I’ve been a gamer for a long time now, and honestly I don’t remember anyone really complaining about bugs in games until technology gave us the ability to update games post-release. Maybe that’s because social media and the internet in general wasn’t really a ‘thing’, or maybe it’s because everyone just accepted bugs and poor game mechanics as the way things were. This list isn’t actually intended to highlight buggy or under developed gameplay but looking over it there is no denying that the large majority of picks here have not stood the test of time and been phased out over time or belong to games that aren’t really still around.
What this list IS supposed to outline is 10 fond memories that I personally have from years and years of playing video games developed by software giant Valve. I LOVE Valve games and while their original IP titles seem to be well past their heyday, these memories will forever live on in my heart. I know there’s plenty more Valve titles which are mostly HL spin-offs, and if you’re hoping to see some stuff about them, too bad. They sucked or didn’t reach mainstream popularity enough for me to play them enough!
10. CS Backalley
Backalley hit Counter-Strike waaaaaaaaay back in BETA 5.0 in a time before the majority of modern CS players were born (no, really!) and was the typical shit fight that all ‘original’ CS hostage rescue maps tended to be. Running around trying to get brain-dead scientist to follow you back to a designated area while not getting yourself shot.. Mind you I think most of the hostage games I played in turned into a T Vs. CT scenario anyway as it was easier to kill the other team (or leave 1 alive and pin him down) then it was to try and leads NPC’s through corridors. But if you can leave 1 foe alive then you can make some cheeky hostage rescues while your mates trap him in a room.
Why it’s classic: I think the hostage mode in general is the classic moment in this pick, as the mechanic just didn’t work at all. However I have a lot of great memories late night gaming on my 56K dail-up connection playing Backalley late into the night. The rabbit warren style level design made it quite different from other maps of the area and a lot more frantic and chaotic with almost every gunfight being close range.
Did you know that Team Fortress Classic was released the same year that Team Fortress 2 was shown at E3 (1999)? That’s also the same year as cs_backalley came out, just as a side note…. The point is that TF2 in it’s (nowhere near) final form didn’t get released (as part of The Orange Box) until 2007, meaning there was pretty much a full EIGHT YEARS between Valve showing of promotional shots of the game and it coming out, looking completely unrecognisable mind you…
As a die-hard and very competitive TFC veteran, I watched TF2 development as closely as one could through monthly gaming magazines, and I distinctly remember the excitement of a ‘new TFC’ but this quickly faded as news dried up in a couple of years and I feared it had gone the way of Duke Nukem Forever.
Why it’s classic: As the first true instance of Valve Time, the development of TF2 became a running joke that has directly transferred over into the regular state of play surrounding Half-Life 3. Changing so vastly that it looks like they pretty much showed off brainstorms and then scrapped the game to start again, it’s obvious Valve jumped the gun back in 99′; who knows, maybe HL3 is in dev right now and they just don’t want to repeat history… Illuminati confirmed.
8. L4D Three-Hunter Spawn
Left4Dead as a game archetype was not just a breath but a absolutely double-lung full of fresh air in the competitive co-op space. It’s 4v4 format of teams of different character types/abilities was a gorgeous balance of chaos that was a nightmare for new players and an enjoyable challenge for veterans. To win you needed teamwork, the ability to aim, awareness of team mates, and knowledge of how each of the infected work… oh, and the memory of how all 4-5 levels are laid out so you don’t get pinned down somewhere.
There really is quite a lot to know and practice across the entire game and playing competitive matches is some of the most intense and rewarding games I’ve ever played, and boy did I play a lot. Like most picks in this list I think I will forever miss the glory days of L4D and yearn to play it again with and against some of the best in the country.
Why it’s classic: In L4D there are only 3 ‘special infected’ types that you repeatedly spawn as (Boomer, Hunter, and Smoker), and while Smoker and Hunter can instantly disable a Survivor (human team) poor Boomer can only inconvenience them and hope it’s enough for them to be overrun by The Horde. More as a team of 4 you commonly have 2 Hunters, 1 Smoker, and 1 Boomer. However in what ‘might’ be a mis-fire in game design you can quite easily obtain 3 Hunters and 1 Smoker.
