Leave it to Valve to create a game with no story, no character development, virtually no single player experience, but it’s averaging close to 90%. There isn’t much to Left 4 Dead, but that’s part of what makes it so great! If you’ve played a shooter before, you can jump right in and start blasting zombies while only a handful of hints will pop-up to make sure you’re on track. It’s simple nature makes it extremely accessible, and the 4 player online co-op couldn’t be more fun!
Not Much To It
Left 4 Dead consists of 4 campaigns each with 5 chapters, which are essentially different scenarios with the same goal. You play as one of 4 survivors who need to escape the zombie filled city. There are safe houses along the way, which act as checkpoints that are packed with med kits, weapons, and ammo. They break up the action nicely and give you a chance to resupply, and let your heart rate slow down a bit. The final chapter in each campaign is pure chaos! There’s a final safe house where you call for rescue, which takes 5-10 minutes to arrive from the time you put out the call. During that time, you have to hold your ground against wave-upon-wave of zombie hordes. When your ride finally arrives, you make a desperate run it, which makes for some of the most intense moments in the game where you’re lucky to escape with all 4 survivors.
Meet the Zombies
Zombies are generally in human form, but they’re really fucking fast! Think 28 Days Later, where you hear them, then see them running full tilt straight at you, from every direction. During the No Mercy campaign, there’s a hilarious bit of dialogue between the characters regarding the speed of the zombies.
Along with your typical zombies, there’s special zombies, each with their own unique abilities. Some of which are extremely difficult to take down if you don’t have all 4 survivors helping out. Each has their own telltale sign that builds suspense in an instant. And some can be bypassed all together, if you’re careful.
There are triggers through-out the game which alert the horde, sending an onslaught of zombies your way. Car alarms being one of them – you get a warning beep from an armed vehicle if you get too close. Or there might be an interior light flashing. Trigger that alarm, and you’re in for it! The game displays a nice little message placing blame on whoever alerts the horde, so you can pummel them if you happen to be sharing the couch, or just heckle them via your headset.
Yes, You Can Play As a Zombie!
To offset the co-op mode, is versus. Another take on survivors versus zombies, except it’s an 8 player game, where 4 players will assume the roles of special zombies. The roles change from chapter-to-chapter, as players exchange sides and are automatically assigned a character. It’s a very clever way keeping the games balanced and ensuring everyone gets a chance to play as each character.
Shallow and Short
My only complaints are the amount of content and the long term outlook. With only 4 campaigns, each weighing in at between and hour or 2, you’ll play through them pretty quickly. Granted, each play through will be completely different, there’s still not an abundance of content here. Having seen how Valve favors the PC platform over the consoles, I have a feeling we Xbox 360 gamers will be getting the shaft when it comes to updates and DLC. Fingers crossed that this isn’t the case.
Left 4 Dead has exceeded my expectations and is currently my pick for multiplayer game of the season. Even over Gears 2’s Horde, I’ve been having so much more fun playing Left 4 Dead with friends.