|Left 4 Dead|
|Platforms||Xbox 360, Windows|
|Genre||Dead-on, excellent shooter|
|Buy from Amazon|
When I heard the announcement for Left 4 Dead, I was enormously elated. Finally, a game dedicated to fast-paced zombie action. A game I could rely on to really satisfy my urges to kill a swarm of infected. Then, when I saw the videos of people at E3 playing it for thirty minutes and then heading to the back of the huge line to play it again, there was no question.
My hunger for a real zombie game had been stirring for years. I hated Resident Evil, and still do. The idea of searching around everywhere and solving more puzzles than killing zombies -- I was disgusted. The only thing that helped curve my thirst was Counter Strike: Source, where my friend and I would play “zombies” by pitting ourselves against 30 or so bots and allowing them to only use knives. I was even happier to hear that was the way Valve decided to make Left 4 Dead. They did the exact same thing.
I was counting the days in November, 2008, for the game's release. Every day at college just seemed to drag on and on, forever, until finally the day came. My classes felt longer than those of my final days before Christmas Break. When I got done with school the day of Left 4 Dead's release, I went straight to the store to pick up the game.
I purchased the PC version, and played through the entire game in a very brief period of time, but that was okay. With all of the achievements to be had, as well as the scoring and varying difficulty levels, this game had more replay-ability than any game I had played before or since. It never gets old. I love this game, and now I own it on Xbox to play the game cooperatively with my wife. We also spend quite a bit of time online playing against other players.
This game plays like butter. It’s the lack of complications that make things really smooth and easy to play. You’re never hampered by the controls, and the glitches are few and far between.
There aren’t very many guns, but that’s okay. This game isn’t about arsenals. You start off with a pistol, and the choice between a pump shotgun or an UZI. The UZI, of course, fills the air with lead but the shotgun has more stopping power. The pistol is the only gun with unlimited ammo and you will eventually find a second pistol for dual-wielding.
Later, you have the selection of three bigger weapons: a hunting rifle with a scope, an M16, and an automatic shotgun. The rifle has great penetration, killing multiple zombies with a single bullet, or going through doors and the like. The M16 is basically a bigger and more powerful Uzi, and the Auto Shotgun is a bigger, more powerful shotgun.
There is also a pipe bomb, which beeps and draws the attention of common infected which is great for when the horde is after you, and Molotovs, which, of course, burn everything within a certain radius, creating a deadly wall of fire which can take down the most powerful of the special infected, the Tank, and wall off the horde to help you concentrate your fire in fewer areas.
While there are few weapons, they’re all fun to play with, and I feel that it makes the game simplistic enough for almost anyone to enjoy the game. This is, more or less, an arcade shooter designed to pick up and play at the draw of a hat.
You each start with a medical kit, which heals you for a certain amount of health. There are usually one or two spares you will find within a campaign, but they are hard to come by and extremely valuable. The other healing tool are pills, which will give you temporary hitpoints that drain away over time. These I found to be most useful in times of escape.
There are several campaigns to choose from, all having the characters go from point A to point B, where point B leads the characters to safety. Every campaign ends in a finale which generally means holing up in one area, and mowing down hordes and battling tanks while rescue is on its way.
On top of the regular horde of infected, there are the special infected: the Hunter, the Smoker, the Boomer, the Witch, and the Tank.
The Hunter is an infected that leaps great distances and pins a survivor down and begins tearing him apart with claws. The survivor is helpless on his own and must have someone either kill the hunter or knock the hunter off of him.
The Smoker will use his extraordinarily long tongue to scoop you up and, essentially, hang you. Again, you are helpless and need the assistance of another survivor to escape. The survivor can save you by killing the smoker, knocking the smoker away, or by shooting its tongue. When a smoke dies, it explodes into a plume of smoke, making visibility low and making it difficult to pinpoint where you’re being hit.
The Witch is arguably the most powerful, but also the easiest to deal with. Seemingly harmless, she is found kneeling down and sobbing. Her glowing red eyes are normally all you can make out. However, if you startle her by making too much noise, shooting her, hitting her, or shining your flashlight on her, she will come after you and incapacitate you in a single hit and then begin to lash at you. While you are not completely helpless to defend yourself (you'll have your pistols while you're down), a survivor will have to help you up to keep you from bleeding out.
