Left 4 Dead Q&A - First Details

Turtle Rock Studios is working on a new game powered by Half-Life 2's Source engine. We get the first details.


You might not think about team-based online multiplayer going hand-in-hand with "survival horror" games--games like the Resident Evil series that give you only limited resources while pitting you against legions of horrible monsters, often in cramped confines. After all, classic survival horror games are usually single-player experiences because they're about your character being all alone in a hostile, zombie-filled world. But Turtle Rock Studios, a developer with credits that include Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and the Xbox version of Counter-Strike, is doing just that with Left 4 Dead. This new team-based game for the PC and Xbox 360 pits small teams of humans against "the infected," which are hordes of ordinary people transformed into mindless killing machines by a mysterious virus that has spread throughout the game's various environments. We sat down with Turtle Rock's Michael Booth to get the first details.

GameSpot: What exactly is Left 4 Dead? We understand that it has survival horror elements, but what else is there to the game? How would you describe it?

Michael Booth: Left 4 Dead is a cooperative survivor horror game where four survivors must work together to escape a city teeming with an overwhelming number of the infected. If you work together, you have a chance. If you run off on your own, you will die.

GS: What's the setting? Is it contemporary America, in the vein of something like Dead Rising? Or is this a postapocalyptic future we're talking about? What sort of environments will we see?

MB: Left 4 Dead is set contemporary America. Although we've pushed the fiction a bit for the sake of gameplay (such as including the "boss infected"), the basic idea of a catastrophic pandemic and the collapse of civilization makes for great survival horror because it is quite plausible. We wanted our environments to remind you of home--but a horribly changed and tortured version of home.

The initial four campaigns of Left 4 Dead include both urban areas and rural areas, with lots of dense architecture and challenging landscapes. Each campaign also ends with an elaborate "finale" where the survivors must make a stand while waiting for a rescue vehicle to arrive and take them to apparent safety.

GS: Who's who in the game? Who are the main characters, what are they trying to do, and what exactly are the infected?

MB: The four survivors include Bill, a Vietnam veteran with combat skills that have helped keep him alive; Louis, an assistant manager at a local retail electronics chain store; Zoey, the teenage daughter of a wealthy family; and Francis, who is big, loud, and rough, but always has your back.

Left 4 Dead will pit a small team of humans against rampaging killing machines.
Left 4 Dead will pit a small team of humans against rampaging killing machines.

Imagine that you live in a major city during a time when a new and highly virulent strain of the rabies virus emerges and begins spreading rapidly among the human population. Those infected become dangerously psychotic and attack all noninfected on sight. You are one of the lucky few who seem to be immune to the virus, but are trapped in a city teeming with thousands of extremely violent infected. Banding together with a few other survivors, you try to escape.

GS: It seems safe to say that Left 4 Dead is a class-based game, considering Turtle Rock's previous work on Counter-Strike: Source, and judging from the early graphic showing the four heroes, each carrying a different type of weapon. What are the classes in the game, and how do they complement one another?

MB: From the survivor standpoint, Left 4 Dead is a cooperative game in which success is based upon the skills of each member and the team's ability to work together as a unit. As such, the four survivors have the same weaponry available to them and begin with the same skills.

On the infected side, however, the characters available to human players (the boomer, smoker, hunter, and tank) have very specific skills.

Shoot It in the Head!

GS: It sounds like infected characters play quite a bit differently from the humans. Will you be able to shoot guns, as well?

While survivors will use guns, the infected will have to rely on their other abilities to win.
While survivors will use guns, the infected will have to rely on their other abilities to win.

MB: The experience of playing an infected is entirely different than that of being a survivor. The four "boss infected" classes have very unique abilities based on their particular virus-induced...mutations.

For example, the boomer can vomit blood on his victim, which attracts hordes of infected to this victim. The smoker, meanwhile, has a 50-foot tongue that can pull a survivor out of position or even leave them hanging.

