The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: General Gaming

Battlefield 2042: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This strength test is all about what Battlefield 2042 does to your computer, and not what your computer does to Battlefield 2042.” –J. Neilson, Forged in Fire

Entering the Battlefield 2042 open beta, the biggest question on my mind was whether or not my aging rig would even be able to run DICE’s latest Battlefield title at passable frame-rates. The minimum requirements had called for an Intel i5-6600k, which overall, has about a five percent edge in terms of performance over the nine year old i5-3570k I’m currently running. The open beta represented the best way to, without charge, test whether this CPU stood any chance of opening Battlefield 2042, and after I finished my preload in Tuesday night, I went about the remainder of my week as usual. When I was granted access to the open beta on Friday, I promptly opened my client after the day’s work hours ended, and immediately found myself faced with sluggish, choppy performance: after joining a match and parachuting over to the rocket hangar at capture point bravo, I came under fire from some enemy players. I ducked away into cover, then got the jump on one of my pursuers as they turned away, and after aiming down the M5A3’s iron sights, I dumped the magazine into my foe to earn my first kill of the beta. All of this happened at around 24 FPS, and it became clear to me that my eight-year-old machine had hit its limits. I subsequently headed over to a remote corner of the map, away from the combat, set all of the visual effects down to medium, and was met with a surprising result: Battlefield 2042 began running at a still-choppy, but playable 40-50 FPS (dropping to about 30 FPS on a small handful of moments). I thus finished my first match and went on to unlock a range of weapons to experiment with. During my play-testing, I found that my GTX 1060 was at around 60 percent usage, but my CPU was struggling the entire time in-game: the k-line of i5 processors have a feature called “Turbo Boost”, which kicks in whenever the CPU requires additional horsepower. The hardware automatically overclocks the CPU, raising the clock speed to give this extra performance while at the same time, keeping the assembly within safe temperatures. However, running Turbo Boost for prolonged periods still places a bit of a strain on a CPU that is eight years old, and it is clear that either this build of Battlefield 2042 still needs to be optimised before launch, or the time might be approaching where I will need to build a new rig. While my machine did encounter difficulties with the Battlefield 2042 beta (I suffered two blue screens in total), I was otherwise very impressed that the beta ran at all, with the frame rates that it did. Overall, my rig survived: this is equivalent to a blade taking on a few rolls during the infamous strength test on Forged in Fire, but otherwise, remained intact. My machine passes the strength test, although whether or not it will KEAL is a different matter entirely (albeit one that I’ll have to wait until after launch to find out about).

Because of periodic performance drops, my own experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta are not complete or wholly representative of my performance in the game. Lag led me to miss shots, fail to respond quickly enough in a firefight, or even waste ammunition on what I thought was a player (but was actually a player model that hadn’t been updated properly). In spite of this, the beta was still immensely enjoyable. The first thing I noticed was that the scale of battle is larger than ever. It makes sense as to why Battlefield 2042 would require more CPU power to fully experience: the chaos of 128-player maps is a massive step up from the 64-player maps of previous games, corresponding with an increase in the processing power needed to calculate and keep track of everything. Moreover, gun-play was satisfying, and weapons handled very consistently: after getting used to their recoil patterns and learning to position myself better in firefights, I began rediscovering my old enjoyment of tap-firing down a distant foe. Every kill is satisfying, and Battlefield 2042 appears to have altered things so the kill system is more similar to Battlefront II’s, where dealing appreciable damage to an enemy is rewarded the same amount of points as scoring the kill itself. Similarly, the movement system was relatively smooth: features from Battlefield 1 and V, like crouch-sliding and vaulting return, creating more options for moving around the map and escaping otherwise deadly situations. The core mechanics of Battlefield 2042 appear to work well for the game. However, it is clear that this is a three-month old build: the UI is unwieldy, and critical features did not work in the beta. I was unable to issue squad commands, thank players for reviving me or open the map at all. These issues are something the team indicates that the release build will address. The specialist system is a larger issue for Battlefield 2042: during my games, I noticed that teamwork was practically non-existent: the lack of dedicated medics and support players meant no one was topping off health or ammunition, and there was no incentive to do so. The lack of restrictions on weapons and gadgets allows a sniper to constantly top off their own ammunition, and assault players can easily heal themselves. One possible fix for this would simply be to restrict gadgets to certain specialisations, and similarly, every specialist should have access to one unique weapon class, and subsequently, there can be all-class weapons, much as how Battlefield 3 and 4 had done so. The specialist system is ingrained in the game, but if these minor adjustments aren’t too tricky to implement, their addition would define specialist roles more clearly and return team-play elements to the game. One element that currently is a deal-breaker is player visibility: this was an issue in Battlefield V and favoured campers. Battlefield 2042 has not addressed this issue, but this time, players can blend into their surroundings even when actively moving. Moreover, the lack of clear team indicators introduces new problems: I found myself shooting at teammates in some firefights because there hadn’t been anything to show they were teammates. While I’m very much in the minority who thinks this way, I find that the return of 3D spotting would be helpful. Players should always be able to spot for themselves, and then recon players can spot for their teams as a class perk. The inclusion of 3D spotting would reward players for thinking tactically ahead of a firefight, and force players to consider how they move around a map, as well. Overall, while Battlefield 2042 shows promise, it is still early to be determining if DICE has properly learned from the aftermath of Battlefield V.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If there were a single screenshot to sum up my experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, this would be it: a stunning view of the Guiana Space Centre as a storm rolls in. Battlefield 2042‘s theme is climate change and its impact on conflict, but unlike its predecessors, which featured a single-player campaign, Battlefield 2042 will launch without a campaign, with its story being told by the maps’ design. The large-scale effects of climate change means that Battlefield 2042‘s maps can be set across the world and need not be tied to any one region, as with previous Battlefield maps.

  • The first kill I got in Battlefield 2042 came with the M5A3 assault rifle, a fictionalised version of the SIG MCX series that is chambered for the 6.8mm SIG cartridge. I ended up choosing a different screenshot for my first kill because that moment had been too dark, and because I am a little superstitious in games, I believe that I’ll have a better experience in a given open beta if I get my first kill before my first death. In practise, the M5A3 has a good firing rate and high accuracy, especially when equipped with the extended barrel, Cobra vertical grip and the Maul Hybrid 1.5-3x sights.

  • I didn’t have too many opportunities to play armoured vehicles in the open beta; pilots were being much too aggressive, and the lack of teamwork meant that shoulder-fired anti-air weapons weren’t too effective at taking them down. Land-air balance has always been an issue in Battlefield games: good pilots can single-handedly control entire matches, and some design choices in previous Battlefield games, like the Ilya-Muromets, were downright broken. Modern settings means a wider range of anti-air options, and Battlefield 2042 will need to give players more options against air vehicles in order to balance things out.

