Left 4 Dead Review
It was less than a year ago that Valve unleashed the Orange Box onto the world, showering gamers with a collection of some of the best games of the year, including Portal and Team Fortress 2. This year, it looks like Valve has done it again with the release of the Turtle Rock Studio developed Left 4 Dead, a zombie shooter that not only supports co-op gaming, but downright demands it. Left 4 Dead seems to take just about every zombie movie cliché, tosses them in a blender and hits frappe. What you get afterwards is a deliciously inspired gaming experience that seems to always get you to jump and scream, no matter how many times you play through the various campaign maps, whether it’s from the unseen attacks from smokers and hunters or the ominous rumbling (and ensuing cursing) from an approaching tank.
Turtle Rock Studios, a recent acquisition by Valve, only has a few releases to its history, like the Counter-Strike port for the original Xbox and various maps for Counter-Strike: Source. So it comes as a shock of sorts to see a first time release of this caliber, although it’s probably not as surprising when you consider they have all the weight of Valve behind them. Valve has obviously dedicated quite a bit of time to Left 4 Dead, and it shows in the spit and polish surrounding the game, but let’s take a look at the background info.
Story? We don’t need no stinking story!
Left 4 Dead is based around 3 modes: Co-op, versus, and single player, each one taking place during one campaign, with 4 campaigns overall. Each campaign is also broken up into smaller chapters and most campaigns are comprised of 5-6 chapters each. Each campaign is set in one of many hackneyed and overused zombie settings, i.e. Generic City, Generic Farmlands, an airport and woodlands. There is not a real story to speak of, and as such, a narrative is not really needed. As far as we are concerned, zombies have started attacking cities and we are doing anything and everything we need to survive, blasting, flaming, shooting, punching, and destroying our way to evacuation, and survival.
In the co-op and single player campaigns, you play as one of 4 distinct ‘survivors’ who must get through the campaign to get to an evacuation zone, while fighting off the zombie horde who want nothing more than to gnaw on your juicy, juicy brains. Each character has a distinctly different look, whether it’s the John McCain war vet “Bill” or B-Rock “The Hammer” Obama “Louis,” in his casual shirt and tie. Chapters are broken up between “Safe Rooms,” small, zombie proof areas that provide the player with ammo, weapons, and health packs at the beginning of each Chapter. In order to complete each Chapter, all living survivors must reach the safe room and shut the door. If a survivor dies before reaching the safe room, or if your teammates decide to sacrifice you for the greater good, then the remaining players must reach the safe room.
Versus mode works similar to co-op, only instead of going against an AI controlled zombie horde, up to 4 players control the survivors and another 4 control the “Zombie Bosses”, the Smoker, Hunter, Boomer, and, every few rounds, a Tank. Only 3 bosses are allowed at any one time, so when playing on a full team of the undead, you may find yourself time to time watching for a minute or two until one of your putrid, decaying buddies gets killed. The objective in versus is the same as co-op campaign, but it is up to the zombie bosses to stop the survivors from escaping. This is achieved thanks to the special abilities of each of the Zombie Bosses.