E3 2008: Left 4 Dead Updated Hands-On

We have a blast fleeing to the rooftops of a zombie-infected hospital.

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It's not often you can say you were lucky enough to be caught in a zombie apocalypse, but that's just what happened to us earlier today when we paid a visit to Valve's E3 2008 meeting room. Tucked away from the show floor proper, Valve had four PCs running to give players a chance to test out their cooperative skills in this four-player shooter that uses the Counter-Strike: Source engine. Although our team of four fell just shy of reaching salvation, we enjoyed every moment of it.

Left 4 Dead doesn't use a traditional campaign structure. Instead, there are four "scenarios" players can choose from. Our most recent look at the game from back in April had us trying to escape "the infected" (read: zombies of varying speeds and strength) through the woods. But this time around, we got to flee from them through an abandoned hospital. The ultimate goal is to make your way up, floor by floor, until you reach the roof, at which point a helicopter will come through and airlift your group to safety.

The four characters that made up our group included a younger female, a well-dressed gentleman in a dress shirt and tie, an older war veteran type, and a biker. Valve writer Chet Faliszek was on hand to tell us about the game, and explained that the characters are meant to represent the standard palette of characters you might encounter in an urban setting. There's nothing terribly special about them, but their "Average Joe" qualities help you connect to the group to lend the game a bit more tension that you might see in a game about a superhuman action hero.

Your selection of weapons include an M16 assault rifle, a shotgun, dual pistols, and a grab bag of pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. These are generally found during safe house sections, areas between parts of the level where the infected roam that are used as checkpoints and places to help you ammo up and heal yourself. One of the most interesting parts about the game is the realistic way these minor tasks are visualized: You'll see a teammate reloading his gun and wrap a bandage around an injured limb. When they're low on health, you can see them limping, and a close-up view reveals a desperate twitchiness in their eyes.

The action itself scales depending on how well your team is doing. If they're hurting, you might not see as many zombies coming at you, but if you're plowing through the level, the game is going to throw more enemies at you. It's not randomized, but rather the game's artificial intelligence which decides how and where zombies will sneak upon you. They might pop down from the air vents, bust through doors, climb up elevator shafts, and so on. Faliszek says he's been playing the game every day for months and he's still on his toes thanks to this intelligent zombie wave system.

When a zombie is coming for you, you can either blast them with your gun or right-click the mouse to melee them backward. This helps when you see one sprinting toward you while reloading. But occasionally, moments will occur when a zombie will attack you in ways that require assistance from teammates. They can vomit on you, which will attract all nearby zombies like a magnet, wrap you up in a tentacle, or knock you on the ground, requiring a hand to help you up. You can also use your own medkits and pain pills to heal teammates. Co-operation is an absolute must in the game. If you wander off on your own, you've essentially sealed your fate. And trust us, it's not a pretty one.

The hospital scenario takes you from the standard corridors and emergency rooms you'd expect to see, up through the medical storerooms, onto the under-construction upper floors which lack walls, and up onto the roof itself. The entire path is a dark one, requiring use of a faint flashlight (which thankfully doesn't run out of batteries). Some areas will take you through prolonged periods with no infected, while others will flood them toward you with no mercy whatsoever. It gets the worst on the roof when the fight reaches a crescendo: Your team needs to station themselves on the rooftop structures and fight off wave after wave of zombies, tanks (giant, hulking zombies), and hunters (quick, acrobatic ones). Our group got close to making it to the end, but unfortunately it fell just short of the ultimate goal. Thankfully, you're given the ability to restart from the most recent checkpoint, but all the emotion you put into surviving still makes it quite a downer when you fail to do so. These scenarios generally last about 45 minutes, but play-testing has seen them occasionally last as long as two and a half hours.

We had a great time playing Left 4 Dead. The tension, the gore, the teamwork--it all makes for a thrilling experience. The game is scheduled for arrival this November on the PC and Xbox 360. Faliszek tells us the two versions are virtually identical. You can expect to see more on Left 4 Dead soon.

Discussion

86 comments
Angre_Leperkan
Angre_Leperkan

Definitely is a quality game, so glad I paid full price for it :D

ojugyujxsygrh
ojugyujxsygrh

Remember this is buy Valve. They made TF2 and the half life series. So expect a quality game that has been well thought out.