  • The infantry combat is generally my favourite aspect of a given Battlefield game, and here, I help the team to defend against capture, capitalising on the high-ground to mow down a player running along the catwalk below. Orbital is the map featured in the beta, and despite being a very large, open map, there’s enough variety in the map design so all weapons can be effective, depending on where one is. The M5A3 is probably the most versatile weapon available in the open beta, having enough accuracy to pick off enemies at range (especially if one tap fires and runs the right attachments) and enough firing rate to react quickly to someone at close quarters.

  • During matches, the rocket on the launchpad will sometimes launch, creating a particularly impressive visual spectacle for players, comparable to the rocket launch of both Five Centimeters per Second and Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve seen my favourite Battlefield YouTubers attempt to board the rocket, and they ended up phasing through the geometry before learning that the rocket tops out at an altitude of five kilometres. This resulted in many laughs. For me, I didn’t have anything quite so exhilarating: I witnessed two rocket launches during my run of the Battlefield 2042 open beta, and after dying to a sniper during my first launch, I decided to take cover so I could view the second launch in peace.

  • Battlefield 2042‘s hitmarker system is quite unlike anything I’d previously seen: they appear to be much more subtle and difficult to spot. However, every kill was satisfying to earn, especially those longer-range shots. One nifty feature about Battlefield 2042 is that the Maul Hybrid optic has an integral red dot sight attached to the main optic, making it easy to switch between 1.5x magnification and 3x magnification with the push of a button. The dynamic attachment system reminds me a great deal of how Crysis handles things, and I imagine in the completed game, players will unlock multiple attachments, and then pick four they want to carry into battle at any given time.

  • Since we’re now back in the modern era, a wide selection of effective LMGs are finally available again. The only LMG available in the open beta was the LCMG, a fictionalised version of the Knight’s Armament Company LAMG; in reality, this was meant to be a lightweight and modular LMG that could adapt to a variety of situations. Despite its promise, the LAMG never saw any military use, although I have seen this weapon before in The Division 2, where it is called the Stoner LAMG and was one of my favourite weapons in the endgame, at least until the Hunter’s Fury gear-set became available.

  • I’ve always had a fondness for LMGs in Battlefield: early in every Battlefield game I play, I am not so familiar with the recoil patterns on assault rifles, and tend to waste my ammunition hitting air in firefights. However, with their larger ammunition capacity (offset by a longer reload time), LMGs are a bit more forgiving and allow me to lay down sustained fire. More rounds in the air means an increased probability something will hit my foe (i.e. “spray and pray”). The LCMG can be customised with AP rounds to increase its efficacy against light vehicles: one of the stranger design choices in Battlefield 2042 is the fact that weapons can have different ammo types. While cool in theory, I’ve actually never felt any need to switch out the standard ammunition.

  • Here, I score a kill with the Kriss Vector, known as the K30 in-game. The K30 resembles its counterparts from other games in that it has a high rate of fire and therefore, is particularly well-suited for CQC. The base K30 comes with a 20-round magazine, but DICE was nice enough to provide the extended magazine option, which allows for a total of 40 rounds per magazine. I ended up scoring a pair of kills in the rocket hangar with it while making my way to the top. The scale of the buildings in Battlefield 2042 are immense, and capture point bravo is a particularly fun one to fight over, since the rooftop is open to helicopters, and the team holding it must be cautious of players sneaking in from below, as well.

  • Ribbons finally make a return in Battlefield 2042: DICE had gotten rid of them in Battlefield V, but they had been present in earlier Battlefield games as an incentive for teamplay, as well as rewarding players for doing well. I’ve had a fondness for ribbons, since accumulating them gave insight into what kind of tendencies I had as a player. Medals were also fun to earn, although I also remember that the big frustration with them comes from being killed while attempting to take a screenshot after earning one: because of the way my key mappings are set up, I need to either take my hand off the mouse or keyboard in order to capture said screenshot.

  • While I’d never been effective with anti-armour weapons in Battlefield 3 and 4, after Battlefield 1 and V, I’ve become much more comfortable with equipment in this category: a little bit of teamwork can mean that, even on foot, vehicles are not unstoppable threats. Battlefield 2042‘s brings back the M2 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle from Bad Company 2 as the main anti-vehicle option. It has a very slow reload, but can devastate light vehicles and even take a third of a tank’s health away in a single shot. I imagine that more anti-vehicle weapons, like the RPG-7, SMAW and AT4 could be available in the full game.

  • Here, I score a kill on someone calling themselves “Shizuka_hiratsuk”, evidently named after Oregairu‘s Shizua Hirasuka, using the DM7 (the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 in real life) marksman rifle. This semi-automatic rifle reaches out a little further than the M5A3 and is a solid precision weapon that fits my play-style. Although the ACOG sight and its chevron reticule was a bit tough to use, the weapon can nonetheless deal excellent damage at range, making it a solid option. Players with anime names have always stood out to me in multiplayer first person shooters, especially when they get the upper hand over me.

  • However, this never happened once in Battlefield 2042: normally, after dying to another player, their name is clearly displayed for me to check out, and Battlefield also indicates how many times we’ve gotten one another. However, the UI meant I never got around to seeing names in prominence, and moreover, I never found myself antagonised by a single player because of the fact that maps are so large. Rather than facing 32 players, I’m now facing 64, so it’s less likely to run into the same person twice. The larger player count has had one additional side-effect on my gaming, and I’m actually a lot more relaxed when I’m being beaten by different people.

  • I’m not anywhere as competitive as I was seven years ago, which was when I was really getting into Battlefield 3, but a part of me still enjoys getting back players who got me. In one entertaining moment during the beta, I was killed by a sniper at capture point alpha. Realising he was chilling on one of the geodesic domes, I promptly changed my kit out for the SWS-10 and managed to shoot him in the head. I’m rocking the recon specialist here, which comes with a spotting drone, C4 and my personal favourite, a passive radar that indicates whether or not there are any hostiles nearby.

  • The assault specialist is equipped with a grappling hook for getting around quickly: like the Q-Claw from Agent Under Fire, the grappling hook is a fantastic tool for ascending buildings and gaining a vantage point quickly. If memory serves, the assault specialist’ perk is being able to have more mobility compared to the others. This high-mobility play-style means that one might actually be better served running with a PDW or shotgun for close-quarters dominance. On the topic of Agent Under Fire, Thanksgiving Long Weekend has proven to be the perfect time to dust off the old GameCube and enjoy some old-fashioned humans vs AI bots on Town and Castle. Unlike yesterday’s blue skies and sunshine, today’s been grey and snowy, making it perfect for gaming, and since the global health crisis kicked off, I’ve been doing a lot more with the GameCube, so we actually ended up faring moderately well against the AI bots on maximum difficulty.

