Cooperative game play has been somewhat of a drag for PC gamers. You just don’t get the same sensation of playing with someone right next to you that you do over an Internet connection. However, this problem may become a thing of the past.
From the developers who brought you Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike and that wonderful graphics and physics engine (The Source engine) we all have come to love, comes Left 4 Dead: a simple, yet effective zombie survival shooter.
There really isn’t much of a story going on here. It is clear Valve put most of its efforts into game play. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when all you have to look forward to is a new gruesome way to kill zombies. Some players might want slightly more.
The highlight of this game is that four players team up online to get from a starting point to an extraction point, with a few safe zones in between, to stock up on ammo and health packets. Each level ends with a last stand while you wait for your extraction. There is no reference to how the infection of the zombies started, but they hint at a mutated form of the zombie virus causing these ‘special infected’ zombies in the opening video. We’ll get to that later.
There are only four different characters for players to choose from and not many levels to play. Each character plays and feels exactly the same, and with the small amount of levels, playing on the lower difficulties will only give players about four to five hours of game play time.
If you’re playing a zombie game, you know there are two types of zombies: the moaning, limping, slow walking, shoot them in the head to kill them zombies, and the holy mother these guys run fast zombies. Left 4 Dead strays from the boring slow-moving zombies to give that ‘holy crap’ feeling you want when fighting the undead.
It’s important to know you’re not fighting normal zombies. They’re fast, and there’s a boat load of them. Secondly, there are five of these ‘special infected’ zombies with special abilities to make your life as a gamer more difficult. For example, there’s the Boomer, which is an enormously fat, bloated bubbly looking zombie whose excrement will attract a horde of the infected. There’s also Tank, a Hulk-looking zombie who rips chunks of rock off the walls and throws it at you then proceeds to pound on your body while taking clip after clip of bullets before actually dying.
The combination of the zombies, ‘special infected’ and limited health rations forces players to play a lot more cooperatively then you would expect out of your typical game. This is what makes Left 4 Dead so original. Gamers will constantly find themselves kicking a zombie off a teammate when he or she is pinned, sharing their health rations to keep all four players alive, and walking slowly and together so not to get cornered or separated.
Of course with Valve’s source engine, you know it won’t look too bad, but they really haven’t changed much in it yet. If you decided to play on a console like Xbox 360, don’t. The graphics tend to look old and outdated. However it does seem some of the lighting features were amped up a bit in the PC version to immerse you into the game a bit more. It forces you to use a flashlight, limiting your field of view and making the surprisingly fast zombies seem that much more terrifying.
There was an attempt at another mode in which players can actually play as the ‘special infected’ while others play as the survivors, but again, it’s short, and its attractiveness dies away pretty fast. To get the maximum amount of play out of it, and the most enjoyment, skip the lowest game settings and go right for expert. This will really force you to play as a team and will seriously test your zombie hunting abilities.
A word to the wise: Don’t walk in front of your teammate with a pump shotgun when he’s about to shoot a zombie, just to get take the kill from him. It will hurt you a lot more than him.
Good hunting comrade.
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