But the infected cannot use items or fire weapons, and will die quickly if they blindly charge at the well-armed survivor group. That said, the infected are legion in number and when one dies, they spawn right back into the fray after a short time. The infected just keep coming.

As such, playing as an infected tends to be more of a "hide and seek" kind of thing. You want to position yourself to attack at the worst possible time for the survivors, lurking and stalking for a bit until you make your move. That is, unless you are the tank. Then you charge right in and cause massive chaos and mayhem--tossing cars into the air, smashing through concrete walls, that sort of thing.

GS: Is there going to be some kind of story, or is the game mainly a series of multiplayer battles, like Counter-Strike? We understand the game will also ship with four campaigns, each containing five maps. Is each campaign basically a chapter, or a collection of maps that share a same theme?

MB: The campaigns are a connected and evolving set of maps. Like CS, the design goal is to create interesting areas that will allow for extended replay value. Unlike CS, the maps in each campaign are connected and lead to an eventual finale that the survivors are challenged to reach and complete. And along the way, player stats are collected and displayed at given intervals.

The only "story" elements in the game are the differing goals of each campaign, which are all of the "survive-and-escape" variety.

This is an intentional design decision. We've kept the overall goal of the game simple, because the moment-to-moment gameplay is often hectic and mentally demanding. Trying to stay with your team, keep everyone alive, and keep moving toward the next checkpoint is often enough to keep track of.

GS: Multiplayer cooperative gameplay is a big feature of Left 4 Dead, but will you be able to play by yourself in some kind of single-player game? If so, in that case is it just your character solo, or will other members of your team be controlled by artificial intelligence?

MB: Left 4 Dead is built upon Turtle Rock Studios' next-generation AI technology. This lets us create a scalable game experience whether you play alone with AI-controlled survivors and infected, or online with and against human players.

GS: Could you go into detail about the multiplayer modes? It sounds like there's going to be cooperative gameplay against the AI, but also competitive gameplay, with one team playing as the humans and the other team playing as the infected.

MB: The game is designed to allow human players to drop in and out without adversely affecting the experience or requiring the scenario to restart. We have also taken steps to maintain the survivor's game experience even with the presence of human-controlled infected. Although the infected can "win" by killing all of the survivors before they reach the finale and escape, it doesn't feel like a traditional competitive game--it still feels very cooperative from the survivor side.

GS: What sort of weapons will be in the game? Are we talking about modern-day equipment mixed in with a few futuristic prototypes? And can we expect any kind of vehicular combat?

The game is scheduled for release on both the PC and the Xbox 360.
The game is scheduled for release on both the PC and the Xbox 360.

MB: For the initial release of Left 4 Dead, the game's arsenal consists of weaponry that you would be able to scavenge during such a catastrophe: handguns, hunting rifles, shotguns, even some homemade weaponry like pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails.

We are planning to continue to create and release new content for the game via Steam, much as we have done for the Counter-Strike franchise. Over time, we expect the inventory of items in Left 4 Dead to continue to grow.

GS: Finally, a PC version is scheduled for the first half of 2007, with an Xbox 360 version scheduled that winter. Can we expect both versions to be identical? And will the two versions be playable against one another?

MB: Left 4 Dead was explicitly designed as an online cooperative survivor horror experience. I've been quite impressed with the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live interface. Our game will be a perfect fit for it.

Allowing the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Left 4 Dead to play together is something we're still investigating.

GS: Fair enough. Thanks, Michael.

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Avatar image for shakazulu2496

Duude, this is gonna rock! Fighting zombies online with a group of friend?? AWESOMENESS!!!!

Avatar image for Daishomei

This Game I think is a Zombie game people have been looking for.

Avatar image for godofwarfan1

i loved counter strike, this looks like one of the coolest games ever!

Avatar image for Strider_91

2 player zombie game? doesn't get any better lol

Avatar image for gamekingjoey

perfect,what i have been waiting for

Avatar image for thenephariouson

Love the Source Engine, Love Valve, as Turtle rock have just been bought by Valve i have high hopes for this game.

