Left 4 Dead

It’s you and three other people… plus a whole bunch of brain craving zombies out to get you. Does Valve’s new game stack up? Or does it just leave us wanting brraaaiiinnnss…

Oh my, Left 4 Dead is one intense game that breaks away from the norm. At its heart, this is a 4 player cooperative survivor game that puts you and your crew against hordes of Zombies. On top of that, there are a few layers to add to the fun. A single player experience starts it all off followed by an online options game that never plays the same way twice. After all of this, Valve then combine it with a “horror movie” aesthetic.

The Undead are not your slow, silly walking zombies. In Left 4 Dead the zombies can run really fast and will hit you in waves out of nowhere. There are a few special classes of zombies that the make mass-shootouts more intense and will keep you on your toes.

Valve – the makers of Half-Life, Portal, Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead – have developed a dynamic system they call “Director” which is essentially an artificial intelligence that controls how and when the Undead Horde will attack, where to place the advance classes, what music to play, and what ammo, weapons and health to give you at the drop zones. Valve’s Director system actually makes Left 4 Dead interesting, intense and a lot more fun than if the game had played the same way it did ten minutes ago.

Each for the four campaigns contain five stages or levels of increasing intensity. The campaigns cover a variety of environments and have a distinct feel to them, however they are all the same: shoot and move forward. The levels are linear, but you do have room to explore and find some alternative paths. However, once you know the shortest route you will probably end up sticking to it.

If you are only interested in the single player side of things you may end up a little disappointed. There are achievement goals and skill levels as well as the Director to keep things interesting, but really the single player experience is more like a training course for the online version. That said, completing any on the four campaigns on the Expert skill level is a real challenge.

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The online experience is where the game really shines. Jump into a match and work your way through a campaign with a bunch of strangers or friends. If you want to take a break from playing as a survivor, swap teams and play on the Zombie side! The Director A.I. will drop you in the level as one of the special Zombie classes and your job will be to take out the survivors. If you are killed, the Director will set a new class and a respawn time for you to re-enter the match. There are a bunch of achievements for playing as the Zombies as well.

Overall Valve have done an excellent job with Left 4 Dead. Playing only the single player version will get a little repetitive, but playing single player as a means of “getting to know the maps” will help a lot when you decide to take that step in the multiplayer realm. Online gameplay with friends or strangers is a total blast, though, and should absolutely be played. Left 4 Dead is a welcome break from the standard First Person Shooter and is highly recommended.

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Developer: Valve Software
Publisher: Valve Software / Electronic Arts
Classification: MA15+
Formats: Windows PC, Xbox 360
URL: Left 4 Dead

Reviewed by Ray Dow