Left 4 Dead Hands On

Many great new games are coming out this upcoming holiday season and fortunately for me, I had a chance to play some at this year’s Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). One of the must talked about games, Left 4 Dead (L4D), was available to play at Valve’s booth. Throughout the whole convention, the L4D booth was packed to the gills with people eager to kill some zombies. You may hate me after I say this, but I got to play it 2 hours in advance of the general public. But don’t hate me too much as I wouldn’t have been able to play it otherwise.

So now let me break down Left 4 Dead hands on.

Left 4 Dead is unlike any other type of survival horror game out there. It offers a unique campaign mode that is unseen in any other game out there. You play as one in a team of 4, and while you may not realize how vital it is to play the game with friends during the beginning of the game, you soon realize that you need them if you want to survive. You first start off in a small room with large amounts of ammo and your 3 companions. You load up and begin to venture out into the dark and dreary streets. Tension fills the air the second you step outside. You can’t see them, but you can almost feel the infected ripping and eating your flesh. Lo and behold, they come running at you and you do the only thing you can: take out your gun and start blasting them away. At this early point in the game you might think to yourself, “Pfft, whatever, I can do this by myself, I don’t need any help.” and while you may be right for the first five minutes, you soon realize that the infected keep coming and coming and will need all the help you can get. As you explore more areas you will get more startled and encounter more infected as the dynamic AI dubbed “The Director” keeps you on your toes. Infected will seem to come out of nowhere from everywhere. The majority of the game that I played took place in the dark, and I assume the rest of the game is also that way. Fortunately for you and your companions, you won’t have to stumble around aimlessly in the dark as you each have a flashlight to illuminate pitch dark areas such as subways and buildings.

One of the more interesting features of L4D is how you and your teammates interact with each other. You are able to see an outline of your teammates through walls with the color displaying their condition. Blue means that they are ok, red means there are zombies abound and you need to help them. I found this very interesting as it makes the other people you are playing with take notice of what’s going on. Another feature that is vital to winning the game is the ability to revive your teammates in case he gets struck down by one of the infected. When you get struck down you are only able to shoot your gun, as you are too injured to move on (think of the last stand perk in Call of Duty 4). If a teammate comes to revive you (assuming they themselves don’t get struck down on the way to helping you out) you will be able to move again. Once you get the whole team concept, you will start to see the true glory of the game.

There are many little things that I noticed during game play that made this so much better than I had anticipated. One example is that when you use a health pack, your character will actually bandage themselves and the bandages will remain there as opposed to just regaining health with no signs of ever being injured. The subtle animations of the characters really did make this game feel a bit more intense. I remember playing Resident Evil back in the day and feeling the tension of not knowing what’s through the next door, and L4D definitely brings these feelings back.

This game should definitely be picked up by all of you as I think this is a great co-op game. So grab a beer, turn on that headset, and kill some zombies!

Release Details:
Xbox 360 and PC both hit the streets November 18th in the US and November 21st in Europe.

While prices have not yet been released it can be safe to say that the 360 version will leave you 59.99 less rich and the PC will leave you 49.99 less rich.

The PC version runs off of the latest Source engine and reportedly will have the same system requirements as the Orange Box.

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