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Left 4 Dead Review

October 13, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Left 4 Dead by Valve Software is a first-person shooter that fits into a lot of categories. First-person, action, survival, shooter, and, of course, zombies. The player is put in one of many environments, each overrun by zombies, with three other survivors trying to fight their way to some means of escape.

From the brief description I’ve given so far, if you were one of those few that hadn’t played this game, you might have thought that the quality of such a game could go either way. I mean, we’ve seen lots of zombie survival games before, with mixed results. Fortunately, Valve nailed almost every quality in this title. Left 4 Dead shows a careful design toward teamwork and cooperative play, and as such, the game is best played with 3 other friends. Survivors may be healed by other survivors if they become injured, or revived in the case of being incapacitated. If your team is being rushed by a two-hundred zombie horde and some 10-foot monster (and I mean “rushed,” you will find very few snail-paced stumbling zombies here), you all had better use your weapons and explosives together, and to great effect. In moments like these, the action becomes quite intense, and players quickly become wrapped up in the action.

The graphics are excellent, there are several types of zombies to keep things fresh, enough choices of weapons and explosives to give the player strategic options, and the level design produces an atmosphere filled with details and effects that complete the zombie survival experience. There is also a versus mode, where four players fight as survivors in one of the campaigns toward rescue, while the other four play as special zombies, along with hundreds of computer controlled zombies, to stop the survivors. It’s a fairly interesting gameplay mode, and faster-paced than a normal campaign. It’s not especially groundbreaking, and playing as the infected seems a little glitchy sometimes, but it brings a competitive multiplayer side to the game. There is also a Survival mode, which challenges players to stay alive against a huge and nearly constant supply of zombies, for as long as possible, which makes for very tense and concentrated combat.

There were a couple of things that bothered me though. While the environments and areas are nicely varied, the gameplay of each campaign is very similar to the others. The survivors start out toward rescue of some kind, and from time to time they must do something which allows them to continue or even escape completely, but also alerts a horde of zombies to their presence, resulting in a big stand against hundreds of zombies. These are great scenes, but I saw them coming by the time I finished the game. This brings me to the other bother: there is almost no story of any kind. All the player can gather is that they are stranded somewhere, where there happen to be many, many zombies, and they wish to leave said environment. For some reason, the same survivors become stranded in these zombie-infested regions several times. There are somewhat likable and interesting characters, but no back-stories. There are thousands of zombies, but no apparent cause, and no work toward cure or resolution to said crisis. It seems like Valve had a good opportunity, but they didn’t really include any of that facet of the atmosphere. I realize that zombie stories may be tough to work out without a cheesy result, so maybe Valve simply decided against it for that reason. Luckily, though, Valve did such a good job otherwise that you hardly notice these things most of the time.

Overall, Valve did a great job with this one. Left 4 Dead must be one of the best games in terms of cooperative play and intense action that I’ve played. It lacks a bit in story elements, but it more than makes up for it with heavy, fast-paced action and strategic teamwork.

Feel free to leave comments with your take on the game or the review.

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