “Keion!” upon successful completion of each chapter.

  • The final step of the campaign is to wait for a C-130 to finish refuelling. There’s a mounted M134 available here, but as most of the infected will come from different directions, I didn’t find it to be particularly helpful. I’ve got the SPAS-12 equipped here: known as the Tactical Shotgun in-game, the SPAS-12 has the least spread. While dealing slightly less damage than the Benelli M4 Super 90 (Auto Shotgun in-game), the reduced spread means it reaches out slightly further with more reliability. Finale missions always provide an endless supply of weapons and ammunition, allowing one to freely switch between different weapons to get the job done.

  • The final campaign is set in a forested area by daybreak that brings to mind the areas seen in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, specifically the White Forest, even if the forest seen in Left 4 Dead has deciduous trees (and White Forest, being modelled on forests in the Pacific Northwest, are largely coniferous). The early morning light represents a departure from the night settings in the previous levels, but this is only an aesthetic – the sky may be illuminated, but the land is still somewhat dark, and one must remain vigilant. The site is modelled on Allegheny National Forest in eastern Pennsylvania, which is located just south of Lake Erie in the Appalachian Mountains. It becomes clear that any other time, the park would be a fantastic place to go for a day trip of sorts.

  • A glance at the calendar will find that we are two-thirds of the way through March, and that today is the Vernal Equinox. On this first day of spring, the days will only continue to lengthen as summer approaches. I am very glad that light and warmth are returning to this side of the world. The first day of spring also coincides with the city-wide youth science fair – a few weeks ago, I helped with the science fair for the most prestigious secondary school in the city: my old secondary biology instructor took up a post there and invited me to help out, and it’s always been fun to see what the brightest young minds in the area are up to.

  • Like last year, this science fair is virtual: this is for the safety of all involved, and while I very much prefer to see projects in person and ask questions after a presentation, I understand that the virtual science fair format is necessary. With this being said, the plus side about a virtual science fair is that I can review projects at my leisure while rocking my pyjamas before my first cup of Earl Grey. As soon as this post is done, it’ll be time to turn my attention wholly towards the judging.

  • Now that I’m coming close to finishing off the original Left 4 Dead campaigns, and having finished Left 4 Dead 2‘s base campaigns, the thought of a potential Left 4 Dead 3 did cross my mind. It turns out that Left 4 Dead 3 and Half-Life 3 were projects that were permanently suspended in 2017 as work continued on the Source 2 Engine: only a handful of games, including DotA 2 and Half-Life: Alyx, have been developed in the Source 2 Engine so far. With Valve still tight-lipped about their future projects, the only constant is that speculation is quite meaningless, since there’s next to nothing in the way of facts surrounding the future of the Half-LifePortal and Left 4 Dead franchises.

  • The last segment of the Left 4 Dead campaign has survivors holding out near a small farmhouse: once the radio is called, the military will deploy an APC to the site, and until it arrives, the survivors must survive wave after wave of infected. Unlimited ammunition and several first aid kits are available for use inside the farmhouse, and I ended up going with the M16A2, since this was a scenario where RPM and sustained damage was helpful. In the end, I succeeded in fending off the zombies, and as No Thank You! began playing, I watched the end-of-campaign stats roll, revelling in the fact that I finally finished both the major Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns. At the time of writing, the only Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns I have left are the community-made ones.

  • Towards the end of the mission, I ended up picking up a tonfa and killed an infected to earn the “Club Dead” achievement, which requires players to get a melee kill on common infected with each of the game’s melee weapons (axe, chainsaw, cricket bat, crowbar, guitar, frying pan, golf club, katana, machete and tonfa, plus a pitchfork and shovel on PC). While most guides call this a nightstick because it is modelled after the Monadnock PR-24 police baton with side handle, the baton itself was based off the Okinawan tonfa. I’ve been training with a tonfa for some years, and they’re usually used in pairs. While I’m not as skilful with tonfa as I am with sai or nunchaku, I am sufficiently versed to know that in Left 4 Dead 2, the player is not holding the weapon as one would traditionally hold a tonfa.

With all of the major Left 4 Dead 2 campaigns now finished, this journey has been one that’s been a shade under eight years in the making: the presence of mods has been an instrumental piece of my inclination to pick Left 4 Dead 2 back up, with the end result that I managed to finish a game that I’d all but forgotten about. The presence of K-On! mods for Left 4 Dead 2 also had another side effect: it brought back numerous, pleasant memories I have of the K-On! franchise, leading me to check out the K-On! Come With Me concert and revitalise my interest in the franchise’s music, in turn helping me to relax and keep focused during a somewhat stressful February. Familiarity with Left 4 Dead 2 also means I’m now able to keep up with my friends where conversation turns towards this game: for the longest time, said friend had been hoping I’d complete the game to an extent where I’d be able to offer insights on the mechanics and provide thoughts on why Valve might’ve made certain decisions in the development process, which results in interesting discussions well beyond what gaming discussion today typically consists of (i.e. the best cosmetics and memes, or complaining about games endlessly for not catering to the individual). At this point in time, I’ve now completely experienced the K-On! mods for Left 4 Dead 2, which was an impressive and commendable effort into bringing one of my favourite franchises together with a survival shooter: the process to get the mod set up and running has been effortless, and really adds dimensionality and fun to a game that I otherwise would’ve just left in my backlog. Having now seen what the K-On! mod has done for Left 4 Dead 2, I do plan on taking things up a notch for the two remaining community missions, Cold Stream and Last Stand. Hopefully, getting those last two community missions done won’t take me another eight years to wrap up this time around!

A Jockey is Riding Mio: Revisiting the K-On! Mod for Left 4 Dead 2 and Returning Impressions

“Now that I think about, I’m always causing trouble for you, and it’s always at important times like this.” –Yui Hirasawa, K-On!

After a group of survivors are left behind in Savannah, Georgia amidst a zombie outbreak, they might their way to a mall and escape on a stock car, headed for New Orleans. However, the highway they travel along is blocked by vehicles, forcing them to continue on foot. The survivors reach a derelict amusement park and use a rock concert to signal for rescue. Despite being successfully extracted, the pilot becomes infected, causing the helicopter to crash. The survivors make their way through a swamp, fight through a plantation and make contact with a boat captain. However, the boat begins running out of fuel, forcing the survivors to stop in Ducatel, Mississippi. Securing the fuel needed in a sugarcane factory, the survivors return to the boat and reach New Orleans, fighting their way through the city and reaching a bridge. After crossing said bridge, the survivors come in contact with the army, who suspect them to be carriers, but evacuates them anyways: the military are leaving New Orleans, which is overrun, and head towards the Caribbean to escape the outbreak. This is Left 4 Dead 2‘s original campaign; Valve released this survival horror shooter in 2009 and over time, added further content to the game, including the entire original Left 4 Dead campaign. With its AI system, Left 4 Dead 2 procedurally generates levels based on the player’s style, creating a highly unique experience. While the original game received acclaim, my experience in Left 4 Dead 2 was greatly augmented by the installation of clever and creative mods which change the game’s aesthetic without altering the core experience: through the community, my Left 4 Dead 2 experience was shaped by going through the campaign, but with members of K-On!‘s Hōkago Tea Time standing in for Nick, Coach, Rochelle and Ellis.

