• Basic Tactics 3: Surviving Versus

    connects-l4d2-20091127-135506-pngWhether it's the original Left 4 Dead or the new Left 4 Dead 2, the aspect of survival is widely varied depending on the game mode you play. In co-op mode, using the most difficult setting (Expert for L4D. Expert or Expert Realism for L4D2), your biggest threats are your other teammates (greatly increased friendly-fire damage) and the Common Infected (CI) (greatly increased hit damage). The Special Infected (SI), however, while having increased damage, aren't tactically daunting.

    connects-l4dd-20081114-203445-pngYes, ok, there is marginal coordination between the SI now in L4D2. While this may be true, they still spawn and attack in predictable patterns, from predictable directions, and even though the AI is smarter in the second game, it is still only AI and not a thinking human being. The gameplay is different enough that this guide will likely not help you as much in the co-op setting. And so, with that preface, we dismiss Co-op (and with it Survival Mode, which is nothing but getting flooded with CI and SI untill you are wiped out) and move on to the real challenge of surviving:

    Versus Mode.

    The Basics of Survival:
    Whether it's L4D or L4D2, the basics are similar: move fast, don't stay in one place for too long, keep fluid, stay together. The more you stay focussed on the task at hand--reaching the safehouse--the better your odds are. If your eye gets caught by a shiny thing, or you decide to explore too far, you're greatly increasing your chances of failure.

    Communication with your team is key in both games; get a mic! While you can manage adequately without one, you already put your team at a dissadvantage. It's much easier for your teammates to key into you screaming "Hunter on me! Zoey, behind you! Hunter on me!" and to vocally guide them to your position, than it is to type "zomg! halp halp!" or "ack" and expect them to both see the text and to then find where you are. You will likely take more damage as a player without a mic, than the players that have, and use, theirs.

    L4D:
    If you are unfortunate enough to not reach the safehouse, your scoring is based on distance. The faster you travel, the better your communication, and the quicker your reaction to attacks and in offering assistance, the farther you are likely to get. However, when you reach the safehouse, your points are tallied by how healthy you are when you get there, along with totalling any medkits you have with you, multiplied by the number of you that make it (with a level difficulty modifier). This means you have to wiegh the option of either healing, or trying to push on while hurt.

    There are varied theories as to when, and when not, to heal. Over all, however, most will agree: if you waste the medkit while you're still in the "yellow" you're an idiot (or a bot). Unless there is a health pick-up right there, keep pushing on. At the very least wait until you are in the "red", and then choose the option of pills (if available) before using up the medkit. This theory of healing comes with its exceptions, however:
    - If most of your team is in the red, you probably should heal.
    - If the dreaded "tank music" pops up, you probably should heal (if in the red. Yellow = pills).
    - If you're the second survivor team to play and know health is coming, but you've been getting stomped pretty bad in the meantime, go ahead and use them.
    - If you've found a medkit, aren't that terribly damaged, but know you'll likely not make it back to that area again, go ahead and top it off.

    Another thing to keep in mind is your weapon balance. In L4D this is not as critical, as spamming auto-shotty rounds around seems just as effective in killing distant SI as more controlled assault rifle or hunting rifle (sniper) shots. Even still, it's a good idea to have at least ONE assault rifle in your party. The sniper is optional; I say optional to mean, generally, leave it alone. There are those who use it effectively, however, and if they decide to use it, I don't complain. The better your balance, the better your odds at keeping the CI swarm at bay, both near and far.

    L4D2:
    Scoring in L4D2 is based almost entirely on distance traveled. Whether you make it to the safehouse healthy, or all "black and white" makes no appreciable difference (other than bragging rights). If both teams make the safehouse, there is a "tie breaker" bonus added to the team that has done the most damage as the Infected team that round, adding an additional 25 points (thus making that team the round's victors).

    In short, travel speed is even more critical. There's enough health pick-ups to be little concerned about using your medkits, and since you don't need to save them for their bonuses at the end, why not use them? Granted, you should still hold them until you're in the red, but in this game, it's better to use a bottle of pills as a last resort (or if you're in a tight spot and can't spare the extra time to heal) and the medkit first. In addition, death is not nearly as scarey, as the game has the added bonus of the defibrillator, or "defib" (however, with a recent patch they've added a defibrilator penalty in the scoring, each use subtracts 25 points).

    Using the defib has a few theories. The obvious being, when the person is dead, you use the defib to revive them (one-time use). However, there is a bit more intricacy in defib tactics. For example: If you find yourself with a member who is "black and white" and bleeding out, have no medkits, and find yourself with a break in the action (especially if you've just killed all four SI on the other team), consider sacrificing (yes, I am actually proposing a tactical teamkill) the "black and white" teammate and using the defib to revive them. When revived, they will be in the yellow and in much less dire straits. Much better than to have to try to revive them while being swarmed by CI while the SI are making a coordinated assault on your team. Chances are you will not survive the altercation.

    connects-l4d2-20100107-174013-pngFurthermore, the addition of the adrenaline shot pick-up (an alternate pick-up that goes in your pills "slot") brings extra tactics to the table of survival as well. Using them the same as using pills is only one (and not even remotely the best) tactic. The bonuses added with the shot include a small increase in temp health, added movement speed (over the normal speed), hearing changes (you're better able to hear SI sounds over the other bg noises), and you will not be slowed when zombies are hitting you. Probably the most important bonus, however, is the added speed when rescuing a downed teammate or using a health kit.

