Well, teambook month sees the return of the posts I know you all enjoy, the videogame tie-in. And it's time to stop playing the harpsicord to my falcon and to adjust my cravatte and put in my monocle, because this isn't just any videogame tie-in. It's a Valve sponsored videogame tie-in, a company well known for their infrequent but superb games such as the Half Life and Portal series. Just the presentation reeks of quality, it's a gorgeous, oversized hardback volume with thick glossy paper and superb reproduction. It contains stories from Left For Dead, Team Fortress and an interquel between Portal and Portal 2. You'd think from the name that Team Fortress would be the one I would be highlighting, but these stories are only half stories, they were designed so the they could be finished by how you played them online and thus are impossible to sum up if you have no in-depth knowledge of the game. But they sure look pretty and a must if you are a dedicated Team Fortress player. Luckily the main event here is the Left For Dead story "The Sacrifice" and this also involves a team so it's the one I am going to cover with a look at the Portal story (which is a team-up.. sort of) as a bonus extra. Ready?
LEFT FOR DEAD - THE SACRIFICE: Left for Dead was an extremely successful zombie horror game released on the Xbox 360 and PC in late 2009. You pick one of four characters - Francis, Bill, Zoey and Louis and fight your way from safehouse to safehouse against hordes of normal and "special infected" zombies. There wasn't much of a story provided in-game but Valve provided more background on it's website culminating with this 190 page comic filling in the backstories of the team thrown together by extreme circumstances as well as telling the story of the early days of the infection and the titular sacrifice made by Bill to save the rest of his friends.
|The end of Bill at the start.|
|Zoey, Louis, Bill and Francis|
Louis: "What if this green flu burns itself out in a week? What if everybody got all excited for nothing? And the only two guys who stayed calm and kept the place was you and me!"
His colleague refuses so Louis goes to the bathroom and there has his first encounter with a zombie, who he manages to batter to death. Then he goes and looks out of the shattered office window and the implications of the virus finally hit him.
In a jail-like cell, Francis and Bill start telling their guards about all the crazy special types of zombies there are. We then see the man - Lt. Mora -who coordinated their rescue trying to deliver a report to a man called Everly about the things he saw, Everly says it's like a work of "fiction" and tailor made to foster "dissension in the ranks." Mora stubbornly says he saw what he saw and the survivors should be cut loose. Everly disagrees and dismisses them. Lt. Mora though starts plotting something, saying he has no intention of sacrificing his platoon.
|The awful truth|
We then get a flashback to when it all turned to shit for Zoey. Her divorced parents after arguing over her decision to drop out of film school. Her father says she can join the force like him and that she is really good with firearms. Suddenly a zombie appears and rips a chunk out of her mum. her dad shoots it but another appears and bites him. He shoots that one as well. he then tells Zooey if she remembers the part in all the zombie films where one person had to shoot the bitten person before they turned. And so she kills her father to prevent him becoming a zombie.
Doctor: "It's already not safe here. Some of the soldiers.. They'll keep us alive as long as they think I can stop this. When they figure out I can't... They're going to put us up against a wall and shoot us."
Then a lound alarm goes off. Zoey says it will attract infected from miles around. Lt. Mora and his soldiers are tooled up and relieve Everly of his command saying they have sounded the alarm for evacuation.
Louis and Francis are still locked up and (somehow) find out they were spreading the virus as they went. Louis think this is why previous rescue attempts failed, that they infected those rescuing them. Then they hear the alarm and he and Francis desperately try and talk their way out of their cell. Then a Witch appears, she's a zombie who is insanely strong but will not attack if attacked first. The soldiers heed Francis and Louis's advice and leave her alone. For their expertise they are released, they then proceed to take down a Spitter earning the soldier's respect.
|Louis and Francis get stuck in.|
Bill: "Jeff, the four of us walked here from Philadelphia. I think we can make it across a courtyard."
Francis then admits that the zombie apocalypse is the best thing that's happened to him. And we get a flashback to him two days after the infection started. He was something of a villain, robbing a store for a flatscreen TV. hanging out with his gang, he goes for some alone time with a woman. But she pukes on him and turns into a zombie. His fellow gang member shoots her, and when Francis realises a full blown zombie apocalpse has started and hundreds are coming over, he makes his friends drag a jukebox up onto a nearby roof so he can have music on while he shoots them.
They bump into a Tank, Louis grabs a vehicle with a leaky petrol tank and rams it with it, bailing before it blows. The survivors and the soldiers seperate and our heroes reach the train station under heavy zombie attack. Back at the base the soldiers are being overwhelmed by zombies. Zooey want's Bill to stop the train so they can save some. He refuses. Later she confronts him.
Zoey: "Damn it. I trusted you! We let a doctor die, you asshole. We let soldiers die. And for what? So we can run off to some island and hide?"
|Bill makes a hard choice.|
Bill: " We gotta look after our own or we will die. That is as simple as I can make it."
She angrily says she wants her world back and who else is he going to leave behind to save himself. This triggers Bill's flashback to just after the zombie infection began. He was in a vetrans's hospital undergoing an undefined proceedure. Just as he is being sedated, zombies attack. He manages to kick one of them's head off while still on the operating table. Then after arming himself with some improvised weapons, he heads off out into the zombie infested night. Which brings us back to the nearly present.
|So near, yet so far.|
|Off into the sunset they go.|
Ratman: "Reality is a story the mind tells itself. An artificial structure conjured into being by the calcium-ion exchange of a million synaptic firings. A truth so strange it can only be lied into existence. And our minds lie. Never doubt it"
|Ratman, present and past|
His mental state is cleverly represented by the art and layouts. In the flashbacks the story is neat, the panel borders are straight and simply aligned, there is only one colour used. In his agitated present the panels are bright, chaotic and jumbled together. As Chell makes it to GLaDOS he takes his last precious pills to get his head straight. His Companion Cube says "this will be the end of us".
As GLaDOS dies Ratman remembers back when they first built GLaDOS and how she would instantly try to kill all the scientists. Later flashbacks shows they built a conscience for her (didn't work) and that the neurotoxin she used to kill everyone with was supposed to be for a run of Shrodinger's cat investigations.
GLaDOS: "Do you know that thought experiment with the cat in the box with the poison? Theory requires the cat be both alive and dead until observed. Well, I actually performed the experiment. Dozens of times. The bad news is that reality doesn't exist. The good news is we have a new cat graveyard."
|With GLaDOS dead, Ratman can finally leave...|
|....but he can't leave Chell behind to die.|
Ratman: "But even if I do, there will be no wake-up date. She'll be in there indefinitely. So it's the long sleep.. or the long sleep. And I don't know which is worse. Forgive me."
It works and an exhausted Ratman decides its time for him to sleep too and he climbs into a cryo-pod possibly to die. We finally see why he picked Chell, her evaluation report is left behind and it shows her tenacity is almost off the charts and that "Test subject is abnormally stubborn. She never gives up. Ever." And thus the mystery of Chell's reappearance in Portal 2 is solved in a rather melacholy little tale. The End.
|I wish we could have saved him in Portal 2...|