Installation of this mod alters the player models, substituting Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi in place of the usual survivors; these models are surprisingly well-crafted and fits extremely well into the game. While this does not change how Left 4 Dead 2 handles, there is one additional advantage about running this mod beyond being able to laugh at the idea that a Jockey is Riding Mio: Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi stand out from the background, making it much easier to spot team mates. In settings where it is dark, and where a Witch’s presence precludes the use of a flashlight, having visually distinct character models make it much easier to know where allies are. The K-On! mod is ultimately a fun addition to the game, creating a ludicrous and amusing contrast with the situation at hand, and there is one additional feature that really sets the mod apart. During the concert chapter of Dark Carnival, modders have swapped out the Midnight Riders’ music for Hōkago Tea Time’s music, and similarly, their posters are exchanged for posters of Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi. Fighting the infected while jamming out to U & I, Don’t Say Lazy, Gohan wa Okazu and No Thank You! was an experience quite unlike any other: I’ve long had a fondness for the songs of K-On!, and despite the dramatically different aesthetic of Hōkago Tea Time’s light and fluffy songs, they fit the moment unexpectedly well. The end result is a mod that proved remarkably fun to experience, bringing one of my favourite anime series with the thrill of blasting zombies. At the time of writing, the original Left 4 Dead 2 campaign is completely ready to play, and the modders are still working on getting Azusa, Ui, Jun and Nodoka working; Nodoka still needs a character model, but beyond this, the classic campaigns and bonus side levels are largely ready.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I continue further into this post, I remark here that I was actually rocking a combination of K-On! mods for Left 4 Dead 2, and as it turns out, there is a single package that includes everything, from the character names to the modified concert posters and skin for Yui’s Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar. However, multiple conflicting mods meant that I had the shortened name for each of Yui, Mio, Mugi and Ritsu, although for this post, they work to my favour on account of the joke I’ve opted to use as the post title. Here, I begin on the rooftop of a hotel in Savannah, Georgia, a moderately-sized city of around four hundred thousand people.

  • Every mission has players start with the Sig Sauer P220, which is equipped with a tactical flashlight. Despite being intended as a backup weapon, the pistol does offer unlimited reserve ammunition and is a great secondary when one is using a slower firing long range weapon. This first mission at the hotel sets the tone of the remainder of Left 4 Dead 2 – players fight through hordes upon hordes of zombies to get to a safe room, and some missions entail fetching resources or waiting for a vehicle to arrive. Conventional FPS tricks are not as effective in Left 4 Dead 2, since the procedural generator will adjust itself to challenge the player’s style.

  • Over the course of a level, one will find weapons and equipment scattered about. After picking up a suppressed MAC-10, it becomes possible to shred zombies more easily, but the weapon’s high rate of fire means one can burn through their reserves quickly. Left 4 Dead 2 also has an unsuppressed Uzi: the differences between the two weapons are that the MAC-10 hits slightly harder, while the Uzi is more reliable at ranges. The MAC-10’s suppressor is purely cosmetic, doing nothing to lessen the zombies’ sensitivity to weapon fire.

  • After exiting the hotel, it’s onto the streets of Savannah; the musty brown-yellow light suggests it’s late afternoon, and combined with the hazy, smokey skies, really conveys the feeling of a Deep South summer. The aesthetics of Left 4 Dead 2 brings to mind memories of TV Tropes, a site I disparagingly refer to as “Tango Victor Tango”: oppressive, fetid weather creates an image in my mind’s eye of site’s users, sitting in a dimly-lit basement tapping away at their keyboards instead of capitalising on the summer weather. While perhaps understandable (hot, humid days make it very unpleasant to be outside), there is also a melancholy about this vision.

  • As I made my way though the level, I acquired a Heckler & Koch G3SG/1 semi-automatic marksman rifle, which is probably one of the best weapons for long-range combat: it is second only to the hunting rifle in accuracy, but with a decent rate of fire and magazine capacity, it allows one to maintain a distance from the zombies. As players move through missions, increasingly powerful and effective weapons become available. I typically prefer the M-16 or AK-47, as they are versatile weapons that allow me to hold my own at most ranges. On a team, I would have no qualms about equipping dedicated CQC or long-range weapons.

  • In one of the bonus missions, “The Passing”, I found an M60: this LMG is a unique weapon in that it has a non-reloadable 150-round belt, and hits particularly hard at close range (although its spread makes it less useful in long range engagements). However, once depleted, players will drop the weapon. In my original Left 4 Dead 2 post about the K-On! mod, I remarked that my experience would be complete once I got my hands on an M60, and having used it, I found it to be an amusing weapon to use, tearing through horde of zombies with ease. However, I ran out of ammunition for it before I could take down a Witch with it.

  • When I made my way through the campaign, I didn’t know that “The Passing” was a DLC mission, but was surprised to see Azu-nyan in the mission. The mod I originally had installed in 2013 was complete to the point of having Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s models ready, as well as Azusa’s, so on this mission, Azusa felt a bit out of place with the others. With the K-On! mod currently missing only Nodoka’s model, it means that if I were to play the other campaign missions with the original Left 4 Dead survivors, assuming I picked Nodoka, I would have a sufficiently complete experience.

  • I do plan on venturing into the other campaign in the future, so for now, we return to the base Left 4 Dead 2 campaign, which sees the survivors reaching an abandoned amusement park. For all of my missions, I decided to play as Ritsu: there is a reason for doing this that I will show off later in this post. The amusement park mission was easily my favourite of the lot – it covers a bit of turf, taking players through an empty roadside motel into the amusement park itself.

  • Here, I’ve swapped out my P220 for a katana: melee weapons in Left 4 Dead 2 are more varied than its predecessor, and are a last ditch option for taking out zombies. Common zombies and some special zombies can be defeated in one stroke, while Witches take four strikes, and Tanks take twenty. For CQC, melee weapons can cut down multiple zombies at once, and are most useful when one is being rushed or wading into a fight. Conversely, pistols are preferred if one wishes to have a second ranged weapon. On a team, players should pick the weapons that fit their loadout, and I’d be comfortable carrying a melee weapon if my primary weapon is an automatic, otherwise, if it’s a shotgun or rifle, then carrying the pistols has served me better.

  • Of the weapons in Left 4 Dead 2, the M16 is the true jack-of-all-trades, being accurate enough to pick off enemies at range, while at the same time, having a decent fire rate and capacity for close quarters firefights: the weapon has a 50-round magazine. Like all other weapons, it is best used in short, controlled bursts, as firing on full-automatic will deplete a magazine very quickly. Left 4 Dead 2 features enemies of three different categories: the common enemies that rush the player are easily dispatched, and there are uncommon enemy types that deal special kinds of damage (but once recognised, can still be taken out). Finally, Witches and Tanks are the most powerful and durable enemy types in the game, usually demanding coordinated firepower to deal with.

  • The incredible contrast between running K-On! characters in Left 4 Dead 2 was an endless source of humour – for one, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi are ill-dressed for the terrain and climate of the deep south, and furthermore, their manner do not correspond with Left 4 Dead 2‘s original survivors: the members of Hōkago Tea Time are students, after all, preferring to spend their days practising with their instruments and unwinding with tea after a day’s worth of classes.

  • After I pushed onto the rollercoaster, a Jockey began attacking Yui, and the on-screen prompt indicates that a Jockey is riding Yui. Upon seeing this message for the first time, I realised that a lame joke could be made regarding the mod, and this is what lent itself to the post title: I’m fond of all the characters in K-On!, but Mio particularly stands out with her serious, no-nonsense personality (and humiliation when things don’t go the way she’d like). Mio thus became my favourite character in K-On! on very short order, and I further found that her songs were among the best to listen to (although in later years, I did come to appreciate everyone’s singing equally).

  • While a subtle, simple touch, the K-On! mod replaces the concert posters in Left 4 Dead 2 with K-On! characters, further immersing players into the idea that Left 4 Dead 2 was really made for K-On! characters with this mod. During this particular play-through of the concert chapter, I ended up picking the SPAS-12 (the stock is folded up, and it’s known as the combat shotgun in-game). Shotguns in Left 4 Dead 2 are situational weapons, and playing solo means not being able to have teammates cover off ranges that I’m ineffective at – the SPAS-12 is the second most powerful close range weapon available to players on a per-shot basis but is not useful at longer ranges.

  • Because I retain the classic concert mods on top of the updated mod, my version of Left 4 Dead 2 has the iconic U & I and Gohan wa Okazu as the main songs played during the concert. Upon removing the duplicate mods, No! Thank You and Don’t Say Lazy play instead. I actually prefer the first set of songs, as they have a happy, energetic feel that would be completely out of place while fighting zombies (whereas the ending songs have a more traditional rock sound about them). Here I’ve equipped the guitar as a weapon – the mod retains the original model, but is re-skinned to have the same finish as Yui’s Gitah/Giita.

  • Bashing zombies with Gitah and listening to the sounds made on every stroke, in conjunction with listening to classic lyrics from U & I while Yui, Mugi and Mio fight around me was the apex of the experience this mod confers. For the whole of this mission, it truly felt like K-On! was brought into Left 4 Dead 2 completely – everything fits seamlessly together to yield a load of fun and even more laughs. In 2013, I was completely satisfied with this experience. Back then, I had multiple mods active to recreate this experience, whereas now, thanks to a new modder taking on the project, a single install is all that’s needed.