    Recall back to a time before the adrenaline shot (L4D). Remember what a pain in the ass it was to try to pick up two incapped teammates while the other team constantly boomed, smoked and hunted you? Add to that, now, Jockeys, Chargers and Spitters. You'd never get them up if they manage to get a rotational spawn going (and if they have a Spitter constantly throwing acid on your downed teammates so you can't get them up without risking yourself). In short, you'd be fucked. But wait! You have an adrenaline shot! Who cares if you're in the green, use the damn shot and have those incapped teammates up and effective before the SI team can even blink. Frankly, not enough people (including myself) use this tactic when trying to survive.

    Weapon balance is another thing to be cognizant of, as it's a bit more crucial here. For one, the shotguns are not as effective as they used to be at longer distances, so a blend of ranged and distance weapons is more important (depending on the campaign or what level you are on in the campaign). The sniper T2 upgrade is highly effective and the assorted assault weapons are fantastic. Choose a blend, however, as you'll still want one or two teammates auto-shotty spamming, while the others hit at range. To further it, there are now melee weapons. At NO TIME should all four survivors be carrying melee weapons, with the possible exception of The Parish bridge finale. Try to use a blend of two and two. Two using melee, thus freeing up extra pistols for the other two to dual wield (dualies) the extras. Additionally, it's preferable that those using shotguns should be the ones using dualies (or the highly effective "magnum" single-wield), while the ones with the ranged primaries use melee. This makes all team members effective at both range and close quarters.

    And for fuck's sake, quit running and strafing in front of everyone on your team, swinging your katana like you're Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, or your baseball bat like you're the TF2 Scout; all the while taking damage from your teammate's gunfire, as you strafe in front of them... then have the audacity to get upset when they shoot you. Admittedly, I am as guilty of this (minus the getting mad about friendly fire part) as the next, but it is something to be aware of.

    Rescue Priorities:
    For me, this is probably the most frustrating topic. You see, I hate laying there under a Hunter's claws, watching my health decrease at a highly rapid rate, while the teammate next to me slowly picks up another newly-downed teammate (who's in no immediate risk of death), or worse, is healing them self. There are priorities you need to consider when rescuing teammates, in order to keep your team at its best possible fighting strength.

    L4D:
    connects-l4d_vs_farm05_cornfield0007-jpgHunters should nearly always be your top priority. If ignored, they can quickly incap whoever they are on, and further, their damage dealt remains the same after the person is incapped, so they will quickly kill the victim. Kill the Hunter as quickly as possible! And by kill, I mean shoot. Punching the Hunter off is all well and good, but in a chaotic situation, it's very easy to allow the Hunter to escape, freeing him up for a second attack. It takes only an extra second, at most (unless you are farther away and attacking CI are fouling your aim), to simply shoot it, ending the threat permanently (or at least for the 30 second respawn time)... less if you shoot it in the head. It's sitting there, stationary, easy to shoot. Your teammate might sustain an additional scratch, but the risk is worth it when compared to a second Hunter attack. The only real exceptions to this is if you have two incapped teammates and there are two Hunters assaulting you; then it is ok to punch them off. The only time you should ignore the hunted victim for the incapped one is if the incapped teammate is on the verge of death and you can easily get them up.


    Smokers are your second priority. Again, its the theory of rescuing the person taking damage (especially if they are not yet incapped), versus picking up the person already on the floor. If you can save the smoked victim, you've got another teammate that is on their feet and combat effective. However, this is where it gets a bit more tricky: If the smoked victim is incapped, and the person on the floor being swarmed, rescue the floored victim first. The swarm will kill the floored victim faster than the smoker will kill his (unless that person is also swarmed in addition to being smoked). It is also less critical to kill the Smoker, as his attack recharge time is longer than a Hunter. Better to simply melee-hit the victim to knock the tongue loose, and let them deal with killing the smoker while you move on to rescue your incapped teammate.

    It should go without saying that incapped victims that are boomed take a higher priority over incapped victims that aren't. Furthermore, incapped victims on the ground take priority over incapped victims that are hanging from a ledge, unless the hanging victim is either smoked (will lose their grip faster) or on the verge of falling.

    Finally, heal yourself last, unless there is large risk of you going incap, added to no risk of already incapped teammates dying. Even so, it is better to pick them up so that you have someone to cover you while you heal. NEVER heal yourself while a teammate is either smoked or hunted, even if you have another teammate on their feet with you; you never know where that other Hunter is lurking, or where that Boomer might appear.

