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Saturday | September 22, 2018
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Left 4 Dead (PC)

Left 4 Dead (PC)

Left 4 Dead is the newest team based game from Valve which puts you and some buddies into the role of a group of people battling against hordes of mutant zombies with a simple goal … to stay alive and hopefully escape. Is this a modern-day Valve classic or just another run of the mill zombie romp?

In true George A Romero style Left 4 Dead is based around the storyline that the zombie apocalypse is in place and has turned the mass population into a mindless, undead horde, hungry for human flesh. A handful of humans who remain are immune to the zombie virus and this where the game starts. There is Bill, the toughened war hero; Louis the middle class office worker; Francis, the biker and Zoey, a young lady. The idea is simple, battle your way to freedom with a plethora of weapons.

Even though there is a single player mode which lets you play with bots, Valve has released a game which is almost entirely based around cooperative multiplayer action. Bots really don’t give the feeling of interaction you get with other people. It would be fair to say that Left 4 Dead really comes alive when you have four friends playing alongside.

In each of the games four level designs you fight through a series of safe houses that lead to a rescue point. If you don’t have four human players the AI can fill the empty spots with bots. This AI is surprisingly capable as the computer controlled players do a fine job of taking out the zombies and not hitting you with friendly fire … they even heal you with med kits if you are down. The obvious downside with the bots is that they are more sheep than leaders so you always end up taking the brunt of the attack, even if you are hurt. You can play with bots on everything but expert settings and expert is so tough that even with four players, the chances are you will die, and often.

When the game starts there is a movie poster showing the cast and each of the settings (scenarios) is depicted like a movie which is great presentation from the Valve guys. Equally so, if you survive the game displays statistics for everyone … Who achieved the most headshots, who inflicted the most zombie kills and who delivered the most friendly fire. If not all players make it through, then the end sequence is dedicated to the memory of those lost in action.

The four scenarios comprise "Blood Harvest", where you take shelter in a farmhouse. "Dead Air" is your fight to an airport to escape. No Mercy is a battle through a hospital and lastly Death Toll is a manic struggle towards a dock. Unfortunately for the players, the zombies are not the slow, shambling corpses that make up a lot of old horror films – these are the fast moving versions seen in modern movies like 28 Weeks Later (a great film). Not only that but they can ram down doors and jump fences to reach their objective (to kill you!). To make matters worse Valve have created some really mean monsters in the form of enhanced zombie mutants such as The Smoker, The Boomer, The Hunter, The Witch and The Tank. The Smoker has a massive snake like tongue which can grab the survivors by the throat; The Boomer is a horrific entity which can vomit and explode to spray the survivors in mutant goo (which temporarily blinds the survivors and sends the ordinary zombies into a rampage mode); The Hunter can leap huge distances to pin the players to the ground. The Witch is a superhuman style zombie who has the ability to take out a human in a single stroke, very difficult to fight. Lastly the Tank, an immensely strong zombie who can take literally hundreds of rounds of ammunition and deliver extreme carnage.

The charm with the combat is the hot, fast paced action which means you are never left standing around waiting for something to happen, you will get trapped in buildings with hordes of zombies in all directions and quite often are limping around with very little health. Also you will run out of ammunition meaning you have to rely on the hated pistols. Valve are clever developers, so this is not a game that you will ever play feeling you are in control of the situation, you never know what is waiting around the corner. In addition to the firearms, you get access to pipe bombs, Gas Canisters and propane tanks which you can turn into weapons. These are great for taking out hordes of units and many times you will have to trigger a level specific action in order to progress through the environment. Driving vehicles through fences for example means you have entered a new area, so be prepared for initial massive zombie attacks.

Each scenario lasts around 30 minutes on normal level, and as there are really only four, you can begin to see the limited appeal this game will have in single player mode. To be fair on higher difficulty settings, the challenge is increased significantly and you will die on a regular basis but it’s just the same thing, over and over again. I know a couple of colleagues who have loved to replay these, but I am sorry to say I am not a sucker for replaying the same thing over and over again by myself. The game utilises a Director mechanic which means if you are doing exceptionally well, it will throw in more zombies to deal with and equally so if you are getting your ass handed to you every 5 seconds, it will ease up on the level of units involved in the action as well as supplying additional health kits and ammo.

Next up is the versus mode, which lets you play as zombies against other human players, however this is only available in two of those four campaigns (Blood Harvest and No Mercy).  This is one of my favourite game modes, especially if you have friends locally or online. You control either a human (one player minimum with bots filling the rest), and the others play as special zombies. All the classes mentioned earlier are available apart from The Witch.

Playing Versus mode means each team switches between the undead and the human forces. Each team takes a turn seeing how far they can progress as humans. If you reach the safehouse in each campaign you win (or if you survive long enough for extraction). If you take the zombies then you have to stop the humans from escaping … It is a simple premise but it is fiendishly addictive and great fun in company. Points get awarded for every stage and the team at the end with the most points wins the overall battle.

I loved playing as the zombies as there are more indepth tactics than simply running in and gunning as you do with the humans. Teamwork is important, for example The Tank is great in the middle of a group of ordinary zombies as he can deliver some serious damage while using their bodies as protection.

Graphically the game is very attractive as it is the latest rendition of the Source engine, it does a wonderful job of delivering great detail and atmospheric lighting while running on any modern day gaming hardware. This isn’t a game, like Crysis, in which you will need a cutting edge graphics card and a high end CPU, it will run well on mid range hardware with all the eye candy maxed. Special mention really must be made of the lighting effects, they are some of the most appealing I have seen, and in specific locations heighten the sense of "oh crap, what’s around the corner?". Glorious little touches are prevalent everywhere, from the facial animations that convey each players emotions to the hilarious tongue in cheek graffiti in the houses and buildings.

Although this is a PC review, I have played the Xbox 360 version and it is quite good, however the graphics certainly cannot match a modern day gaming PC and the load times can sometimes be a little painful, especially when you adapt to the PC version.

The voice acting is up to the usual Valve standards and each of the characters in the game has a wide array of dialogue at hand, even when a fellow human dies, they utter words of despair and sadness. The music is also extremely atmospheric and there are key sequences in game which depict the action at hand.

Left4Dead is a multiplayer masterpiece and if you have any interest at all about playing online or with friends then you simply need to make sure you pick this game up as soon as you can. The online community is already huge and it will go from strength to strength over the coming months. It is entertaining, fun and most of all will get you laughing with your buddies. If all you do is play single player, then you might want to think twice, because the single player campaign is not really the whole point of the experience.



With friends, or online, awesome.

I am a big fan of the Source engine, its polished, looks great and doesn’t demand a nuclear reactor.
Up to usual Valve standards, an almost unlimited series of touches make up a fine overall package.
Multiplayer heaven. Literally.
(not an average)

Are you a social person? then this has to be on your "to buy next" list.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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