  • After finishing the concert, I originally set Left 4 Dead 2 aside and was expecting to return later. However, “later” never came, and I ended up leaving much of the campaign unfinished. However, two things recently compelled me to resume this hitherto unfinished journey: the first was that the modder who’d picked up the project had invited me to give it a go, and the second is that I’ve been trying to make a more serious effort about finishing off my backlog before it becomes unfeasible to do so. Of course, with the trend in contemporary games towards battle royale and loot-box driven experiences, I’ve had very little incentive to play the more recent games.

  • Returning to older titles, like Left 4 Dead 2, was a breath of fresh air precisely because a decade earlier, games were made to be replayed in small groups. I’ve never really enjoyed the battle royale genre because it encourages techniques like camping and dance emotes. Similarly, I do not believe that micro-transactions create an enjoyable experience; previously, games rewarded players for investing time into them and improving, and cosmetics were a part of this progression system, an indicator of this dedication. Purchasable cosmetics and mandatory DLC, on the other hand, degrades progression.

  • Here in the swamps of Louisiana, I fight my way across festering, dank bayous: here, I half expect to come across Slenderman. It was in the far-flung woods of Alabama that Marble Hornets‘ operator appeared in, haunting a group of individuals in what has become one of the most well-known (and well-crafted) alternate-reality games. There is an eeriness about the Deep South that makes the area conducive for spooky-sounding stories, and long before the internet and Slenderman, the Deep South was home to numerous legends surrounding swamp monsters and the like.

  • I eventually reach an abandoned town made up of shacks, and for the briefest of moments, my thoughts strayed back to Tango-Victor-Tango – it is not tricky to imagine the likes of Fast Eddie, Fighteer or Madrugada occupying one of these rickety dwellings, dealing out moderator judgment to those who disagreed with them in the cool of their basements, away from the muggy, humid summers of the American Deep South. Curiously enough, none of these moderators actually live in the Deep South: Fast Eddie is from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and Madrugada calls Davenport, Iowa, home. Fighteer, on the other hand, is in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Despite its age (Left 4 Dead 2 turned eleven back in November of last year), the game still looks and handles like a modern game would, save a few places where things can be a little uneven. Lighting and visual effects still look great.

  • For the most part, the piece of Left 4 Dead 2 that feels the most dated for me are the weapon mechanics: while the weapons still deal good damage against enemies, there isn’t much in the way of feedback to know when I’ve actually hit something. This could just be a consequence of modern games offering things like audio or visual feedback (such as hit markers) per shot landed, and overall, is a very minor gripe about an otherwise solid game that has aged very well. K-On! is likewise an anime that aged extremely well: a decade after its airing, the lessons and discoveries remain fresh, and the music of K-On! is still very much enjoyable to listen to.

  • The hapless Yui gets ridden by a second Jockey in this post here as I make to call the boat to bring the third set of missions to a close. There’s a 50-calibre mounted gun on the second floor, but the placement is such that the weapon isn’t too helpful: on paper, having access to a weapon that can fire continuously for fifteen seconds at a time to thin out hordes of zombies and even do damage to tanks is great, but in practise, being stuck in one spot with a weapon whose firing angles can’t reach all of the enemies is risky.

  • This is the moment readers have come for, and after seven plus years, I’ve finally gotten the screenshot that gives this post its name. During my play-through, Mio was the one character who seemed to be immune to Jockeys – the AI players are typically attuned to the uncommon zombies and killed them long before they got into range for this to happen. Hence, after spotting a Jockey, I would deliberately back-petal and try to bring it into where the AI players were fighting, but more often than not, Mio (or anyone else) would melt the Jockey in the blink of an eye. During the sugarcane plant mission, however, I finally managed to get a screenshot of a Jockey riding Mio, a phrase that remains hilarious even today.

  • As a rainstorm pushes in, navigating the sugarcane plant became a nightmare. The mission is infested with Witches, which I found to be the trickiest enemy to deal with. Armed with ferocious-looking claws, Witches can down players in an instant. I typically try to avoid confrontations with Witches where possible, since I’m not a sure enough shot with a shotgun to take out a Witch with a single headshot. In a team match, having four human players and strategy would allow a better weapons distribution, as well as map management.

  • Here I equip a pipe bomb for no apparent reason. Equipment items in Left 4 Dead 2 are used to restore lost health, provide temporary boosts or create a tactical advantage during a firefight. In general, I prefer Molotov Cocktails, since they act as powerful area-denial tools. For most situations, carrying a first-aid kit is preferred as my primary healing item, and while I usually save them for myself in single-player campaigns, I have used them to bring the AI back to life to ensure everyone makes it out of the mission in one piece.

  • In the streets of New Orleans, I gear up for my final mission in what appears to be the famous Bourbon Street of the French Quarter. It was in this area where I’d realised how much I’d missed out on over the years after getting sidetracked by other things: New Orleans looks fantastic, and the mission is set by day, so visibility is good. I did mention that the K-On! mod helps with visibility, allowing me to see teammates better than the original models, which were more realistic and blended in with things better. One touch I particularly liked was that the K-On! models still carry their gear properly.

  • Left 4 Dead 2 released in November 2009, five months after K-On!‘s first season finished airing. At the time, I imagine that something as ludicrous as mashing the two together was initially not on anyone’s mind, but the combination of K-On!‘s popularity and the extensive mod support for Valve games meant that sooner or later, something such as the K-On! Left 4 Dead 2 mod was bound to appear. K-On!‘s runaway popularity was a result of Kyoto Animation’s excellence in bringing the manga to life, and excellent voice acting (as well as singing) from Aki Toyosaki, Yokō Hisaka, Satomi Satō and Minato Kotobuki.

  • Back in those days, it seemed hardly possible to take a step without someone criticising K-On!. One wonders how those folks would’ve handled news that such a mod exists. By the time I got to checking the series out in 2011, a second season had finished airing, and criticisms of the series began fading from view. While negativity surrounding K-On! began dissipating, it was clear that there were more people who enjoyed this series than those who did not. At a special live concert in Saitama Super Arena, to a sold-out audience, it was announced that K-On!‘s movie would begin screening that December. Like Left 4 Dead 2, I never did get around to watching the concert, Come With Me!, until recently. Having now done so, I intend to write about it at the ten year anniversary to when the concert was held.

  • Going through Left 4 Dead 2 with K-On! mods inspired me to rewatch the anime and films alike, and also got me wondering as to whether or not other mods for series I’m fond of exist. As it turns out, there’s a music mod that plays Girls und Panzer music during the concert, but that’s about it – nothing exists for GochiUsa, which I consider to be the successor to K-On! for offering an incredibly cathartic atmosphere and adorable antics amongst its cast of characters. Like K-On!GochiUsa is immensely popular and has had live concert events of their own, although the music in GochiUsa is, if it were possible, even more saccharine than anything from K-On!: while pleasant to listen to, it would feel decidedly out of place in the rock concert mission.

  • Here, I equip the SIG SG-552 assault rifle for the final push across the bridge, the last of the chapters in the original Left 4 Dead 2‘s campaign. Until last September, German weapons were only available in versions of Left 4 Dead 2 sold in Germany, but an update brought the SG-552, MP5, Steyr Scout and Accuracy International AWSM rifles into the game. These weapons now randomly spawn in the game, and have been updated to have slightly unique attributes that make them viable (rather than being reskins of existing weapons). It speaks volumes to Valve’s dedication that they still provide support to games that are more than a decade old, and a part of this hope is that Valve might one day provide more information on developments to their most famous franchise, Half-Life.

  • With the original Left 4 Dead 2 campaign finally in the books, I will be looking to complete the other missions, which now feature Azusa, Ui, and Jun thanks to the mod. In between Left 4 Dead 2, there are a few other things I have on the gaming front – I will also need to create an opening to write about Black Mesa, which I picked up during the Winter Sale, and wrap up, then write about, the first season of Spartan Ops, which has proven to be surprisingly enjoyable. On top of this, The Division 2‘s fourth manhunt season is coming to a close, with Faye Lau becoming available come February. I hope that there’ll be bit of a break in the Manhunts: while fun, and allowing me to earn gear that I otherwise wouldn’t get, they are a bit time-consuming, and I am admittedly more interested in returning to my backlog, having gotten what I feel to be more than my money’s worth in The Division 2.

