A friend of mine has been playing one of those gaming apps on Facebook. You know the ones: “Dale needs a coconut cookie in order to complete his criminal empire in Mafia Wars.” All I can say is: Thank everything for the option to “Hide” those on the news feed. Of course, it also kills the majority of posts on Facebook. You give, you take….

The point of this observation is that I’ve been watching said friend play a game called Pirates: Rule the Caribbean! on Facebook. I don’t think she’s a traditional gamer in the sense of the word, but what normally causes me to dismiss those apps also grew into fascination in watching her play log. She was seriously power-leveling through the game, similar to how an MMO player would treat World of Warcraft.

I think in a matter of weeks, she shot through a massive amount of levels, culminating in Level 100 last weekend. To “celebrate” the event, I stopped by her cubicle at work (my girlfriend works there as well, so it’s an easy task to do), and presented her a greeting card commemorating this momentous occasion. The surprise, confusion, and amusement amongst her co-workers was worth it, I think. And I’m known to praise utterly random events. While I don’t get the appeal of those gaming apps, they’ve certainly become popular among the “anyone can/will play” crowd.

Speaking of Facebook, Xbox Live has introduced Facebook, Twitter, Zune, and Last.fm services to Microsoft’s console, making it a more “social” experience. It seems that Microsoft is attempting the more “social” aspect that the Wii generation has brought on, and I’m surprised Nintendo hasn’t attempted anything like this themselves. Still, the new features are well implemented, and I’ve really enjoyed using the new features.

And speaking of Xbox, Left for Dead 2 came out this week. I gave my impressions of the demo, so here’s a few from the actual game.

For starters, I think the AI is unbalanced in some respects. The AI for the Survivors isn’t as solid as the first game. I know there’s the “Dumb Southerner” stereotype, but come on now. They have a tendency to just stand here and not help while zombie hordes kick the crap out of you right in front of them.

This is coupled with higher enemy difficulty. There’s not as many spaces for breathers in this outing. Some hordes are near infinite in numbers, and “Special” infected come out in teams instead of one at a time. In many respects, “Normal” almost seemed too hard in multiplay, and I was playing with 3 experienced L4D players. We got crucified in the mall level of the first scenario, which is my least favorite area due to its confusing level design. It’s too bad, as the George Romero enthusiast in me thought that would be an ideal level. Fortunately, it’s only one level.

But don’t get my criticisms as me not liking the game, because there is a lot to like. The other levels are fantastic, especially the fourth scenario, which I think is now my favorite. The flash flood scenario is easily one of the most clever and intense playthroughs of the entire series. The Carnival/Theme Park level is also another favorite of mine. The overall level of detail is remarkable, and it definitely gives a feel of being down South.

I also like the personalities and interactions between the new Survivors. They’re funnier and better defined. Being originally from the South myself, I’ve met a few “Ellis” types over the years, so hearing his stories about his buddy “Keith” (which I can’t but wonder if that’s really Ellis passing off his own misfortunes as someone else’s) are hilarious.

Left 4 Dead 2 is worth a look. It has a better story, funnier characters, great level scenarios (minus the mall), and I love the melee weapons, and it has just enough new features to make it a proper sequel instead of just an annual upgrade.

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