The Boomer pukes bile on a survivor, attracting all common infected to those vomited on. While slow, the Boomer is far more dangerous than the other two infected. When it is shot, it explodes in a mess of bile that can still hit survivors, making it necessary to melee the boomer back and away from survivors before dispatching him or else they will suffer the consequences. Not only does the bile attract common infected to you, causing a mad rush of zombies, it also blinds you.
The Tank is generally viewed as the boss zombie, often appearing only a handful of times. He is exactly how the name portrays him: he is a giant zombie with loads of health, the ability to slam cars at you, throw slabs of concrete at you, or pummel you with his fists which will send you flying back about fifty feet and dealing massive damage. While shooting him is primarily the means of killing him, molotovs are viewed as the most efficient and also extremely effective.
When a player's life is reduced to zero, he or she is incapacitated, and lays on the ground with pistols in hand. I have to say that when I first saw this, I was extremely pleased. It adds a dash of realism as well as stress as you’re blasting the horde around you, hoping that someone will save you. While on the ground, you get an extra lifebar that is far larger than when you are standing. When that reaches zero, you are dead.
You can revive fallen survivors, and they will be back on their feet, but only with 30 temporary hitpoints and a seriously debilitating limp that will make progress much slower. Not only that, but if you don’t get medical attention after two incapacitations, on the third, you’re dead. Once you a survivor dies, he must be rescued by the other survivors; the deceased survivor will appear with an orange halo about him in a closet and will shout for someone to save him.
The game has such an eerie atmosphere and great effects to give you the feeling that the crap has really hit the fan. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Humanity is on its last leg, and you’re basically trapped.
The gameplay in this piece of work is undeniably above and beyond satisfactory, and so very close to perfect. The only few complaints I do have is that the story does not quite go together. Each time the survivors escape, that’s supposed to be that. Instead of one long story of them trying to get shelter, it’s simply scenarios as if they had just gotten stuck in a different situation at the same time. As hard as that may be to understand, once you play the game, you’ll know what I mean.
Also, when you start playing on harder difficulties, you really need to have human teammates to survive. The computer players are fairly useless, and this is not a game where you can run ahead of your allies and manage to stay alive.
Fun Factor: 9
For those who love shooters, this game is a blast. What more is there to say? You need to get to point A from point B and you’ve only your fellow survivors, and your best friend: your gun.
There’s not much else to put here that hasn’t been covered in the gameplay section. It’s smooth, it’s fast, it’s scary, it’s disgusting, and it is a feast of virtually everything electronic entertainment offers.
It can be said, though, that even those that don’t prefer shooters, will often have a blast with this game because it is far different than other shooters. You’re not being shot at; instead, you’re fighting a horde of unarmed cannibals. So even for those that may dislike shooting or being shot, this adds a sort of tension that some may not find in games like Halo, Quake, or Half-Life.
This is the only real place I can complain. The source engine is old. Really old. It was first utilized in Half-Life 2 and Counterstrike: Source, both of which were released in 2004. Even though this game was made four years after than those, it still shows its age. Despite that, everything looks fine. But that’s it, just fine.
It doesn’t take away from the game, and the character models are done very well; it’s simply the backgrounds that need the most work. It is a dark game, but that doesn’t keep us from occasionally just looking around and enjoying our surroundings, and what we find is slightly above-average graphical design.
For a game with so little dialogue and so few cut scenes, the game delivers a story on a different level. In the safe rooms, which are brief safe havens between levels, there are words on the walls from survivors who had passed through. Some lend their advice, others leave notes to loved ones of where they are headed, and others even quote bible passages and swear it is the end of the world.
While this isn’t the kind of story you could really just watch your friend play and enjoy, it has a feeling all its own that should at least have an effect the first time around.
Left 4 Dead, while not without its issues, delivers to its audience something that zombie fans had been craving for years.
It’s not going to leave you stunned as you watch the Halo ring blow up as Master Chief flies off into space. It’s not going to render you speechless with the sinking of humanity’s last bastion of life like in Gears of War 2... but what it will do is make you play the game all over again. What more can you ask for?