Publisher: Steam & EA
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Platforms: PC & Mac, Xbox 360
Review Platform: Xbox 360
This was one of the three games I bought alongside my Xbox360 and in the two years of owning it I have played it at least once a month, that may not sound particularly brilliant but for me that’s extraordinary because I might only play on my console once a week tops anyway.
The zombies in this game aren’t zombies at all, oh no, they are infected which is Valve’s way of bringing a bit of realism to the game, personally I quite like the idea and I’ve loved knowing that by shooting them in the face, I am dealing out my own special form of medicine! There are five types of special infected however, and these are not to be taken lightly as any of them could be a game changer. Boomer’s vomit or explode over the player releasing a smelly liquid that attracts a horde of normal infected. A Smoker will hide on a roof and grab a straggling survivor with its massive tongue and suspend them over the gap slowly killing them. A Hunter will sneak up on a survivor and then pounce on them pinning them to the ground and will start tearing at their chest rapidly reducing the survivors health. A Tank is a massive infected with a lot of health, it can smash a player away with one hit and can throw massive chunks of pavement or road at the survivors as well. The final special infected is the worst, a Witch, which will lure you in by crying like a small child and then if you get too close or shine your torch at her, she will become aggravated and attack the players, one hit will knock you to the floor and after that she will tear into you until you are dead, she also has a very high amount of health.
The opening cut-scene explains a lot about the game, including game mechanics, for example shooting a car will alert a horde of the infected to your position, and it introduces the player to each of the four characters, Francis, Bill, Louis and Zoey. It doesn’t explain how the four characters come to know each other but it does explain how they get to the starting point of the first map. Each map is designed to be played one after the other for the sake of the story, at first the game may not seem to have any storyline, but if you pay attention then you may catch snippets of conversation between the characters which reveal clues as to how the story has progressed. A great feature of the maps however is that it doesn’t make much of a difference if you don’t want to play them in order because the minimalist storyline means that each map acts almost as its own story. What story there is is rather tragic as every time the survivors feel like they are in the clear, they seem to suffer a terrible accident which leaves them in the same position that they started in.
The player has a life bar of 100, when an infected hits the player they lose some hit points, varying depending on which game mode you are playing, when the health bar hits zero the player goes down, they can only use pistols and they cannot move, other players must come and revive them before the secondary life bar hits zero too, otherwise the player dies. Once dead the player cannot be brought back, but they can be found hiding in a closet further on in the map.
The main game modes play out in a very linear way, each map containing four moving stages and a final stand. During the movement stages the players must move from the beginning of the map to the first safe room, these safe rooms act as a save point to return to if all players die. When the final movement stage is over the players will come across a radio which is used to call the extraction vehicle but also alerts the horde to the players location. With infinite waves of normal infected and special infected, and two Tanks, this can be the hardest part of the map for most people. When the extraction vehicle arrives, the player must board the vehicle, and when all characters are on board the level will end with a short cut-scene of the vehicle moving away from the final stand zone.
With a fairly good single player, this game is okay for anyone out there without access to online-play, but an excruciatingly incompetent AI means that you will need to be constantly looking over your shoulder at the computer controlled players to make sure they aren’t deliberately shooting cars or using a flash-light in front of a witch. The two main online modes are much more fun however, campaign is the same as single player but with the inclusion of other people playing Left 4 Dead all over the world, or just your friends, immediately this gets rid of the AI problems and means that you can coordinate attacks and movements. Versus mode is my game mode of choice because you play in 4v4 teams, one side playing as the survivors, and the other working as special infected to stop the other team making it to the safe room, when the round is over the teams switch sides and play the same section of the map, then when that round is over the teams move onto the next section.
The game boasts massive replay value, and with each new play through the sense of triumph at the end of each map is just as great as the last. If you are finding the maps too easy then you can always update the difficulty level whilst in the map! This makes for quite an exciting game, that is if your friends are up for it. Changing the difficulty when playing online requires an in-game vote, which is easy to do even if you’re surrounded with infected, but it means that if you are playing with a group of wimps then you might have a fairly disappointing game. On the other end of the spectrum you may be finding the game too hard meaning that you will require the consent of your fellow survivors to lower the game difficulty, and this may get irritating if you are playing with a group of Left 4 Dead veterans.