Review: Left 4 Dead
Getting by (in a zombie apocalypse) with a little help from your friends.
One of the busiest periods ever for top-quality releases draws to a close, and with it comes Left 4 Dead. A game which solely involves killing zombies can never go wrong, well… apart from Dead Rising (Matthew Kelly more like – Ed), and what we have here is probably one of the best examples. Being a Valve game you know it won’t disappoint.
The basic idea of the game is you, along with three other survivors, versus thousands of zombies while travelling from safe house to safe house until you are ultimately rescued. It plays pretty much like your typical FPS. You can only carry two guns at a time – pistols and either a shotgun, Uzi, assault rifle or sniper rifle. There are also Molotov cocktails useful for setting the ground on fire to create a deadly barrier between you and the undead, and pipe bombs rigged with an alarm to attract the hordes of zombies.
Health can be restored with first aid packs or pills which offer a temporary boost in health. When your initial health reaches zero you do not die but instead become incapacitated. When in this state you are not totally helpless, you can still shoot to fight off the attacking zombies who have most likely swarmed around you as you wait for a team mate to revive you before your secondary health bar is depleted.
The vast majority of zombies you encounter are the usual brain dead, bloodthirsty type you all know and love. They can be taken out with a swift melee attack and a bullet or two and are basically just cannon fodder but it is easy to become overwhelmed and overpowered by their sheer numbers, especially if you stray off alone which is never advised.. The stronger boss-type zombies are a whole different matter. First of all is the Boomer, slow and shambolic but can cover you in bile which causes only you to be targeted by the hordes of zombies. The Smoker constricts you with its chameleon-like tongue, injuring you while allowing other zombies a free hit or two. The Hunter leaps and pins you to the ground, violently slashing away until killed.
The Witch, who is easily detected by her echoing crying, only attacks when disturbed and instantly incapacitates whoever was foolish enough to do so. Finally there is the Tank. Basically think of the Hulk, only less shit and more zombie. This brute’s punches are strong enough to knock you afar, and it can also tear up and throw chunks of concrete to injure and stun you. By far the most dangerous and tricky foe you face, Tanks mostly spawn at the end of each campaign as you await rescue, basically the AI Director giving you the finger before your escape.
With only four campaigns split into five chapters, it may seem a little light on content at first but that problem is solved thanks to the infamous â€œAI Directorâ€. This spawns the zombies in different locations throughout the level along with the weapons and health items, and also controls when the music fades in and fades out in time with zombie attacks. Whenever there is a moment of calm you just know that something awaits you around the next corner. Semi-scripted â€crescendoâ€ events during some levels involve tasks like, for example, calling a lift and fighting off the zombies until it arrives. The finale of each campaign is where the Director throws everything it has at you. After summoning a rescue you have to fight wave after wave of infected for ten minutes or so until rescue arrives. Definitely the most frantic part of the game, often leaving you rather exhausted and relieved by the end, whether you die or not.
This is a game that really needs to be played with friends, the AI just doesn’t compare to playing it with real people. It’s not that they’re rubbish, it’s just a lot easier to co-ordinate your defence/attack. It is also really really fun to hear someone scream like a big girl, because they’ve been attacked by a special zombie.
Versus mode is really good fun, playing as one of the super zombies is an awful lot of fun. Being able to find a good place to hide before attacking and pouncing causing chaos. The big problem is that at the moment there are only two maps you can play Versus on. The fact there are only four playable zombie types is a bit weak as well. Constantly spawning as a hunter gets very repetitive.
The thing is though these are all minor flaws that can be sorted by DLC. The problem being is as this is the 360 version when will Valve get around to releasing this DLC. We’ve been waiting ages for the TF2 content that PC players have had for ages (and for nowt).
So in conclusion this game is great fun played with friends and gets a bit rubbish when played solo. I just hope any extra maps come soon and aren’t overly expensive, otherwise this game will get repetitive quickly.
Secondary Score: 7/10
Of course surviving this all on your own is out of the question and you are accompanied by three allies. When controlled by the computer AI they are pretty impressive, barely ever missing their shot and always offering to heal you when you need it. But they do exhibit some clumsy and annoying behaviour, including a nasty habit of disturbing Witches for no apparent reason and dithering about when right next to a safe room. Get the hell in for god sake Zoey! While two player split-screen is available, this game is best played online with friends. While they won’t be anywhere near as generous with health packs as the AI-controlled characters, they are certainly a lot smarter…well most of the time anyway.
As well as the co-op campaign mode, Left 4 Dead also offers a verses mode for up to eight players where you either play as the Survivors or the Infected. This mode is only playable on two of the campaign maps and you switch sides after each chapter is completed. When playing as the Infected you don’t play as the normal zombies, only the boss zombies except from the Witch. You chose your own spawn location as long as you aren’t within view of the survivors. Points and score multipliers are gained depending on how much damage you deal to the group of survivors. While as the infected you can be downed in a few shots, a carefully co-ordinated attack can easily cause havoc for the survivor. Hopefully at some point in the future Valve will patch this mode to allow all four maps to be playable in this mode, rather than just two.
Aside from the intro movie the game doesn’t dwell on revealing much of the story. Zombie outbreak is pretty much all you need to know. There are, however, various messages scrawled on the walls of each safe house from previous occupants. Messages to friends who have been split up, locations where people are heading, meet-up points, evacuations etc. Little touches such as this make the game all the more special. Nothing much is revealed about the four survivor’s back stories either but the random lines of quirky and often funny dialogue at least offers some insight to their character.
Despite initially feeling rather short and low on content, the AI Director provides a good incentive for multiple replays due to the element of randomness. Being massively outnumbered while mowing down hordes of savage zombies with a shotgun never gets old. Left 4 Dead’s emphasis on teamwork offers some of the most enjoyable co-op experiences on Xbox Live and in turn makes it one of the best co-op titles available.