System: Xbox 360 (also on: PC)
Developer: Valve/Certain Affinity
Genre: FPS/Survival Horror
If you’ll think back (or link back if you can’t remember) you might recall a couple of zombie movies I reviewed. The first was a film consisting of fast paced zombie action with lots of blood, gore, and huge portions of pure, unadulterated awesome. This film was called Dawn of the Dead. The second flick featured slow, stupid zombies that couldn’t scare a retarded blind cheerleader. This movie was called Land of the Dead. Thankfully, like the former listed, Left 4 Dead ditches the old myth that zombies are bumbling morons and replaces it with the more recent idea that zombies are lightning fast and extremely deadly. I love zombies.
Think about your favorite fast paced zombie movie. Was it Dawn of the Dead? Maybe 28 Days Later? Have you ever wanted to have the chance to try living through that just to see what it was like? That’s Left 4 Dead’s story. Star in an action-pack, horrifying zombie thriller. Awesome? Yes. But the Valve boys have made that concept even more amazing through the wonder that is Xbox Live by allowing the ability to team up with friends or strangers to escape the zombie infested campaigns and survive.
You choose one of four survivors, Bill, Zoey, Francis, or Louis to make your way through the zombie apocalypse. All four survivors have the same stats, picking them is based on no more than your appeal to their avatar. I always play Bill because he smokes, and smoking is cool no matter how old you are. Right?
The four campaigns I just mentioned are No Mercy, Death Toll, Dead Air, and Blood Harvest. Each of the zombie riddled scenarios is broken up by ammo replenishing safe houses which aid in your effort to make it to a near impossible to beat evacuation point. The evacuation scenario differs depending on which campaign you choose, but rest assured, they are all quite challenging.
Left 4 Dead places a huge emphasis on multiplayer. There is nothing like getting four friends together over Live and surviving the zombie apocalypse together. Even better is meeting new people. Since L4D is all about strong teamwork to survive there is plenty of bonding involved and you may quickly find several new friends over the service. It really is amazing.
But as amazing as it is you can also play offline if you so desire. And since there is a split-screen local multiplayer option you never have to be alone. But let’s say you don’t have any friends. If that’s the case then you can play with the completely competent A.I. teammates. No matter how you choose to play, alone or with friends, Left 4 Dead never leaves you by yourself.
Left 4 Dead’s controls are also excellent. It plays just as you’d expect a console game from Valve to handle. Since most of the action happens on a horizontal plane, the X-axis moves slightly faster than the Y-axis to allow you faster horizontal aiming for when you get surrounded by a horde. At first the X-axis aiming may seem a little too fast, but once you start playing on harder difficulties with more undead enemies you’ll find the faster you can aim, the better.
Graphics and Sound:
On the visual front, however, L4D performs slightly less stellar. This is the game that showed the world that Valve really needs to update to a new Source engine, as this one has just about lost relevance in a world where Unreal reigns supreme. The visuals do suffice, however, and once you start a campaign you’ll forget all about the graphics and worry about other things.
Audio is great. Weapons sound realistic, music sets the atmosphere, and the pathetic pouting of the well hidden Witch will send shivers down any grown man’s spine. Man, I hate Witches. Which brings me to my next topic!
There is a decent amount of variety in L4D’s line-up of decomposing, cannibalistic mutants to keep things fresh as well. Of course you have your standard infected which are plentiful and only threatening in large numbers, but you also have 5 special infected which can turn the tables on a seemingly successful team in a heartbeat.
First up is the Boomer. Fat, slow and explosive, the Boomer should be easy to handle. All you have to do is shoot it before it spews bile all over your character leaving you a prime target to the oncoming horde. There is one catch, though. If you are standing within about 15 feet of these guys when they are shot you are going to get covered in their green slime anyway, as they are so bloated they pop and send their bile in all directions. Still sounds easy, but if you get jumpy in your game (trust me, you will) you’re gonna start spraying bullets in all directions not caring what you hit, and chances are a Boomer is within vicinity of your lead shower.
Second we have the Smoker. These bastards attack from great distances with their long and slimy tongues. If you get caught in their deadly grip they’ll take you out fast. Your only hope is that at least one of your teammates notices your body being dragged away and can untie his tongue or shoot him before it’s too late.
Third is the Hunter. These are one of the faster infected in the game. They jump long distances, pouncing on whoever they can get their hands on. If one lands on your when you are away from your group it’s game over. They kill fast and if one lands on you there is no way of getting it off. Just keep with your group and a teammate will be able to shoot it or knock it off before it does too much damage.
Fourth is the Witch. Hearing her innocent sounding crying from inside a dimly lit parking garage is enough to fill your palms with sweat and your heart with terror. Make sure all teammates turn their lights off while looking for her to avoid alerting her to your presence. The best thing to do would be avoid her once you know her location, but there is an easy way of taking them out if you can master the art. But I’ll save that for the Left 4 Dead FAQ I’m going to be writing in the coming weeks.
Last and definitely not least is the Tank. This massive beast towers above all other infected, rampaging all over the place. When you encounter a tank the best thing to do is split up, wait for him to pick a member to go after (hope to God it’s not you) and cover him in explosive blasts of bullets and Molotovs.
That sums up the undead foes in the game. While it may not sound like too much, when you take into account the fact that every time you play a campaign the locations of the zombies are randomly generated. This means that no matter what, you’ll never know exactly where which infected will be lurking making each adventure fresh and new.
Left 4 Dead is an unbelievably awesome game with heavy emphasis on multiplayer cooperation to survive an intense zombie outbreak. With randomly generated levels and a huge online component, Left 4 Dead proves itself as a game you’ll be playing nonstop for the next couple of months, if not longer.
- Controls work very well
- Audio fits perfectly
- Amazing multiplayer
- Who doesn’t love zombies?
- Nearly unlimited replay value
- Source engine needs updated
- Disturbing the Witch
Overall: 9/10 (Near perfect)
Story: 9/10 (Play through a Zombie movie. Awesome)
Gameplay: 9.5/10 (Decimate zombie brains with friends)
Controls: 9/10 (Controls work well and are all customizable)
Graphics: 8/10 (Source engine is competent but could use an update)
Audio: 9/10 (Sound effects are used properly and always sets the mood)
Entertainment Value: 9.5/10 (Unbelievably strong replay value, will keep you busy for months)