- Title: Left 4 Dead
- Publisher: EA
- Developer: Certain Affinity/Valve
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: FPS
- Pros: Great co-op experience; game changes every time you play; tons of zombies onscreen at once
- Cons: Relatively short (although it does change each playthrough); occasional glitches and issues
Left 4 Dead is a game about surviving the zombie apocalypse in B-movie fashion. The campaign is split into four “movies” that take you through hospitals, subway tunnels, city streets, train yards, and more as you try to fight your way through the undead and reach a point where your survivors can escape. Perhaps the best part about the game is how realistically the levels are designed. The game so effectively immerses you into its world because everything is happening in locations you instantly recognize. This isn’t some make believe city, or isolated research depot, this zombie apocalypse is happening right in your back yard. And any real zombie fan that has fantasized about just this scenario isn’t imagining themselves in Raccoon City, they are imagining themselves fighting through their hometown, and that is exactly the feeling that L4D gives you.
Each of the four campaigns takes anywhere between 45 minutes to a couple of hours to play through depending on the difficulty level. You can play them in single-player and have three A.I. teammates, or with three other people in some of the greatest co-op ever created. There is also a competitive multiplayer mode that pits a team of survivors against a team of infected (with plenty of A.I. zombie backup).
The second thing that L4D does to keep things fresh is by introducing special infected that are much more powerful than the normal zombies. They include the hunter, which can leap great distances and pin you down. The smoker, who has a long tongue that grabs survivors and pulls them towards him and also has a noxious haze around him. The boomer, who violently explodes when shot but also vomits on survivors, at which point the normal zombies go into a feeding frenzy and rush you by the hundreds. The witch, who you can year crying from far away and is extremely powerful if you are foolish enough to disturb her. And the tank, a massive bullet sponge that can destroy your party very quickly.
Another aspect that really helps L4D shine is that you really do have to work as a team in order to survive. You have to save other survivors that are trapped by special infected. You have to revive survivors if they get knocked out. You have to heal them if they don’t have a med kit. And when a tank shows up, you need all hands on deck to kill it. If one survivor tries to play Rambo and run ahead, they will likely die. You can only survive if everyone stays together and works as a team. The A.I. does a decent enough job as your teammates, but Left 4 Dead truly shines when you play with other humans. This is one of the best co-op games ever, and while the single-player is quite fun, I advise having other people to play with either in local 2 player splitscreen or 4 player on Xbox Live.
Graphically, Left 4 Dead is pretty impressive. The zombie horde isn’t particularly detailed, but there is a fair amount of variety to them. The survivors are nicely detailed and look pretty good up close. The framerate stays steady even with tons of enemies onscreen, which is quite a feat. There are occasionally glitches where enemies will clip through walls or obstacles and get stuck and some other wackiness, but generally L4D is a smooth experience.
The sound is very good overall. The thundering sound of hundreds of feet running at you is pretty chilling, and the cries and howls of the infected are great.
Left 4 Dead is one of the best pure co-op games ever and is easily one of the best games of 2008. If you love shooters, if you love zombies, and especially if you love co-op games, you can’t go wrong with L4D.