Love 4 The Dead
posted by Mr C
Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 11:26:27 PM EST
This holiday season, you'll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have to make sacrifices to their gaming wish-list. Furthermore, some of the quality of these games are in question, from the exceptional (Gears of War 2 and Little Big Planet) to the disappointing (Tom Clancy's EndWar), yet its usually too late as you load the disk into the tray. Furthermore, the PC is lacking that holiday mascot, with the beautiful Far Cry 2 and Crysis: Warhead a bit lackluster in gameplay. Yet, after spending time with Valve's zombie apocalypse simulation, Left 4 Dead, I can guarantee that not only has the PC found its Rudolph, but that it will be worth every penny.
The story is fairly basic. Two weeks after the initial outbreak of some mutant strain of rabies, four survivors abandon their hideout in an attempt to get out of the city. Unfortunately for them, some of the infected have mutated into vile creatures, from the athletic Hunter to the Hulk-like Tank, making their escape even more treacherous. The story will span 4 acts, which are divided into chapters through various 'maps'.
The gameplay is amazing, thankfully for its downright simplicity. You are allowed to start with a primary weapon which is either a pump-action shotgun or an uzi, your pistol with unlimited ammunition, a health pack, an explosive, or pain pills. The goal: Get from point A to point B without being eaten, beaten, or biled on.
The weapons are fairly similar to Counter-Strike in their feel, which isn't a bad thing at all. Initially you only have access to your pistol and a choice between the pump-action shotgun or an uzi, which are both excellent with one is better at taking out multiple infected at once and the other has better range. Smart players will learn to use their pistols, for you can equip a second pistol to 'duel wield', for the regular infected and save the bigger armament for the Horde and boss infected. As you progress through the map, you'll find other weapons, such as the Hunting Rifle, Automatic Shotgun, and the M16 rifle...though in the demo I found the Hunting Rifle not as effective due to the tight quarters you are in when you discover it.
Explosives come in two varieties: Molotov cocktails and Pipe bombs. Pipe bombs are a bit more strategic, which when thrown emit a flashing and beeping, luring infected and blowing them to kingdom-come. The Molotavs are not without use though, as its flames will spread a couple of meters and is useful as a barrier and on the Tank.
Health, just as much as the Infected, is what seems to drive L4D's teamwork. Each character is allowed only 1 health pack, and they are only found at the safe rooms at the beginning of a chapter. You can heal others in great need, but then you may have to rely on another player's generosity if you land in a spot of trouble. Pain pills can be found throughout the maps in random nooks and crannies, but they only prolong your situation with a temporary health boost.
The Infected horde consist of 3 parts: The infected, the infected horde, and boss infected. The stand alone Infected are easy to kill, and even the swarm attacks deemed the Infected Horde by Valve can be beaten back without much incident by a solid team and those who make use of the ability to melee and knock back the Infected. It's the boss Infected who cause the chaos. The Boomer will vomit bile on a player, causing their vision to be impaired by green goo and the scent attracts The Horde. Worse, they explode when shot, and will not only damage those around but also spill its "Horde Honey" as I deemed all over the place. The Smokers and Hunters are a bit more subtle, yet maybe more dangerous due to this. They are incapacitators, the Smoker using his 50 ft tongue to strangle players and will emit smoke on his own and when killed that keeps players from using voice communication as they hack and cough. The hooded Hunter leaps about and will pin and subsequently claw a player until killed. The Tank I found required the most teamwork, and good luck to whoever attempts a one on one confrontation to gain a certain achievement. Just surround and confuse it by everyone nailing it with rounds, and perhaps throw a Molotov to inflict constant damage, and it should be down in no time. Finally, the Witch. This vile piece of work cries in the corner of areas around the map, and will not attack if you avoid it. But shoot, shine it, or get to close, and she goes all Wolverine on you and can kill with one strike in a speedy fashion. Luckily, she's fairly weak, with her speed and strength her dangerous attributes.
I haven't had much time with versus mode, but the little I've played is nothing short of pure fun. One team will play as the survivors, as if they're playing the Campaign, while the other team takes the role of Boomers, Hunters, Smokers, and a Tank in an attempt to kill the other players. I found playing as the Infected much harder, as you must time your attacks and ambushes with proper timing, and you have to really coordinate with your fellow critter-folk. Its a real blast though, and shouldn't be ignored.
To close up, Left 4 Dead on the PC is amazing. Its a pretty game, though it doesn't near the look of Far Cry 2 or Crysis. The sound you'll use perhaps more than the screen as you listen to your teammates and try to decipher the music The Director decides to play and begin to get anxious as you hear a nearby Hunter but can't see it. Teamwork is a must, and even though the A.I. is rather solid, the Expert difficulty mode almost demands the necessity of human teamwork rather than the computer sort. I wouldn't be foolish enough to say this is GOTY, especially with only 2 chapters of the 1st campaign being witnissed, but I will say that this is the PC GOTY. It just delivers its promise, and I personally cannot wait to get a hold of my final copy.