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Left 4 Dead

Game Review

by zero

Left 4 Dead is a post-apocalyptic coop zombie shooter. Not only that, it is the best post-apocalyptic coop zombie shooter to date.  i know, i know, that’s saying a lot!

The game is a first person shooter where 4 players (up to 8 multiplayer in the Versus mode) team up (either humans or AI or a combination of both) to survive a zombie-filled nightmare.

The environments range from inner city to a forest landscape and they are beautifully rendered with Valve’s Half Life 2 engine. The HL2 engine is solid with very few flaws (occasionally tripping over items lying on the ground, etc.) The lighting and shadows are particularly nice, as are the changing facial expressions of the characters and zombies. Also, there is a huge variety to the clothing and appearance of all the zombies, which prevents the game from getting stale.

The pacing of the game is excellent…rarely ever a dull moment, since the game has an innovative AI Director which decides to spawn zombies at various times.  They were going for a cinematic feel (including the movie posters for loading screens) and for the most part, they succeeded.

The game strongly encourages cooperative behavior, which is a good thing.  It is an immersive experience that makes you really feel like you’re part of a team of survivors. Without you, your team would probably die; without your teammates, you would die.  This is not the game for people who only like to lone wolf it, as going off on your own is a recipe for disaster (or more likely, a recipe for brain stew – yours, of course).  Then again, being stuck on a team with selfish or clueless randos (random players) isn’t much fun.

In the multiplayer Versus mode, coop is just as important, as the zombies (the special infected) must work together to kill the survivors, especially since the default spawn time is 20 seconds…ugh. In the meantime, it would be nice if the dead zombie player could take control of one of the common infected while waiting to respawn.

The game isn’t perfect, however.  It could really stand to have more of a story to it, instead of the “You’re a survivor and there are a lot of zombies. Escape or die” story.  Literally, that’s about all the story there is to the game. 

The game features four different campaigns or stories, but they all feel very similar.  In fact, they are virtually identical in the sense that you just try to go from safe house to safe house while fighting the zombie horde.  At the end of each campaign, you reach a point that you have to defend for about ten minutes while masses of zombies attack.  Don’t get me wrong, i like that, but they need more variety – throw in a rescue mission, or defend a point the entire time, or simply escape without the same climatic zombie Alamo scene every time.

The voice acting is top notch and at many times, the characters will voice something helpful (i.e. – “Ammo here” or point out which way to go, or say if someone is under attack.)  There are over 1000 lines of spoken dialogue.  Impressive. 

i wish the game had more characters to choose from…yeah, yeah, i know it’s called Left 4 Dead, but it doesn’t have to be the same four.  It would help to add some variety to the game.  i’m guessing it’s the same four characters every time because of the sheer number of spoken lines. Perhaps there will be more characters to choose from in the sequel, Left 5 Dead (i could only hope they’d actually name it that.)

The game could use more weapons.  There are about ten, depending if you count generously (pistol and dual pistols, shotgun, combat shotgun, hunting rifle, M16, Uzi, Molotov cocktail, pipe bomb, gatling gun, propane/oxygen tanks, and melee.)  For some reason, the pistols never run out of ammo. i think they should change that for a more realistic experience and add some melee weapons (axes, chairs, table legs, bats, etc.) to compensate for running out of ammo.

There are plenty of achievements to get and most are fun to get. i think they should add one called “Hypocritic Oath” …it is one that i achieved already by killing someone by bashing them with the medkit.  Dear Valve, you have my permission to use that ;)

Also, dear Valve, throw in a zombie campaign where you play as the zombies hunting down any survivors in the city.

Bottom Line

The game is damn fun. With a few tweaks, this great game could be a superb game.

Pros Cons
  • Fun (with or without other human players)
  • Story can feel a bit sparse
  • Can play as the zombies
  • Can suck playing with clueless randos
  • Truly a coop game
  • Friendly fire (there really should be an option to turn that off)
  • Graphics are great
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Voice acting is superb
  • Not enough weapons



9.3 out of 10

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