RoC1909
RoC1909

This game is going to be amazing from what I hear about it. I am not a ONLINE PERSON and would rather go it alone but this game might just make me hop on XBL and shoot it up with some strangers!

somethincoolest
somethincoolest

OMFG this game is going to kick my ass and then kick my xbox 360s ass because ill play it so much!!!!!!

ashuncc2
ashuncc2

Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to pay the build on the show floor, but I watched multiple play throughs. The game looked good, but I was more impressed with Dead Space. If I had to pick a shooter of this genre, Left 4 Dead would be a rental. Dead Space did play slow, so if you like games that are a little quicker/responsive (ie. Vegas 2-slow paced to CoD4-fast paced) Left4Dead may be your pick.

DigitalExile
DigitalExile

Sounds cool, but a lot of games do before release. I think this is one I'll have to wait to play myself before I pass judgment.

bear0429
bear0429

hopefully it will be as good as everyone says it is, because i personally cant see it working and im pissed that they moved the release date back just so they could have it on half lifes anniversary. my best friends birthday was on that day!

Xtos89
Xtos89

theyll probably add more scenarios in time, like the updates weve seen in team fortress 2

Resid3nt_3vil
Resid3nt_3vil

It's a shame they didn't include more than 4 scenarios to play. I guess we can assume they'll be charging us for DLC down the road instead.

JB2B
JB2B

All sounds cool, but there should be a split screen option in this game.

Phatmista
Phatmista

Is it just me, or is the Source engine getting a little behind on the graphics? COD4, Crysis, Far Cry 2, Deadspace graphics anyone? I hope Valve doesn't use it for episode 3. I'm ready for a game engine change from Valve. Not saying it won't be a great game, but they could at least improve on the now-current generation engine...

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

It'd be cool if the game had a them similar to the book World War Z, which is a great read by the way.

Phoenix534
Phoenix534

Valve never seems to disappoints it's beloved fans.

-Intellectual-
-Intellectual-

My only worry is the length of the game. L4D has only four "scenarios". They could have put more.

Jackyll87
Jackyll87

It'll be great if they can implement very good AI for your teammates. Coz it might not be possible to always get hold of 4 people to play together.And seamless joining and dropping out.

SkytheWiz1
SkytheWiz1

Looks good and sounds fun... ...but needs split screen. Until then, no buy from me.

Supamadclown5
Supamadclown5

I can't **** wait for this **** i will admit i played counter strike days and days on end. it was and pretty much still is the best online experience i've ever had, so i can't wait for this game cause it has the same engine and it looks **** awesome......

yoshiehsan
yoshiehsan

I cant wait, the PC version is going to have hundreds of hundreds of custom maps.

MapleSyrupPower
MapleSyrupPower

Finaly this game will come out ! Been so long since i want it badly ! So happy now that i have bought a 360 and i was thinking it was only on the PC...way to go Valve ! Nothing is more cool than team playing and helping each other to survive the madness of Valve. Can't wait to heal and protect my teamates but then again i will surely be ripped down by our lovely zombies before that! ^^ OMG can't wait to say 'HELP ME' !!!

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

So nothing is scripted to be the sane right? That means the cgi movies inbetwixt the scenarios aren't going to always be the same either right? The zombies climb shafts as well? Can we climb those shafts too?

Finly
Finly

Now that i got 360 I can get excited about this :D

latinxdragon
latinxdragon

omg.....grrr i cant wait till november....i want this game so bad!!!!

dark_being
dark_being

Can't wait to get the guys together for a night of zombie shooting!

forhekset
forhekset

Okay I didn't realise it was solely a multiplayer affair. Sounds good anyway, I love the idea of a mechanic involving other people bailing you out. Hopefully it has enough content to keep us going.

Macgyver40
Macgyver40

this is going to show up dead rising for ssure

Memoryitis
Memoryitis

Just hope this game turns out to be jawesome

Splicer007
Splicer007

I cant wait to get my hands on this!

Zee666
Zee666

Coolio. I like the idea of scenarios instead of a campaign mode, it appesars more natural than a story mode as you wouldn't imagine survival in a zombie invasion to have much of a story line, basically: survive, don't die.

lalangan
lalangan

This game is gonna be fun and scary playing in the dark

Simianjohn
Simianjohn

This is gonna be so awesome I can't wait there aren't a lot of games like this mostly some mods SO YEAH BRING THE ZOMBIE MADNESS ON!!

r4v3gl0ry
r4v3gl0ry

I'm gonna spend so much time on L4D between fall and spring of next year..

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

...I WILL play this game at night... with the lights turned off... alone....

RazorBat
RazorBat

November cannot come soon enough. I knew I loved the fall for a reason.

zeus_gb
zeus_gb

At first I wasn't too convinced about this game but i'm starting to get there.