Valve's new shooter, Left 4 Dead, has not made much of an impression on me, a fact that I largely blame on the fact that I have no-one to play it with.
The other night, I managed to snag the XBox away from its recent Wire-playing duties to give the game's demo a shot with That Fuzzy Bastard. It's already got a strike against it, in that I'm playing it with a gamepad, and that's just not a positive experience. I can't shoot to save my life on a console, due to the clumsiness of using a stick to mouse-aim. And frankly, when the slavering undead hordes come boiling out of the dark hallways, aim is going to be important. TFB tried to pick up the slack, but I think the game's Director took one look at my performance and eased up on us.
Not that I was planning on playing it on XBox anyway, since it's also available on Steam. But L4D is a co-op game, and while I have a meager collection of five or so friends on Live, I know only one person on Steam (and Corvus, you're great, but I'm not laying down $40 for a couple of play sessions). Moreover, it seems like a specific kind of co-op game--very LAN-party-ish--so I'm also not keen on playing with strangers.
Don't get me wrong: I think it's great that companies are designing games for groups of friends. I just have to wonder who's capable of playing them. I'm not in college anymore, with a surfeit of free time and fellow travelers. As a working adult, these days I have to fit gaming into a life that includes a full-time job, other hobbies, and a metric ton of books, TV, movies, and other games I still haven't gotten to. My circle of friends does not actually include a large proportion of dedicated gamers. The idea that I could field even just three other teammates, all of whom have also coordinated across their busy schedules, seems inconceivable to me.
Clearly, there are people who can do it. I'm sure LAN parties still thrive somewhere, too. But as far as I'm concerned, Valve might as well be selling unicorn saddles for all the use I can get out of Left 4 Dead.