freshprince's Left 4 Dead (PC) review

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Left 4 Dead is a game any zombie loving, online aficionado should

When it was announced that Valve was working on a zombie game using the source engine, unprecedented excitement occurred. Many wondered what the creators of many beloved games would do next. When it was announced it would be a mainly co-op game with a unique versus mode, more excitement only came and many wondered if Valve could make another huge impact upon the online world. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Valve has indeed lived up to their promise. By giving four amazingly fun co-op campaigns and a great online versus mode as well, Valve has sealed their status as being the premier online gaming developers. Left 4 Dead is a zombie lovers paradise and has gotten both the atmosphere and the gameplay perfected for any zombie game. Sadly there are some issues with the lack of content but this is something that will be corrected given Valve's track record on updates. The source engine is also high modabble as well and there are numerous mods in the work already at this point including four campaigns based on Dawn of the Dead.

Left 4 Dead doesn't really have a story so to speak. There are four movies that take roughly half an hour or so to play depending on your difficulty. On expert modes they can take as long as two hours due to the difficulty and careful precision planning involved. The stories for all of them are simple, get to point X and call for the transport vehicle out of there. All the campaigns though have an original backdrop. No Mercy takes place in a hospital for instance while Blood Harvest takes place in a cornfield. Dead Air takes place in an Airport and Death Toll takes place in the isolated town of Riverside. All of these campaigns share one thing in common, they all attempt to recreate the B-movie atmosphere and the game does this perfectly. With the film grain, the movie posters in the loading screen and just the B-movie cast list complete with the cheesy lines the game nailed the coffin shut with their attention to the details. The game also never takes itself to seriously with lines like, "An abandoned house in the middle of the woods? I know how this ends..." The game doesn't strive to be anything serious, it just wants to be arcade action fun with zombies and it does this perfectly.

The characters are great fun. There is Zoey, the girl of the group, Louis the African-American office worker, Bill the Vietnam veteran and Francis the biker. None of these characters are original but they are a lot of fun and fit well with the intended atmosphere. Though they aren't developed, they are likable characters because of what they say and how they act. The game is actually quite funny and this is all due to the cleverly written dialogue and well executed characters.

The gameplay in Left 4 Dead is quite simply. Each campaign has five parts, your goal is to get to the safehouse at the end of each chapter, restock and kill more zombies. You start with an Uzi and a Shotgun but later on you can move up to better weapons and explosives. You can also throw gas cans to start fires which is always fun. The game has great combat and with an easy melee button it's a lot of fun. The game is very addictive but one desires new weapons. Luckily Valve has given new weapons in updates in the past and I am sure they will again.

Each level is designed well and creates for many confrontations with the zombie horde. When the action is frentic, the game is at it's best. You feel like you're in an action movie and that you are just inhuman. The game makes you feel like Bruce Campbell and for any B-movie fan this is a great thing indeed. The combat really holds itself throughout and is extremely fun and addictive. The controls are easy, intuitive, and casual at heart. You'll have no difficulty picking up and playing Left 4 Dead.

The versus mode is another feature entirely. If you're a survivor its the same deal. You have to get to the other points and basically survive but if you're a zombie you get a completely different and challenging experience depending on your class. You either spawn as a hunter, smoker, or boomer and you have to hunt down the survivors using your special skills. The smoker can strangle, the boomer can puke zombie attracting bile and the hunter can pounce. Once in a while someone will spawn as a tank which is greatly satisfying. Being a zombie is a challenge since you die quickly but getting a perfect attack together or catching that stray survivor is so satisfying it makes all the pain worth it. The versus mode is quite unique and one that'll last a while though for some reason only two campaigns are playable online at the moment.

Overall the graphics are top notch in Left 4 Dead. The game uses the source engine which is renowned for it's technical prowess despite being a pretty old engine as far as graphics go. The game looks fantastic to say the least and handles hundreds of zombies on screen with no problems. It runs well on any PC as well and as long as you keep your drivers updated you should be able to run the game at 60FPS if you meet the requirements fully. The game has nice physics and visual effects to with some amazing physics and explosions. The gore physics are also great and watching any limb fly off never gets old. It's a great looking game to say the least.

The sound is also top notch, the game has a great ominous soundtrack which fits perfectly into the atmosphere. The game also has great voice acting despite the limited dialogue in the game. The characters come to life through this acting except for Francis who is a bit flat. The zombie sound effects are perfect and their wails and screeches will send a shiver down your spine.

What will ultimately determine your level of enjoyment with this game is a variety of factors:

1) Do you like Zombies? If you answer no ignore this game altogether as you're wasting your time here

2) Do you like co-op? If no then you have no reason to bother as well, co-op is the lifeblood of this game

3) Do you have some friends playing it? Though it is not mandatory your enjoyment increases tenfold with some good friends playing with you. If not there are plenty of others to play with many of whom are good team members.

4) Do you not like online? If you don't care for online don't bother. Online is all that matters in this game.

Overall Left 4 Dead is an excellent game with simple pick up and play gameplay. The online mode is quite fun and the future of this game looks bright with the amount of custom content on the horizon. Given Valves penchant for updating their games I am confidant Left 4 Dead will get some nice updates in the future with more weapons or maybe a new campaign. Though a bit short on content, Left 4 Dead will delight fans of Zombies and Co-op. If you crave slaughtering the undead online, you owe it to yourself to pick up this game.

Pros: Excellent zombie co-op action, all four campaigns are stellar, challenging and rewarding versus mode, perfect atmosphere, funny, high chance of great mods and maps

Cons: Why only two campaigns in versus? A bit short on content. With stupid teammates game can be a drag.

Overall: A superb online shooter worth checking out if you crave the undead slaughter

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