|Console||PC/Mac, Xbox 360|
|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror, co-op|
|Purchase (PC/Mac)||Click here to purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Xbox 360)||Click here to purchase from Amazon.|
The Left 4 Dead series is among the Valve Corporation’s iconic library of games, sitting right up there with Half-Life, Portal, Counter-Strike, and Team Fortress. Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 both deliver on what they promised: fast-paced co-op FPS action, with zombies. Yeah, it’s as standard and uncreative as first-person shooters can get. But as far as horror games with B-movie plot elements and cheesy one-liners go, this game doesn’t do too bad of a job.
Like World War Z, Except It Doesn’t Suck
Left 4 Dead stars four survivors attempting to escape a zombie apocalypse: Bill the war veteran, Louis the IT analyst, Zoey the college student and Francis the biker. Annnnnnnnnd…
That’s pretty much it. The plot doesn’t get much deeper than that.
If you want to be picky though, here’s the plot synopsis in short: the state of Pennsylvania caught some sort of pathogen called the Green Flu, causing most humans to mutate into aggressive zombie-like creatures. However, our four heroes are immune to this strange disease so they must fight through the hordes of Infected with gunfire and survive. Two weeks later, they head towards Mercy Hospital in hopes of getting rescued.
And from there on out, the rest of the “story” is experienced through the gameplay.
It’s unfortunate that Left 4 Dead doesn’t have a full narrative, because it looked like it could’ve been at least decently interesting. I mean, this is a game with some iconic enemies, such as a zombie that chokes you with its own tongue.
Having a Grand Ol’ Time Killing Zombies
Left 4 Dead pretty much works like any standard first-person shooter through its control scheme. You can equip a main firearm, such as a submachine gun or a shotgun. As you play through a map, you will later find more powerful weapons.
You also start off with a single pistol, which is a pretty weak weapon that gives 15 shots. The pistol is your backup weapon and you can reload it infinitely. Later on, you can equip two pistols, giving you a max of 30 shots per round. The pistol is also your only usable weapon if your character is incapacitated. Your final line of defense as you approach death.
You can also equip one of either two grenades: a molotov or a pipe bomb. The molotov creates a line of flames, setting any Infected that crosses it on fire. Fire kills regular Infected immediately, but takes a while to kill special Infected. Super useful against enemies like the Tank and the Witch (in some cases). The pipe bomb has a loud beeping noise, attracting the attention of nearby regular Infected and luring them into a large group, killing them all at once. Very useful for taking out many regular Infected at once, especially the hordes summoned by Boomers.
Your goal for each map is to reach the safe room, which will carry four health kits, some guns, and ammo. When you reach the end of the campaign, you have to stay alive as long as possible before you can find rescue. This is where the campaign is typically at its most hectic, as wave after wave of Infected attempt to overwhelm you.
At some point, you or one of your allies will lose all their health and become incapacitated. This means that the character will have a second health bar that will gradually drain over time, but can’t move or use their main weapon. If the HP this time depletes to zero, the character dies. So another ally must revive the fallen character as soon as possible. If a character becomes incapacitated three times in a row without using a medkit, the character immediately dies.
But in the event that one of the characters die, the character will eventually respawn at the nearest closet or at the beginning of the next scenario. In other words, you won’t be left out of the game for long.
While you can play through Left 4 Dead on single player with computer-controlled allies, it’s generally not recommended and the game isn’t nearly as fun. The computer-controlled allies always follow you and have stilted behavior, so you’re better off playing online with random people or friends.
As a co-op game, you can provide support to your allies. You can use your own health kit to heal your ally, give your ally a bottle of painkillers, and rescue your ally while he/she is incapacitated. Teamwork is essential, because there are specific kinds of enemies that will immediately freeze you in place.
Of course, just like with any multiplayer game, you’re going to find some griefers. Personally, I haven’t encountered that many of them on Left 4 Dead so you’re usually going to be playing with many cooperative players. But there are also those braggart dickbags who are infatuated with the sound of their own voices—even when using a microphone bought from their nearest Dollar Store—and will proceed to pick on someone for shits and giggles in the middle of gameplay.
And if you’re one of these people, I have some advice for you.
If you have the time of the day to talk shit about random people you come across online, then you have the time to find a job, acquire some social skills or just at least be a good sportsman. So stop pretending that being a narcissistic asswipe means you have balls. It means you’re a sadistic psychopath and you need help.
Hoo, well, where did that one come from?! I guess that one was just sitting around for some time.
Tactics are Key
As you play through the maps, you will encounter numerous special Infected. There are five different kinds in total, each with different attacks and durability.
- Smoker – a tall, thin Infected who uses his tongue as a sticky appendage. When he catches you, he reels you in while other Infected attack you like a piñata. Notable for his loud wheezing.
