By Jason Van Horn
The best thing to ever happen to zombies was giving them the ability to sprint.
A shuffling zombie is good for a laugh, but they hardly spark fear in anyone. As
soon as I placed my hands on the mouse and keyboard and prepared to try Valve’s
upcoming Left 4 Dead, I knew within a matter of moments that I was in for
something frightening and special. Did I manage to make it to the chopper in
time or die like everyone else?
The story of Left 4 Dead revolves around several uninfected people joining
together under dire situations, trying to find some way to survive. The
characters you’ll play as have different looks and back stories, but when
everyone is just looking to survive, the only thing that matters is if you can
wield a gun. Handling the machinery is simple to do too, as Left 4 Dead features
the same control scheme many other first-person-shooters use. Players will use
the WASD keys to move, the number buttons to cycle through available weapons,
and the mouse to not only shoot weapons, but perform a melee bash as well.
I jumped into the game and was thrust into a safe room, where my crew went about
gathering healing med kits, choosing their weaponry and stocking up on ammo.
Unlike Master Chief from the Halo series, players are very human, and therefore
can’t wield all the great weapons at once. Players can carry two weapons on
their person at one time, including one power weapon – an assault rifle or
shotgun – and then a sidearm like a police pistol. We were told that the
weaponry true to life, so don’t expect to wield anything you couldn’t do in the
real world. Players will also run out of ammo pretty quickly depending on the
weapon being used the most—I usually found myself trying to survive with nothing
but a pistol. For the record, a pistol does not make a great weapon when facing
down ten rushing zombies. Once our crew of four was loaded to the teeth, we
stepped out into the darkened corridors of a hospital and tried to work our way
to the roof, where we were hopefully going to be able to jump onboard a rescue
Left 4 Dead featured some of the creepiest set pieces I’ve seen recently in a
game, as the hospital’s corridors were darkened due to broken lights, blood was
smeared on walls, and debris was scattered everywhere. Our group slowly spread
out to check the area, only to discover that you really need to have a buddy
with you at all times or else you can be killed in no time at all. Following one
partner, for instance, I watched as a tentacle shot forth, grabbed him, and
started to slowly reel him into the darkness for the kill. If I hadn’t been
watching his back and there to put a bullet in the monster, he would’ve been a
goner. I found myself in a likewise dire moment about ten minutes later, as a
creature grabbed me and was strangling me from afar with its tentacle, letting
me dangle as if hanging from a noose. I lost a lot of health, but thankfully
someone discovered me, gave a bash to the monster, and managed to revive me.
It’s possible to fully die in the game after a certain amount of deaths, but
generally players are able to help each other by pressing the E-button, which
amounts to one player extending their hand in order to help the downed player .
The majority of the zombies were the quick skirting monsters seen in previous
trailers and video footage of the game. Tthe zombies were dressed like patients
of the hospital, with dressing gowns flapping behind them, exposing their
backsides. They were frightening with their rage filled eyes, decayed skin, and
hardened hands (which I often found reaching for my throat). We didn’t see every
zombie type in the game, but we were assured that there would be multiple types.
We did see the sprinting zombies, tentacle zombies, and a few hulking behemoths
which took a barrage of bullets to finally put them to rest.
Though the gameplay was excellent, the thing that really defined the game was
its sense of timing and pacing. Left 4 Dead included quite a few notable moments
of never ending violence and nerve rattling battles, such as our crew waiting
for an elevator to arrive and having to defend off a zombie attack that came at
us from every direction. One of my fellow survivors was literally vomited on at
one point, which blinded them and kept them from the action. He needed me to
help defend while the horde of zombies was drawn in, due to the stench that had
been splashed all over him .
Another terrifying moment came during one of relative quiet, when we thought the
safe room would actually be...well…safe! As our team went about grabbing guns
and health, we were yelled at by our Valve sponsor to hurry up and close the
door. We were slow to act, however, and suddenly the room was filled with
zombies killing all of us in one quick blitzkrieg. If one of our survivors
hadn’t had the common sense to hurry and close the door, we surely would’ve lost
the game at that moment.
The piece de resistance of the whole experience was the closing moments of the
first scenario, which would’ve had the team escaping on our rescue helicopter.
We were forewarned that there would be a mighty battle once we dispatched for
the plane, so we readied into position with one man behind the stationary gun
and others providing support. It was a horrific running of the bulls as zombies
came flooding from all the cracks, breaking right towards us. The stationary gun
was soon overrun, but not before lighting a fire that swept through the zombie
wave. We thought we were in the clear, but then another wave came, and a hulking
monstrosity took several players out with one powerful slam. I knew I couldn’t
survive by myself, so I ran to give a hand to a downed partner, hoping with
their help we would survive. I was so focused on wanting to save everyone that I
didn’t hear my Valve representative yelling at me to forget him, he was already
dead, and to try and save myself. I actually felt compelled not to leave him
behind, but I decided to break away and rush towards the helicopter. I thought I
was in the clear, but a wave of zombies appeared, cornered me, and then it was
I had great hopes for Left 4 Dead when I first heard about the game. I’ve been
desperately clinging to the hope that one day a true zombie apocalypse survivor
game would be created, and I’ve found that with Left 4 Dead. If you want to be
scared and actually feel as if you are trying to survive the end of days, you
better keep a watch out for this game, as it will be releasing in only a few