Left 4 Dead
Some things have always gone great together: peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and of course, the ultimate combination -- zombies and high doses of gratuitous violence.
Some things have always gone great together: peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and of course, the ultimate combination — zombies and high doses of gratuitous violence. Valve's highly anticipated cooperative survival shooter has finally arrived, but does it live up to the flesh-munching, sinew-snapping, shotgun-pumping hype? The short answer is a highly enthusiastic "yes". The long answer would be a somewhat MORE enthusiastic, "Boomer to your left! Flank the Horde, flank the Horde! BOOM — headshot!"
- Tight controls, amazing variety, pulse-pounding gameplay
- Slightly dense AI allies, campy dialogue, can get repetitive
The team at Valve has delivered another amazing experience with their latest effort, the survival FPS Left 4 Dead. With an amazing range of variety, unprecedented team dynamics and a genuinely frightening atmosphere, L4D is the game horror enthusiasts and trigger happy shooter fans have been waiting for.
Evil in your Residence
It's finally happened: the zombie apocalypse is upon us. What exactly spurred this epidemic of the walking dead? Illegal pharmaceutical outbreak? Ancient ritual gone awry? My question to you is, when you're standing before a rampaging behemoth known simply as the "Tank", molotov-cocktail in hand — does it really matter? Left 4 Dead chronicles four heavily-armed Survivors who — under the rather unfortunate circumstance of an undead invasion -- are forced to fight alongside one another in order to put an army of corpses back in their shallow graves.
Even with the game's limited selection of playable Survivors, L4D's characters don't share any special attributes or skills that really separate them from their gun-toting counterparts. Where this may feel like a letdown for some, this design choice definitely has its perks as gamers won't be rushing to snag the "best" character out of the four, their differences purely aesthetic. The way the Survivors play is completely up to the person holding the controller -- and in most cases, the adrenaline-filled fire-fights will more than likely have you forgetting who you chose to begin with. While it would have been interesting to see a class system implemented or certain abilities available for specific characters, as long as you have a team-mate with a first-aid kit, there's no reason to even bother shouting "Medic!"
Down in the Ground
Each player is allowed two default weapons — a pistol with limitless ammo, and a secondary firearm ranging from assault rifles to automatic shotguns. Variety is certainly the spice of life in L4D, as each weapon handles remarkably different, allowing players to really carve out their own niche and style of gameplay. From sniping Smokers with the hunting rifle to a steady stream of bullets with the submachine gun, L4D's weapons cover all of your basic zombie-massacre needs, including incredibly rewarding melee attacks from the brunt of each weapon. Survivors also have four basic item slots designated for flashlights, homebrewn explosives, med-kits, and bottles of pills for quick healing. When playing as the Infected in Versus mode, however, your range of attacks change from simple firearms to incredibly inventive (and oft-disgusting) forms of taking down your opponents, from vomiting streams of Horde attracting bile onto the oncoming survivors to giving a quite literal tongue-lashing to your foes. No matter how you decide to play, Left 4 Dead's got you covered in variety, style, and control with even the swift clawing that comes from a Hunter's rotting hand feeling incredibly natural with a squeeze of the left trigger.
The Spice of the Afterlife
Okay, we've covered the why, what and who — let's talk about L4D's strongest asset: the gameplay. From the get-go, players are given the option to choose from one of four gore-filled Campaigns, each chronicling the Survivors' quest to simply make it from point A to B in one piece. Sure, this sounds simple enough on paper, but throw in an army of fast-running, grossly-mutated, insanely-relentless zombies that put George Romero's imagination to shame and you've got yourself a bit of a challenge. The Campaigns can be played episodically; either with AI controlled allies watching your back, or, ideally, a group of friends over Xbox Live. Now, when I say that Left 4 Dead is the definitive reason to subscribe to Live, I mean it; this is a game you're going to want to play with friends, then spend the next day talking about how much fun you had the night before. While the AI does an adequate job of keeping you enthralled and interested, nothing beats fighting off a mob of Horde as you try to resuscitate an incapacitated friend, or the classic "Behind you!" that you'll no doubt hear screamed time and time again through your headset.
The cooperative aspect of Left 4 Dead isn't just for show, believe me; one member of your party wandering off could cost your Survivors their lives. Thankfully the Survivors all have a bright blue aura about them that lets you keep track of their whereabouts at all time. Incapacitated or injured teammates share a green glow, cueing you for when it's time to bust out the med-kits. One of my favourite aspects of Left 4 Dead is the absolute unpredictability of each level. You can play any of the intricately designed levels from the game's massive Campaign a number of times, but with random spawn points and numbers for both enemies, items and weapons alike, you're almost guaranteed to never experience the same level twice.
All in all, I can't recommend Left 4 Dead highly enough. With an intense, pulse-pounding Campaign mode, a brilliant twist on convention with the game's Versus mode and an overall mind-blowing experience from the moment you pick up your first gun, you know that Valve's delivered another amazing product that's more than worth a look.
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