I’ve got a very strange relationship with the games I pick up, and Left 4 Dead 2 probably exemplifies this: I originally bought the game for five dollars on a sale back during March 2013, towards the final days of my undergraduate semester, and intended to co-op with my friends. A half-year later, I’d found the mod, and beat the campaign up to (and including Dark Carnival). However, thoughts of Left 4 Dead 2 soon faded, and I never did finish the original campaign in full. Moreover, it appeared that the mod had hit a sort of hiatus. A few months ago, it turns out that one of the developers working on the mod had personally reached out to me and alerted me to the fact that the mod had now resumed development, some eight years after I’d first heard of the project. This update was a bit of a reminder about the way I roll: I tend to procrastinate big time on my hobbies. While this isn’t necessarily detrimental (I make it a point to be on top of my other endeavours), it does mean that I occasionally miss out on the hype and energy surrounding the latest big thing. With this being said, I’m not terribly bothered by this, and prefer to enjoy things at my own pacing. This approach has its pluses and minuses; in general, I tend to avoid spoilers well enough so that my experiences are not diminished, so even years after something is released and discussed, I still can find surprise and excitement when I go through it for myself. With the original Left 4 Dead 2 campaign now in the books, it looks like I’m ready to continue on my journey in Left 4 Dead 2 to complete the remainder of the campaign missions: it is pleasant to know that there’s still an entire story to experience with a different set of characters, and I look forwards to checking out more settings beyond the Deep South that featured in Left 4 Dead 2‘s base campaign alongside who would become the Wakaba Girls in K-On!‘s manga continuation.

Star Wars: Republic Commando- A Review and Reflection

“All right squad. Let’s get in there and start breaking things.” –Boss

Delta Squad is deployed to Geonosis to carry out a special assignment: assassinate Geonosian leader Sun Fac. Unlike standard clones, Delta Squad was created to be superior and undertake the toughest of missions. After taking out Sun Fac, Delta Squad sabotages a droid factory, destroys an anti-air weapon system and boards a Trade Federation Core Ship to steal launch codes. A year into the Clone Wars, Delta Squad is deployed to investigate the abandoned Prosecutor, a Acclamator-class Republic assault carrier. They find Trandoshan mercenaries on board and learn that the Trandoshans intend to sell the ship. Fighting their way through mercenaries and droids alike, Delta Squad manages to reach the gunnery deck and bring the Prosecutor’s turbo-lasers online, just in time to destroy a Trade Federation vessel. Towards the end of the Clone Wars, Delta is sent to Kashyyyk, where they rescue the Wookie commander, Tarfful, from Trandoshan slavers. When intelligence suggests that General Grievous himself is on Kashyyyk, Delta Force is tasked with capturing him. While successfully rescuing Tarfful, Grievous escapes. As they continue to fight through Kashyyyk, securing strategic points and destroying Separatist assets, Delta is sent to activate anti-air weapons to destroy a Separatist vessel overhead. Delta Squad loses one of their number, but the remaining three evacuate and prepare to embark on their next mission. Released in 2005 for PC and Xbox, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a first-person shooter that explores a side of the Clone Wars with a group of Commando clones that would, in time, become renowned for their combat prowess and distinct personalities in the Star Wars universe. In reality, the serious storyline and focus on soldiers, rather than Jedi, made Republic Commando a unique entry amongst Star Wars video games: from a story perspective, Republic Commando‘s focus on an elite squad of clone soldiers really gave a sense of scale regarding how large the Clone Wars had been, and during missions, conversations breathe further insight into each of Scorch, Fixer and Sev’s personalities, as well as the nature of the war they’re fighting.

While Republic Commando‘s campaign is counted as being short, the gameplay itself is mechanically solid. Numerous features and design choices made Republic Commando particularly stand-out: the game limits players to the DC-15s blaster pistol and DC-17m Interchangeable Weapons System (ICWS) that could be reconfigured on the fly to suit whatever the combat situation demanded, along with one additional weapon. The DC-17m, in particular, is an excellent weapon. In its blaster configuration, the weapon acts as a standard assault rifle, with a high rate of fire that made it effective in close to medium range combat. After players acquire the sniper attachment, the DC-17m could be reconfigured to engage distant targets with high accuracy. The anti-armour attachment provided a commando with anti-vehicular grenades that, while capable of damaging armour, also dealt explosive damage that made it useful for neutralising crowds. Altogether, the DC-17m ensured that clone commandos were ready for everything thrown at them, and in practise, having a pair of reliable weapons around meant that players were always assured of being able to deal with whatever threats awaited them on a mission: ammunition for the DC-17m’s blaster is common, and in the event of an emergency, the DC-15s and its self-recharging battery ensured one was never caught unarmed. Together with the tactical commands, which allow players to send Delta Squad’s members to carry out certain functions, one can create more favourable situations. One can send a squad mate to arm and detonate explosives in the middle of a fire fight while I focus on the enemies, or send them to provide covering fire from a sniper’s perch. Squad mates can also revive one another, as well as the player: this has proven to be an immensely valuable function, allowing me to walk off a bad fire fight. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork amongst Delta Squad is apparent, and this translates elegantly into the gameplay.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, Republic Commando impresses with its soundtrack: Vode An is an original piece sung entirely in Mandalorian, a grim-sounding piece that sets the tone for the entire game. The first mission is set on Geonosis, the starting point for the Clone Wars. This creates a sense of familiarity, as players get to experience the Battle of Geonosis here for themselves. Early on, Delta Squad fights Separatist B-1 Battle Droids, and while they’re a ways more durable than seen in Star Wars, where a single blaster bolt could neutralise one, they’re still weak enemies that can be picked apart by the DC-17m.

  • Visually, Republic Commando is dated, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see oneself as blasting one’s way through armies of Separatist droids. Here on my HUD, my squadmates have joined the party. Besides being able to offer assistance in particularly difficult segments of the game (especially reviving the player), listening to their dialogue is hilarious: Delta Squad might be special forces, but the clones are still individuals with their own personalities.

  • With its dynamic recharging battery, the DC-15s pistol is a sidearm that players always have access to. Capable of firing seven shots before its power depletes, the DC-15s’ greatest ability is that the battery recharges over time, and one effectively has infinite ammunition for the pistol. While each shot is individually weak, the weapon still provides some ranged firepower for situations where one runs out of ammunition for the DC-17m’s blaster attachment. Delta Squad also has access to a wrist-mounted blade for melee attacks.

  • Altogether, Republic Commando‘s gunplay is solid, and the mechanics are involved enough to demand some skill from players. One of the things I had to be mindful of was the health of each member in Delta Squad: each squad member have access to a recharging energy shield, and beneath this is a layer of health which can only be replenished at Bacta stations. It takes some time for every one to top off, and players must manually instruct the squad to heal up.

  • Making bad decisions with respect to healing can prove disastrous in Republic Commando‘s trickier sections, as all of one’s squad mates are downed by heavy enemy fire, so I quickly developed a habit of ensuring everyone healed before moving onto the next area. With this being said, Delta Squad is tough, and having them around livened up missions considerably, with their amusing banter to keep things fresh in between firefights.

  • There are a few instances where Delta Squad will encounter particularly tough enemies: here, I deplete my anti-armour grenades on a spider droid and would switch over to the sniper rifle in an attempt to hit the droid’s weak-spot. One feature in Republic Commando that proved particularly helpful was the ability to order squad-mates to focus fire on a target. For the Super Battle Droids, Droidekas and mini-bosses, focused fire would

  • Here, I’ve equipped the sniper rifle attachment with the aim of sniping the spider droid’s weak spot. The ammunition for each of the DC-17m’s modes are not universal, so one can only pick up blaster ammunition for the blaster attachment, sniper ammunition for the sniper attachment and grenades for the anti-armour attachment. In general, the blaster attachment will get one through most situations, and throughout Republic Commando, there are a variety of grenades that can also be used. Unsurprisingly, the best choice is EMP grenades, which swiftly disable even the toughest droids.