  • Had the open beta come out in October 2018, I probably would’ve been happier for it: by October, the Xamarin project had been deemed ready for release, pending a few bug fixes and tests. Conversely, back in September, the Xamarin project was in dire straits; there’d been a large disagreement about what constituted as HIPAA compliance, and it was put forth that HIPAA compliance demanded a 26-digit alphanumeric code that was given to users on sign in. In the end, the firm’s CEO stepped in, determined that the 6-digit code I was proposing was still compliant and allowed me to continue with my work. The resulting sign-in and onboarding became an order of magnitude simpler for my troubles, and I returned home just in time to spend a few days on the Rotterdam map in Battlefield V‘s open beta.

  • My experiences in Battlefield V‘s beta led me to pick the game up in November 2018, and by that time, I’d received an offer for a new iOS developer position, allowing me to leave behind my first start-up’s woes and its connection to the computational oncology firm in the US. That time period was characterised by relief to be setting aside work that was beginning to tax me more than it excited me. Out of vain curiosity, I decided to take a look to see what became of the app I finished, but as it turns out, the app has been stricken from both the App Store and Play Store.

  • While the computational oncology firm has advertised that mobile app would be a major part of their ecosystem, it is a little disappointing to see no advancements on the mobile side of things in the past three years. Reminiscing about these moments makes me immensely thankful that with the Battlefield 2042 open beta, I am afforded time to enjoy the beta without worrying about whether or not the JSON responses coming from the backend would arbitrarily change without warning: this time around, my main concern was whether nor not my machine could even run the open beta, speaking to its age.

  • One of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments I had during the entire beta was when I saw my first tornado: I had spawned on a squad mate, but the tornado changed direction and immediately headed for us. The tornadoes that strike Battlefield 2042‘s maps appear to be EF0 (or EF1s at most): while they’re capable of lifting vehicles into the air and easily carry players, the tornadoes don’t do any appreciable damage to the map’s buildings, creating a bit of inconsistency (a tornado capable of throwing vehicles would also uproot trees and shred roofs from houses, which is EF3-level). However, as a gameplay mechanic, I’ll let this one slide and note that here, as I seemingly glide towards my death, a bolt of lightning also strikes very close to my position, creating a surreal moment.

  • Lightning strikes in Battlefield 2042 have EMP effects and will disable vehicles, as well as scramble the player’s HUD; this is a clever effect that speaks to the dangers of how relying on complex electronic systems can leave one in a tough spot should said systems go down. Fortunately for me, I ended up steering myself away from the tornado, which also changed course at the last second, and after landing on the ground, I immediately set about trying to help my team turn around a losing match even though it’d been too late.

  • In a different match, I’ve switched over to the support specialisation and are running with the PBX-45, a copy of the LWRC SMG 45 that actually proved to be unexpectedly effective and fun to use. The SMG 45 was first introduced in 2015 and entered production in 2019. Firing .45 ACP rounds, the SMG 45 is a newer weapon and accordingly, has not appeared in many games. Battlefield 2042‘s PBX-45 marks the first time the SMG 45 appears in Battlefield (previously, the SMG 45 was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as the Striker 45).

  • In the days of Battlefield 3 and 4, PDWs and SMGs were hipfire machines whose small size made them laser-accurate and perfectly suited for close-quarters combat. In fact, during my Battlefield 3 days, once I unlocked the MP5K, it became my default go-to weapon: with the laser sight and extended magazines. Battlefield 1 featured SMGs as the primary for the assault class, and by Battlefield V, SMGs were the default weapon for medics. Although their applications have changed, all Battlefield SMGs (and PDWs) retain excellent hipfire performance.

  • The PBX-45 is a remarkably entertaining weapon to use, and one more thing that I’m particularly fond of its the reload animation: if one isn’t reloading from empty, the operator will pull the old magazine out and swap it for a new one, but keep the old magazine in hand to stow it. However, if reloading from empty, the old magazine is discarded. Cool reload animations have been a part of Battlefield since Hardline, where DICE really began having fun with the reload animations, but in Battlefield 1 and V, DICE upped their game by providing unique reload animations based on a weapon’s ammunition state.

  • I managed to capture this beauty of a lightning bolt while a tornado was tearing up the far side of the map here. In reality, taking stunning lightning photos is a skill and requires familiarity with the techniques. Professional weather photographers like Warren Faidley have taken some of the most iconic pictures around, and as a child, I was always fond of checking out weather books from the library to admire these images. In games like Battlefield 2042, lightning lingers on the screen for a fraction of a second longer than it does in reality, and that means so long as I hit the screenshot button quickly enough, I’ll have myself nice photo.

  • The weather patterns in Battlefield 2042 aren’t anywhere nearly as disruptive as the snowstorms of Battlefield V, and while visibility lowers whenever a storm blows in, it’s not bad enough to interfere with gameplay: even though the screen does get covered in water droplets from the rain, visibility isn’t severely degraded. Having said this, the tornado can be quite disruptive, and once the novelty wears off, it’ll become something that can negatively impact a match for players: the tornado locks down a large section of the map, and under the right circumstances, might even disrupt things enough for the other team to mount a comeback, meaning that the outcome of a given match can come down to chance rather than skill.

  • Here, I quickly reload the G57 pistol after drawing it and scoring a kill to save myself from certain death. Modern shooters tend to provide players with a sidearm as their secondary, a weapon to switch over to it when their primary runs dry. I imagine that the G57 is modelled after the Heckler and Koch Glock G17 (evidenced by the grooves on the slide’s rear. Battlefield has historically treated the Glock line of pistols as a fast-firing, moderately hard-hitting and reliable pistol. Pistols can be customised on the fly, as well, although during the open beta, there was no option to attach a suppressor.

  • While I only had six hours in the open beta, I did put in enough time to unlock the M44 Revolver, which looks like the Model 44SS6 .44 Magnum. Unlike the G57, whose strength lies in its accuracy, ease-of-handling and rate of fire, the M44 kicks like a mule and hits like a truck, dealing massive damage when it lands a successful hit. During the height of my Battlefield days, I used to run with the MP-412: this revolver still dealt excellent damage, but had a slightly faster firing rate than the .44 Magnum, meaning it could be counted on in a pinch.

  • Altogether, I played twelve rounds of conquest during the open beta, and of these twelve rounds, I only won three of them. I’m not sure what the story is, but even though I was playing the objective each and every around, I was more likely to wind up on the losing team than the winning team. However, I will note that 12 games is too small a sample size to draw meaningful data from. During earlier Battlefield games, some days, I’ll go on the most ridiculous lucky streaks where I’d play three winning games in a row, and then after a break, come back to play two more victorious matches.

  • Then, on other days, I could go and play three losing matches in a row. The law of large numbers states that over time, my victories and losses will trend towards an average and approach 50 percent from either the left or the right. However, my tendency to play the objective meant that in general, I always won slightly more often than I lost. In Battlefield 2042, outside of determining if my machine could run the game at all, my other goal had been to try as much of the infantry firearms as I could. Because of the way the Battlefield 2042 beta worked, I was able to get a very good idea of what the different weapons handled like, and here, I’ve brought the LCMG back out.