Avatar image for ripdareaper92

it seems pretty good seems a little bit more exciting than resident evil i will have to see this unfold a bit more

Avatar image for NickK47

This game looks pretty awesome, it's gonna be like the zombie maps on CS Source, except better. I'm gonna get all my friends who have Xbox360 to buy it. But I have a PC so I'll own them all. Mouse and Keyboard is the way to go!!

Avatar image for Baloth2025

I can't wait for this game, hard to get better then killing zombies!

Avatar image for TMontana1004

This is going to be so sick. I am making all of my friends buy it.

Avatar image for gifteddie

it would be cool if they made another orange box and this came with half life 3 and some other stuff

Avatar image for darkagent7

i expect this game to be delayed until half-life2: episode 3

Avatar image for tombraiderr

man why they have to delay this game

Avatar image for wespb34

...i would def be playing this game right now if it wasnt delayed....

Avatar image for Zee666

Anything with Zombies is awesome, a co-op game with them is just another take on other games, come on people a true free-roam survival-horror game would be nice people, something just a wee bit better than dead rising. This looks good, but it's nothing special.

Avatar image for SuP3R_TooT

game is going to be great co-op is the way forward for gaming definetly

Avatar image for xRownan

I'm ecstatic abou this game. I love the zombie survival franchise and to finally be able to play online with you friends in such a game is simply awesome.

Avatar image for wjkflke

This Game osunds awsum. hopefully its not just online. if its just for online it wouldnt be worth getting.

Avatar image for klasco

i don't think that playing solo would be good cos your ai buddies will most likely keep getting themselves killed hopfully you will be able to heal them like on gears but this doesn't seem that interesting as other horrors like jerchio or evil 5 which has more lone gunner or shooter aspects then runaway and escape aspects

Avatar image for Icarus405

Sounds awesome, can't wait. The fact that they plan to improve on it after the release is even better!

Avatar image for DRKRATTLI

I've been always been big fan of Source Engine snice its first came out. Honestly, I rather Source over Unreal 3 engine cuz it run faster and amazing detail and always can add more layer to their faces and phys. movements. More real and been strong loyality to ATI, which Valve and ATI is one of my 10 top favorite companies... ATI, Valve, Bungie, Microsoft, XBOX system (1st and 360), HD DVD, Universal Studios, Infinity Ward, Steam, Weinstein Company/Dragon Dynasty and Turtle Rock Studio. They all make some amazing products and rarely let me down. But I trust this game will be as amazing as Half-Life 2 : Orange Box for XBOX 360. I'm also gonna get Team Fortess 2 and Partol for my steam account. Can't wait for new ATI 2600 XT GDDR4 graphic card will rock this Source Engine cuz it run fast and smooth than other graphic engin cuz this run almost like nothing can slow it down on ATI graphic cards of mid-range and high-end card. Valve didn't like the way PS3 degin and in the magazine... the Valve co. owner said they need start all over again cuz their design and programs for PS3 suck! I ain't lying, it is the FACT and the TRUTH! Check it out yourself. I'm not being fanboy... just like their products and what Valve and Source Engine including Microsoft have done to us so far!

Avatar image for MVfalcons83

This is going to be one of the best zombie games ever.

Avatar image for zombie_killer07

finally im gonna be able to kill zombies with my buds.

Avatar image for crazyKhr1s23

will you have 2 pay to play online? =]

Avatar image for chronis1234

Online survival horror! Sounds Great! Time to kiick some zombie butts!

Avatar image for scarred_fox

finally!!! a horror survival that comes to the PC. RE: outbreak was fun, but this is gotta be much better.

Avatar image for CloudStrifeIXI

Yes, i've played Killing Floor, one of the best co-op zombie games ever. Although, its less about the teamwork than it is about killing the zombies to get money for better weapons.

