Whenever Valve announces a game, they tell you everything beforehand, maybe leave one thing hidden for some other event and go silent. Absolute dead on silent. Pretty much the same thing happened with Left 4 Dead. They told what they needed to: AI Director, Co-op, Zombies and more Zombies. Then they announced Versus later on. Had some playable stations at events and thats it. Valve never hypes their own game up and suprisingly, whenever they release the game, it gets everyone excited because its such a damn good game.
I'm one of those people. TF2, Portal. Yea cool. But I never expected much from Left 4 Dead. I thought, "Yea...Zombies. Big deal" and was considering just completely not getting the game. However, peer pressure kicked in and I got it.
Valve didn't disappoint.
Left 4 Dead is a zombie game. Left 4 Dead is a Co-op game. Pretty much sums it down. There is almost no story at all. Character seem pretty generic for the most part. You have the High School Princess, The Manager dude, the awesome Biker and the War Veteran. You can pretty much guess their back story. When I buy games, I make sure they have a solid campaign experience. I need a Story to play through a game. Left 4 Dead does not have this problem. Its a very simple approach but it shows what most gamers need to realise: Gameplay is what makes a game.
Gameplay in Left 4 Dead is, well, damn near perfect. Things are kept simple. You start out with a Uzi or a Shotgun & a pistol. You have a med-pack. You have to get from this point to this point and you're being attacked by random Zombie Attacks. Go nuts. Oh along the way you may find a Molotov or a Pipe bomb, or 3 new weapons. Just use whatever you need and get to that next point. That's pretty much it. There is no groundbreaking new gameplay innovation or anything. Sounds too simple? That's where the Co-op kicks in.
Typically, co-op in games is a Single Player experience with an added bonus. Very rarely do you see a game that is built around Co-op. Army of Two tried that out and well...Left 4 Dead tries it too and this time gets it right. You need to play as a team. You want to play it like a Call of Duty game or a Halo game, that's up to you but don't blame your teammates when you get gang banged by every god damned zombie in the world.
Well, I guess you could say in that regard that Co-op and the AI Director in Left 4 Dead is an innovation. The AI Director pretty much, mind my language, is there to completely fuck your life up. You will learn to hate him and he will gladly return the favor. Just when you think its okay, you almost made it, you will get screwed bad.
My only complain about the Single player campaign and the Co-op campaign (Same thing), is that there are only 4 'Movies' to play through. Although the AI Director does its best to mix things up everytime you play it, it does get old after a while and the game's amazing atmosphere is ruined because you know what you're supposed to do. Still, Valve has been known for releasing good content for their games. They did it for TF2 and there is no doubt that something similar is on its way for Left 4 Dead. Hopefully the consoles get equal treatment, but that is at the mercy of Microsoft.
When you do grow tired of the Co-op experience, you can go into the game's brilliant Versus mode. I believe this is where the game truely outdoes itself. Remember all those times you walked to a certain area and thought, "Man, this would be a good place for a Hunter ambush"? Now is the time to apply that. In Versus, its Survivors versus Infected. Playing as the Survivors is pretty much the same. However, playing as the infected is...different. You have to apply your skills as a Survivor and think like a Survivor in order to get the enemy. Its a really different style of playing Left 4 Dead but it works and it works well. You get to play as the Hunter, the dude who jumps on dudes, the Smoker, the dude with the Long Tongue and the Boomer, the Fatass who loves to vomit on everyone. Playing the Infected though, requires patience. You have a savage 20 second respawn time but that doesn't matter. Your aim while playing the infected is to try your best and just fuck with the humans. One should be content if they manage to score at least one hit on a survivor. When you do get that amazing moment where everything falls in place, it all feels worth the pain.
In short, Left 4 Dead is a truely amazing game. With near flawless gameplay and addictive game modes, One cannot go wrong with buying this game. However, this game is pretty short. Valve is sure to release content, but this is too little for a shipping game. If you do not have internet access, you are better off not buying this game. Its designed to be played for hours and hours with friends. Every playthrough will have its own unique experience. I can't wait to see what Valve has in store for the game as DLC but I have no doubt in mind that whatever it is, its gonna be full of what makes Left 4 Dead awesome: Pure Fun.