  • Owing to the haste of my deployment, I dropped right into a firefight and didn’t have time to change out my optics or underbarrel options. In spite of this, I managed to score a few kills while pressing forwards with my team into the hangar. In modern military shooters, I’m fond of equipping optics right away, since having a red dot sight or ACOG can make target acquisition much easier. However, I found that in moments where I only had iron sights, I was having considerably less trouble with them than I had before. This is like a consequence of the fact that playing so much Battlefield 1 and V in the past five years has meant that I’ve become accustomed to using iron sights for tracking targets.

  • Back in Battlefield 1, most weapons were actually better off without the crude sights available in a WWI setting, and some weapons had highly clean posts that made finding targets straightforward. Similarly, some weapons in Battlefield V had decent iron sights that could be used without much trouble. Since iron sights no longer bother me, when I play through other games like Call of Duty, I can be comfortable trading off the sights for other attachments. Of course, where sights are available, I’ll still use them: here, I’m running the PBX-45 with the K8 holographic sight, which is clear and easy to use.

  • Just for kicks, I ended up switching over to my M5 Recoilless rifle and shot a player with a rocket, since they were out of my PBX-45’s effective range. Had I attempted to engage them at this range, they would’ve noticed me throwing rocks at them and ducked for cover. Conversely, by expending a M5 round on them, I was assured of the kill, which I’m sure would’ve been a shock. I used to do something similar in Battlefield 1: since the assault class’ SMGs didn’t have much reach, I would use the AT rocket gun to pick off foes that I couldn’t otherwise reach without alerting them to my intentions.

  • Here, I managed to headshot a player calling themselves Gryphin2004 (a Family Guy reference, perhaps?) using the PBX-45, at a range that I didn’t think the weapon would work at. This particular player had killed me several times in a row by camping in the building, and it was with great satisfaction I managed to get him back one before the match ended. There weren’t many frustrating moments during the beta, but if I had to name one, dying to this camper was one of them. I’ve long disliked players who camp, since it shows excessive concern for one’s KDR over the team results, and in fact, campers are only second to cheaters in my books, when it comes to players who shouldn’t be in the game.

  • Here, I managed to score a double kill with the M5 Recoilless Rifle on a tank below: by the end of the beta, I was right at home with the M5. Players also have access to an anti-air weapon similar to the FIM-92 Stinger, and while I never got much use out of these weapons, developers have indicated that to balance them, they might make them a one-hit kill against air vehicles. If this is true, this would be a boon for folks on the ground: air vehicles are an annoyance, and in every match I played, enemy pilots went unchallenged, while for the most part, pilots on my team were not anywhere nearly as effective. Knowing that anti-air weapons could swat them out of the skies in a single hit would force pilots to play more cautiously: aircraft are equipped with countermeasures, but they have a cooldown, so a part of the skill in flying would include knowing when to back out of a fight.

  • Out of curiosity’s sake, I also ended up giving the AK24 a shot. This weapon appears to be the AK-12, a modernised AK-47, and in Battlefield 2042, hits harder than the M5A3. On the flipside, it also has a much larger recoil: I found the weapon to be quite uncontrollable when the Maul Hybrid sights were equipped. On the other hand, the iron sights, K8 and Fusion Holo sights don’t accentuate the recoil too much, making them my preferred choices for combat. Overall, however, I did prefer the M5A3 over the AK24: the M5A3 is laser-beam accurate with the right attachments, and I’ve had success with this rifle at ranges I didn’t think possible: one of my most exciting moments was burst-firing down a foe at over a hundred metres with the M5A3.

  • My experiences in the beta suggests that weapons of Battlefield 2042 are going to handle in distinct ways, and then the attachments will further accentuate a weapon’s strengths (or mitigate its weaknesses). The ability to switch attachments out on the fly is actually a pretty clever mechanic, since players with foresight can add to their inventory the attachments that they feel will work for them, and then in between matches, they might be able to customise their inventory to fit a particular play-style. Unfortunately, because of where this beta was, no deeper customisations were shown.

  • Since DICE has advertised that Battlefield 2042 will have a deeper progression system than that of Battlefield 1 and V, I am hoping this translates to something that was more similar to that of Battlefield 3 or 4‘s: Battlefield 3 had the perfect amount of unlocks, while things in Battlefield 4 felt a bit overwhelming. Documentation from DICE indicates that players will have unlocked everything they need to be successful by level 100. At the time of writing, I have no idea how long this journey would take: with earlier games, it took me about a year to get everything unlocked, and this was assuming an average of two to three hours of play every week.

  • During one match, I spawned onto the hangar rooftop at capture point bravo and decided to equip the SWS-10 for some sharpshooting. This is the TRG M10 in real life, a bolt-action rifle manufactured by the Finish company SAKO. Chambered for the .308 Winchester round, the TRG M10 can also fire .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, as well: the M10 is an upgraded, modular design that was introduced in 2011, and one of its most noteworthy features is that the toolbox for changing out the rifle’s barrel, bolts and handguard is built into the weapon itself, allowing it to change between different calibres with ease.

  • In Battlefield 2042, veterans have reported that the sniping is a little off, but during moments where long-range shots connect, it is immensely satisfying: I managed to pick off foes on the ground below from up here, and it felt incredible to fire a shot, watch it sail over to the target and strike them in the brainpan. Unfortunately, Battlefield 2042 doesn’t display the distance a headshot was made from in its beta, but these shots were incredible to land. It took me a few shots to get a feel for how the SWS-10 handled, especially with respect to bullet velocity and drop, but one thing I did find strange was the fact that the weapon appears to already have a straight-pull bolt, removing the need to scope out and chamber a new round in after one round was fired.

  • In a later match, I ended up running into a player called “not_alexus_marie” and promptly pasted their pate several times into the ground: curiosity got the better of me after I collected these screenshots, and I’m now wondering if this is the small-time Twitch streamer from Illinois that I wasted so casually. Battlefield 2042‘s lack of scoreboard, and an unusual UI in the death screen meant that during this beta, I remember those whom I’ve felled more vividly than those who outfoxed me in combat. While some gaming journalists are suggesting that some players are already using cheats in the beta, I never once felt that my foes were using software to gain an unfair advantage over others. Any time I died was a consequence of my own lack of spatial awareness, poor positioning, or the fact that my reflexes are no longer what they used to be.

  • On occasions where players looked like they one-shotted me or shot me through walls, it became apparent that my aging hardware might’ve created that discrepancy. Indeed, when I began playing more cautiously, I found myself staring at the spawn screen with a much lower frequency, and here in the beta, I do not believe I’ve run into any cheaters during the course of my six hours. DICE has stated that Battlefield 2042 will use Easy Anti-Cheat, a well-known and robust system which, in conjunction with its in-game reporting system, and an implementation of both an IP and hardware ban, should be enough to deter cheaters, which have run rampant in games like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Warzone.