This line-up, for any half-practiced team, means an almost immediate win of that level as competent timing will see you instantly disable every member of the other team. Of course the argument can be made that practiced Survivors can ward of such ambushes, but having the majority of melee’s decided by an instant down or narrow escape takes away from the greater gameplay. I’ve never gone back to check if this was changed, but it screamed development flaw (much like Witch crowning and Tank spawns).
7. CS Gun-Running
Back to the days of old with Counter-Strike on this classic moment, and casting back way way back to pre-BETA 4.0. See, back in the original 3 releases of the mod (as it was then) there was a game mechanic / strategy called gun-running. Back then you could freely drop and pickup guns as you saw fit and when you were unlucky enough to be shot into the next round your gun stayed put where you died. Oh… and guns didn’t de-spawn at the beginning of a new round either! It was pretty interesting times when you get 20 rounds deep and there’s miscellaneous weaponry scattered all over the horizon, and just a bit frustrating when none of them had any bloody ammunition!
Why it’s classic: Obviously a piss-poor game mechanic that just needed time before it was coded out (BETA 4.0), it is none the less one of the more memorable feature of early CS. It was also used as a legitimate tactic in what passed as clan wars back in those days, with one team members running around trying to retrieve weapons for the rest of the team. Seeing a gun runner out and about caused no shortage of giggles either as the animation of someone continually dropping guns over and over is both amusing and confusing.
P.S. To gun-run you just keep holding ‘drop weapon’, so you throw your weapon and run over it (causing it to throw again). Find more guns and you drop/pick them up in order etc… I wonder what the limit was on how many you could run with at once… if memory serves me correctly it was something ridiculous like 7+, making all sorts of racquet in your ears with the pickup and throw noises going ad-nauseum.
6. Alien Swarm Custom Combat Music
If you don’t know what Alien Swarm is, you best go and Google that shit before you embarrass yourself. The top-down freebie from Valve is an absolutely treat from start to finish with a few good friends, and even has a delightful feature that allows you to set custom music (mp3 files) for combat sequences. Now I know that going through your mp3 collection (if you even have one anymore!) to try and setup a soundtrack sounds like an absolute bore so instead just take a bit of advice from old uncle thrax.
Why it’s classic: Sevendust – Enemy. That’s the only song you need to load into the music menu of Alien Swarm. The rather specific gaming moment in this pick is the first combat sequence in the game where your merry band of definitely-not-space-marines need to plunge into the planet depths via a gigantic elevator shaft while defending yourself from an onslaught of definitely-not-xenomorphs. Set to Enemy or most any other metal track that ramps up quickly, you get the strange euphoria of playing an action sequence in slow motion but having your adrenaline pumping from great music at the same time. It makes for an almost Hollywood’esque action scene that the gaming world could definitely use more of. As long as you own the legitimately purchased album first….
5. TFC The Hunted
Ahhh TFC, my first love in the world of class-based shooters. Valve’s remake of the original Team Fortress (Quake) had a hell of a lot going for it and provided years of good times to casual players and competitive team alike and even inspired the rise of Oceanas most prolific Team Fortress community, OzFortress. One mode that missed the mark though was The Hunted. Taking a breather from THE ENTIRE GAME CONCEPT, Valve decided to drop in an alternate mode where a team of bodyguards made up of the Medic, Heavy, and Solly classes have to protect an umbrella wielding civilian (who we referred to as El Presedente) from the opposing team who consisted purely of Snipers.
Why it’s classic: While it held some medium level lol’s back when we were youngin’s and didn’t have a fantastic grasp on things like aiming and game mechanics, this mode quickly got old and then unplayable as a single unarmed target is really just too easy to hit. It takes immense teamwork to protect the civilian from decent shots, and that level of teamwork is only found in well practiced teams… who are all off playing the proper game mode. I think the most fun the The Hunted bought was when the crew went full RPG’tards and started yelling at each other on LAN in character.. Which turned out something akin to the street shootout scene in Bad Boys 2.
4. CS Desert
Back to the BETA days of Counter-Strike (for the last time, I swear!) and this time I’m going to chat about cs_desert. This piece of gaming gold had a relatively short life, coming in during BETA 1.1 and being phased out after BETA 3.1; and while I personally remember playing it for hours on end at LAN parties, the fact of the matter is that it was imbalanced to the extreme… for BOTH SIDES! A total embodiment of piss-poor level design, the charm in playing this map came from how you can best your foe in a ridiculous manner by exploiting the many horrible ‘features’ of the level more so than the common competitive vibe and tactical prowess that Counter-Strike is famous for.
