Taking time out to revisit Valve’s much loved ‘Left 4 Dead’ – what made this multiplayer shooter so brilliantly fun back in the day?
Ah the zombie apocalypse. We’ve been there, done that and shot them in head. It’s safe to say the genre is well covered throughout popular culture. Yet back in 2008, everybody wanted a piece of the undead action. So thank goodness Valve, before their video game hiatus kicked in, decided to show other developers how it should be done. Thank goodness they gave us Left 4 Dead.
As always Valve, the video game developers, have a specific way how to mess around with the gaming community, and with this game there is no exception. In 2005, Turtle Rock Studios, started working on a project that was supposed to draw inspiration from multiple horror films. It was intended to have both single-player and multiplayer with social interaction and replayability. The game was officially announced in 2006 when Valve purchased the Turtle Rock and in 2007 it was teased in The Orange Box. Before the game was even released, fans of the survival horror genre already praised it to one of Valve’s greatest achievements. On November 18, 2008, Left 4 Dead was officially released and the game sold over 10 million copies and is even popular to this day, but lets see why.
Left 4 Dead’s story is just like any typical zombie apocalypse plot. Pennsylvania suddenly gets infected with an unknown virus that turns all of the inhabitants into mutated zombies. In the midst of this apocalypse a small group of four individuals, get together in order to survive. The survivors soon find out of an extraction point at the nearby hospital and decide to make their escape or to die trying. However bad luck follows our heroes and they soon find themselves in a more troublesome situation than before.
After their failed escape, the group continues to search for a way to get as far away from the walking dead. The team, while constantly being hunted down by the undead, set up a route in order to reach the Florida Keys island, considered to be the safest place since the outbreak, but the main question that everybody asked themselves was, would all of the four survives make it to the end or join the dead.
Every game that Valve has released over the years were mostly a first-person shooters and Left 4 Dead is exactly the same, but it adds a special charm to its game play. The player can choose from four survivors; there is Louis, an IT analyst, Zoey, a college student, Francis, a biker, and my favorite Bill, a war veteran. Instead of just letting the players charge in gun’s blazing, the developers emphasis more on teamwork in order to beat the level. The characters have a limited inventory space and can carry two weapons, one first aid kit, and one throwable item, such as Molotov’s, Pipe-Bombs… Every level starts and ends with a safe zone and the player’s main objective is to reach it, while mowing down hordes of zombies. In the safe zone, characters can resupply with additional ammo and items and they will surely need it. Since the emphasis is more on teamwork, players are given the option to communicate in order to get the AI to perform a specific action. With this feature you can trade items, get help in nasty situations and, if you’re a true coward, get your teammates to scout ahead for zombies and supplies.
One of the main aspects of any post-apocalyptic game is the enemies, and this title has his own fair share of mutated baddies. From the gecko, the first zombie the player encounters is the normal walker, who runs more than walks. These types of zombies come in groups, but pose little threat unlike other more vicious creatures. Every type of zombie has his own ability and they are perfectly balanced, with some enemies that are smaller being more faster, but they dish out less damage, while the bigger ones are slower but can one punch you into oblivion faster than you can reload your gun. Although this game doesn’t have any bosses, it’s most challenging creatures are without a doubt the Witch and the Tank. The Tank attacks on sight and can pummel and crush anything with just one accurate hit, while the Witch only attacks if the player provokes it or if the flashlight is pointed in her direction for too long. When it comes to these special types of mutant zombies, the players must work together in order to create a good strategy for survival.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about Left 4 Dead without mentioning the multiplayer, which the developers done with such care that it can only be described as excellent. Players can go online in four-player coop and partake in multiple game modes. In one such mode, the players can even get into the shoes of the zombies and try to take out the survivors. This game was meant to be player with friends, since one of the negative features of this game is the AI companions. The AI can sometimes cause you more trouble than help and most of the time can’t even follow basic orders. With friends the game becomes ten times more interesting, as you can ether work as a unit or can even betray one another in the middle of the game. On top of all of this the difficulty can be adjusted before each level, so for those experience players this could be both challenging and enjoyable at the same time.
The visuals aren’t anything special to brag about, but most defiantly I can’t say that they are bad. Since this is a Valve game, it was mostly done on the infamous Source Engine, and has the similar cartoon vibe as Team Fortress 2. Soon after it’s release, multiple DLC’s were released, most popular the last one titled “The Sacrifice“. In this DLC, the players are placed in a small town, in which they must power-up generators in order to lower a bridge and escape to safety. However the catch is that one of the players at the end of the level must sacrifice himself in order for the save the others, but the main question is who is man enough to die the honorable way? Left 4 Dead was a critical success and got the Game of the Year award the same year, as well as gained positive review and was considered by some to be one of the best games of all time. The game is still popular to this day and the sequel included the original title with new updates, it’s most interesting the use of melee weapons. If anybody look’s for an immersive, fast passed, coop shooter, then they came to the right place without a doubt.
Overview: Left 4 Dead is a unique experience, one that is easy to pick up and even more interesting when it’s shared with other players. The zombie apocalypse was always an interesting theme in video games and there were dozen of games out there, yet this one triumphs all over them. The gaming community considers this title to be a true masterpiece, but in my opinion there are more interesting games out there and I considered this gem to be a bit overrated. That doesn’t mean that this game isn’t good and I can say that I enjoyed it every time I picked it up, especially with three more experienced players. This game is still a must play and what better time to get scared than for Halloween. Reload your guns,, drag a buddy along and go on a zombie killing spree.