Left 4 Dead provides an answer to the question that every man, woman, and child has asked themselves at some point in their lives. Could I survive the zombie apocalypse? Valve’s newest game on the Source engine puts you and three companions against the infected horde. Ultimately, you have one goal. Survive.
Left 4 Dead is broken down into 4 campaigns, or “movies.” In each campaign, there are 5 levels which the 4 survivors must travel through in order to escape and survive. Essentially, the players travel from safe-house to safe-house just trying to get to the end. It is clearly evident that Valve has paid quite a bit of attention to detail in Left 4 Dead. A touch that I particularly enjoy is the writing on the walls of the safe-houses from people who have passed through them earlier. Some of it can be humorous, such as the zombie kill-counts, but others can be slightly eerie. Regardless, it adds a certain touch to the game that gives it a great feel.
Graphically, Left 4 Dead is pretty impressive. It is evident that the Source engine is getting a little age to it, however, it has held up well. The game has a gritty feel to it, with a lot of dark environments. The lighting effects in Left 4 Dead are exceptional. With the environmental design of the game, the impressive lighting effects really showcase the amount of polish that Valve has put on the game.
The game play involved in Left 4 Dead is pretty straightforward. It’s a good FPS control scheme, which rivals the best controls for any console. Personally, I prefer to play with a mouse and keyboard, but it is tough to complain about the Xbox 360’s controls. The game’s “director” always keeps the flow of the infected horde coming from different angles. No single play-thru is the same. This aspect helps make up for the fact that there’s only 4 campaign’s at release.
The audio of Left 4 Dead can be eerie, disgusting, heart-racing, or even funny at times. Some comments from the survivors can help lighten the mood, while other times their comments lament the death of one of their fellow survivors. Either way, it contributes to the overall quality of the game. The witch’s sobbing and screaming can really be eerie, especially when you aren’t expecting her to be in a particular area.
Left 4 Dead has a very significant amount of replay value. The campaigns do not get old easily, allowing you to replay them over and over again. With that said, I’m still disappointed that there is not more content available at launch. I know that there are plans to add updates, but it almost felt like they nailed down everything, then started making content as an afterthought.
Other than the small amount of content, there are a few minor problems that I’ve encountered in Left 4 Dead. First and foremost, there are some glitches that make the game significantly easier. On occasion, zombies will get stuck inside an object and basically become immune to physical melee attacks. There is also a glitch where you are essentially invulnerable to the witch. Another glitch even lets you skip a major part in one of the levels of a campaign. Some objects also move easily and then can block the survivors from exiting certain areas. This is especially annoying in Versus mode during the No Mercy campaign. The zombies are able to push object s in the path of the survivors, trapping them in the elevator. Glitches aside, I’m also not sure why the Xbox 360 doesn’t have a text option on the screen. The PC allows players to input text quickly in order to communicate without using voice chat. It should be a simple implementation, but I just don’t understand why it is not there. My last major complaint is that there isn’t some sort of auto-start feature in the game lobby. I cannot count how many times I’ve been in a full lobby waiting for the lobby leader to finish doing something his mommy told him to do before he started playing. It seems that the game would benefit greatly from a process that automatically starts the game once the lobby is full.
With all of that said, Left 4 Dead is still one of the best games of 2008. There’s no doubt in my mind that Valve will fix the glitches and add a significant amount of content. For those of you who own a PC, expect it for free. Unfortunately, Microsoft has denied Valve from releasing bonus content for free over Xbox Live, so I expect that trend to continue. Left 4 Dead takes the zombie game genre in a very different direction that Dead Rising did, which is a good thing.
Left 4 Dead
Re-play Value: 90