By ELIOT HAGEN
Valve has never made a bad game. From the still incredibly popular “Counter-Strike” games to the universally acclaimed “Half-Life” series and the borderline cartoonish “Team Fortress” series to the brilliantly innovative “Portal,” PC users can always rely on Valve to deliver stellar titles. Their newest venture does not disappoint. In fact, it exceeds all expectations.
“Left 4 Dead” has you and three other survivors of a zombie apocalypse attempting to escape to safety. It’s an old song, but it sounds just as sweet.
With a total of four campaigns, each with five stages and a unique environment, there’s plenty of variety. Coupled with a cinematic score and an innovative, cooperative gameplay, “L4D” is an amazing game.
A First-Person-Shooter (FPS), “Left 4 Dead” needed to do something that would set it apart from other FPS games, which constitute a large portion of the gaming market. What it did was incorporate the most ingenious and revolutionary computer AI to make the game different each time you play it. The AI, peerless for both your allies and the horde of zombies out for your blood, makes the game seem incredibly realistic.
Gamers are used to patterns. Gamers thrive on patterns. However, there are none in “Left 4 Dead.” Each time you play through the same stage, the zombies will move differently, approach from different areas and even weapons and health pickups will be spawned in different locations, encouraging exploration. In addition to that, each stage has several paths to the exit so, despite the objective being to get from point “A” to point “B,” it’s never too linear.
Another integral facet of the game is the cooperative aspect, the golden rule being “he who leaves the group, dies.” This will be your mantra, seeing as straying from your companions often leads to your death.
If you get knocked down, you’re stuck on the ground with your pistols until a teammate comes and revives you. The computer allies are good, but they can’t see exploits that the more astute gamer would notice; however, they’ll always be there to help you up should you get knocked down.
The zombies are also extremely smart. These aren’t George A. Romero zombies or “Resident Evil” zombies but instead “28 Days Later” zombies. They’re fast—faster than you—and they travel in packs of anywhere from 10 to 100.
Along with regular zombies who rush you blindly, there are Smokers, fast zombies who grab you with frog-like tongues, pulling you away and constricting you, and Hunters, zombies who can jump huge distances and often pin you, thrashing at your face. Should you be constricted or pinned, a teammate must help you.
There are also Boomers, massive zombies whose insides attract other zombies. If you get too close, they’ll vomit on you, obscuring your vision and resulting in hundreds of zombies streaming in from all entrances. Should you shoot them when you’re too close, their insides will splash on you, resulting in the same effect.
Finally, there are the horror-inspiring Tanks and Witches. Tanks are gigantic zombies who hurl debris and knock your characters clear across the room. You’ll never take one down alone, and if it knocks you down first, you’re pretty much dead unless it gets killed first.
The Witches, by far the scariest enemies, sit and cry in corners. Though they seem harmless and almost pitiful, if you startle one, you’d better have all three of your teammates behind you to help you take her down. It’s always more intelligent to sneak past her, though.
The single-player mode (with the computer allies) is excellent, but to truly enjoy this game, you need to play online with other people, preferably friends of the same skill level. The experience is unparalleled in its intensity, realism, and grittiness.