breadfan's Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360) review

Left 4 Dead offers superb cooperative play

Valve has been known for creating some of the most memorable games to grace the PC and more recently the Xbox 360. Left 4 Dead is the latest hit game to be released from the company and brings together the joy of slaughtering hundreds of zombies with the ability to share the fun with your friends. Never has killing the undead been so much fun in a video game. 

 
Pros  
  • Excellent cooperative multiplayer
  • Great atmosphere
  • Interesting online versus play
 
Cons 
  • Only four campaigns 
  • AI partners are not always reliable 
  • Not too much weapon variety 
 
There have been a good number of games created about the zombie apocalypse, but none of them compare with Left 4 Dead. Unlike other games such as Resident Evil and Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead just throws you into the chaos and doesn't give any long winded explanation as to why certain events are taking place. The only knowledge that you have is that there are zombies and they need to be killed, which is pretty much what makes the game as much fun as it is.

Left 4 Dead opens with a cinematic that shows a group of four survivors as they make their way through a city infested with zombies, only giving the player the information that it has been two weeks since the outbreak occurred. Here you meet the characters of Left 4 Dead, Bill, Louis, Zoey, and Francis. Each character has their own unique personality that is shown throughout each of the game's four scenarios. Bill is a grizzled Vietnam veteran, Louis was a store manager before the outbreak, Zoey is a young woman who looks like she has never held a gun in her life, and Francis is a tough biker. All of these survivors play the same, but they offer their own dialogue along the way.

Along with the four survivors, there are some interesting infected in the game.  These infected, known as boss zombies, have special abilities that make them different from the typical zombie that just chases after you.  The Boomer is an overweight zombie that will throw up vile on the survivors that will alert a horde of zombies to your group.  Hunters will leap at you from long distances and bring you to the ground as they try to tear you apart.  Smokers are tall wheezing zombies who will use their long tongue to latch onto survivors and drag them from a distance.  One of the game's deadliest infected is the Witch.  Don't let this creatures appearance fool you, it may look like a small zombie that could not hurt anyone, but it will down anyone with one hit.  Last, but certainly not least is the Tank.  The Tank is similar to the Hulk, as in it will destroy anything in it's path and will put a hold on your plans as every player must work as a team to take it down.

The effects of the infection can be seen everywhere
There are four different scenarios in Left 4 Dead that all make fighting through the zombie apocalypse quite enjoyable. No Mercy is the typical zombie situation in which the survivors must make it to a hospital where evacuation is supposedly awaiting them. Dead Air has the group moving towards an air port where planes are dropping from the skies. Blood Harvest is a more grimmer scenario where the survivors must hold out in a farm house while waiting for support to come. Lastly, Death Toll puts you in a small town environment where the group must fight for their lives at a dock house where a boat awaits them. Each scenario can last anywhere between 45 minutes to a few hour depending on the difficulty settings. The last level is where the action really happens, also known as the finale.  Players must wait for rescue to come as they fend off the infected for around ten minutes.  Now none of these scenarios are related story wise, but they all offer their own spin on the zombie outbreak.

The thing that sets Left 4 Dead apart from the pack is the ability to play the entire game cooperatively, even when playing alone you have the help of bots that will take the place of actual players.  The AI allies work well most of the time and will help you along the way, but sometimes they will act strange at some points.  For example when two survivors are downed a bot sometimes runs between the two, not reviving either.  Adding even more fun to the notion of killing zombies is actually pretty simple, add three of your friends.  Playing cooperativley has never been so much fun as it is in Left 4 Dead.  Team work is essential as you traverse through each of the scenarios, especially when you hear the dreaded sound of a tank heading right towards you.  Players are able to revive downed comrades and can share items such as pain pills and med packs to restore health. 

In addition to the superb cooperative play, Left 4 Dead offers a very different versus mode.  In versus two teams of four rotate between playing as the survivors and the infected.  While one team tries to make it to the safe house the other tries to stop them at all costs.  Every special infected is playable in this mode, except for the Witch.  Players can throw up on unknowing victims as the Boomer and can pick of a stray survivor as the Hunter.  Each team is scored based on how many survivors make it to the end of the level and how long it took them to make it there, among other factors such as how much health is remaining for everyone.  Players take turns playing as the infected every level to try and get a higher score than their opponents.  The only negative thing about this game mode is that only the No Mercy and Blood Harvest scenarios are available for play.  This does seem odd that all of the levels are not playable, but versus does not suffer too much as a result.

The finales are always exciting
Left 4 Dead's AI Director changes the game with every play through, making players' lives frustrating and exciting enjoyable at the same time.  Weapons, items, and enemies will always spawn at different locations in the scenario based on how the player is doing in the game.  Fly through the first level?  Well don't expect the second level to be as simple.  Hordes of zombies will swarm the survivors if they remain in the same location for too long and sometimes the better weapons such as the Assault Rifle, Hunting Rifle, and Automatic Shotgun will not even spawn in a level.  This keeps the game fresh and offers much replay ability for a game with only four scenarios.

The only thing that stops Left 4 Dead from being a perfect game is the lack of in game content.  The four scenarios do offer much game play, but more certainly would have been better.  Never has a game been so much fun playing cooperatively with friends.  The scenarios all offer their own unique take on the zombie apocalypse and are designed very well.  Left 4 Dead will certainly keep players busy for a long time, hopefully new content will help the only flaw with the game in the near future.
3 Comments
Posted by Dudacles

Very good review. I have not yet had the pleasure of playing L4D, so I can't really comment on your subjective view of the game, but your writing style is fluent, informative and reads nicely. My only gripe with this review: the bold. Just looking at your review makes my eyes hurt. :p 
 
But overall, definitely worth a recommendation.

Posted by Breadfan
@dudacles I actually wrote the review over at my wordpress blog then pasted it over to here and left that intact.  Thanks for the input though I'll fix the text
Posted by smokemare

I agree with a lot of these points.  I still think 1 is more enjoyable than two due to the setting.  I just hope they solve all the minor quibbles and take Left 4 Dead to the next level with part 3.

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