Left 4 Dead 2 – Cold Stream

I had a really hard time deciding upon my least favorite Left 4 Dead 2 map. I’m so addicted to the game I can honestly play any of them, and they each have their own charm. In the end there were three that I had to decide between. Part of me wanted to say No Mercy just because I’m decently burnt out on it. People pick it WAY too often, especially in versus, and its one of the easiest maps in the game so there’s no real challenge in even playing it. That being said, it’s a damn good campaign aesthetically and in design. Considering it was my favorite for my first year of Left 4 Dead 2, I understand the popularity and can’t in good faith call it my least favorite.

Also it’s the only campaign with a Giant Panda, and I love orange chicken.

Then I wanted to say Swamp Fever due to being, well, swampy. There’s slow-inducing water pools everywhere, which can be infuriating, and the environments are all the same dark boggy forests and abandoned cabins. But this adds a real challenge that keeps you on your toes, not to mention the finale is really fun (unless your team camps in that stairwell, then it’s trivially-easy.)

Finally, I had to conclude that my least favorite campaign is Cold Stream, due to being linear as all getout. You can really tell that it wasn’t Valve-made because it skives on a number of design elements that the official campaigns don’t; half of the weapon spawns are fixed, the Survivor dialogue never changes, and there are no Witches whatsoever. Why a campaign felt the need to completely eliminate a specific Special Infected I’ll never know, I’m too busy watching teams melt the scripted Tank spawns because everyone sees them coming a mile away.

The Cold Stream poster is the only one to not feature the Survivors.

I feel bad saying this because it was made by a single person, so it’s unfair to expect his map to compare to professionally-designed Valve campaigns that went through years of focus-testing, but I can only report on what I play, and I play that map the exact same way every time. There’s a reason it was the first map to be professionally speedrun, it’s predictable to a fault.

Map 1 is laughably short, possibly the shortest map in the entire game. You go up a hill, back down the hill, open a massive door to the safe room and pile in. Map 2 pits you almost immediately against a Tank, but spawns him so far away that you have ages to prepare any number of traps for him, or maybe just shoot him to death while he climbs down the cliffside. Then after you run the highway you face a bottomless horde in the sewers that a beginner team will find very difficult, but anyone who’s played the map before holds onto the chainsaw from the highway truck and carves an easy path to safety.

The collapsing memorial bridge used to hurt you, but I’ve tried repeatedly in recent years and I think they patched it out or something. Also that’s Ajedro of ‘The Tale of Ajedro’ fame.

Map 3 and 4 are better in design, but again there’s a cheap trick teams can pull by starting with the AK47s that spawn in the sewer saferoom. Bring them with you and grab laser sights at the base of Memorial Bridge and you are now prepared to coast through the next two maps with the most overpowered weapon in the game. That being said, the finale is far and away the best part of the campaign, with a sprinting marathon reminiscent of The Parish forcing you through watery canyons and pitting you against a decently dangerous tank in a chokehold. Shame that Map 4 gives you 2-3 bile jars before you’ve even pressed the buttons to begin the hordes, but as a fan of non-holdout finales, I give the concept two thumbs up.

The nightstick does not spawn on this map, but you can still get one by killing a Riot Infected on Memorial Bridge.

And that’s why its weird for me to call this my least-favorite map, because I truly enjoy playing it. When I’m in-game I love the guaranteed laser-sight spawn, and grabbing the chainsaw, and the number of ways Cold Stream rewards me as a savvy player. Hell, that’s the exact reason I listed The Sacrifice as my favorite map was that it rewarded me for being knowledgeable and putting in the time to learn all of its intricacies. But Cold Stream takes that element a little too far by being so predictable anybody can abuse the weapon/item spawns. It’s the difference between ‘Keep an eye out for gas cans because this next bit is a lot easier with one’ and ‘a gas can always spawns in this exact spot, only the noobiest of noobs won’t know to grab it’. And again, why no Witches? I really really don’t understand that!

A Week of Love and Hate 3

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