Left 4 Dead

Posted on January 3, 2009

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Left 4 Dead doesn’t have a backstory or even dialogue. The story, well, there really isn’t a story. You can’t create your character, and there are four characters for the four different scenarios you vie to survive through…so basically there are four playable characters when there should be 16. But who’s counting? This game is ridiculously fun on the most base levels, effectively foregoing the bells and whistles gamers have grown accustomed to in next-gen consoles.

Meat & Potatoes

It’s simple and effective, and it’s online play is unlike any game out there. Shoot, survive, and keep your team moving forward. Left 4 Dead is a fast paced thriller that hits you in the gut and keeps you at the edge of your seat. You pick up your respective survivor’s story after he or she has met up with the other three survivors. You don’t get much out of where they came from, aside from what’s available in the game booklet, but you certainly get the impression that you have to move forward. Grey groaning infected/zombified humans are after you…and they’re really pissed. Move from safehouse to safehouse for weapons, ammo, and healthpacks…and keep going through all four checkpoints to the standoff finale. Finales are adrenaline-pumping holdouts against the infected where you can no longer run…but wait and, well, holdout for your rescue. The dash to safety proves to be a rush every time, and you get to see your (olnline) teammates’ true colors: do they sprint out ahead without you or help your crippled, hobbling, desperate soul survive against the infected barrelling after you? And you’ll see that you yourself are probably just as selfish, when it’s your turn to get to safety.

Online, All Day

If you like playing the bad guy, there’s no other game. Just as mentioned above, the experience is very one-dimensional. There’s no weapon upgrades like Call of Duty. There’s no ranking system either. But, if your looking for your second-dimension, perhaps you’d like to get your turn behind the black eyes of the infected. There are four “special” infected: tongue lashing Smoker, pouncing Hunter, a fat-boy with infected-attracting puke, and a Tank (guess what it does). Online versus consists of swapping turns as human survivor and ferocious infected. Humans earn points based on how many make it from safehouse to safehouse; infected keep humans from accumilating points. Simple. Effective. Kick ass. Playing as a monster is an experience worth paying full price for. You’ll cheer every time you pounce and kill a human, or spit on all four survivors, etc. I also hear that more special infected are in the works for the first download. Unreal.

The shooting is smooth and accurate, which is pivotal for a game of this nature. There is no duck-and-cover mechanic or chainsaw on your gun, but you blow off limbs and split open craniums well enough. Playing as infected is just as simple and twice the fun. Point, click. A toddler could do it, but it takes a true savant’s ability to do it under the pressure you placed in…no matter which side you’re on. A missed pounce, or a missed molotov cocktail can make all the difference between living and dying…or staying undead.

Left Behind

The game is a great experience, and the replay value is very high for a game with not too many twists and customs. But, it’s missing some simple things that could have made it the best game in my collection. Online play only has two maps for versus mode, which proves to be a serious buzz-kill. You’ll play the two available maps all night, but you’ll be thinking, “Why haven’t they made the other two maps playable?” It seems like a rushed move on part of the production team. I also would like to see different characters for every survival scenario. I have just enough righ-brain synapses to look not look past the idea that four characters cannot be in four rescue scenarios. It bugs me, and it’s a simple fix. Also, when you’re playing versus mode with the computer, there are holes in gameplay. While filling the roster for the human team, the AI is too conscious of where the special infected are hiding. An exposed toe will result in a swift death and a lame respawn. When you’re playing as infected and plan a trap, it gets annoying. And if you don’t have four players in your party, there’s no AI to play special infected for you, so you’re playing one-man-down…a handicap. I would also like to see more achievements, which would certainly up the ante for replay value.

Still, you’ll cheer every time you bash a survivor’s head in or hobble into the safe house. It’s a great game.

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Posted in: Op-Ed