How’s it look?
L4D runs on an updated version of the Source engine, so you can pretty much guarantee it will run great on any modern hardware setup you might have right now. We played the game on a Core 2 X6800 Extreme, with 2GB of DDR2 and a GeForce 8800GTS 640MB. We’ve also tested it on an AMD Athlon X2 5000+ Brisbane, with 2GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon 3850. We didn’t not see any frame rate issues or hiccups on either system. Both systems ran L4D at 1680x1050 and have run consistent frame rates throughout our playtime. [Ed- I’ve played the game with high frame rates on hardware as old as a GeForce 6800 GT and 3.8GHz Pentium D CPU with low detail graphics settings]
As far as actual graphics, while L4D looks good, it goes without saying that the Source engine, despite Valve’s near-constant graphical updates, is definitely getting long in the tooth. Textures just aren’t as sharp as more modern games and modern features, like bloom and HDR, just aren’t as good as in competing engines. That being said, the engine gets the job done and does it quite well, allowing a larger install base thanks to its lower system requirements.
L4D features excellent audio production that works extremely well to pretty much scare the living crap out the player. Positional audio is fantastic; with 5.1 speakers or headphones, you hear every little zombie shuffle or disgusting belch from the Boomer. Audio production is so well done, we were able to pinpoint the exact location of the Witch simply by the direction of her cries. There is very little music to speak of, except when you are approaching the Witch and it borders on the creepiest sounds you will probably hear in a game for a long time. We’ve played this game for about 20 hours so far, and it never fails that when you start to feel comfortable, something will jump out and cause you to scream a never-ending stream of profanities that could potentially cause your neighbors to call the cops, depending on your location. Valve has once again set the standard for audio production in video games, and many developers could learn a lesson about what it takes to create atmosphere through sound ambience.
Not everything is perfect with L4D however, as there are a few nagging bugs that do need mentioning. The matchmaking service can be problematic, especially during times of peak usage. We experienced many dropped connections in-between levels and even during a few games mid-chapter. Also, L4D seems to have trouble concerning mouse buttons and binding. For instance, the game allows you to heal a teammate by holding down melee, which we had bound to one of our mouse buttons. Unfortunately, the game never registered more than a button hit and would not allow us to heal a teammate this way, forcing us to rebind melee to another key. These are nagging issues that hopefully will be patched over time.