- Boomer – an obese Infected who attempts to move closer to you so that he make puke on you, which will immediately summon a horde of Infected. When killed, he explodes like a bomb, spreading out more bile. Notable for his constant belching and groaning.
- Hunter – a small Infected in a hoodie. When you’re in his sights, he will lunge at you and quickly claw at your face. Notable for his animalistic snarls and screeches.
- Witch – an infamous female Infected best known for her crying and one of the boss Infected. At least one Witch spawns in each map in a random location. By shining a flashlight on her, getting too close to her, or shooting her, she will become upset and attack the player who startled her. Her attacks will immediately incapacitate you, then she will proceed to finish you off quickly.
- Tank – a powerful and horribly mutated Infected with superhuman strength and endurance. The Tank is the main boss monster of the Left 4 Dead games, and killing him is usually mandatory to proceed through the campaigns. His main attack is throwing debris at you, smashing obstacles out of his way, and delivering a punch that sends you flying.
Yeah, the Tank is pretty badass. But his punch is still no match against the Falcon PWNCH!
Show me your moves, bitch! I dare ya!
Generally speaking, the best way to deal with most special Infected is to listen for their distinct sounds and kill them from a safe distance. Most of them can’t really do much to you if you’re too far away.
For the Witch, you would want to avoid her whenever you can. But you can also have someone skilled with the shotgun to use some well-placed and well-timed headshots to kill her off. You can also set her on fire; she will still chase you, but she moves even slower. Beware: she kills with one hit in Expert difficulty.
The Tank is the most difficult Infected to defeat, as your best chance in bringing him down is having all four players attack him simultaneously. The Tank will chase down whoever is the closest to him or whoever is firing at him with a mounted heavy machine gun.
One of the first things you want to do when fighting a tank is to set him on fire, so have at least molotov or gasoline tank in your group. From there on, the best strategy is to avoid him and keep shooting at him. Eventually, he’ll collapse.
Whenever he prepares a throwing attack against you, you can avoid it by taking cover behind a large object. This throwing attack has deadly accuracy and it will do heavy damage if it hits you. But if there is nothing close to you, then here’s a strategy: just as the Tank is picking up a piece of debris, strafe and jump to the left/right. Then move to the opposite direction. If you time it just right, he will throw the debris at the wrong direction and miss you. This is ESPECIALLY helpful during Expert difficulty.
And speaking of which, the Tank in Expert difficulty immediately incapacitates you if he hits you just once. If he hits you one more time, you’re dead.
There are a total of six main campaigns, two of which are free DLC. There is also a seventh campaign that is only available during Survival Mode.
Aside from the main game, there are two more modes: Versus Mode and Survival Mode.
Versus Mode is pretty much the same as the main game, but players can either become one of the Survivors or one of the Special Infected. The Survivors have to clear the campaigns as normal, but the Special Infected have to kill the Survivors to win. It’s a nice and more challenging game mode that will quickly become a big mind game.
Survival Mode is basically a game mode where you have to survive as long as possible while fighting at a specific location. This mode is tough because multiple Special Infected can spawn simultaneously, which will easily turn the game into pure chaos. Also, Tanks can spawn while there are many regular Infected swarming all over you. To get far into this game mode, you need to have a really good team backing you up.
What I like about Left 4 Dead is that there is a point to the teamwork. Trying to complete maps by yourself is an extremely difficult task; if a single special Infected incapacitates you, you’re finished. Or if you get outnumbered and take too much, you’re finished. It’s not just any first-person shooter where you can run out and go Rambo on everyone’s asses. It has a tactical edge where strategies, both individual and team-based, will help you overcome the challenges ahead. And when you begin completing maps on Advanced and Expert difficulties, it’s the best fucking feeling. And the feeling is mutual with your teammates too.
So if you’re looking for a quick time sink with plenty of challenge, then you should think about getting the Left 4 Dead series if you haven’t already.
Left 4 Dead$19.99
- The gameplay is quite standard for a FPS, but it also added enough unique features that made it so addicting.
- The amount of strategy and tactics are immense, and you're likely to learn a lot about the game's difficulty as you play more.
- The Special Infected enemies are unique and also force you to be cautious at all times.
- The graphics are pretty good for their era.
- The sound design is nice enough to set the horror mood, but also picks up in speed and urgency as you face off against more dangerous enemies.
- Advanced and Expert difficulties are awesome as you get better in the game.
- Unfortunately, there is no narrative which would've been nice for a premise like this.
- Seeing as how this game is several years old, the multiplayer community had diminished and some of them had likely moved on to Left 4 Dead 2.
- This is one of those games where a trollish or idiotic teammate can potentially cost you victory.