I Played Through Left 4 Dead 2 Holding A Goddamn Gnome

In the Dark Carnival campaign of Left 4 Dead 2, you can win a garden gnome at the fairground near the start – and there’s an achievement for carrying it all the way to the end. It is, in fact, the same goddamn gnome I carried through Episode goddamn Two, for the same goddamn reason: there was an achievement for it.

By the end of that ordeal, I prayed I’d never set eyes on his (“stupid fucking”) face again – but here he is, and here I am, and here we go.

heart gnome
The gnome in his prize box: you have to score over 750 points in a shooting gallery game to win him, which isn’t actually easy in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

When I finally did win him, I discovered that he has something of a violent side:

violent side

Smokers want him:

smoker wants gnome

He doesn’t like to look at zombie guts:

explosion

He’s afraid of rollercoasters:

rollercoaster

He’s calm under pressure:

action

And while he doesn’t see dead people – or indeed anything – dead people see him:

there is only gnome

It took several runs to even get to the finale. Twice I ran out of time in real life, and when I did have an evening free, I got so caught up apologising for accidentally setting everyone on fire that I played through a whole level before realising that I’d lost him.

Once I got into a few games that worked, with people willing to help, we found that Rochelle hates him:

shadow

Ellis worries about him:

ellis worries

Coach is serious about him:

coach loves gnome

And Nick doesn’t fucking trust him:

nick is suspicious

But through it all, the gnome is serene, the gnome is beatiffic, the gnome is- is the gnome strangling Rochelle?

strangle

It looks like the gnome is strangling Rochelle.

She seemed to like carrying him even less after that, but she did it anyway.

vent

It eventually became apparent that my quest was under some kind of curse. I got into so many bad games that I eventually settled for playing with one quiet European stranger, who played virtually the entire campaign using only the katana, and showed no interest in the gnome. His businesslike dispatching of the slavering hordes seemed to say “I have more important things to do.”

He was good, though, and at last we made it to the finale.

stage

(In case anyone mistakes this for a screenshot that doesn’t involve a gnome, he’s in the bottom right.)

In all my cursing of attempts cut short or failed through distraction, I never really considered that I might just not be able to do it. But Quimby and I immediately hit real problems with the final battle.

On our best run, we lasted until the rescue helicopter arrived, with enough time to spare for me to truly panic: where’s the gnome? I’d left him in the mosh pit, but all I saw were corpses. Dying I could live with, but succeeding? Without the gnome? Unthinkable.

Suddenly, over voice chat, the previously silent, previously gnome indifferent Quimby stated in an unplacable accent: “I have the gernome!”

He did, but he fell. And though I snatched the gernome from his body, a Tank barreled into me on my last hitpoint, and I lay dying, alone, inches from the helicopter, that ceramic asshole beaming obliviously by my side.

god damn it

We needed help.

Happily, that’s about when freelancer Will Porter showed up:

coach

Along with Craig:

snarl

And even the gnome seemed unusually pleased.

yaaay

The fight that followed was still tonguey.

hairy3

Sometimes crushy.

hairy2

Sometimes not far off an actual nightmare.

hairy

But after three or four attempts, and an appallingly timed crash, we made it. I climbed aboard the chopper, gnome tightly in arms, and watched guiltily as the other three struggled to survive. I couldn’t provide covering fire with the gnome in hand, and I wasn’t about to try setting him down inside a moving helicopter with no doors after coming all this way. Craig made it, as did late joiner Dark Wolf, but Will was too fat or crazy to escape the fray.

sorry lady

Sorry lady, the class where your head stays intact is all booked up.

We might have something in economy though.

achieve

My prize. It’s over. I’m exhausted. The added stake of all the work it takes to get the gnome to that final battle charges it with a terrifying pressure, which triggers a wildly inappropriate surge of adrenaline. The very real possibility of losing him in the chaos at the last minute is horrible to contemplate.

Now that I’m finally done with it, I just want to relax. But I have a nasty feeling that chipped-hatted twat is going to drop from the skybox ten minutes into Episode Three, and I’ll be forced by my own idiocy to go through this dark ritual once again.

I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome

Halfway through reviewing Half-Life 2: Episode Two for PC Gamer about a month ago, Valve PR Doug Lombardi asks me if I know about the gnome achievement.

“No?”
“Did you find the gnome near the start?”
“Yeah.”
“You have to put him in the rocket before it launches.”
“But isn’t that right near the end of the game?”
“Yeah.”
“Doesn’t that mean you have to-”
“Yeah.”
“Oh I’m so doing that.”

A month or so later, I have. Continue reading “I Played Through Episode Two Holding A Goddamn Gnome”