  • The final segment of the Geonosis mission has Delta Squad boarding a Trade Federation core ship to access the bridge and obtain launch codes. One of the joys of Republic Commando, then, was being able to visit locations that the movies would never bring viewers to: George Lucas’ visions of Star Wars entail vast constructs, and it simply wouldn’t be possible to visit all of these areas during the course of a movie. Books like Incredible Cross Sections offered some insight into the cavernous interiors of the capital ships in Star Wars, but this is most apparent as players walk through the halls and hangars themselves in games like Republic Commando.

  • Owing to the rendering techniques and hardware capabilities of the time, the interiors of buildings of games from this period all have a “Bond Villain” feel to it, characterised by smooth, concrete-looking floors and repeating elements in the architecture. In retrospect, 007 games were an excellent choice for hardware of the early 2000s: featuring fanciful lairs and the like, the limitations of older hardware left some elements to the imagination, and this really allowed James Bond games to create exciting stories. Games like Agent Under FireNightfireEverything or Nothing and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent all had exotic locations in their setting.

  • As hardware improved, James Bond games became less inspired. Activision eventually took on Bond games, turning a once-great series into Call of Duty knockoffs. Unsurprisingly, these games were poorly received. It’s now been some eight years since the last James Bond game: the failed 007: Legends, whose performance was so abysmal that all Activision Bond games were removed from Steam. There is supposedly a new 007 game in the works, but the age of Bond shooters is long past now. Back in Republic Commando, after downloading the launch codes, it’s time to disembark from the Trade Federation Core Ship, bringing the first segment of Republic Commando to an end.

  • The second act of Republic Commando is set inside the Prosecutor, a Acclamator-class assault transport manufactured by Kuat Drive Yards first seen at the end of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Here, they deployed clones to the surface of Geonosis, marking the start of the Clone Wars. By this point in time in Republic Commando, it’s been a year since the events of Geonosis, and Delta Squad is sent to investigate the Prosecutor, which also happens to be the vessel that Delta Squad was based out of. Upon boarding, the vessel is eerily dark and uninhabited.

  • The dagger-shaped Acclamator-class vessels were the predecessors to the Venator-class capital ships, the latter of which were built for a multi-role combat in anti-ship engagement, as well as transport functions. The Acclamator-class vessels were 752 metres in length and could hold up to 16000 clones. With its vast bay doors, it could unload entire brigades on short order, and possessed enough firepower to engage Separatist ships. During the Battle of Geonosis, Acclamator-class ships proved effective on the ground, although a lack of initial coordination in space allowed the Separatists to escape with their droid armies.

  • As with the interior of a Trade Federation Core Ship, the Acclamator-class vessels are not shown in too much details in the Star Wars movies, and as such, Republic Commando offers a chance to explore the interior of such a ship. Republic vessels have a much cleaner feel to them compared to the primitive designs of Geonosian architecture, and lack the Nemodians’ more ostentatious designs. In Republic Commando, despite the graphics not allowing the game to fully portray all of the nuances in Star Wars interior design, the game still manages to successfully convey the differences in each of its three acts.

  • Here, I’ve picked up a Trandoshan shotgun, which fulfills the role of a dedicated close quarters weapon. Unlike the Geonosian beam weapon, which has a very high damage and limited carrying capacity, Trandoshan projectile weapons are effective against organic enemies and ammunition is relatively common. I found myself using the shotgun the most, since it had strong stopping power, although the repeating rifle is also a reasonable choice at close ranges. Using enemy weapons allows one to conserve on ammunition for the DC-17m, but in general, I found that ammunition was generally easily found.

  • As I made my way deeper into the Prosecutor, the decks became better lit: it turns out that only some areas of the ship were damaged, and so, the Trandoshans, a reptilian species, intend to sell the vessel to the Separatists for cash. The aim of this mission changes from investigating the ship, to disrupting the transaction and driving off the Trandoshan boarders. Unlike the insectoid Geonosians, which explode when killed, Trandoshans are a bit more resilient to damage: I’ve found that the shotgun was the better way of dealing with them. Conversely, projectile weapons are less effective against droids.

  • The close quarters settings of the Prosecutor’s corridors meant that there wasn’t much of an opportunity to make use of the sniper attachment. However, the heaviest Trandoshan enemies, their enforcers, possess a heavy repeating weapon that can burn through a commando’s shields and armour with ease at close range. Using the sniper attachment allows players to pick enforcers off at a range where their weapons are less effective, and it’s times like these where the DC-17m’s modular setup makes it immensely valuable.

  • Fighting the Trandoshans brought back memories of fighting Brutes in Halo 2: despite being physically unimposing, they’re uncommonly strong, being a match for Wookies in combat. Against Delta Squad, they do pose a threat, but fortunately, the vast arsenal available, coupled with the fact that their gear renders them highly lethal, means that Delta Squad can cut their way through entire groups of Trandoshan warriors without too much trouble. As Delta Squad continues through the derelict assault ship, Separatist droids begin appearing again.

  • In the large hangars, droid dispensers can be found. The most lethal ones manufacture a bottomless supply of Super Battle Droids or Droidekas, and require that explosives be mounted on their sides in order to be put out of commission. The explosives took upwards of ten seconds to arm, leaving one vulnerable to fire in the process. Where possible, I attempted to have squad mates rig the explosives, and then I would provide covering fire instead.

  • Because of a bad save point, I ended up suffering this section: as droids stormed the hallway, I found myself dying endlessly. It wasn’t until I reverted to an earlier save point and ensured each of Scorch, Sev and Fixer were fully topped off that I was able to get past this section: there are automated turrets that will fire on the player alongside the waves of droids, and having that bit of extra health amongst the squad helps them to survive long enough for me to get the turrets offline.

  • On the gunnery deck, there are a handful of terminals that must be activated in order to bring the Prosecutor’s guns online: these take a very long time to set up, and I found that it was much easier to arm a portion of it, deal with any enemies and then continue. Here, the EMP grenades proved to be immensely valuable: a single well-placed grenade can destroy an entire group of Super Battle Droids, without expending an extraordinary amount of ammunition and time. Once the guns are online, the Prosecutor and an allied Acclamator-class fire on the Separatist battleship, destroying it.

  • The final act in Republic Commando is set on Kashyyyk, a forest world home to the Wookies. This planet would become a pivotal site during the Clone Wars as a navigational point, and so, the Separatists began an invasion. While the Republic would ultimately beat them back, casualties were heavy, and the Wookies were enslaved during the Imperial era. This final mission has the powerful and durable Wookies as allies, so rescuing and keeping alive the Wookies will be of a major help for players.

  • While Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith made it seem that Kashyyyk was a planet with a surface geology most similar to Gulin province in China, with many rivers and karst limestone formations, Republic Commando‘s Kashyyyk is set in more heavily forested regions, where the larger Wookie cities are. In this mission, players fight both droids and Trandoshan mercenaries alike. I ended up switching between the Trandoshan shotgun and the default DC-17m blaster depending on what was at hand. The first goal is to rescue Tarffull from captivity. Once he’s secured, his presence will give players a powerful ally.

  • General Grievous’ magna-guards are among the toughest enemies in the whole of Republic Commando to fight – their electrostaffs deal massive damage, and the droids themselves are highly agile on top of being able to absorb a great deal of damage. I ended up using a combination of the Bowcaster and EMP grenades to disable then: the latter is a powerful ranged weapon whose rounds can deflect off walls, and ammunition for it is relatively common where the weapon is needed.

  • Inspection of screenshots later into my journey in Republic Commando will find that most of them were taken at around this time last year. I had reached Kashyyyk close to the Winter Solstice, during which we celebrated Dongzhi. Last year, we would have had family over, along with a delicious celebratory dinner. This year, during Dongzhi celebrations were a bit different: we ended up cooking our annual dinner from scratch, and everything turned out delicious: home-made white-cut chicken, char siu, roasted prawns and abalone on a bed of lettuce, braised shiitake and cloud-ear mushroom. We had been hit with a massive snowfall on the night of Winter Solstice this year, and within the space of a day, a foot of snow fell.

