Left 4 Dead

2008-12-07 21:54:08

Left 4 Dead (Xbox360)

Ah zombies, it's hilarious how the Zombie genre has taken the world by storm, and in no greater amounts than in the US. Ironic in that the Zombie genre was originally created to mock us and our gluttonous hyperconsumerism. The romps in the malls being a signature piece of most Zombie movies. I am a fan myself of the Zombie genre, as can be seen from the zombie proofing badge at the bottom of every page. I've read the recent works by Max Brooks(Zombie Survival Handbook and World War Z) which are great zombie apocalypse books, and I've also played Dead Rising(enough to even get the Zombie Genocider Achievement.) Before the coming of Left 4 Dead I heralded Dead Rising as one of the few Zombie games that had some sense of polish, many Zombie games in the past were too gritty, too unpolished, too poor production to be considered as a good game. Dead Rising had it's pluses, but almost just as many minuses, such as the Psycho's that roamed the halls, none more frustrating than the 3 convicts in the jeep in the mall courtyard. The shitty Survivor AI ensuring that your quest to become a savior of all the survivors at once will be dashed again and again. The multiple reports of Red Ring and Disc Read Errors while playing. Then of course there was the fact that it was nearly impossible to play on Standard Def TV due to the fact that all the text was unreadable on SDTV, requiring a Monitor or a HDTV to really get the full experience. Despite all that it was the only game in town when it came to good zombie titles, which won it the coveted Platinum hits position selling enough copies to be worthy of re-release. Now we are at Left 4 Dead, a Valve/Turtle Rock production that gives the genre what it really deserves.

Left 4 Dead is a FPS as Valve is renowned for. Using the Source engine, which is the engine of choice for Valve since Half Life 2. It is a solid engine backed with Havok physics to allow for a fairly realistic game environment. The player plays as one of 4 survivors with friends or AI taking over the remaining 3 players. The game allows for 2 player split screen which is nice but also disappointing, as the xbox can facilitate 4 players, and this game just so happens to feature 4 survivors... sadly once again people with real life friends are left playing halo 3 and other FPS that are kind enough to have 4 player split.

The game at launch features a handful of weapons which cannot all be carried at once, so selections must be made. Everyone can carry dual pistols + 1 other main gun. I tend to lean towards the Shotgun/Auto-Shotgun as I enjoy splattering multiple zombies per bullet, and being efficient. The starting choices for any episode are always Shotgun/Uzi, that is it. Once you get midway through a episode, you may find upgrades in the form of Auto-shotgun, Assualt Rifle, and Sniper Rifle. the Sniper Rifle is for those mostly comfortable with shooting the pistols that carry infinite ammo, using the sniper to take out special zombies from ranged. Hopefully Valve releases some additional content packs as the game grows longer in the tooth as many people would probably like to see some additional options, such as different kinds of assualt rifles, different kinds of pistols, and of course a double barrel sawed off could be a treat to fans of the Evil Dead lineage of movies. Each character can also carry 1 grenade weapon, which comes in the form of Molotov or Pipe Bomb. Pipe bombs are useful against standard zombie swarms as the pipe bomb has a noisemaker outfitted on it so it attracts the hordes to it, getting them away from the survivors and blowing them all up in 1 chunky salsa mess. Molotovs keep burning zombies for extended durations so are best used in taking care of the harder to kill zombies like the witch, and the tank. There are also Propane Tanks and Gas Cans that can be used as grenade like weapons and for creating firewalls blocking the zombies away from the players. So while there are no gradient choices in terms of equipment(like say AK47 instead of M4 Carbine) there is still plenty of uniqueness to help make each game a different experience..

Each survivor is alloted 1 healthpack at the beginning of the session and the game randomly inserts more throughout the map, or not, since it is truly random. There are always healthpacks inside the safe house, but once again only 1 per survivor. You will also come across pain pills throughout the maps, these take the edge off giving you a temporary boost of health, but that boost wears out over time. The game emphasizes teamwork so sometimes you will use the healthkit on yourself but you might also find yourself healing fallen comrades in order to keep them in the fight..

The game AI is a unique one, as most AI is just a series of scripted events that occur the same way every time. The AI for this game, known as the Director, evaluates the progress of the survivors and scales the difficulties as needed to keep the game an intense experience. The game will randomly spawn hordes of zombies to come bum-rush the survivors, keeping them pinned down and using resources, other times it will make use of it's special zombies. there are 5 special zombies in Left 4 Dead, 4 of which are playable characters in the Vs Mode. The Boomer, is an obese zombie who spews vomitous all over the players, his Bile attracts the hordes of zombies to the players so anytime someone gets splashed you can expect to be overrun. The same also happens if you shoot the boomer in close range, as when he dies he explodes and sprays bile in an area of effect. Making ranged fighting with a boomer essential. Hunters are zombies that can climb and jump better than anything else in game, their specialty is flying towards the survivors pinning one of them down and going to town with his huge claws. The Smoker sounds like a guy who has had way too many cigarettes in his youth. Coughing and hacking the Smoker can lash out with his gigantic tongue, pulling in the survivor for the kill. This is great to do from the roof so you can suspend the player character and have the other zombies play punching bag. Tanks are the final playable Zombie, the Director picks your zombie class for you when you play as the zombies, and the Tank is a covetted position, as the Tank is a rare zombie so it doesn't spawn very often, and when it does it's randomly alloted to a player who must then seek the players immediately, causing havoc. If the tank wastes time between hitting people he might find himself cast as another zombie instead, sa someone else picks up playing as the tank where the other guy left off. This is to keep someone from just slacking off playing as Tank. The last but certainly not least Zombie that is non-playable is the Witch. The Witch sobs and moans like an 8 yr old girl who just saw her first puppy die. any bright lights, gunshots or getting too close to her will scare her, piss her off and once she is pissed she bee-lines the person who scared her and guts them. 1 hit incapacitates any survivor, she is amazingly tough.

Multiplayer is fun as in co-operative play you are easier able to beat back the zombies with a friend than the AI, while the friendly AI is great, there are occassions when it will do some wierd stuff, like not following the party, or chasing after a zombie it really wants to kill. Sometimes the AI is too good, taking many of the special zombies down leaving you with table scraps. Vs is interesting as you alternate playing as the playable zombies and playing as the survivors in a 4 vs 4 match that goes through an entire campaign. There are 4 campaigns in the game, each that end in a standoff moment, as the players await rescue. The team will have to radio the rescue party and then hold off waves of zombies of all flavors (including often anywhere from 2-3 tanks) for about 10-15 minutes before the rescue arrives, and then the group will have to make a mad dash for the rescue vehicle.

Reason Rank
Start 10
Zombies! +5
4 player game on a 4 player console that doesn't allow 4 players on 1 console. -5
lack of weapon gradient -3
Awesome and fun to earn Achievements


Great Addictive Multiplayer Experience




There really isn't much more to be said about this game, it gets a lot of things right, is very polished and provides an unparelleled Zombie Game 13/10 with a possible Raging Geek game of the year award!