Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead mixes film noir shivery tension with slick camera angles and offers ample opportunity to explode rotting heads with a well aimed burst from your assault rifle

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Left 4 Dead
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By  Julian Pletts Published  March 10, 2009

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Key Specs

Number of players: 1-4
Online play: Y
Price: $67

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Left 4 Dead mixes film noir shivery tension with slick camera angles and offers ample opportunity to explode rotting heads with a well aimed burst from your assault rifle. The game features what its makers call the ‘AI director’ ensuring the zombies that swarm the post-apocalyptical wasteland always find new and drastic ways to try and make you their lunch. But where this splatter-fest makes it mark is when it takes multiple-kills and last-second head shots and turns them into sport.

You choose to play one of four very charismatic survivors in a team that dash around campaigns trying to make it from one safe house to the next. Each team member has distinct and unique personalities and the interaction between the group, with friendly banter when the going is good and subdued moaning when injured, adds to the texture of the game. As you fend of thousands of the running-dead on your way to the next safe haven, it is a necessity to work in cooperation with your team mates.

You particularly rely on their assistance when athletic ‘hunter’ zombies pounce and proceed to tear strips of you or a demented ‘smoker’ lassoes you with a 20-foot long tongue and drags you to a bloody end. The co-op only really succeeds when you get real life friends or at least web-based ones in on the action. Singularly, it basically means that you run around blasting anything that burps until you get pinned or lassoed, then you sit incapacitated and wining until one of your AI team mates comes to the rescue.

It is not a surprise Left 4 Dead excels when you get some mates in on the action as it comes from Valve, the guys behind the Half-Life spinoffs and online team triumphs that were Counter Strike Portal and Team Fortress. As said, what is great about this title is not only is it an exciting new spin on the infected wasteland genre but it turns zombie pasting into sport. You will find yourself taking almost as much glee in a swarm of crazed monsters chasing after an ignited pipe bomb before it incinerates them, as you do in the end of a campaign score-table, where you performance is weighed and recounted.

Slaughtering the undead en-masse takes on a new meaning when your performance is measured against that of your fellow zombie killers. It’s no longer about blood lust but rather cold hard competition, but don’t forget that you get just as much credits for aiding a fallen comrade as you do for blasting your way through the horde.

There is also the frenetic ‘Versus’ mode to make the most of, which again is a made for online play. This feature turns the whole thing on its head as you get the chance to play as the infected and inflict as much damage as possible on the plucky warm bloods. As a zombie you will enjoy learning what it is you can and cannot do, for instance beware you are more delicate than the survivors, but you can climb certain walls they can’t and have the added bonus of being able to summon the horde to attack by literally vomiting on a survivor.

Despite the refreshing approach and feel to this zombie blaster-cum-sports trivia night, it fails to seriously challenge and the levels seem often so similar as to blur into one. Plus, it really isn’t difficult to follow the linear path through the wasteland and complete the relatively few tasks placed in your way to divert your attention from your shoot-reload-shoot-reload routine. Although the makers claim that there are more than 100 zombie types in this game most are pretty generic save for a very angry and slash happy witch zombie and the ominously named ‘tank’, which is basically a zombie with a steroid addiction. The tank is literally a nightmare to put down but once you and the team finally do, you will rush to the end of the level to find out who inflicted the most damage on it.

Left 4 Dead might not leave you wanting more, but it is commendable effort at moving zombie shooter games forward. If you enjoy cutting swathes through a ravenous horde of gaunt grey-faced assailants then this game will keep you happy, especially if you get together a set of like-minded button-bashers to help with the harvest. But don’t expect this title to hold on to your attention for too long. With its repetitive but enjoyable game play, limited arsenal of weapons and reliance on hordes of zombies to entertain, Left 4 Dead will most likely leave you sated but not overly challenged.

For: When you make the awesome head-busting kill before your team mates and finally see off the marauding horde baying for your blood.

Verdict: Exciting and chilling at times, Left 4 Dead is worth the time however, the single player mode is unlikely to have you coming back too many times. The multiplayer games on the other hand will most likely take on a life off their own.

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