Saturday, 24 January 2009

How To Not Completely Fail… on Left 4 Dead's Versus Mode - Part II

Written by Herrick
Part II - Infected: The Smoker and The Tank

The Smoker

Okay kids, the next playable Infected is our good, and often misused, friend the Smoker. Smokers are possibly the best class in the game for slowing the team down however they have a large amount of weaknesses to counteract their ability to strike from a long distance that they often end up being nothing more than a 20 second respawn.

1) Know your maps
Smokers are possibly the most terrain dependent class in the entire game. Unlike Hunters, there is a delay between you launching the attack and it doing any damage. Hell, there's a delay before the victim loses control, so it's all too easy to get shot in the face before you can constrict them. You're also completely immobile during the entire thing. As a result positioning is critical to a good attack; if trying to delay survivors, you want as much distance as possible (to slow the team down by backtracking) and as much cover as possible to make shooting at you harder. A good position will mean that even if a survivor escapes often you will have a second chance to delay the team.

2) Spicy curry
Remember to take into account not only what is around you but also what is between you and your victim. Many maps in the game purposely have elevation changes that require survivors to climb up and over something to proceed and these are gonna be your favorite places to spring a trap. Yanking someone off a catwalk not only gives you the chance to dole out fall damage to the unfortunate but also slows the entire team down as they often have to backtrack a long way or risk also taking hits from falling to retrieve the victim. Throw in the advantages of overhangs and you have the recipe for both big damage and plenty of extra time delay for additional spawns and chances for a player to become the tank.

Fire is also a fantastic tool. Players like to toss Molotovs into doorways and the like to act as barriers to the hordes brought in by Boomers and as a Smoker you should love these traps too. Snare a unsuspecting survivor and drag them through the fire pit, and not only do you dish out fire damage but nobody will want to run through this to help them. Flames can also obscure their vision, making it harder to shoot you off them. Environmental traps such as car alarms and Witches can also be set off by the players you're dragging and make great opportunities, as well as slowing players who simply try to charge past them after someone accidentally sets them off.

3) Smoke screen
That cloud of smoke you give off also counts as an assist of any zombies hit survivors caught up in it as well as masking other sounds (like cries for help) and blurs outlines. Obviously its no way near as long lasting or as useful as a Boomer's bile it's still a nice last ditch attempt to hinder survivors if they are too close to a safehouse for you to find an adequate spot to attack from.

4) Girlie slap
Smokers do still have a melee attack, however I'd advise against using it at all, it's pathetically weak and, unlike Hunters, you make plenty of noise and look very different to regular infected so you'll just die super fast. Only time your melee is of any decent effect is in the last few seconds before inevitable victory where the entire team is in chaos. Generally if the team is too busy dealing with more immediate threats to worry about you spamming your bitch slap attack then you should be taking advantage of this time to get range and break up the team further.

5) Social smoking
As a smoker you need to have allies with you to do your job; that tongue is weak and easily broken and you don't have that much health yourself, so you need people to help keep the team occupied, else they'll just seek out the bright pink thing to it's source and fuck you. Always try to wait for your allies to spawn before launching attacks, and while they are busy taking the flak jump in and snare a victim. Boomers are great at this as hordes can also attack people you have snared without releasing them. Always aim to have some sort of obstruction between you and the rest of the survivors though in order to slow down the rescue and increase the damage you do.

The Tank!

A one-dimensional class, right? Rush in, punch a few survivors, hope for incap? Yeah… no.
When used correctly, the Tank is a game ending class. It is easily possible to disable the entire survivor team when played well, but if played poorly is the worst way to throw away what would otherwise be a good win for the Infected.

The first thing you must understand when playing the tank, is that it is NOT invincible. You will die very quickly if you come up against a team of tier 2 weapon-wielding survivors, even (especially) if you find them in a small space. 4 auto-shotguns will finish you off faster than you can incap a single survivor, so playing the tank can be both tricky at times, and super epic win when your plan works out.

Rules to live by:

1) Hulk SMASH!
Try your very hardest never to attack from the front. Not only does it open you up to the full force of the survivors guns, it is also very predictable - survivors may sit there with a Molotov waiting for you to appear at the door, only to set you on fire and run away (you'll die after about 40 seconds, even if your health bar says full health) - you won't be able to catch up because the survivors are slightly faster than you when at green health.

