If anybody knows anything about anything, they know that zombies are the glue that hold this world together. Or at least, that’s my view. Throw zombies at any crappy old movie/videogame/book and it instantly becomes a winner. Really, I’d be happy if everything had the undead rolling like waves in the sea, overtaking the helpless innocents.
So you can imagine my excitement about Left 4 Dead. Not only because it is chock full of zed heads, but also because it is the spawn of legendary developer Valve, those messiah figures turned game makers (if you can’t tell, I kind of like them). When you break it down, it’s been hard to argue with their track record over the last few years.
Left 4 Dead places you and three other survivors who are controlled either by AI or your buddies in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. The game is simple enough, a first person shooter with shotguns, pistols, and assault rifles galore, and way more zombies than you can shake a Halo fanboy at.
There are 4 acts, each one running the survivors through a gauntlet of zombie hordes, along with their special brethren- the boomer (whose vomit draws a slew of his friends), the witch (do.not.disturb.), the smoker (his go-go gadget tongue is as long as it is deadly), the hunter (zombie ninja extraordinaire) and the tank, who is exactly what he sounds like, big and scary.
It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Left 4 Dead, but I think the number one thing to stick on is the multiplayer madness, in both the co-op and versus variety. Playing this game with 3 other friends online or on LAN is totally the way to do it, and I have to be honest- it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing a video game. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but battling zombies by the thousand with your friends screaming for your help and your cover ranks among gaming’s finest pleasures.
And the thing is, L4D forces you to work together. And I don’t mean forces in the sense that it’s so hard that you have to watch each other’s backs (though that is true). I mean, literally, you can’t progress through this game without help. Every special zombie can incapacitate you in some way that requires assistance from one of the other survivors. There are no lone rangers in L4D. Team work is completely essential.
This is true in both multiplayer modes, as versus allows one team of survivors, and one team of zombies. Oddly enough, the zombie team has to work together almost more than the humans, considering that they are more susceptible to damage than humans. Pulling off a successful zombie assault is joyful in a way that is hard to describe. Pure bliss, really.
As a whole, the controls are superb, though slightly awkward if you find yourself playing on the 360. In addition, it’s not one of those games that will make you bless the next gen gaming gods because of its graphics. However, the sheer fun factor of slaughtering endless zombies puts this game in another tier altogether.
All in all, Left 4 Dead is one of the best games to be released in 2008. If you have a Steam account or an XBox 360, GO GET IT and do not delay any longer. Playing this game with friends is something that simply must be experienced.
In terms of ratings, I really wanted to give it an S, but the short overall length kept me from going quite that far. The game can be completed just a little too quickly, but the difficulty settings and the AI Director (who changes the game each time you play it) make it worth replaying time and time again.
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