Developers: Turtle Rock Studios
Publishers: Valve Corporation
Plot: Four survivors are caught in a zombie apocalypse and must fight their way to escape… by any means necessary.
I have always wanted to do a review on this game, although I have always struggled with my opinion of it. In many ways, this is a game like none other I have played before and is out of usual comfort zone by a fair distance. However, at the same time, I have never had a bad experience with this game.
While games are becoming more story-based and open world, Left 4 Dead falls back onto old school gaming, one reason it has become a cult classic in the gaming world. The story is fairly vague. There is a zombie apocalypse of some kind and you are one of four survivors. Every level sees you get from point A to B on a map and that is pretty much the gameplay. There are safe houses in between, where you can restock your ammo, zombies come in all forms and sizes and there is always a finale section, which is always the best part of the level. The fun comes in the co-op nature of the game; this is the kind of game you crack open a beer with a mate and play.
On first inspection, it would seem that this game is a quick fix, taking the developers a few months to make, before throwing it to the public. Easy money. There are about four levels in the actual game (not including generous DLCs), but each one will take you a massive amount of time. Each level has four sub-levels, all hard as nails, and by the time, you finish just one of those levels, the immense feeling of satisfaction is exhausting and thrilling. And in many regards, levels is the wrong word; they are more maps, templates for a level, seeing as the actual level is totally randomised. There is a general outline for the monsters you should encounter, but they could spawn from anywhere. That is part of the fun. While after a few play-throughs of Dead Space, you’ve memorised when the scary parts are going to happen, in Left 4 Dead, you could be grabbed by a rabid zombie at any given moment. A boss fight with the mighty Tank may or may not even happen. No two experiences with this game is the same, which is where my main compliment comes in. You will get so much gaming time for your money with Left 4 Dead.
AI can be a problem. Even if you find a partner to play co-op with, there will be two additional computer-programmed buddies along for the ride. In many regards, the AI is a lot better than most games. It just isn’t very consistent. Sometimes the computer is too good. You might end up getting frustrated, when that achievement is just out of reach, because the computer can find and kill any zombie, before it even gets onto your radar. My high score always looks pathetic, because the game never lets me get a kill in edgeways. However, I much prefer that to the other end of the spectrum, where your allies will lose all reason. When a special zombie grabs you, you need your team-mate to free you from its grasp. Entire hours of gameplay have been ruined, because my team-mates have somehow gone to the other side of the map, when I need them.
Also, failure happens a little too quick. The game wants you to work as a team, so when you are alone, you often end up dead fast. When your friend is killed off, it won’t be long before the game decides to focus its entire rage on you. While it means your buddy can get back in the game quicker, it does seem a tad unfair that you are never given too much of a chance to make it on your own. Also, the special zombies can decimate your health bar in seconds. The moment a Hunter pins you down, you will have your health shredded away, until someone helps you. It is annoying as hell, when you have just healed yourself and mere seconds later, you are back to your last bars of health, because the game decided to be a dick. This is not a fair game.
But that difficulty makes victory all the more sweeter. The finale levels are terrific. You will reach your destination and find that you need to hold the fort for a handful of minutes. Thus begins ten minutes of zombie after zombie coming after you, endless special zombies included. It is a bitter fight to the end and will probably take up half the level, even if it only should last ten minutes in theory. When the escape comes, there will be a mad dash for the rescue team. This is when the game throws everything at you, a desperate attempt to make sure you don’t survive this game. Team work is thrown out of the window. Sometimes, a wounded player makes a brilliant distraction. There is an ironic justice in making your way through hordes of infected, only for the friend you invited for a beer and a game to turn around and shoot you in the gut, leaving you bleeding out for the zombies to snack on, while he makes it to the boat meant for you. Perhaps this is the perfect zombie simulator after all.
Final Verdict: A tad hard for its own good, but the randomised levels will keep you entertained for hours, as well as give you and your mates something to laugh about.