With Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios managed to craft a thrilling and eminently satisfying cooperative experience that will have you gripping your mouse and keyboard until you reach the next safe house.
Zombies are, without a doubt, one of the easiest enemies to include in books, films or video games. After all, they don’t speak, they resemble humans yet they are still monsters, they walk awkwardly and they have one simple motivation: eating your brain. Left 4 Dead takes all those cliches and throws them out the window, creating something fresh, unique and entertaining. With Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios (Counter-Strike: Condition Zero) managed to craft a thrilling and eminently satisfying cooperative experience that will have you gripping your mouse and keyboard until you reach the next safe house.
Left 4 Dead works on two levels, since this is both a first-person shooter and a survival horror game and fans of both genres will be left satisfied. At the beginning of each level, you start in a safe house where you can grab weapons, replenish your ammunition and patch yourself up with medical kits. Once you’re in the actual level, there are opportunities to pick up more of these items, but you’ll also struggle to do so when you’re surrounded by hordes of brain-eating creatures.
Shooting zombies has seldom being more satisfying. The undead react according to the body part you shoot, so you’ll see limbs flying off, heads explode and a lot of blood. This is a gruesome level of fidelity and realism. As you would expect, you have different types of weapons at your disposal, including a pistol (this is the only weapon that doesn’t ran out of ammunition and should you find another one lying around, you can dual wield them,) shotguns, machine guns, Molotov cocktails and one of the best ones is the pipe bomb, which attracts zombies and creates a satisfying bloody mess when it explodes.
It’s worth pointing out that Left 4 Dead was created with cooperation in mind, so even when you’re playing by yourself, there are three other teammates with you (there’s a four in the name after all.) When you can’t find three other humans to play with, the game will immediately fill all the empty slots with bots and interestingly, they do a remarkably good job. Of course, this game’s at its best when you play with other people online, so I wouldn’t recommend relying on bots too much.
But don’t think for a second that because you have three other teammates by your side that you have some sort of advantage. For starters, even regular zombies represent a threat when they come in hordes, since they rush towards you with incredible speed. Apart from the regular zombies (called infected,) there are different classes of enemies with unique properties. Hunters stalk you, jump on you and attack you with their deadly claws. Boomers are gargantuan creatures that explode when you shoot them which not only damages you, but they also vomit a substance that blurs your vision for a few seconds and this liquid attracts regular infected. Tank is a mass of muscles that rushes towards you and if he lands a punch on you, he will send you flying. Also, Tanks can throw pieces of concrete or cars towards you. Finally, the Witch is always crying in a corner, but should you attack her or make too much noise when you’re near her, she won’t stop until she turns you into shreds.
Left 4 Dead’s cinematic qualities are hard to ignore. There are dozens of references to classic horror films scattered around and the influence movies have had on this game are undeniable. Some of these references range from subtle (the music, for instance, is reminiscent of John Romero’s movies) to pretty obvious (the loading times are posters with the four protagonists prominently shown.) Likewise, the sound design is so good that deserves a mention. The first time you play the game, you’ll notice how each enemy produces a distinct sound, so even if you haven’t spot them, you know they are there somewhere. The music department is bone-chilling and detailed and you’ll hear the Witch cry, zombies growl and tank yell at the top of his lungs as he’s throwing punches.
There are three modes to participate in. In the campaign mode you play a series of missions either on your own or with a few online friends (of course, the latter is highly recommended.) In versus mode, you can assume the role of one of the survivors or one of the special zombies which not only represents and nice little twist, but this changes the game completely, since mastering the zombie abilities takes some time and is really fun. Finally, there’s a self-explanatory survival mode where you need to stay alive as long as you can.
Left 4 Dead combines two genres that have been mixed together several times and managed to revitalized them in unique ways. Not only is this one of the best first-person shooter survival horror games out there, but it’s also one of the most entertaining cooperative games you can find. The amazing sound design, iconic enemies, fast-paced gameplay and eminently satisfying shooting make Left 4 Dead easy to start playing and hard to stop.