Why it’s classic: Desert was a cluster-fuck of crap. Wide open spaces with little to no cover and the fact that a quick Terrorist could snipe a poor CT from a defensible position while he was still in his spawn are just the tip of mountain range. Skybox walking and grenade bugs, along with the ability to walk up mountainsides meant you could be shot from damn near anywhere at anytime.. And that’s not even talking about the mounted machine gun that terrorists got which pointed straight out over the desert plains… where you had to run with the hostages… absolute, glorious, trash.
3. Half-Life Death Match
Half-Life was a masterpiece for it’s time and the precursor to an astonishing amount of success for the series, mods, spin-offs, sequels, and even the game engine it was built on. With all this greatness exploding in every corner of the gaming world people often forget just how amazing the original Half-Life Death Match mode was to play (not, not DeathMatch Classic… please leave.). While it didn’t have the refined finesse of the modern day shooter, it certainly had a range of weaponry and some unique skills to master.
Why it’s classic: Gameplay design flaws aside, this game had an absolute ton of stuff going for it. What other fast paced, frantic shooter is going to give you the standard pistol, melee, assault rifle etc, but then ALSO give you a crossbow, a gauss gun that you can insanely bounce around the level with, an alien thing that regenerates ammo, and a vacuum cleaner (Gluon Gun) that can randomly explode and kill you?! None.. That’s how many.
With a whole host of classic levels that helped build the modern FPS as we know it, there’s nothing like an 8-player HLDM contest running around Crossfire or Gasworks and hearing someone using the med/armour receptacles on the walls. Absolutely classic.
2. TFC Conc Jumping
Conc jumping, or ‘Concussion Grenade Jumping’ is a game mechanic in TFC that originated from its predecessor (QTF) and involves jumping off an exploding concussion grenade at just the right time so it propels you in whatever direction you desire with great haste. The mechanic itself can be used with any grenade but there’s something special about the conc grenade because it won’t deal any damaged to you (the ground might though!).
Why it’s classic: The conc jump was simple to perform and difficult to master. For maps like 2Fort any old Joe could conc jump into the battlements and feel like James Bond, but a well practiced conc jumper could pull off amazing aerobatics and get in and out of enemy bases in a blur. The ability spawned specialised maps that effectively became a new game mode, and is responsible for some seriously impressive highlight reels! Side note: TFC’s grenade mechanic in general was absurd as you could cook grenades while moving and firing etc, so it was common place to cook a grenade the second you saw an enemy, engage in a firefight, and then either run at them and toss it just before it pops or die close enough to them so it goes off post-humous. I must of played thousands of matches repeatedly counting 1-2-3 in my own head timing a grenade for every enemy.
1. L4D2 Insta-Kill
Far and away the most amusing, satisfying, and frustrating Valve gaming moment for me would have to be the Charger Insta-Kill in Left4Dead 2. A game mechanic that is hilarious, infuriating, satisfying, and rage-inducing depending on whether you are the giver or the recipient. Left4Dead (1 or 2) is centered around teamwork and the amount of points you can score as Survivors (not to mention your chance of, you know, actually surviving) is directly related to how many of your team can stay alive until the end of the level.
Why it’s classic: Performing an insta-kill (to no surprise) allows you to completely remove one of the Survivors from the level in one well-timed movement, despite the regular gameplay mechanic being a knock-down and pickup style of affair. The Chargers… charge move hits Survivors with enough force to throw them into the air and back a distance, and when hit at the right time and place they can be thrown ‘off the map’ or into out of bounds areas that are typically unable to be accessed. The result? Instant death until the next map.
While some people hate this ‘tactic’ to the point that they rage quit the game forever more, personally I love the additional challenge and take great satisfaction in not only ending someone’s map in the blink of an eye, but better yet using it in conjunction with teammates to execute a perfectly timed attack that incapacitates the entire team of Survivors in one fell swoop. Something that is a bit harder to do in L4D2, as there’s many more Infected classes and you’re unable to get the previously mentioned 3-Hunter spawn.