Avatar image for jeffrey123

This looks like it could be a fairly good game. But if you have a pc and UT2004 I would suggest Killing Floor 2.0 while you wait. Killing Floor is the best multiplayer experience I've ever had. IMO, it easily beats halo2, Gears of War and Company of Heroes in terms of multiplayer gameplay. Left4Dead is pretty much a mix between Killing Floor, Zombie Panic and maybe No More Room In Hell. Personally, I'll look forward to playing No More Room In Hell for the source engine than this.

Avatar image for sikboy1029

want to preorder.........NOW!!!

Avatar image for gameboy360

pure genious

Avatar image for bondey

when is it coming out

Avatar image for senjutsu

cool, I love the source engine! :D The characters look way more real that any other engine I ever saw ( not graphically but for the emotions their face can show ) :D Only bad thing about source, at least in HL2 was the non-stop loadiing, without this, it's the best! :D

Avatar image for killerkenwow

to hell with steam! nice looking game. to bad steam got there hands on it!

Avatar image for siran_choke

so it's based around 4 players...so play the campaign over xbl with 3 of your friends?

Avatar image for DesmondPills

awesome. i cannot wait. finally a game that ive been dreaming about and by people who i completely trust developing it.

Avatar image for diablos101

seems cool...

Avatar image for Ghosts

I think if people dont hop around like morons in a lot of games(if there is a hop withc there probablly be)it could be an exiting game. For once this sounds like something that may be a challange. If they make a lot of items avalible,even ordinary house hold objects,like knifes for throwing,places to hide,and things like that the survivors will always have to be ready and find new ways to survive. As for playing as the infected, The smoke one sounds like my kind of charcter :D If people play well with infected and don`t act like retards, It may even turn out as exciting as the silent hill series,though thats hard to beat after all,They have some of the freakiest things i`ve ever seen,or thought of. -=-Waiting for a demo and more!

Avatar image for godnos

it sounds like resident evil apocolypse

Avatar image for CaribouLou5

Some people have said something about subscriptions... I can promise you they won't charge per month, just a one time fee to buy the game, similar to how EVERY other Valve game is. This game better stand out from the already existing [and free] zombie mods for CS:S.

Avatar image for shibby360

cool this games gonna be sweeet. but it really needs good online play. zombie games have a lot of potential but the games never seem to use it. for example they should have zombie games where players get to be zombies and humans and they need to defend a base for a given amount of time or escape... zombies vs. humans.... gotta love it

Avatar image for shaker_bsb

I love these types of games. But i hope to be a goooooood one

Avatar image for FredrikEhn

When i saw "Zombies against humans" i thought of dead rising 2. I was wrong....

Avatar image for cjcr_alexandru

Why do people like so much zombies?

Avatar image for TVR_Fan

I love my Zombie games based on the Half Life and HL2 engine, but I think this game borrowed some ideas from Zombie Panic, however I still buy this for the Xbox 360.

Avatar image for DAFPSMASTERVET1

well one thing is for sure if it run 's on the source engine it wont have bad graphics!

Avatar image for Spencer28

"a new and highly virulent strain of the rabies virus emerges and begins spreading rapidly among the human population" If anyone has ever read the book "Jurassic Park" which is much different from the movie, Lewis Dodgson the man you see talking to Dennis in the movie(ok that parts the same) is famous for creating a highly contagious airborne strain of rabies and unleashing it in Africa. I wonder if thats where they got the idea

Avatar image for scissor-face

blAklfdkgrjt Zombies!!more zombies1, YaY Zombies..!!! LALALblaploo..bloood

Avatar image for Gordan-Freeman

Same gun sounds as Half life too? Lame

Avatar image for badlands27

STILL waiting for a good zombie-type game for a Sony console...

Avatar image for princegee4

wow great but developers should not missuse of this good game engine like ubi dark messiah its a bug full game giltiches more more....... but this game looking goood if single player sequence is also good like mp its a good one in pc gaming