Valve Software, the creators of the ground breaking and incredibly successful Half Life series have crafted one of the most addictive and enjoyable interactive experiences ever with their new release Left 4 Dead.
The game began development at Turtle Rock Studios who had previously worked with Valve on various Counter-Strike projects before becoming part of Valve in 2008.
Harkening to the classic George Romero Zombie movies, Left 4 Dead is an interactive 3D shooter that allows players to play as one of four “survivors” as they attempt to flee hordes of infected that have overrun the surrounding city and surrounding areas.
Playing as either Louis, Bill, Zoey, or Francis, players can play along with the A.I. taking control of other the other characters or they can play along with friends or other gamers online. I found this to be a fantastic feature as I have always been a fan of being able to play a game in co-op mode and being able to play through the entire game with your friends adds greatly to the games enjoyment and replay value.
The game is broken down into 4 chapters, each a mini movie that casts players in the role of a character. As the game loads, players see a throwback movie poster that complete with tagline, tells the name of the segment and the parts that each player will be playing.
Each segment contains five levels and concludes with a finale that forces the survivors to face waves of enemies as they attempt to escape. The opening chapter, No Mercy, starts on a rooftop and tasks players with moving through apartment buildings, city streets, subway stations, hospitals and more as they attempt to reach the roof of a hospital for a possible rescue by helicopter.
Armed with pistols, shotguns, machine guns, assault rifles, and explosives ranging from pipe bombs and Molotov Cocktails, players will need every resource at their disposal to survive, as the infected are not the sluggish zombies of old. Instead they run, jump, and swarm, and never once let up their assault.
Aside from infected, there are deadly forms of infected such as the Witch who alerts you with her child like crying before unleashing her fury. There are also Hunters who leap out of nowhere, Boomers, who coat you in vomit that attracts hordes of infected, Smokers who snare players with a long tongue, and the massive Tank who pummel anyone and everything in their paths.
Players are able to load up on weapons they find during the game, but are limited to one explosive, one rifle, and 2 pistols but there are things such as gas and propane cans and other items that can be dropped and ignited to create a very satisfying wall of flame to bake advancing enemies to a crisp.
There are also mounted weapons from time to time when forced to make a stand, and the rapid fire function of a mounted gun can help turn the tide against superior numbers.
Another nice touch is the ability to push enemies away with your weapons as when surrounded or trying to reload, it helps to hit enemies with what your player is holding in order to dispatch them or gain needed space to deploy your weapon.
As chapters unfolded, I was amazed at how well the look, tone, and feel of a Zombie movie had been captured. Other games have tackled Zombie infections before, but none have added the level of immersion of Left 4 Dead, and that includes the recent Dead Rising.
The story of the game is cryptic, as there are some clues scrawled on the floors and ceilings of the maps, as well as on the walls of the safe rooms that conclude each level of a chapter.
The graphics and sound of the game are first rate as aside from various quips and statements that the characters make from time to time, the game has some vast amounts of gore that allow you to mark the walls with everything from the blood of the infected to your bullet marks.
Another nice feature is the use of health packs which are limited to one per character at a time. When a player is wounded, they may need another player to help them up, and bandage them. Since much of the game is based on cooperation between players, gamers may wish to use their health packs to aid teammates in much worse shape than they are, even though this will leave them without a pack until they can locate one later.
If a player dies in game, they can be revived later by other team members provided at least one of them survive which is not always possible from the relentless attacks by overwhelming numbers.
Players are also required to use their heads as shooting everything in site will only attract more enemies and while some may like this feature in order to earn more achievements, I prefer no setting off car alarms with random shots and bumping.
Players also can play as the infected and in a 4vs 4 match pits four human survivors against 4 player controlled infected.
My only regret with the game was that it can be completed in 5-6 hours, but thanks to randomized features and different skill levels, as well as the highly enjoyable game play, I do not think gamers will tire of this game anytime soon.
Valve has once again set very high standards for others to reach to and have crafted a new franchise that not only will help pass the time until the next chapter of Half Life, but will also have gamers clamoring for more chapters.
Left 4 Dead is highly addictive and enjoyable and is the leading candidate for our Game of the Year award.
5 stars out of 5.