  • Cheaters were responsible for my increasing disinterest in Battlefield V, more so than any other shortcomings of that title (whether it be the poor enemy visibility, inconsistent TTK/TTD decisions, decision not to visit iconic WWII Theatre in favour of obscure ones), and what was baffling was the fact that players on my own team would adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they were playing against a cheater, despite said cheater going 120-1 five minutes into the match. In this day and age, the desire to cheat in a multiplayer game is a consequence of a desire for notoriety, for a bit of extra internet fame.

  • By yesterday evening, I’d become quite familiar with all of the open beta’s weapons and had a passable idea of how the mechanics had worked, enough to be scoring consistently well. In the last full game I played, I ended up 19-19 despite having fallen into a 2-10 hole early in the game. The team I was with was still defeated, but my own personal performance suggests that, if the time allows for it, I could probably still have a good time with Battlefield 2042‘s main game modes. Towards the end, I began running with the engineer specialisation, which brings with it an automated turret for locking down certain areas by creating a distraction.

  • During the chaos of one firefight, I ended up accidentally switching off my M5A3 for a SWS-10, and since players were swarming the capture point, I was able to pick a few off with headshots. Observant readers and players who participated in the open beta alike will have noticed that Battlefield 2042 has sectors that must both be held before it can be considered to be under one team’s control. This approach would be a fantastic way to improve team play, although speaking truthfully, the lack of a working command system meant that in the end, I lone-wolfed things for the entire duration of the beta.

  • While my approach means that any squad will make short work of me, I was a little surprised to find individual players running around the map without any support, such as this individual here. I found them on their lonesome and proceeded to make short work of them before they even got a single shot off. In a squad with good communications, as soon as one member is fired upon, the squad can move in to defend one another, secure the area and revive anyone that was downed. I’ve only ever played Battlefield once with friends during an office team building event five years earlier, but I still remember how effective we were: we topped the scoreboard, was the best squad and ended up carrying our team to victory despite none of us being particularly exceptional FPS players.

  • One of the biggest challenges I faced in the beta was with the gunner seats in vehicles: they were extremely jittery, and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot off on a target. During one of my final matches, I spawned into an Apache attack helicopter’s gunner seat and manned the 30 mm cannon with gusto, helping to clear the ground for my team in a round my team had no hope in heck of winning. I’ve never been much of a pilot myself, but I do have a fondness for manning the gunner seats in vehicles. With a good pilot, I am able to really do damage in the gunner’s seat.

  • It suddenly strikes me that the more recent Battlefield releases have all coincided with a milestone in my life: Battlefield 4 launched after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and Battlefield 1 released after I finished graduate school and begun the transition over into industry. Battlefield V launched right as I got a new job, and Battlefield 2042‘s launch date is going to be very close to my possession date. At the time of writing, there’s a few more things I have to tend to ahead of this, but I am very excited about things.

  • Truth be told, I am surprised that things had happened as quickly as they did; even back in August, I’d only been house hunting and never thought that a property meeting all of my requirements would become available on the market this soon. A lot can happen over the course of a year, and while 2021 saw its share of challenges, the year also saw numerous positive changes. I’ve been incredibly lucky in many regards, and this is something I am immensely thankful for. If I were making decisions on the basis of emotion alone (as opposed to reason and logic), Battlefield 2042 would be an easy purchase simply for the fact that it coincides with a major life event, much as how Battlefield 41 and V did.

  • However, this isn’t how I roll: instead, whether or not I end up buying Battlefield 2042 will be determined by how well the game runs at launch and whether or not Battlefield Portal fulfils my requirements. Provided the game can run well, and Portal offers what I am looking for, then Battlefield 2042 will be worth the cost of admissions. The game has most certainly been fun during the open beta, and here, a solitary kill with the LCMG marks the last one I got before the servers shut down; I had just started a match, but it was getting late, so I decided to call it quits after getting one more kill.

Having put a total of six hours into the Battlefield 2042 beta, the main deciding factor now as to whether or not I’ll pick up the game after it launches, or if I will wait, is determined by a few things. The first is whether or not DICE does indeed optimise the game so it’s not pushing my CPU to 100 percent utilisation for extended periods. I’ve heard that people with more recent CPUs still experienced the same issues, so it is possible that building a new PC might not be the solution to this. Waiting to hear from early-adopters who buy the game will allow me to gain more information before making a decision. Similarly, the open beta has only shown one game mode (Conquest) on one map (Orbital). Battlefield 2042‘s biggest feature is Battlefield Portal, a full-scale sandbox mode that allows players to have full control in designing games for themselves. On first blush, this mode appears even more enticing and immersive than Battlefield 2042 proper. Depending on what is available and possible within Battlefield Portal, this alone could be worth the price of admissions (assuming my machine can run things smoothly). Finally, the open beta evidently is an incomplete build of the game that is not production-ready: numerous issues do need to be addressed, from UI layout, functionality and performance before DICE can have a smooth, satisfying launch. Historically, DICE’s records with launches are mixed: Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but Battlefield 1 was exemplary. Overall, my position now is simple: I will wait until around the holiday season to determine whether or not Battlefield 2042 joins my library. Building a new PC is straightforward enough, and my current machine still runs Battlefield 2042 in a satisfactory manner, so the main deciding factor now is going to be primarily seeing how well Portal works in practise. The prospect of being able to play bots on a private session to experiment with outrageous scenarios (like how well a single M1A2 fares against 20 Tiger I tanks), or join servers with outlandish game modes designed for relaxation rather than competition, is most enticing. Similarly, I am getting up there in the years to be squaring off against youth with faster reflexes: the ol’ fingers and brain no longer move as quickly as they did when I was a university student. Gone are the days where I could survive a firefight against an entire squad, so on days where I don’t feel like fighting real players, having the choice to mess around in Battlefield 2042 maps and modes at a more relaxed pace would also be welcomed. As such, this Battlefield 2042 open beta has been very informative for me: I know my rig can (just barely) run Battlefield 2042, the setup is still fun enough for me, and once I have a little more information on things like features and Battlefield Portal following the game’s launch, I’ll be able to make a more informed decision on things.

