Sunday, January 11, 2009

Left 4 Dead

Publisher: Valve

Developer: Valve

Category: Action

Release Dates

N Amer - 11/18/2008

Intl - 11/21/2008

Also available on: PC and XBOX 360

It's finally happened. The dead have risen and you and three friends are squarely placed in the middle of it all. In a city completely overrun with zombies and the nasty things some of them have evolved into, its not only good to have friends, but it is the only way you can make it through the game. Someone covering your six while another someone lends you first aid. The Zombie Apocolypse is here, boys and girls, so get ready for some multiplayer fun.

So Left 4 Dead has been on a lot of gamers' radars for quite a while. It's made by Valve, the folks who made one of the biggest game franchises of all time, Half-Life. So yes, the bar was set rather high. So, the first thing I will say is that you need to throw any pre-conceived notions out the door. This is a rocket-fire, high-octane style first-person shooter and it has no real brains about it, like Half-life. But don't let that stop you from playing, this is a phenomenal multiplayer game.

"These vacuum salemen are awfully pushy."

The style of the game is kind of off kilter; instead of a back story, the game provides a mini-movie but the apocalypse has already happened. The movie basically is what they show you on the commercials. There is more to fear than just the zombies; apparently there has been some evolution in the outbreak and the big baddies are a whole other set of problems. Starting with the hulking "Tank," a huge monster that runs through anything (including other zombies) to get to you. These things are incredibly strong and it takes literally everybody shooting at it to take them down. The next is this really mean chick called a "Witch." A Witch makes these sobbing noises which sound like crying, but they're mean and vicious, and will slice you once and put you near death, it's almost easier to quietly move past them then tick them off. Next is a zombie with a bad case of French-kissing addiction. They are called "Smokers" and their tongues have grown large and powerful, often snatching victims and pulling them to their death. The Hunter is a zombie who moves lightning fast and leaps around, dodging gunfire. Lastly, the "Boomer" lumbers on to the scene, and promptly spits a yellow goo at you causing temporary blindness, shooting them causes the yellow goo to soak you and blind you as well. What's worse is this spit causes all other zombies to go into a frenzy and they will only attack you.

"Einhorn University, where the male students outnumber the women students 24 to 1;
ladies, be prepared to say no to a few fellas."

The game has each character start off with a more effective weapon and a handgun. The handgun never runs out of ammo, even though you do reload it after each clip is emptied. The problem is though, the handgun is pretty wimpy when it comes to dispatching the undead. So, each characters' other weapon is clearly more powerful. Combat shotgun, machine gun, Uzi and scores of other bigger, badder guns, including going dual pistols when you pick up an additional handgun. This works pretty good and is a good idea to have when you bigger gun runs out of ammo. But fortunately, there are ammo dumps found as you adventure, you see, the survivors are loosely following an underground railroad if you will, a path that supposedly other survivors made it out taking. Graffiti instructions appear at random and each section ends the game with some vague instructions and some health and ammo. The game has a desperate feel to it which means it has hit the nail on the head.

"Tattoos? Check. Facial hair? Check. Octogenarian psychopath covering my six? Check."

The main characters have scenes throughout the game and their voice work is nothing short of awesome. The game's voice work is spot on when said by the actors. It makes like a "B" movie, but one you actually want to watch. The old codger says some pretty funny things when it comes the situations that befall them. Good use of the in-game Dolby digital. This is one of those games that has multiple layers of sounds going on and if you have a good surround-sound setup then prepared to be put smack dab in the middle of the fight of your life. Killer gunfire effects with screaming, explosions and the creepy wails of the Witch. Some games sound good, this one sounds great.

Gameplay: 9.1
A first-person survival horror game that has you out-running and out-surviving the zombie nightmare. It controls like a dream, isn't overly complicated and has a random generator of where the zombies are each time you start the game over.

Graphics: 9.0
Smart looking, well polished and clearly a game that has had some serious love put into it. Valve shows again why they are an industry leader.

Sound: 9.3
Clever writing, and even better voice actors making things seems almost impossible; hear that crying in the background, time to run, quietly.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Concept: 9.6
This has officially made me the happiest zombie-loving geek this side of the moon.

Multiplayer: 9.4
Teamwork has been brought to the next level - a zombie shooter with your buddies.

Overall: 9.2
The holidays is always the best time for games, here's another reason why.

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