"Left 4 Dead" goes 4 gold

Jan. 20, 2009, 9:12 p.m. | By Sean Howard | 15 years, 4 months ago

Post-apocalyptic zombie first person shooter shines in all its gore-y

It may soon dawn on the casual gamer that Guitar Hero and Rock Band can only be played on expert so many times before they get old. At some point, everyone needs something that they can sink their teeth into, lest they go back to doing something productive like homework (gasp!). Fortunately, that game has arrived, and its name is "Left 4 Dead."

"Left 4 Dead" is a first person shooter developed by Turtle Rock studios and the Valve Corporation for the X-Box 360 and PC. Four survivors must fight in a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies bent on their destruction.

There are two modes of play, campaign and versus mode. The campaign mode can be played solo and accompanied by three AI support players or played with other human players. Players fight off the "Infected" - living humans who have been infected with a mutated rabies virus to which the Survivors are immune. There are four levels and five stages in each, increasing in difficulty. The levels are essentially linear, with a distinct beginning and end, but there are several alternate routes to follow, giving the gamer a sense of non-linearity. This non-linearity combined with multi-player capabilities makes "Left 4 Dead" feel more like an interactive, fast-paced RPG than a horror game.

Versus mode is where those left for dead spend more of their time. The player is placed on a team of four humans or zombies, with a purpose of either killing the zombies or infecting the humans. Both modes of play allow players to play online.

The ability to co-op on both modes of play is by far the most addictive and enjoyable aspect of the game. Playing with a friend without the overall video game experience becoming watered down by a split screen is an exciting prospect that gamers have come to expect from first person shooters. "Halo"-philes and "Madden"-ites will find that their trash-talking skills cannot and will not go to waste in this game. The online component co-op of play on the campaign is reminiscent of "Team Fortress 2" and "Halo," but it is ultimately limited by the fact that only two levels of the campaign mode can be played online.

The graphics in this game use the same game engine "Source," developed by the Valve Corporation, as other hits such as "Portal," "Team Fortress 2," "Half-life" and "Postal III". Though it is a tad dated compared to the graphics of other games for the X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3, it can still hold its own as an excellent game. When played on the highest setting on a PC, it can easily compare to other games with great graphics.

Where the game slightly lacks in graphics, it makes up for it in spades with its sound design. The music not only changes to fit the plot, but to fit based on the mood and actions taken by the characters as well. If the casual gamer is in a dead silent area with no enemies, the music is peaceful. But if the player spots an enemy and moves closer without startling it, the music crescendos, becoming more and more erratic before finally booming out when the enemy detects the player's presence. The music is truly an atmospheric enhancement.

This game is not for the faint of heart. Wii tennis lovers might not find a game about fighting an onslaught of zombies very likable. The game is the definition of wanton violence and definitely earned its "M for Mature" rating from the Electronic Software Rating Board.

The game is reasonably priced at $49.99 for all the thrills and adventure it offers. While waiting for the back aches from holding up a plastic guitar to pass, use that long neglected, itchy trigger finger and plunge into the zombie world of "Left 4 Dead."

Sean Howard. There is a spy among us and his name is Sean Howard. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sean moved to Germantown prior to his current residence in Gaithersburg. Although he has now lived in Maryland for most of his life, he has retained his loyalty to … More »

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