That First Foray Into Hope County: A Free Weekend of Far Cry 5

“The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” –Martina Navratilova

When one is constrained by the fact that a game is available to try for one weekend, there is a natural inclination to get as much done as possible. Far Cry is, fortunately, one of those games where one can finish things on very short order; an unnamed rookie deputy accompanies Deputy Marshal Cameron Burke and Sheriff Earl Whitehorse on an assignment to arrest Joseph Seed, leader of the cult known as Eden’s Gate – Seed has gained power in Hope’s County and amassed a sizeable following who believe that a collapse of civilisation is at hand. However, Whitehorse is uncertain of the implications arresting Seed would bring and implores the deputy not to go through with the arrest. After reaching the church where Seed is preaching, the deputy decides not to follow through, and Whitehorse notes its for the better, since walking into the hornet’s nest could spell disaster and result in unnecessary death. While this is the course of action I would’ve gone for in reality, doing so would result in no game – Far Cry 5, like its predecessors, is a first person shooter, and the first thing about these games is to shoot stuff. Hence, I loaded a new save file, proceeded with the arrest and escape the homicidal cultists on a stolen vehicle. After falling into the river, my character is rescued and tasked with helping the resistance liberate Hope County. I thus took control of Fall’s End, giving the resistance a foothold, before heading over to hope Hope County Jail to seize control of it from Eden’s Gate. On the way, I gained several allies after retrieving their possessions, rolled back the fog of war over the southern regions of Hope County and even unlocked the MBP .50 Blood Dragon before the weekend ended. In the time I spent in Far Cry 5, I was absolutely blown away by the scenery – there is no denying that Hope County is a beautiful place. In fact, being set in Montana, Hope County resembles the southern foothills of my home province, being a combination of farm fields, evergreen forests, rolling hills, pristine lakes and distant mountains. The stunning scenery, however, conceals danger in the form of Eden’s Gate, who lurk around every corner and pose a threat to Hope County’s residents.

In its portrayal of Eden’s Gate, Far Cry 5 creates a much more gripping and terrifying foe than I’d seen in most of my other games. Right out of the gates, Joseph Seed is presented as a menacing figure whose calm demeanour and choice of words belie a psychopathic individual with megalomaniac tendencies. Upon walking into Seed’s compound for the first time, the fanatical cultists surrounding him create a tangible sense of dread – even Whitehorse hesitates to act against Seed. After the player escapes from the cultists following their failed attempt at arresting Seed, propaganda spread throughout Far Cry 5 perfectly captures how cults operate; their soothing words of salvation and redemption create a feeling of ease, but stand in stark contrast with their actions. With Far Cry 5, Ubisoft sought to explore religious fanaticism and extremist beliefs; Far Cry games previously depicted despotism and toppling of authoritarian regimes in far-flung countries, and while Far Cry 5 is no different, the choice of antagonists did create no small controversy. Indeed, the portrayal fanaticism is chillingly accurate, and I found myself surprised at how calming and reassuring Eden Gate’s words were despite knowing full well the game had intended for me to blast them with an arsenal worthy of the Doom Slayer. Cults are built around unreasonable devotion to a cause whose leaders justify horrific actions in the name of some higher power, and Far Cry 5 shows how difficult it is to take on a cult head-on, especially when they’ve amassed a certain amount of followers. However, once the initial shock of Eden’s Gate wears off, aside from the occasional bit of propaganda broadcast around Hope County and the terrifying hallucinations that Faith Seed appears in, Far Cry 5 is otherwise a run-of-the-mill Far Cry experience, albeit one that is set in a place reminiscent of my own backyard, a place where I’d rather be hiking and fishing in as opposed to blowing stuff up with cool guns.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Far Cry 5‘s opening segment is quite lengthy, and it took a while to really drop players into the open world. Through it all, I was unnerved – while Joseph Seed himself is a calm individual not given to fits of violence like Pagan Min, the way he delivers his lines gives the impression that he is always in control, even when things aren’t appearing in his favour. Like Far Cry 4, Far Cry 5 opens with a pursuit. This time, it’s through the forests of Montana by nightfall, and while players are soon reunited with Burke, their escape fails when their truck flips into a river.

  • Players start on an island, where they have a chance to become familarised with Far Cry 5‘s mechanics. Initially, one can only hold onto a single primary weapon and a sidearm: players start the game with the iconic M1911, and I found that shooting in Far Cry 5 was a bit tricky, with bullets not going where I’d intended them to go at medium ranges owing to the game’s use of ballistic motion. After killing off some Eden’s Gate members, I picked up the AR-C rifle. This weapon is a mainstay in Far Cry 5 and despite being a common rifle, is a decent all-purpose weapon with a solid rate of fire, ammunition capacity and moderate damage.

  • Once players finish the last of the missions on the starting island, the morning fog rolls back, and Hope County is thrown into sharp relief. From here, the goal is to get a foothold in Hope County so the resistance can start taking it back from Eden’s Gate. I thus headed towards Fall’s End, a town in the southwestern corner of the map, and began my attempt to take it back from Eden’s Gate. At the start of my journey, I have none of the perks and accessories that increase my durability and firepower, so even a handful of weaker enemies could prove lethal.

  • On my attempt, I ended up climbing to the roof of a building after quietly taking down whatever Eden’s Gate sentries were in my path, and found myself a mounted gun. From up here, I proceeded to mow down everything that moved with relative ease, even the aircraft that came to strafe my position. With this, I retook Fall’s End and gained my first foothold into Hope County, giving me access to the shop and several vehicles. At this point in the game, I lacked the funds to buy anything, so this wasn’t particularly helpful, but as I began exploring, I would come across a weapon that was rather more suited to my play-style.

  • After storming an outpost and shooting out several snipers, I came upon the AR-CL, a modified AR-C that has a heavy barrel and long-range optic perfect for sniping. Having a scope made it far easier to pick off distant foes, and the AR-CL can kill with one headshot, making it a powerful asset to have, especially in a game where medium range combat with automatic weapons and iron sights is tricky. Picking up a semi-automatic rifle was a game-changer for me, giving me considerably more confidence in firefights.

  • However, the drawback to having a slow-firing DMR meant that I didn’t carry any weapons more suited for CQC beyond the M1911; this would leave me at a disadvantage if enemies ever closed on my position. In Far Cry 4, time meant I would be able to unlock up to two more primary weapon slots, and in the old day, I would carry an assault rifle, anti-materiel rifle and LMG for a good balance of combat versatility. Being limited to one weapon at a time was something I’d tangibly felt, and as I began amassing perk points, the first thing I did was to unlock the second slot for primary weapons.

  • Far Cry 5‘s map looks a little smaller than Kyrat did, but unlike Kyrat, there seems to be a much greater variety in terrain: there are hills and cabins, farmers’ fields and lakes, all of which come together to remind me of home: I am just north of Montana, and the southern reaches of my home province possesses very similar geography. I’ve actually been longing to go back and visit Waterton National Park, but current circumstances means that at least for now, Far Cry 5 is the best I got.

  • I ended up accepting a mission that sent me over to the Hope County Jail, which was under siege from Eden’s Gate forces. There was an RPG lying around, as well; while the attack initially could be repelled with the AR-CL, the Eden’s Gate forces will eventually bring vehicles to the table. Sharp-shooting will allow for the driver and any gunners to be dealt with, but when one is swarmed by others, there’s not much time for precision shooting. The RPG will make short work of the pickup trucks in Far Cry 5, and more than before, I wished I had a second primary weapon slot here.

