Do you scare easy? You do? Good, then you’ll love Left 4 Dead which is developer Valve’s unique take on the zombie horror genre, a genre that single-player survival horror springs directly to mind. Left 4 Dead may smell like the remnants of such a videogame but you would be unwise to dismiss it so, read on.
The translation of movie to videogame has not always been the most successful in transition but what Left 4 Dead is not is an afterthought to some weak horror movie franchise. Instead, Left 4 Dead hunts down that stereotype and pulls it apart with glee, takes what is makes those movie experiences so good and throws back want it doesn’t need. Left 4 Dead is a videogame entity of its own creation and be sure that a movie of it WILL follow, even if it turns out to be too cheesy for its own good.
Left 4 Dead can be accused of low, even no storyline but this effects the experience very little and there is a little, if you are careful, snippets of story hinted at throughout the gameplay of levels. So no long cut-scenes in Left 4 Dead but in its place, Valve have worked in a wonderful sense of the horror movie feel into proceedings. In any of the games modes, be it single, co-op or the versus, the uniquely named AI director balances the flow and placement of zombies throughout the levels, making each play-through of a level a different experience each time. Swarms of zombies, and I do mean swarms, of what can be considered as fast-paced and agile as anything seen in the 28 Days movies, are interspersed by an ominous lull in gameplay. This adds greatly to the sense of foreboding and terror but also heightens the need for co-operative game play by each player – you can’t survive the onslaught alone and wondering away from your three allies(be they player controlled or not) will ultimately mean your quick demise.
Other than the horde of zombies to deal with are 5 unique zombies which are all as deadly, if not more so, than a zombie horde and need to careful approached: The Hunter which will pouch great distances and pin a player to the ground, Smokers will entwine the player with their long tongues and will spew a green gas when killed, Boomers vomit bile that will blind players in its goo that attracts the zombie horde – Boomers also explode nicely upon impact of a round or two, Tanks – the zombie Hulk crossed with the Thing, able to cause and take loads of damage and smack a player far from the group and lastly Witches who hide in dark corners, weeping to themselves – they’re vicious when confronted but can be avoid, if careful and a well place head shot from a sniper-rifle works wonders for survivor morale!
On to Multiplayer which is where Left 4 Dead comes truly alive or should that read dead?! Warning here is that if you approach this as a single-player shooter you’ll come unstuck and the experience will be totally unbearable – all thought must be given to cover and aiding your fellow survivor, if you are leading the team of survivors then remember to crouch or pull back when in a gun-fight, as friendly-fire stings just as much as a zombie leaching on your flesh.
Each new level, after successfully reaching the last levels safe-house, the player has a limited supply of ammo which also can be found but is often difficult to know where as the AI will place it in different areas upon a different play-through of a level but remember that the ability to heal yourself and other survivors in your four man team, is almost as important as the number of rounds in your weapons chamber.
Left 4 Dead is indeed what the horror and multiplayer genres needed from a videogame title, a sharp shocker even if it is somewhat short in stature. Left 4 Dead will grow in the minds of player long after the first completed campaign comes their way. A truly addictive multiplayer feast and be sure to look out for extra content coming to this title via DLC(Down-Loadable Content) in the very near future!