Left 4 Dead is an amazing experience that makes you the star of your own zombie apocalypse flick.
calavera1945 wrote this review on .
As a gamer I go through phases. Sometimes I go three months without touching a controller or booting up steam. Other times I lay on the couch after work, playing xbox 360 into the wee hours of the night, for days at a time. It's during these binges that games start to penetrate my psyche, to the point where I'm going over them in my head as I'm pointlessly attempting to sleep.
During these gaming fueled insomnia fests, my mind frequently wanders into its own idea a perfect video game. These games more often than not include some sort of zombie theme mixed with a game that already exists. Grand Theft Auto, but with zombies shambling about, feasting on the brains of the survivors of Liberty City. X-COM, but with zombies instead of aliens. Harvest Moon -- but with a zombie outbreak in town so that your little farmer dude has to board up the farmhouse and fight off the zombies with a shovel and a watering can. You get the idea.
Up until today, Dead Rising was the closest my insomniac personality has come to playing its not-quite-asleep-enough-to-dream game. Then last night at 9pm pacific time (approximately 1 hour before I needed to go to bed), Steam informed me that Left 4 Dead had been released. I'm really tired today.
The last time I felt that butterfly in the stomach tingle while playing a first person shooter goes back to the days of the first Half Life. The designers of Left 4 Dead achieved the perfect balance between fun and suspense, and they did it by having the computer script the game in real time. During a session, you and your fellow survivors are always teetering on a precipice of uncertainty, somewhere between safety and total annihilation. The AI always seems to know when it's the right time to assault you with a new threat, whether that be a horde of infested or a "boss" character.
I think Valve's AI director would probably do a better job creating a blockbuster than some actual Hollywood directors and writers. For example, while playing the last stage of the second campaign, my team was assaulted in waves by hordes of infected attempting to batter our defenses and overwhelm our stronghold. After over ten minutes of constant attack, our rescue arrived. Unfortunately for me, the AI decided we weren't going to get away that easy. As our rescue neared the stronghold, we were overrun by the hordes and I was trapped out of doors amongst the uncounted minions of hell. Sensing that there would be no escape without sacrifice, I made the decision to attempt a last stand, buying my co-survivors the precious time needed to board the vehicle and escape. They were treated to the scene of my guns-a-blazin passage to the afterlife, which led them to a chorus of "whoo hoo"s and laughter that only a game that has tapped into the emotions of its players could elicit.
Is there anything wrong with this game? Well, yes, it's too short. Even with the unlimited replayability factor generated by the random AI, you can only experience each campaign once for the first time. Subsequent plays will likely be less tense due to the player's knowledge of the locations involved. I for one am slightly disappointed by the number of campaigns/levels, but I suppose this also makes it easier to find other players that are at the same point in the game as you. I think we will likely see many new levels added as DLC.
Overall, I absolutely love Left 4 Dead. I can't wait to return home tonight and finish the final campaigns. After that, it's off to join the infected hordes in versus mode.