  • During last year’s Christmas Eve, I remember having a half-day. After I returned home from work, I set about beating Republic Commando, then played through Halo: Reach‘s third mission before stepping out to a delicious steak dinner at a nearby bistro, before going for a short drive to check out the Christmas lights around town. Again, with different circumstances this year, we’ve opted to keep things simpler. I spent a half-day today tending to some work-related matters before taking the afternoon easy.

  • It was quite surprising to see that a year had elapsed so quickly: it only feels like yesterday that I had finished Republic Commando. I had planned to write about the game shortly after I finished, but upon going through the screenshots I’d collected, it turned out to be a bit of a tricky undertaking to pare them down into a more manageable number for the post. As 2019 turned into 2020, I decided to revisit the game come December. I’d actually only written the draft of this post only this month, and for a better part of the year, most of its contents were just loosely-organised thoughts in my mind.

  • I was therefore a little surprised to find that I’d still remembered my experiences in Republic Commando so well: this perhaps speaks to the level of quality in the game, which many modern games lack. Unlike games of the present day, which are littered with bugs, launch problems, mandatory DLC and loot-boxes, older games were designed with enjoyment and replayability in mind. In this way, I find modern popular titles like Fortnite to be pale imitations of what games could be like. The release of The Master Chief Collection was particularly enjoyable, since it brought back classic titles from an era when games were still intended to be enjoyed, rather than for milking every last penny from customers. The golden age of gaming is past now, but fortunately, older titles continue to be available for enjoyment and still run well enough on modern hardware.

  • Here, I’m rocking the Trandoshan mini-gun, one of the most powerful weapons in the game in terms of raw damage (second only to the Geonosian cannon). While capable of shredding even a Trandoshan enforcer and Super Battle Droids in seconds, it is a cumbersome weapon, and becomes highly inaccurate at range. Ultimately, I found that the most useful weapon that could be picked up was probably the Trandoshan shotgun, as that fulfilled a CQC function in a reliable manner.

  • As I pushed my way towards the final objective on Kashyyyk, members of Delta Squad head off to their objectives. Having grown accustomed to having squad mates around for revives, the last part of Republic Commando requires a bit of careful play, since dying without any squad mates around means being sent back to the last checkpoint. However, with Christmas Eve dinner on the table, I decided to play more cautiously, and for my efforts, finally reached one of the anti-air guns. Here, I used it to blast the Separatist Cruiser out of the sky, bringing the game to an end.

  • Overall, I found Republic Commando to have felt like Star Wars with Halo mechanics, and dual-wielding swapped out for the much more useful and engaging squad commands. Despite being fifteen years old at the time of writing, Republic Commando has aged rather gracefully from a gameplay perspective. The soundtrack is also excellent: Vode An and the other Mandalorian pieces remind me of cold, dark December days. With this post in the books, it is time to take the remainder of this Christmas Eve easier, settle in to a quieter evening and look forwards to Christmas Day itself. With this being said, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to all readers! I’ll be taking tomorrow easy, and then return on Boxing Day to wrap up GochiUsa BLOOM‘s finale.

The melding of sophisticated gameplay mechanics and story into Republic Commando makes it unsurprising that the game was acclaimed. I’ve long known about Republic Commando, having read the strategy guides back when the local library still carried them, but never really had any sort of opportunity to play the game itself until recently: last year, as a part of Origin’s security promotion, they offered clients with a month of free access to EA Play, which gave me access to all of the games that were a part of that library. However, EA ran into logistics issues, and it wasn’t until December that I was granted access to EA Play. I originally had intended to play through both Republic Commando and Detention, but a busy schedule meant that I ended up having only time for Republic Commando. After modifying the game to run at 1080p, I was immediately blown away by how smoothly the game handled: despite being fourteen years old, Republic Commando proved to be great fun – the game fully captures the Star Wars aesthetic, and without any Jedi or Sith, it feels distinctly like Rogue One, where it’s just ordinary folks doing what they can. Over the course of December, I progressed through Separatist installations on Geonosis, the Prosecutor’s cavernous interior and the Wookie cities of Kashyyyk. On Christmas Eve, I finally reached the final mission and destroyed the Separatist battleship to bring an end to the game. Even now, Republic Commando‘s unique soundtrack, with original pieces composed by Jesse Harlin, featuring Mandalorian chants, still remind me of the final moth of the year, when the days shorten and shadows consume the land in an early darkness. Republic Commando was, altogether, a superb experience. The game has certainly earned its praise, being an exceptionally well-done Star Wars title that withstood the test of time. A sequel had been planned for Republic Commando, and while this was cancelled, one can imagine that a revisitation of Delta Squad and their missions, in a modern game engine, featuring a refreshed story, could be worth playing.

Portal 2: A Reflection and Recollections of the Perpetual Testing Initiative

“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am?! I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons!” –Cave Johnson

Chell finds herself pulled out of stasis by the AI Wheatley, who informs her that the Aperture Science facility has fallen into a critical state and that they need to escape. Leading Chell through old test chambers, Wheatley attempts to work out a plan while Chell locates a portal gun. However, they inadvertently reactivate GLaDOS, who separates the two and sends Chell into a series of test chambers to continue on with where they’d previously left off. When Wheatley figures he’s got a solution, he creates a distraction, allowing Chell to escape into the maintenance passages beyond the test chambers. Chell sabotages the turret production line and disables the neurotoxin generator before heading off to face GLaDOS, successfully inititing a core transfer. Wheatley takes over Aperture Science’s main system and places GLaDOS in a potato battery powered CPU. However, he reneges on his promise to send Chell to the surface, and when GLaDOS reveals Wheatley was designed to inhibit her, he throws the pair into a shaft leading into the bowels of Aperture Science. Making her way through the old Enrichment Spheres, Chell learns that Aperture Science was once a shower curtain manufacturer for the military and received an incredible amount of funding to test their products. Helmed by Cave Johnson, Aperture Science began exploring the realm of science with a reckless abandon, and over time, the company began failing even as Johnson started developing an illness from testing products on himself. His final act was to transfer control of the company to his assistant, Caroline. When Chell reunites with GLaDOS, the two set their differences aside to return to the upper levels and stop Wheatley from destroying the facility. GLaDOS reveals that she has Caroline’s memories and begins opening up to Chell. Upon their return, Chell makes her way through Wheatley’s test chambers to stall for time and manages to elude his crude traps, eventually returning to GLaDOS’ main body. She manages to change out the personality cores and places a portal on the moon, sending Wheatley into the depths of space. Back in control, GLaDOS stabilises the facility and decides to let Chell go, figuring that killing her is too much effort. Wheatley laments his decision to betray Chell and wishes things were different. This is the adventure that Chell goes through in Portal 2, the 2011 sequel to 2007’s acclaimed Portal, a highly innovative and remarkable puzzle game built in the Source Engine with Half-Life 2 assets.

In contrast to its predecessor, Portal 2 is much livelier, and although Chell is exploring an abandoned, derelict Aperture Sciences, Portal 2 never had the same sterile, cold feeling that Portal did. Portal 2 explores a greater range of Aperture’s constructions, and in doing so, also explores a greater range of emotions. Wheatley provides an endless supply of comic relief, driving players forward with an improvisational tone even when he does take over Aperture and develops GLaDOS’ old tendency to want to kill Chell. When she falls into the depths of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson’s old recordings give insight into a once-brilliant mind and his fall from grace. The ruins of the old facility are the only remainders of his legacy, giving the entire area an air of melancholy. GLaDOS is a more multi-dimensional character, carrying out her directive per her programming but also recalling that she was once human and coming to understand why Chell chose to act the way she did. The characterisation creates a much richer experience that ultimately tells a story of regret and longing, as well as coming to peace with what has come to pass, set in the cavernous interior of Aperture Sciences. Besides an enriched story, Portal 2 features all-new mechanics to properly differentiate itself from its predecessor and Half-Life 2. Aerial faith plates propel players to new heights from fixed points, thermal discouragement beams require careful placement to activate exits, hard light bridges to reach distant points, special gels encourage lateral thinking to help players pass otherwise impassible areas, and excursion funnels provide a thrilling way of transporting player and materials across chasms. Like its predecessor, players must use a combination of their knowledge of previous mechanics to devise solutions for clearing different areas, and as Chell edges closer to escaping Aperture Science, she learns more about its storied past. In this way, Portal 2 and Portal share the same relationship that Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved shared; both sequels participate in extensive world-building that enriches the player’s experience of the world, at the expense of the suspense created through the minimalist story-telling of their predecessor. In addition, the sequel’s introduction of new mechanics also changes the strategy players take in completing the game – in the case of Portal 2, the new mechanics cement the notion that the game has evolved into a separate entity from Half-Life 2 with its own distinct elements, but it also creates the caveat that some areas must be cleared a certain way, which restricts players’ freedom to solve puzzles in their own way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • An indeterminate amount of time has passed since Chell last ventured through Aperture’s test chambers, and in that time, the facility has become dilapidated, overgrown with vegetation and mould. It is through these test chambers that Chell makes her way through, and initially, she’ll find the single-portal gun and advance a short ways before locating the full portal gun. Like its predecessor, Portal 2 gradually introduces players to game elements, although players familiar with Portal will doubtlessly have itched to advance further more quickly.

