Left 4 Dead review
Game of the year!!...while it lasts at least.


Overview and Opening Thoughts
Well, this holiday season, some big games were released on the PC. Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty World at War, and Left 4 Dead. One of these titles sticks out; Left 4 Dead. It’s the only one of these games that is actually it’s own game, not banking on success of prior games to get sold. Granted, it’s run on an overused game engine, and the most notable engine probably in gaming history, the Source engine. But the Source engine has never powered a dud, the Source engine has mods that are more popular then some full games out there. Note worthy games powered by Source: Half Life 2, that won numerous game of the year awards, as did Portal, for the puzzle genre, and Counter-Strike, one of the best and most known first person shooters ever. So Valve, the game’s developer, isn’t really a lightweight or new to creating great games.

But, never the less, Left 4 Dead is from one of the best developers on their best engine. So, it’s no surprise this game had a cult following since the day it was announced. It’s got great mechanics that every game needs to have success. Hype: check. Good trailer: check. Tons of fan boys: check. One thing it didn’t do was disappoint. Anyone to pick up Left 4 Dead, and say initially, “This game sucks!” is out of their minds. This game, in no way, sucks. Nor, is it the greatest game ever that everyone expected. It’s great while it lasts, but only while it lasts. There’s tons of achievements, but that doesn’t even help extend the longevity, since I got most of them playing through on Easy mode, and the multiplayer ones on my first couple times of playing. It’s greatest asset is it’s greatest pitfall. The multiplayer. Most Valve games are noted for either being great by itself, or great with friends. Well really, this as close as they’ve ever gotten to both. You can play the story by yourself, but that turns into a mediocre, boring thing to do, do to the repetition and low-level AI of your CPU friends. So, basically, each play through is the same with the CPU players. But, when you go to online campaign mode, nothing stays the same. The potential for things to happen is always different, the zombies are in different places, and it’s generally fun to play.

Left 4 Dead is one of the smoothest playing survival horror games I’ve played. It’s like Dead Rising with extremely fast zombies. The game seems to know when to give you weapons, even though they are placed different places with each replay of the campaign. Most times, you get the gun when you are just about out of ammo with the gun you are carrying. There are plenty of guns and weapons in this game. There are Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, two shotguns (one auto, and one pump), an assault rifle, a hunting rifle (with a scope), a machine gun, a medicine pack (not necessarily a weapon, but can be used as one), and single/double pistols. This leads to a variety of gameplay styles, which is extremely interesting to see when playing online.

Did someone say ZOMBIES?!?!

The game isn’t really graphically spectacular, definitely not the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s at least pretty. On an engine that’s been used for a long time, there has been enough time for perfecting it. But it’s pretty much been perfect since it first debuted, with good graphics, good physics, and everything else a good engine needs. The graphics in this game are better than the 360 version maxed out. I played the 360 version on a 36 inch LCD HD widescreen, but a 360’s hardware just can’t compete with my ever upgrading PC.

The physics in the game are about a s realistic as they can get, considering the fact no one knows how zombies would really fly in real life, since studies aren’t really done on that fact. This game simulates the hypothetical apocalyptic situation that everyone has hidden in their head from the popular culture zombies, and it does it well. Everyone expects the zombies to be super fast and things like that, and this game has that.

The difference in playing styles come from the gun choices, and played preference. Some players enjoy following, and shooting when necessary, meanwhile I enjoy running ahead and killing as many as I can. The above video also shows off a range of weapons included in the game. The game’s variety of weapons is interesting, but they all are extremely easy to kill with, except the pistols, so if you want an extremely challenging game out of this, you’ll have to play expert with pistols only. Well, actually, expert mode is extremely hard either way. I suggest doing what you can if you take this on, it’s going to be an epic struggle, but it’ll be worth it, it’s the most fun way, especially when playing with friends. Also, meleeing becomes an extremely important attribute in this game. Whenever your cornered, and out of ammo, there’s one thing to do. Push those dang zombies back! It’s a great way to buy yourself enough to time to switch to pistol or reload, but either way, it’s a great asset to know when to melee in this game.

The most interesting part of the game is the zombies themselves. They are all different in looks, but the virus makes them all act the same way. Although, some zombies just look at you, most charge at you the moment they notice you. But don’t think stealth is a priority in this game, because the zombies have very perceptive hearing, the moment you shoot one, they will all know your there. Speaking of the zombies, the most interesting things other zombie games don’t have are the “special” infected. These are zombies with different, basically super, powers. There are 5 types, smokers, hunters, boomers, tanks, and witchs. Smokers and boomers are lightweights in damage compared to the others, but they have some interesting attacks. Smokers constrict you with their tongues, and when killed, spray smoke that attracts a group of zombies known as a “horde”. The boomer throws up, and if it gets on you the horde will come. Also, when you kill one, it explodes and sprays it’s puke all over. Meanwhile, the hunters deal damage by jumping on you and just starting to rip away at you. The tanks, are what they are described as, zombie tanks. They are huge, muscle bound, hulking creatures that just try to kill you using brute force. They break off pieces of concrete and throw them. The witch is a combo of a hunter and a tank. The witch is a small zombie that looks harmless, and is harmless until you disturb it. But if you shoot it, or make too much noise around it, it will jump up, charge the person who startled it, and just start ripping in until they are dead. It takes quite a lot of damage to kill it.