  • Once the Hope County Jail is cleared, I gained access to another outpost. However, my victory was short-lived, since Far Cry 5 forcibly transported me into the Bliss, a drug-induced hallucination. Faith Seed is one of Joseph’s leftenants in Hope County and oversees the drug production that keeps Eden’s Gate in check. I was never too fond of these moments in Far Cry 4, but the religious imagery in Far Cry 5 meant that such moments were better incorporated into the game and all the more unsettling. When my character came to, I found myself in the middle of nowhere.

  • I subsequently unlocked a second weapon slot and equipped the MP5K, a submachine gun with excellent handling traits and burst fire. At close ranges, every pull of the trigger is a kill if one is aiming for the head, and having a good CQC option made firefights much more survivable now – I would use the AR-CL for picking off foes, and anyone that got too close would be dealt with by the MP5K. As players complete activities in a region, they earn Resistance Points, which makes different items accessible for purchase. The stock weapons commonly seen in Far Cry 5 are more than usable, but there is a joy to be entering firefights with more unique, or even over-the-top weapons.

  • Since Far Cry 5 decided to drop me off somewhere remote, I decided to explore and found myself on a hillside overlooking the forests below. The scenery in Far Cry 5 is fantastic, and this looks like a scene right out of a postcard of the Rocky Mountains. It’s been smoky in my area for the past month, and these past few days, the weather’s improved dramatically, more closely resembling the weather I know August best for. However, this weekend, the smoke did return, and what’s more, there’s now a ten-hectare fire burning immediately west of the city.

  • August is traditionally counted as the last month of summer, since classes resume in September, but ever since I entered the workforce, my summer ends during the Autumnal Equinox. This leaves me plenty of time to enjoy the days left in the summer, and August days are best spent outside: as it is still early in the month, assuming that the smoke is held at bay, there’ll be opportunity yet to walk under the sunlight. Of course, while the fire and smoke lingers, I’ll strive to make a dent in my still-sizeable backlog: there’s little point in going out and breathing in smoke.

  • I absolutely love the way the AR-CL looks on the screen: the optics look intimidating, and the red tint on the eyepiece is an especially nice touch: ruby lenses block out the greens and browns of foliage to make it easier to spot game during hunting. The tint, however, creates an image that isn’t true-to-life, so for everyday observation, ordinary coatings are preferred. In video games, this is purely aesthetic and have no impact on gameplay whatsoever.

  • During my time in Far Cry 4, I often tried to liberate outposts without setting alarms off, and towards the endgame, I had a suppressed rifle purpose-made for the job; I would simply locate all of the alarm boxes, sniped them from afar and then picked off enemies with the rifle before moving in with the MG42. The game thus began to feel a little too easy near the end, but in Far Cry 5, I am reminded of where I began: stealth and strategy return in a big way. I found that I could simply punch out alarm boxes and then go loud: after demolishing a heavy unit, I confiscated his M60 and blasted everything that moved.

  • In order to survive, however, I ducked inside one of the houses to recover my health. Far Cry 4 had incremented health, but in Far Cry 5, this goes away: players have one full bar of health and can recharge fully when out of combat. Perks will increase the player’s maximum health. As I waited for my health to return, I admired the design of this Montana house: the architecture and designs here are very authentic, and were it not for Eden’s Gate, Hope County feels like a very nice place to live. I suppose the same could be said of Far Cry 4‘s Kyrat, whose Nepalese/Bhutan aesthetic looked inviting and friendly in the absence of Pagan Min’s dictatorship.

  • In the end, I ended up clearing the outpost by going loud, unlocking myself yet another place to fast travel from and replenish my gear. During my run of Far Cry 5, however, I never felt the need to top up on ammunition, since the Eden’s Gate patrols roaming the map always dropped plenty of ammunition. I imagine this could change as I increase my ammunition capacity and take on increasingly challenging fights, but for now, I was able to get by without resupplying. The feeling after clearing an outpost is always satisfying, and Far Cry always had a way of making these achievements feel special. Here, I had the added bonus of finishing to a gorgeous sunset.

  • My next mission was to help recover an aircraft for Nick Rye, a pilot and mechanic who resists Eden’s Gate. Armed with the AR-CL, I picked off all enemies striking the farm and ended up unlocking the mission. Because the mission entailed attacking John Seed’s ranch, I imagined the site would be heavily defended and therefore sought out an aircraft to help with the fight. Helicopters can be found around Hope County, and while they’re excellent for getting around, the versions I ran into didn’t have any weapons on board.

  • En route to the ranch where Nick’s plane is kept, I had another random encounter: Far Cry 5 depends on players going around Hope County and speaking with people in order to unlock missions from them. Here, for instance, I came across a member of the resistance named Grace, and after reviving her, I helped her to defend wave after wave of Eden’s Gate members from desecrating the graves beside the church. Grace is a sniper, and I took a leaf from her page, since I was rocking a marksman rifle. The assignment proved straightforward enough, and upon completion, I knew I’d be able to call upon Grace for fire support if needed.

  • I haven’t had any need to call in the hired guns yet simply because the missions are simple enough early on, but I imagine that, were I to go further, having the extra firepower would be helpful. One thing I avoided doing during my run at Far Cry 5 was attacking the Eden’s Gate silos: they take an inordinate amount of ammunition to destroy. However, since Eden’s Gate patrols the map with trucks armed with machine guns, seizing one of those would be my best bet. Players can later purchase armed vehicles for their own use, making these missions easier to complete, and as one gains more resistance points, the M79 can also be unlocked. Back in Far Cry 4, the M79 made all anti-vehicle missions trivially easy.

  • One aspect of Far Cry 5 that I wasn’t familiar with were the random story events; besides Faith’s terrifying Bliss visions, John Seed himself will order his goons to capture the deputy. I was quite unprepared for that firefight and was captured, but since it was a part of the story, I made it out and was able to shoot my way to victory. At this point in time, I’d also picked up the M133 pump-action shotgun, although my lack of durability in Far Cry 5 meant I preferred to fight at longer ranges: I ended up using the AR-CL and MP5K for this fight and managed to survive long enough for an extraction, after which I decided to take a shot at Nick’s mission.

  • Nick’s mission entails recapture his custom plane, which fell into Eden’s Gate hands, and after some initial recon of John Seed’s ranch, I realised that the place was too heavily fortified for any sort of ground attack. I thus commandeered a WWII-era AdjudiCor FBW airplane and flew it over to the ranch, hoping to use the rockets and bombs to soften up the ground targets before capturing the place on foot. Once my ordnance was exhausted, I bailed and parachuted out over the compound. With my presence no secret, I switched over to my small arms and ran a one-man wrecking crew on the ranch.

  • To help with my stealth out, I ended up kitting my AR-C with a suppressor and red dot sight: being able to aim with more confidence and silently kill foes made a huge difference, and within moments, I had the ranch cleared out. Without Eden’s Gate firing at me, I was free to explore the place, and in moments, found the aircraft that had been the aim of my mission. I hopped in and carefully taxied onto the runway before taking to the skies. The mission had started out quite stressful: flying in a given game is always a challenge for me, and I tend to crash if the controls aren’t sufficiently simple.