2) Y U thro Molotov? =(
Avoid fire at all costs. If someone throws a Molotov down in front of you, don't run through it. Wait for it to burn out, or find another route around. It's much better to start losing control a bit rather than setting yourself on fire and dying without doing significant damage. Bear in mind that the control timer will drop you after 2 minutes of no aggression. That is a long time to find a new route round.

3) Ninja Tanking

Surprise. You might be a giant walking beast of a zombie capable of crushing puny humans with your bare hands, but you have to be able to hit them first. Where you're spawned is at the behest of the AI director so sometimes you'll get lucky with this and sometimes not, but try your hardest to surprise the survivors as much as possible. Obviously they'll be able to hear the music and know you're about, but it's still not all that easy to pinpoint a Tank unless he's right on top of you, especially on the enclosed maps. Wait for a survivor to round a corner towards you and then punch him back - you'll knock him down, hopefully getting him stuck on zombies and making him easier to incap. If at all possible do this out of the way of the other survivors so you don't have to deal with their weapons fire. You can also hide behind movable objects like cars and fork lifts, and simply wait for the survivors to get close enough to guarantee a hit. Tanks from above can also be very deadly if used correctly - for example, dropping down the stairwell on No Mercy 4. You can drop down, try to incap one survivor, and then escape back up the lift shaft to the top and ready for your second assault.

4) Out of control (I LOL'd)

Don't go all gay for the control meter. You have two minutes of absolutely not hitting anyone at all before you get stopped from Tanking. That is a long time. Take your time, observe the surroundings, look for objects which may be useful to you (alarmed cars in particular, as well as fork lifts, cars and other stuff. Find a decent place to ambush the survivors if you can.

5) Tier 2 Weaponry
If the survivors have tier 2 weapons, think very very hard about a head to head fight. You will go down super quick. Your best bet is to cut one of the survivors off from the others, either by hitting it over a ledge or surprising it in a compromising location.

6) Don't hate, incapacitate!
Work on one survivor at a time, if at all possible. Hitting each of the 4 survivors once each won't do shit. You need to incap people to actually cause real damage (because incapped people need reviving, and that is a perfect opportunity for the Boomer, Hunter, or coming back as the Tank and incapping another player. If you haven't hit anyone yet, go for the closest target as long as you're not taking too much fire, and then work on it once you hit it. If you see someone pull a Molotov, you are well advised to either GTFO or hit the fucker until he's incapped.

7) Flying Forklifts of Death

Use objects. Your Tank's Fist of Doom is good, if you can get in range, but that can be very difficult in some situations. Find something big that you can hit - cars, fork lifts and other such items. Run up and smash these items at the survivors, who'll be incapped instantly and possibly killed when hit. Tanks using flying objects to incap people are possibly the most deadly Tanks you will encounter.

8) Lumbering beast, but, above all, considerate and friendly

Pay attention. If your team mate has someone constricted or Huntered, don't be a giant douchebag and hit him. Most likely you will break him free, then be unable to kill him as he runs away (thanking you and laughing to himself). Go after the other survivors, preferably away from the unlucky caught one, and try to stop the other survivors coming to help the victim.

Remember, just 'cos you're the Tank doesn't mean you can stop working as a team. Use the other specials to your advantage. A Tank on its own will fare a lot worse than a tank with 3 specials backing it up. The shear confusion caused by a Tank is usually enough to let a HBunter get the drop on someone. Even if you cannot catch up to someone because their health is green and it's an open area (Blood Harvest, for example), you should aim to separate one from the group like a sheepdog herding sheep. Once one is separated (and probably laughing, going "Haha, you can't hit me!") is when the Hunter pounces him. Then you can turn around and fend off anyone who attempts to heal the incapped and quickly dying survivor. Nobody wants to get close to a Tank.

Similarly, if a Smoker (or Hunter) grabs someone, survivors instinctively turn to try and rescue them. This change of direction, if you're able to predict it, often results in your ability to catch them up and introduce them to Mr Fist.

On the rescuing incapped survivor front, always keep an eye out for survivors rescuing each other once you've incapped them. A standard survivor tactic is for one bloke to lead the Tank astray whilst another rescues the incaps. You can use this to your advantage however, as people generally do not pay attention and just hold X. So incap someone, go after another survivor and then after a few seconds turn on your heels and head back, you will often find someone valiantly trying to rescue the poor guy with the broken legs and they are ripe for a supersized, steroid induced pimp slap.