As many people that have played this game, have all usually described it as one thing. The most innovative co-op mode I’ve ever played. You hear that over and over, because it’s true. How often would see 4 player seamless co-op that’s actually fun? It forces you to work together to accomplish the goals, and cover each other’s back. This mode is extreme fun, nothing like getting some of your buds together to blow some zombies apart. But, the best part about this is the replay value. This is where the games replay ability comes into full display. Each time you play through, the game is different. The zombies, weapons, and special infected are all found in different places. The zombies can come at anytime in different amounts, you name it, it most likely changes. The game is extremely fun to play in any difficulty, most fun and challenge comes from expert mode, but most ‘kick back and chillax with your buds’ comes from normal or easy modes.

There is also another version of multiplayer you don’t hear that much acclaim for is the versus mode. There was a popular mod of the source engine where you played humans against zombies, and I think that’s where this mode got it’s basic ideas. You play as one of the 4 special infected, sadly, no witches. Either way, this game mode is extremely interesting. Basically, you hide and wait if you are the infected, and sneak attack the humans. And if you are the humans, it’s just like the campaign, you try to push your way through the level as you normally would. It’s a different thing the you usually see in survival horror games, and it’s a welcome addition, although it has it’s troubles. Like the fact that it’s obviously easier for the humans to kill the zombies, than it is for zombies to kill the humans. But one thing is, there are achievements that are only for this mode, such as constricting two survivors in one round will get you “Chain Smoker”. Another thing that bugs me about this mode is how easy it is to kill a tank. Normally whenever you’re doing a regular campaign, the tank normally wrecks your team, but when you are in this mode, the tank barely does any damage, and dies in like 6 shots. It’s extremely disappointing.


The achievements system in this game is a lot like other games. You do certain special things in the game, and it rewards you with a special achievement with a funny name. Some notable ones are “Man vs. Tank” which is single handedly defeating a tank, “CR0WNED” which is killing a witch with a single headshot, and my personal favorite, “101 Cremations” which is killing 101 zombies through flames by using Molotov cocktails.

The achievements are one of the best replay factors this game has, if you are a perfectionist, and can’t go to sleep knowing you haven’t completed the toughest of the achievements. But the thing is, all this gives you is a little bragging rights to your Steam friends on the PC version. It doesn’t attribute to your Games for Windows Live gamerscore, which would be interesting, but it does go to your steam account as stats under your Left 4 Dead.


This game basically decides for you when the updates are coming, and if you don’t really want to update your games all the time, then your out of luck. Valve is one of the best PC game developers, but the fact that they force their distribution download program alongside it is sort of discouraging. It took me about 10 minutes to install this game, but it took me around an hour to download the updates and install those. Steam is a good enough program though, seeing as you can add your friends you make in game, and create clans or teams extremely easily. Steam is how you view it, but it’s not a terrible program.


Valve is known for it’s great plots for games, so you’d think this would be the same, right? Wrong. This game has a terrible story, much like every other zombie game/movie/show you’ve ever played or seen. Basically, their was a virus, in Left 4 Dead’s case “rabies”, or a mutated version of it. There are few people who are immune to it, and don’t become zombies, and luckily 4 of them met up to go somewhere to evacuate. So you guys stock up, and go out to walk hundreds of miles. Surprisingly, you don’t need food or other things necessary to life. But you can get attacked by a zombie and get nearly killed, and get fixed up by a simple med pack. I’ve never understood zombie games mechanics, but I guess I shouldn’t worry about reality when I’m fighting off people who became zombies by contracting mutated rabies.

So, you have to get off the rooftop of the apartments you got on as shown in the the opening video. So you have to go down through the zombie infected zombies, and go through the city to get to the subway. That’s an example of a level found throughout, as they all of the basic idea: survive until you get into a safe room. A safe room is basically a room with two doors that are metal and indestructible. The game’s story gets old fast, so that pretty much adds to the basically nonexistent replay value.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, this game has its fair share of faults, but then again, what game doesn’t? Its major let down is the limited available replay value, but that is subjective to how much you enjoy the overused plot and story. The gameplay is the major up for this game, considering the fact it’s from Valve, you should expect anything less than award winning gameplay. This game has won plenty of game of the year awards, and it’s easy to see why, but in my opinion, it doesn’t compare to other games out this year, like Fallout 3. This is certainly a game that would be a shame to miss out on, everyone should play it and formulate their own opinion on it. It’s probably the best multiplayer game in recent years, co-op wise at least. And the versus mode could revitalize the survival horror genre’s view on multiplayer, as could the co-op. I already picture tons of imitator’s of this game, but as they say, this game will most likely be “often imitated, never duplicated.” Left 4 Dead is a solid game that has few faults, basically the same faults that have plagued zombie games since the dawn of gaming, but still, this game is one you should not miss out on. I recommend you to at least rent it, since it’s not that long, and you should be able to enjoy it more rented, and save yourself around $45 by just renting and beating it, since you’ll get tired of it rather quickly. I hope this review helps you better form an opinion of whether or not to buy it or not.

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0 thumbs!
vicrabb Dec 30, 08
It's a very good review! Nicely written and nicely presented!
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