    L4D2:
    connects-l4d2-20100107-183016-pngFirst priority. It is a toss up between the Hunter and Charger, as they both do considerable damage if left untended. However, as the Hunter has a higher damage rate per second, he should still be your first target when rescuing fellow teammates. Additionally, the damage dealt by the Charger decreases greatly once his victim is incapped, the Hunter's remains the same, and so he kills his victim much faster. Further, it is all the more important to take that extra second to shoot the Hunter (from a distance) or switch to a melee weapon (for close range, one hit will kill it) in order to kill it, as the Hunter's pounce charge-up time is faster in L4D2 than it was in L4D. This means the Hunter can easily land a second pounce if you merely "punch" him away and lose track of him.

    The Charger takes a close second to the Hunter. While he does more damage per strike (ground-pound), his attack is slower, so he does less damage per second. Even so, left untended, the Charger can quickly incap a survivor. This one you MUST kill, either by shooting or with a melee weapon, he is immune to being "punched." If the Charger has taken a teammate off to a distant location to begin slamming them, please, for fuck's sake, put the sword/axe/bat/whatever away and shoot the fuckin' thing. Your teammate will sustain one or two extra hits in the time it takes you to run your stupid self over to the Charger just to slash it to death. Those few hits could mean the difference between a merely injured survivor or an incapped one. You are doing no favors to your team by doing that; know the right weapon to use for the job.

    The Jockey is third in line of priority. While he does much less damage than a Smoker, he will also carry his victim farther and farther away if left alone, whereas the Smoker draws his victim back to a fixed position. You really don't want to have to return all the way back to your starting point to rescue your downed teammate after you've made it 50% of the way through the map.. do you? If you're quick enough, you can melee him right off, and that's fine as his recharge rate is fairly slow and a sneeze will kill him... just make sure to get the sneeze off before he escapes to strike again. If he's already taken the hostage away, it's best to try to shoot him off (preferably while still giving chase). With the advent of Realism VS, the Jockey is much more formidable, so if they Jockey gets you, be specific as to where it takes you so your team can find you again. Communication is key.

    Smokers, while still a threat, are lower down as he can only pull you back to a fixed point. They are basically the same as they were in L4D. As with L4D, "punch" melee (don't slash your buddy with the sword, please) the victim to free them first, then pop the smoker. There is a brief stun time when the tongue is broken that can leave the Smoker helpless. Use that time to kill his ass.. BUT DON'T GO CHASING HIM. If he runs off, let him go. Nothing messes a team up more than having some schmuck go chasing after a Smoker (invariably in a direction that is AWAY from forward progress) only to find another SI waiting to catch the team separated. If you know the other three are recently dead, then it might be acceptable to finish the smoker off. Otherwise, let the Smoker go, he'll be back, and as a general threat, he is low on the scale.

    You take the next priority level due to the Spitter. Unless you've taken a shot and can revive an incapped teammate fast, if you hear the Spiiter, she's probably going to spit on your incapped teammates, trying to get you too. Be wary, and wait for the Spit to run dry before wading in to assist. If you HAVE taken a shot and area already grabbing the incapped survivor, you'll likely have them up before the pool even gets to spread and will take little damage as a result. Furthermore, if you have some time before your teammates die, take that time to clear the horde of CI that is likely pummeling you, before trying to pick them up. Nothing sucks more than to be reviving someone and end up going down next to them instead, because the horde is still beating on your back and shoulders.

    Hanging or downed survivors flip flop in priority depending on the situation. If the survivor that is dangling is taking any further damage (fire, acid, CI or SI scratches, Smoker tongue), their hang time drastically decreases, similar to that of a downed survivor that is taking damage. Use your head to figure out who is the higher priority in this case, similar with more than one downed Survivor. Try to get the ones that are imminent first.

    When to use what, and when to rescue who, is part common sense, spiced with foreknowledge of your environment, what you'll be facing, and what damages each SI class does and why type of attack they have. With the weapons, try to keep blended for ranged and close. With reviving, well, think about who is in more immediate danger of death, the guy laying there incapped with nothing around them? or the guy with the hunter on him who's health meter is going down at a rapid rate?

    You decide.
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    Comments 3 Comments
    1. PizzaSHARK!'s Avatar
      PizzaSHARK! -
      Haha, I recognize a slice of one of my screenshots in here. Still one of the most epic knockouts in either L4D game I've ever played.
    1. Walkerxes's Avatar
      Walkerxes -
      that the l4d hunter pic?
    1. PizzaSHARK!'s Avatar
      PizzaSHARK! -
      Yup. It came from a game I was playing with friends. I remember it being a really close game until we managed to pull that off. Boomed all four of them, then smoker and both hunters hit after the horde arrived. As you can see, two of them were pinned, and the third one (the one away from the horde being sat on by a hunter) was previously smoked. I pounced him once zoey got the smoker, and by that point the two in the horde were down, zoey was surrounded and couldn't help, and that was that.

      Really, really fun game.

      Found it! http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x...nfield0007.jpg

      Oh, and Hunters don't do the same amount of damage to downed Survivors - they do double damage (10 damage every 0.55 seconds instead of 5 per 0.55), which is why they get highest priority if you have to choose between multiple teammates. Smokers also do double damage to downed survivors, but since they already do low damage (5 damage per 1.00 seconds), it's much less of an issue. Chargers do the same amount of damage to Survivors regardless of their state - 15 damage every 1.50 seconds.