  • While I did have a bit of trouble with the AdjudiCor FBW, once I boarded Nick’s plane, the mission carefully guided me through and gave me a chance to even blow a few things up. This mission was especially thrilling, showing what Far Cry 5 is like at its best; the flight path Nick suggests takes players over the rivers and lakes of Hope County, and it is a thrilling flight. Towards the end, Nick will ask the player to carefully land at his airstrip. Landing is usually the trickiest part of any flight, and there are precious few places in Hope County where one can land, but with Nick’s guidance, the first bit of the mission draws to a close.

  • The second half of the mission is to defend the airstrip from wave after wave of Eden’s Gate attackers. Here, I’m rocking a highly customised MBP .50 called the Blood & Dragon. I’m not sure what the story behind it is, but this weapon was made available to all players, and I was able to equip it simply by checking my store out. The base MBP .50 is a powerful weapon firing fifty-cal rounds, capable of downing almost anything in one shot. I haven’t gotten quite that far into Far Cry 5 to know if there’s an equivalent of the AMR in the game: this weapon is a modified Z93 capable of blowing up vehicles and killing large game in a single shot, making it obscenely powerful. With the Blood & Dragon, however, I still had a great time blowing enemies away: the weapon itself also looks awesome.

  • It suddenly hits me that today is a day after the ten-year mark to the day that Tango-Victor-Tango’s One Week War drew to a close. I’ve not been back for quite some time now, but I do remember that a friend and I had made the (in retrospect, unwise) decision of participating; we had hoped to put an end to a segment of the community that did not respect expertise and idealised instant gratification. There had been a significant portion of the userbase who believed that no one could be more knowledgeable than anyone else on certain topics, and that they alone were competent creators and critics despite lacking the requisite backgrounds, insisting on using certain terminology without understanding what they mean (such as believing that “deconstruction” means “realism” when it clearly does not).

  • The end result of this were that a large section of the site’s users words and remarks were completely contrary to what someone with legitimate experience in a field would suggest: these individuals gave the impression of having lived a majority their lives on the internet without actually making an effort to cultivate any useful, marketable skills, but still believed that their opinions were more valid than those of an expert’s. My friend and I had hoped that by pruning a part of the site, these users would see the errors of their ways and move on. While that part of Tango-Victor-Tango was removed, their community’s general disrespect for expertise endured, and in the aftermath, we had wished that instead of participating, we’d spent that time outdoors: August is one of the nicest months where I am, and it is no joke when I say that the mountains an hour to the west are every bit as nice as the scenery from this screenshot.

  • Our disagreements with these sentiments ended up leading me to write a post about Tango-Victor-Tango and their shortcomings with my friend. When the site’s moderators caught wind of this post, it led to my getting permanently banned. While I did ban-evade successfully, there’s been no value in sticking around, and I’ve since decided to focus on things that bring me joy. Today, the beliefs from Tango-Victor-Tango have propagated to social media, and any discussion on politics and current events is inevitably infested with those who act as though they were the singular authority on the topic. The belief that upvotes, karma, retweets and follower count hold merit have their origins from the sort of thinking that dominated Tango-Victor-Tango, and is the reason why misinformation is so widespread. This explains how outspoken individuals of dubious value (usually characterised by their “soccer mom” bios or duck-faced profile pictures) command followings that are cult-like.

  • In giving players a chance to take the fight to a cult with firearms, Far Cry 5 gives players a very satisfying experience that is also sobering; while players can massacre cultists in Far Cry 5, I’ve heard that reaching Joseph Seed in the end doesn’t actually have any meaningful choice, since the outcomes end up being similarly enough. This has parallels in reality, where dealing with social media addicts who blindly follow pretty faces individually is trivially easy, but they are numerous enough so that taking one down only results in five taking their place. I’ve previously gotten several outspoken individuals (whose profile pictures look like they were intended for Tinder) suspended, but new accounts always keep cropping up to replace them. The wiser choice, then, is not to allow social media to bother oneself and focus on the meaningful things in life.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with a moment of me returning to Fall’s End prior to the free weekend’s conclusion. Far Cry 5 proved immensely enjoyable owing to its setting, and a glance at the game’s features show that this is a title I would’ve had a great deal of fun playing. However, at this point in time, I have hit a bit of saturation when it comes to gaming: I am now three quarters of the way into DOOM Eternal, and have begun exploring Northrend in World of Warcraft. I imagine that The Ancient Gods will take me a bit of September and potentially early October, which means I’ll be done just in time for Battlefield 2042‘s release. Consequently, at this time, I don’t think it is in my best interest to pick up any more games, lest they join my already-sizeable backlog.

Altogether, while Far Cry 5‘s greatest strength is the setting, after the free weekend ended, I have concluded that Far Cry 5 is unlikely a game I will be picking up – the game is familiar and inviting, offering incremental improvements over its predecessor, Far Cry 4, but otherwise remains very similar in terms of mechanics, requiring that players destroy and capture assets that Eden’s Gate have taken ahold of to eventually force leaders of a region into the open for a confrontation. This means there’s no learning curve, and I could get back into things very easily. While doubtlessly an enjoyable experience that demands forward thinking and adaptiveness, the open world design of Far Cry 5 also means that I will need a considerable amount of time to make headway into liberating Hope County. A glance at what’s available in Far Cry 5 indicates that there’s quite a bit to do. Besides missions, I could go perfect my flying, spend time fishing or hunting, and even train a pet to accompany me on my assignments. Far Cry 5 was evidently designed to provide staying power, and moreover, the game offers expansion materials that sends players to Vietnam and Mars; as enjoyable as this sounds, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to really enjoy games that have this level of possibility. Far Cry 4 had taken me a while to beat for this reason, and while it proved an enjoyable experience, it also took me eleven months to finish. I might’ve had that sort of time on my hands four years earlier, but these days, things are a bit different; Far Cry is a series that does require a bit of a time investment to fully enjoy, and so for the present, I do not plan on advancing further into Far Cry 5. Having said this, Far Cry 5 has proven to be a solid experience, and I am curious to see how Far Cry 6 turns out – the E3 trailer suggests Far Cry 6 is even bigger and bolder than its predecessor, returning to the tropical world that defined earlier Far Cry titles and introducing more custom options. Cautious optimism characterises my response to Far Cry 6: the E3 trailer was impressive, but my aging rig might not be able to handle the game, and Far Cry 6 releases in the same timeframe as Battlefield: 2042 and Halo: Infinite, so for the present, I am going to wait before making any decision. In the meantime, should I feel the inclination to return to rural Montana, I have the comfort of knowing that all of my progress in Far Cry 5 is saved, so I’ll be able to resume my journey precisely where I’d left off.

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.