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Left 4 Dead on Game and Player

Left 4 Dead

Matthew Theroux  //  November 28, 2008

A unique co-op experience.


alve Corporation has proven to the world that it knows what it's doing when it comes to fun and entertaining first-person shooters with Left 4 Dead.

Left 4 Dead puts you in the shoes of one of four survivors in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Each of the survivors plays the exactly the same and has no unique abilities, so it really doesn't matter who you end up playing as. There are four different scenarios to play through, with five chapters to each scenario. Each scenario plays out the same way; the first four chapters are simple "get to the safehouse" endeavors while the final in each scenario is a survival round where you need to last until help arrives. While this may sound like a very basic setup for a game, Valve has included its own special touch to make this game something else entirely.

At its core, the game requires
cooperation with teammates.
This special touch is seen in how Valve arranges the game as a co-op experience. There are no illusions about this: Left 4 Dead at its core requires cooperation with teammates. You need other people to watch your back for you and to save you when you end up going down. People who try to go it alone will quickly find themselves getting in trouble with no one nearby to help. The co-op factor is heavily enforced by the existence of special zombies; these zombies have unique properties that make it nearly impossible for someone to go it alone.

You have the Hunter, who can pounce and pin a survivor.There's the Smoker, who uses his Gene Simmons-esque tongue to capture and drag survivors away from the group while strangling them. There's the Boomer, whose vomit and exploding death has the ability to attract zombies to the unfortunate survivor who gets hit by either. You have the Witch, who becomes a certain one-hit death for the person who startles her first. And of course, there's the Tank. The Tank is a hulking, bullet-absorbing behemoth who can spell certain doom for an unprepared team, particularly on the harder difficulties. All of these special zombies are essential to the Left 4 Dead experience, as they ensure that players work as a team.

What is also unique about this game is that each map changes every time you play it — even when you start a level over after dying. While the basic map geometry stays the same, zombie locations, weapon placement and health caches are randomly placed throughout the level, making each playthrough truly. In addition, you have the AI director: what the director does is to subtly change the zombies you'll be facing based on how well you're doing. If you're getting constantly assaulted on all sides by zombies the director will give you a brief break from all the fighting; on the other hand, if your team is clearing out the undead like in an Evil Dead movie then the director will toss in a Tank, or put a Witch in the middle of where you need to go, or find an interesting combination of special zombies to ruin your good time. It ensures a dynamic, fun and intense gaming experience.

On the multiplayer side of things there is the obvious co-op section, but there is also the versus mode. In versus players are randomly assigned to a side, either survivors or zombies. Zombie players get to play as one of the special zombies (except for the Witch) with the goal of wiping out the survivor team. This mode is extremely challenging, as not only do the survivors have to worry about the zombie hoard but thinking zombies as well. However, things are balanced out because after the survivors escape or are massacred, teams are randomly selected again to level the playing field.

Other aspects of the game are also well done. Graphics look beautiful with the lighting effects being of particular note. Sound design is also good, music is subtle with some clues thrown for those who pay attention to let you know what's coming. Gun blasts and explosions are loud and satisfying to hear. When you're playing alone the AI for your teammates is pretty strong.

Gun blasts are loud and
satisfying to hear.
The only time I had issues with AI teammates was when I tried to rush through a level.

The only major complaints that I can make about this game is that at times the AI director can really screw you over at times, and the weapon selection is a bit limited. Understandably, each weapon is well suited for the role that they play, but it would have been nice to have seen a bit more variety in them. My last criticism is that even after a while the maps get a bit repetitive. What would have been nice to see is to have alternate paths get randomly blocked off, forcing you to take a new path each time — that probably would have extended the replayability even more.

If you haven't already you should definitely check out Left 4 Dead. It's probably one of the best gaming experiences you'll have all year.

Left 4 Dead



Valve Corporation


Valve Corporation

NA Release

November 18, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Co-op gameplay at its best
  • Map layout changes


  • AI director extremely unfair at times
  • Limited number of weapons

G&P Rating

Articles by Matthew Theroux

July 29, 2009

G&P Latest

July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

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