  • It’s been eight years since I last wrote about Portal 2 – eight years earlier, I had been staring down the MCAT, and at this point during the summer, I had just begun my MCAT course; my physics course had finally ended, and I could turn my full attention towards what would certainly be a challenge. However, in between studying, I was able to unwind by going through a friend’s Steam library: in between study sessions, I was able try a few of his games out, among them Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Portal 2. I blazed my way through the former before beginning the latter.

  • Chell’s gear has changed somewhat since the original Portal: long fall boots take place of her original her knee replacements, and she dispenses with the top of her jumpsuit. I’ve seen a few Chell cosplayers at Otafest in past years: when I first attended, Portal 2 would’ve been two years old. The game’s requirements aren’t steep at all, and even in those days, my old desktop had no trouble running the game smoothly, although there was the minor annoyance that the light on top of the portal gun never lit up owing to a limitation in my old GPU. This particular matter is no longer an issue, and in my current screenshots, the light on the portal gun lights up as expected.

  • Death lasers (formally, “thermal discouragement beams”) replace the high-energy pellets of Portal, and require redirection towards a receptacle in order to activate doors and lifts. Like the high-energy pellets, lasers can kill Chell, but only after prolonged exposure, and they typically must be redirected using a combination of portals and redirection cubes. Portal 2 also introduces hard light bridges, which function similarly to those of Halo. The new mechanics of Portal 2 are fun additions to the game, adding further nuance to various puzzles. Not everyone shared this sentiment, and many regarded Portal‘s simplicity as being more conducive towards creative solutions for solving a particular test chamber, whereas the new mechanics made it clearer how one could solve the test chamber and restrict novel solutions.

  • The lift taking players to the next level have changed in appearance: originally, they were solid, and Portal loaded different segments similarly to Half-Life 2, but by Portal 2, they look sleeker, and the game loads new levels quite separately. The lifts are surrounded by screens that give a visual representation of how a new mechanic works, and one of my favourite animations was the one depicting the turrets in action, showing the automatic chambering and firing of rounds. In Portal, turrets could be disabled by knocking them over, and while this is still viable in Portal 2, there is a rather more entertaining way of dealing with turrets.

  • Using a redirection cube allows one to focus a laser on a turret, which heats up its inner structure and eventually causes it to explode: back in Portal, the high-energy pellets could only knock turrets over, which, while functionally equivalent, was nowhere nearly as satisfying. Because Chell is completing these test chambers to occupy GLaDOS while Wheatley works out an escape plan, there’s the sense that something big is in the making.

  • The new test chambers of Portal 2 have a different aesthetic than the test chambers of Portal, being composed of sliding panels rather than the metal cubes. The amount of portal-conducting surfaces are also reduced in many places. While this initially felt restricting, it’s also a bit of a clever way to subtly hint at where portals should be placed. Here, I grab ahold of a weighted cube and make my way across a hard-light bridge: it suddenly strikes me that, since the Perpetual Testing Initiative days, I’ve not actually gone back through Portal 2 until now.

  • Test Chamber 20 is the only test chamber that’s completed and ready to roll: it most resembles the test chambers of Portal and every surface is capable of conducting portals. While seemingly simple, it involves redirecting the lasers into the right receptacles using a combination of redirection cubes and portals. I’ve heard that it’s possible to finish this test chamber without placing any portals, but this requires precise use of the redirection cubes. Once this test chamber is cleared, Wheatley returns and prompts Chell to go into the maintenance access surrounding the test chamber.

  • Portal‘s maintenance areas had a more Half-Life feel to them, and Portal 2 modifies them to have a different aesthetic. I can’t help but wonder if the design was inspired by areas of Facebook headquarters. Once Chell’s escaped, Wheatley will have her help in sabotaging the turret manufacturing line and disabling the neurotoxin supply before taking her to face GLaDOS. Chell manages to perform the core transfer, placing Wheatley in charge of Aperture Sciences, but the additional processing power drives him insane, and he reneges on his promise to Chell. When GLaDOS insults Wheatley, he loses his cool and smashes the lift Chell is in, sending her and GLaDOS tumbling into the depths of Aperture Sciences.

  • After falling into the depths of Aperture Science, some four-and-a-half kilometres beneath the surface, Chell is briefly knocked out and comes to just as a bird carries GLaDOS away. This is the loneliest it gets in Portal 2, and Chell can only count on her wits to figure out how to return to the surface: there is no Wheatley to lighten the moment up, and no GLaDOS to make snide remarks. The sense of scale at Aperture Science becomes apparent here, giving an idea of just how extensive the facilities are. When I first came here in Portal 2 some eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with how the older facility was presented, and it was here that the melancholy in the game became visibly felt.

  • Wandering through the unused sections of Aperture Science, I would come upon the vault door that leads into the next section. Portal 2‘s designers stated they wanted to play with some visual humour, in which they would use an immensely large vault door to conceal an ordinary door. At this point during my first play-through, I was wrapping up a physics course and making more headway into the MCAT preparation course. The timing of this was excellent: I had been a little worried about a potential scheduling conflict, but with physic concluding, I was free to focus purely on the MCAT.

  • By the time I’d set foot in the catwalks leading into the first of the Enrichment Spheres, Portal 2 had been out for just over a year. One of my friends had already completed the game and began using the music to test to in accompanying his videos of his Otafest experiences. Portal 2‘s soundtrack was carefully composed to fit the atmosphere of different areas of the game. The music of the Enrichment Spheres, in particular, create a light-hearted sense of science fiction that suggests a combination of whimsy and cleverness that is needed to complete this section of the game.

  • I’m guessing, then, that for my friend, Otafest represents a similar challenge for visitors in that it requires an open mind and awareness of one’s surroundings to ensure one doesn’t miss anything. This turned out to be true: when I attended Otafest a year later, I planned to attend for one day and played things by ear. While it was a fun experience, I would subsequently learn that I’d missed a bunch of events and a chance to collect special pins. For future conventions, I planned ahead and would go on to have a more comprehensive experience. Here, I pass through one of the older offices, and a trophy case of Aperture’s best achievements of the day are visible.

  • Besides Otafest vlogs, my friend had also made extensive cross-overs of Portal and Team Fortress 2 with The Melancholy of Suzumiya HaruhiLucky☆Star and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I’ll admit that I don’t fully understand half of the intended themes in crossovers, and upon asking my best friend to take a look, and they were similarly uncertain as to what was going on. If I had to guess, they probably represent how he may felt about certain character interactions and themes in a show, brought into a context he was familiar with. Portal 2 captures the feeling of loneliness and the hubris of ambition in this section, so for me, these sections of the game were the most memorable.

  • Chell eventually makes her way into the control rooms that activate the different mobility gels: these modify the properties of a surface, allowing for movement in areas that would otherwise be impassible. While it’s a lonely journey through the bowels of Aperture Science, Chell is accompanied by Cave Johnson’s hilarious, but also increasingly erratic dialogue, which gives a rather detailed history of Aperture Science, which began as a highly successful company that Johnson ran into the ground with uncertain, experimental projects. While a man of science, Johnson evidently had a stubborn pride about him, as well.

