Left 4 Dead (PC Review)

Navneet Prakash

The game starts off with a long intro video, which shows off four survivors stuck in a zombie infested city. Prior to the game's start, you are asked to choose one of the four characters. It doesn't really make a difference as all of them bear the same characteristics in the game. The entire game is split into four chapters, each comprising of 5 levels. If you have any FPS experience, you can finish the entire game in less than five hours. Although five hours isn't much, combine it with variable difficulty and online co-op and you have a lot of replay value.
Zombies seem to be really popular; we have seen them in a number of movies, anime, books and graphic novels. In fact Zombies have had more screen-time than Bob Saget (who played a loving father on prime time TV). It's no surprise that gamers love zombies; they are creepy, slow and really easy to kill, but all that's about to change. Many of us have grown up playing games like Resident Evil, which was slow, intense and complex but Valve's latest effort a.k.a Left 4 Dead is completely opposite.

This is a game that completely reinvents the zombie-shooter genre. L4D follows a very simple concept, there is a zombie outbreak and you're one of the four survivors looking for help. In today's world, where gaming can be as complex as algebra, Valve chose a more simple approach to its latest offering, keeping the details to a minimum and focusing on the core gameplay. The game has no real plot, no dramatic sequences; nothing you expect from a survival game, the only issue is that in their quest for simplicity, Valve missed out on a few basics.

Every level starts off in a safe-house or zone. Here you can pack up health, ammo and switch weapons. No part of the city is safe and be prepared to start shooting the minute you exit the safe-house. The zombies in L4D are really fast and smart; something you don't expect from a brain-dead creature, but that is what makes L4D unique. These super-zombies use the environment really well. They scale walls, jump over fences and do just about anything to make your survival as challenging as possible.

The city is completely wasted with destruction everywhere and the zombies use the distorted landscape very well. The unpredictable zombie attacks build an intense experience like no other, challenging industry-favorite Resident Evil as well. The objective of every level is to reach a particular safe-house. However, the only issue is that the entire city is infected, so be prepared to face hordes and hordes of zombies without a breather. The game equips you with a few weapons including a rifle, sniper, shotgun and dual pistols. The limited number of weapons is a major letdown in the game, although the available weapons pack a punch, after a few chapters the urge to get your hands on a flame-thrower, a chainsaw or better yet a light saber. The heavier buttons would have come handy while when fighting one of the many mini-bosses - the witch, hunter, smoker or the boomer in the game. This particular bunch can cause some serious damage, especially the boomer, who will vomit on you attracting the entire horde to you.
The game mostly takes place within close quarters like apartments and hospitals, but you will occasionally come across a wide open area with heavier infestation. Your survival squad is always with you, and it is advised that you don't stray too far. You can always locate your squad members, even if there is a solid object blocking your view, as an outline of the team member is visible. If you are overwhelmed by a group of zombies, your teammates are always ready to rescue you and healing your wounds. You have to make sure that you don't use up your health items quickly, as they are not easily found. The single player is good fun, but gets over too quickly. Luckily the game is fun even when you play it the second time.
The multiplayer, especially co-op, is where the game comes to life. You can play the entire game in co-op with your friends online or offline (LAN). The gameplay just gets better and more challenging depending on your skill level. There is also a competitive mode that gives you the option to play as survivors or zombies; something that I can assure you is highly addictive. I was able to finish the game in co-op with my friends in about four hours, but we ended up playing the game again and realized it was still fun. The zombies have a mind of their own and never react in a scripted manner, which makes playing it a second time just as challenging. The co-op and the competitive mode are must-have multiplayer experiences.
I think this is one of the best co-op games ever. My only issue with the game would have to be the limited weapon types and same characteristics given to the entire squad. I believe it would have been more interesting if each squad member would have been given special abilities, thus increasing the gameplay value and adding more depth to combat. This game is a must have for your PC. It works great on the most modest systems and offers hours of fun killing zombies.