Developer: Certain Affinity, Valve
Release Date: 11/17/2008
Also Available On
The Good: Gorgeous sound and visuals, great characters, realistic looking zombies, powerful weapons, addictive online multiplayer, a true zombie simulator
The Bad: Lacks content, very short, not so fun offline, not much story except the intro movie
Once again Valve brings us another great game using their Source engine that brings all the elements of Left 4 Dead to life (or death???) The first thing you’ll notice (mainly Valve fans) is that the Source engine has had a next-gen upgrade (even more so than Portal) and everything looks amazing. While HL2 fans will notice some sounds and elements of the engine from those games it doesn’t really bother you. The game looks stunning with excellent lighting effects, awesome AI (enemy and friendly), great character models, hi-res textures, and just everything you’d expect out of the Source engine. L4D, however, isn’t really a single player only experience; in fact you won’t even see the full potential of this four player game unless you play online.
The game is comprised of four campaigns and each campaign has five levels. Each level gets longer and more and more difficult with a final level where you have to face off hundreds of zombies until your rescue transport arrives. At the start of each campaign you get to choose of the four characters (each character just starts out with a different weapon). Speaking of weapons I was disappointed in the small selection that there was (just pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and a sniper rifle along with bombs and molotovs). The basic idea is these four characters have to cover each others’ butts through these levels while you face off massive hordes of zombies. The whole idea is a bit more in depth with some gameplay elements thrown in there. For example zombies are attracted to noise and light, so if you keep your flashlight on near zombies they’ll charge after you. Shoot a car that has it’s headlights on and you’ll have to face off dozens of zombies charging at you because you set off the car alarm. Killing these zombies is fairly easy since a few shots will bring them down, but its sheer numbers that makes up for this.
There are over 150 different zombie types, but there are a few “special” zombies that are harder to take down. These are the Tanks (massive zombies that will take all four people to bring down), Smokers (these guys have super long tongues that snatch you up), Boomers (no not like in Gears of War if these guys vomit on you they attract more zombies and same if you blow them up if they’re too close to you), Witches (you hear them cry through levels and if you disturb them they’ll take you down and you are down until someone revives you), Hunters (which are super fast moving zombies that pounce on you and eat you until someone saves you). This changes gameplay up along with certain sections require you to do something such as hit this switch to move this and while this is happening you have to fend off hordes of zombies. The game is probably the only “zombie simulator” out there because they just act and look so real and you really do feel helpless in the middle of nowhere with hundreds of zombies around you.
Of course you’ll blow through the four campaigns in about 3-4 hours, but it’s the great online play that extends the replay value. The way levels are played out are very original as well since you have to get everyone into a “safe room” at the end of the level (look for the red door) and close it thus the next level loads and you get to restock on health and ammo. Throughout levels you may find rare ammo stocks, pipe bombs etc. It’s the final levels that really are hard since you have to fend off so many zombies and this can be hard in single player since the AI won’t go anywhere unless you do. When your transport arrive you MUST start heading towards it before it gets to you because if you’re surrounded by dozens of zombies you’re dead. If your team mates die they tend to respawn in closets or behind closed doors. Once you run out of health you can be healed by other team mates or take pills to temporarily fill your health. L4D is a wonderful game, but it’s tight on content and lacks more maps that we need (Valve sucks when it comes to DLC). I highly recommend this game for a great online multiplayer game.