9) Holy shit! Look at him fly!
The twatting technique. On certain maps, it is possible to cause absolute havoc and instant kill a survivor simply by hitting him/her off a ledge. These include No Mercy 4 and 5, Blood Harvest 1, 3, 4 and parts of 5. Get behind the person, so you're facing the direction you want to hit them, and then swing. If possible, try and hit them while they're jumping, and they'll go fucking flying. Fall damage, if they don't actually fall 'out of the map' as it were, should be substantial depending where you hit them.

10) Incapped by flying boulder? WTF?
Artillery. So you have a tier 2 weapons team, and they're on a relatively open map (Blood Harvest 3, 4 and 5 or No Mercy 1, last part of 2, 3 and 5), and they're not actively looking for you. They may be waiting around for the Tank to come to them, possibly scared. This won't work against an aggressive survivor team, who will simply hunt you down and fuck you, especially because it will be them doing the surprising and not you. Find a large object to hide behind - such as a rock, some dead cows (LOL), a big car or something like that, and then simply throw rocks at them. Try to anticipate movement, or if they're all standing around waiting for you to come just smack them with a rock, switch position, and then try to get closer to them while they're busy confused with rocks and stuff so you can own them with fists and then get out again. If your internet connection is good and your motion prediction is on target, you can actually cause some serious damage while not opening yourself up to a lot of incoming fire from tier 2 weapons. Don't be afraid to try some seriously long range artillery, after all you have 2 minutes to get some decent hits in otherwise. The added bonus of doing this from behind a movable object is that if any of the survivors get balls and come looking for you, you can simply incap them with a flying car. Whatever you do, don't simply stand there out in the open throwing rocks. This makes you an easy fucking target and you will get toasted before you can do anything.

11) Finale Tanking
If you're a finale Tank, you're sometimes limited by what you can do. The finales make it really rather difficult to Tank because they're both generally large open spaces with not much cover. On No Mercy, you simply want to try your best to knock people off the roof. On Blood Harvest, your best bet is probably to try and catch one in the house while the others go outside. Incap that one and then try to disappear, coming back for them when they try to revive. You can try the artillery tank on this, but in my experience the director spawns you in some really shitty places and that makes it hard to get out of view of a decent human team (which will usually go straight outside after the zombie swarms finish because they know there's a Tank).

Finally - if you get set on fire and there is no way to cut a survivor off from the group, simply go in and swing as much as you can. 40 seconds is not a long time to deal damage, so every second counts. Get in there as fast as possible (if there's a quick way to get behind them then maybe use that) and cause some damage, because it's better to die in a fire having done a little damage than dropping dead because you got set on fire and stood about.


Okay, most of it is pretty obvious if you have played Campaign or single player mode. It should be pretty straight forward as most things remain unchanged. Just some quick tips:

  • Keep moving, try to complete acts as fast as possible, the more time you spend the more respawns the other team gets meaning more damage inflicted upon you and more chances of a Tank showing up.
  • Infected can climb walls, pipes, etc. and see in the dark. Just because you can't see or reach that does not mean they can't. Expect trouble from all angles and learn to predict common places for attacks to be sprung.
  • Trick them! Special infected are normal players and can be tricked just like you can be, lead them into places where their abilities will be wasted or allow you to kill them easier. When an infected dies that's at least 20 seconds he is out of the game and 20 seconds of you advancing without him slowing you up. Keep moving and kill them as fast as possible. The faster and more aggressive you play the fewer respawns they get to use against you.
  • Try to always have your sound on, the game makes extensive use of sounds and music to give survivors a hint on impending dangers as well as automated status updates from fellow survivors sometimes. Tank approaching? The music will change. Witch in the vicinity, you'll hear the sobbing and again the music will change. All special infected also have unique sounds so try to keep those ears open as it can give you a vital heads up on what to expect and avoid you getting surprised and making a mistake.
  • Melee is good. Awesome, in fact. Don't be afraid to freely abuse melee. Not only does it break tongues, knock hunters and Boomers back and use no ammo/create no noise, it also does no damage to team mates and is pretty fast. Some servers on PC nowadays have it so that constantly using melee will slow it down (although this can be averted by switching weapons if you so desire) it's still an incredibly useful ability and a fantatic way to avoid friendly fire incidents in clusterfuck moments like being Boomered in a tight space. You can also reload and melee without any delay or stopping the reload action.
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