  • After reaching a series of abandoned offices, Chell will find the potato that GLaDOS is stuck to; a bird had carried her away earlier, and GLaDOS becomes deathly afraid of birds for a period after she reunites with Chell. Having GLaDOS attached to Chell’s portal gun, Portal 2 suddenly feels a lot less lonely, and the two work out an alliance with the aim of getting back to the main facility so that GLaDOS can stop Wheatley from destroying everything in his incompetence.

  • Once GLaDOS is back, she’ll occasionally react to Cave Johnson’s recordings: it turns out that GLaDOS was built from Caroline, Johnson’s pretty-as-a-postcard assistant with a bright personality who was also evidently competent. Upon hearing one of Johnson’s recordings, GLaDOS responds with a heartfelt and genuine “Goodbye, Sir“, hinting at her origins. It turns out that Johnson had intended to have his mind transferred, but in the event that he died before the process could be carried out, Caroline would take his place. These exchanges match the melancholy, wistful feeling one gets when traversing these test chambers. The inquisitive player can locate a picture of Caroline and unlock an achievement for doing so in this test chamber.

  • I still have vivid memories of being stuck in this enrichment sphere after arriving for the first time: I had started playing Portal 2 as a bit of a study break, having hit a wall of sorts in revising the new MCAT materials, but wound up without a means of completing this test chamber. I ended up putting the breaks on Portal 2, returned to hit the books and ended up understanding the concept I was looking at. The early summer of 2012 was characterised by me being entirely focused on the physics and MCAT courses; most days entailed me going to campus to take the courses and then returning home in the afternoon to study.

  • By June, my physics course had nearly wrapped up, and all that was left was the MCAT course, which ran until the end of July. I spent many a beautiful day indoors doing review problems with friends who were also facing down the MCAT or had previously done so. I constantly swung between an impatience to take the exam and a gripping panic during this time, but with support from my friends, I weathered on. Most of my days were punctuated by a great deal of gaming, which helped me to unwind and focus in between studying sessions.

  • Finally, August came, and I sat the exam. When I had finished, it was as though a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. With the remaining twenty days of the summer, I spearheaded an effort that some of my colleagues had taken to submit a paper to an undergraduate journal earlier that year: we had become swamped with coursework and the paper was shelved. However, two of the remaining colleagues had expressed an interest in continuing, and since I was not officially doing summer research then, I had unlimited time on my hands.

  • After receiving everyone’s drafts, I ended up writing out the entire paper and then asked that my colleagues review it as they were able. As August drew to an end, and my final undergraduate year started, we had a fully finished draft. My supervisor was happy to review it, and we ended up submitting it to the journal. It was accepted some time later, and I was invited to participate in the undergraduate research symposium with my older project from a summer earlier. Seeing the extensibility of this project led me to build my undergraduate research project off it, and for my troubles, I ended up doing very well.

  • As I return further up the facility, I recall that because I had been in the midst of MCAT season and had wanted to finish Portal 2 as quickly as possible. I therefore skipped over the sections of Portal 2 where Chell and GLaDOS return to the more modern Aperture Science facilities, returning to the point after the pair reach the stairwell leading back into a more modern-looking test chamber, shaving about 15-30 minutes off my run. In retrospect, I needn’t have skipped this part, but what’s done is done.

  • According to the screenshots, I finished my first run of Portal 2 precisely eight years earlier and ended up writing about the new mechanics here. At that time, this blog was really more of a side resource where I could go to write shorter articles, supporting the content at my main Webs.com page. However, as the limitations of Webs.com became increasingly apparent, I transitioned all of my writing to this blog. Here, I make use of a portal conducting gel to coat the interior of this shaft, allowing me to freely place portals in critical areas to reach further up.

  • While I had finished Portal 2 and wrote about it eight years ago to this day, that same summer saw Valve introduce the addition of Perpetual Testing Initiative, adding co-op chambers for players to complete. Any owner of Portal 2 was automatically granted a special discount coupon for Portal 2 to gift to friends so that they could claim a copy of the game for 5 USD. My friend, having heard about my enjoyment of the game, sent me his coupon, and a few hours later, I was the proud owner of Portal 2. I started my journey late in August, and finished the campaign a second time just before term started.

  • On my second play-through, I went through every area of the game, including the shafts leading back to the more modern facility and the crawlspace just beneath the modern test chambers. As I passed through familiar test chambers and the bowels of the facility alike, I recalled with vivid clarity the old thrill of studying for the MCAT. Three days later, my MCAT results came back, and it was to my immense relief that I’d done rather well. I wouldn’t actually use the results in later years, having developed a keen interest in software development following my undergraduate thesis, but the lessons and experiences from taking the MCAT persisted: besides being a better tester, I also relaxed considerably regarding challenges.

  • I don’t believe I have any screenshots of Portal 2 left over from those days: all of the screenshots for this post were taken relatively recently. Upon returning back to the modern facilities, it’s evident that Wheatley has made a mess of things, creating illogical tests. Fortunately, there are solutions to Wheatley’s tests, and the introduction of the excursion funnels, which act similarly to the hard light bridges but also offer laminar flow, allowing players and objects to be pushed across an area.

  • Despite displaying fluid-like properties, the excursion funnels are not liquid in nature. Special switches allow their direction to be switched, and they become an invaluable mechanic for crossing over large chasms opening into the deepest reaches of the Aperture Science facility. Wheatley’s tests leave massive gaps in the floor, which expose infrastructure and also give an idea as to how vast Aperture Science really is. Chell can exit the funnel at any time by means of normal movement, but careless movement at the wrong time will lead to death.

  • Besides Chell herself and objects like weighted cubes, the excursion funnels can also be used to transport mobility gels great distances. Solving puzzles with a combination of the mobility gels and excursion funnels turned out quite fun: by this point in time, familiarity with all of the mechanics means that players will have no trouble figuring out what needs to be done. Of note was the part where one needed to use the repulsion gel on turrets to safely deactivate them: once coated, they begin bouncing around erratically and plummet to the depths of the Aperture Science facility.

  • A distant light can be seen as Chell heads towards Wheatley with every intention of stopping him and restoring GLaDOS’ access to control Aperture Science. Traveling through this excursion funnel, with a distant light illuminating the way, players cannot help but feel that they are almost at the light at the end of the tunnel. This screenshot here perfectly captures how it felt to watch the days between myself and the MCAT count down to the doom of my time.

  • The fight with Wheatley is hilarious: while he takes measures to prevent himself from being defeated the same way GLaDOS was defeated, conditions transpire against him, and Chell is given all of the tools needed to stop Wheatley, by corrupting his main core with alternate cores and prompting a core transfer. Once successful, Wheatley is sucked into space, and regrets betraying Chell, while GLaDOS stabilises the facility and allows Chell to walk free, since killing her was too much work. This brings my third play-though of Portal 2 to an end, and having gone through both Lucky☆Star and both Portal games, I turn my attention towards The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya next, which holds the answers to lingering questions I had surrounding Otafest.

Being more extensive than Portal in every way, Portal 2 ultimately is an immensely enjoyable and immersive experience overall. In particular, I was most fond of the game’s midsections, which sees Chell explore the abandoned ruins of the old Aperture Science. The sheer scope and scale of the old Enrichment Spheres are a monument to Aperture Science’s hubris: Portal 2 demonstrated that level design and voice acting alone can tell an incredibly compelling story: Cave Johnson himself never appears, having long died from being poisoned by the moon dust used in creating portal-conducting surfaces, but old heirlooms and artifacts do much in filling in the gaps. Together with the derelict state of the old facilities, one really gains a sense of the hopelessness and desperation Johnson had to bring back the glory days even as Aperture Science fell further into ruin. These missions are reminiscent of exploring haikyo: although the walls of abandoned buildings might not speak, an entire story lies beyond their silence, told in stone and mementos alike. Altogether, Portal 2 places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of the series compared to its predecessor, which, while succeeding on the merits of its simplicity, left many questions unanswered. Portal 2 answers some of these questions and suggests that behind the events of Portal, there was a human element to things, which help players to really understand the dangers of an unchecked desire for progress. Together with areas that capture the scope and scale of Aperture Science, moments that help characters grow, and a generally livelier atmosphere, Portal 2 represents a novel direction for Portal that adds nuance to the series, and while its story leaves players no closer to understanding the role Aperture Science and the Borealis plays in Half-Life 2, does offer closure for those who had lingering questions after completing Portal.