Left 4 Dead - game review

Author: eJay
Date: 2008-11-24 13:31:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Highway near the town of Riverside. It was there that I became convinced that Left 4 Dead is an extraordinary game. It would be quite an abuse to write about the caliber of Turtle Rock Studios' new work that are changing the history of electronic entertainment. They just use proven patterns and try to create their own style. Returning to the highway - after killing 1500 zombies, I had the right to feel weary. But not in this game. So I came full of hope with my companions to the American town. Instead of help, I saw only a road sign with the meaningful text "Welcome to hell" (the name of the place was sprayed). With only a dozen shotgun shells in my sleeve, I felt real terror and chills. And I didn't miscalculate. Moments later, a crowd of bloodthirsty dead men jumped out at me. There was nothing left for me to do but to play the role of the victim and become an asphalt decor. Ladies and Gentlemen - this is one of the best strictly multiplayer titles in recent years.

The first to lose his head for Left 4 Dead ...

Left 4 Dead has been around for some time. The main argument for the high quality of this work was Valve's care. Gabe Newell is hard-pressed and watches over all the projects that come out of his office. Nevertheless, I approached the idea of a butcher's FPS with a distance. I've never really liked the mindless shooter genre. I've always expected something more from games that would force me to use a few gray cells. I will not lie to you - Left 4 Dead is an example of banality, but dressed in truly royal robes. It would seem that such a simple game has no chance of breaking through the market. Especially in the era when military-related productions dominate, preferring a slightly more ambitious approach to the game. And yet! The guys from Turtle Rock Studios have refined individual elements and created a truly explosive mixture.

In theory, this is a survival-horror FPS. However, there are many references to classic and modern zombie films by George Romero, Danny Boyle, and the second part of Grindhouse directed by Robert Rodriguez. The behavior of the Infected (as they are called in the game) follows the genre standard. They are stupid and attack en masse. The developers' respect for the zombie-movies canon seems to be Left 4 Dead's strongest point. The perfect example is the composition of the team we travel through the levels - the tattooed motorcyclist Francis, the horror fan Zoey, the Vietnam veteran Bill and the black system analyst Louis. In short: half-head, walking stick, limestone and proof of political correctness. The selection of characters smells like a cult typical for this type of production.

The atmosphere of the apocalypse is also ensured by skillfully selected locations. Breaking zombies in a cemetery, a lost highway, an abandoned subway or in a hospital will bring many fans a lot of fun. Valve seems to wink at the player and say, "Guys. We know what we wanted to do. We also love brain-eating cinema! ”. The execution of the levels is more than good. It's just great. For example, inscriptions on the walls. It may be a small thing, but the information about the spreading infection builds the atmosphere of the end of the world. Anyway, the envelope of the game clearly refers, among others to "28 Days Later" and its sequel. There is a virus there, there are abandoned towns, and there is also the army. The plot itself seems to be a secondary issue, although in some places it can be seen that the authors were interested in the film course of individual scripts. For example, the loading screens have taken the form of posters with the main characters in the foreground.

Four campaigns have been prepared for the fantastic four, each containing 5 episodes. It is not a lot, but in practice it is not a little. Roughly, the idea is to escape the zombie-infested area and hide in a special shelter. There are not many paths leading to the goal, because there is only one. But the schematic in this place takes a completely different form. And everything is to be blamed by the AI Director, responsible for the sounds and details generated in random places, such as smoke, fire and objects. The implementation of this technology is associated with a non-linear course of the game. Players who go through an episode once cannot say that they know the map by heart.

Of course, there are scripts in some places that cannot be avoided. However, this is not a disadvantage that undermines the merits of AI Director. This one still rules and makes some scenarios playable up to 100 times. It is also happy that Turtle Rock Studios are completely honest with users and have not equipped the HUD with a minimap or waypoints. Since there is only one path to the shelter, why complicate the matter unnecessarily? The idea with the position indicator of our friends is to be praised. If one of them is around the corner or on a different floor of the building, a colored glow appears around them, indicating the level of health.

A total of 10 types of weapons are available to players. Those who expect unusual tappets from Left 4 Dead with the word "plasma" in the model name will be disappointed. The game remains faithful to the convention. We have to be content with a shotgun (normal and fast-firing), M16A2 rifle, Uzi and pistols. The presence of a sniper rifle is a bit amusing, and the lack of a chainsaw, so obvious for gore movies, is worrying. Here you have to count on players. Perhaps a modification will be created that will add new toys to the game. The arsenal, however, hides some nice surprises. It is impossible to ignore two absolutely brilliant tools taken straight from the film classics.

The first is M134, the so-called a mini-gun that was installed only in selected places. The strength of this wonder is unearthly, and massacring enemies with it is extremely pleasant. The second way is both effective and fun. I mean a time bomb with a light and alarm attached. Zombies cling to him like bees to honey. What they don't know is that this flashing and beeping object is making a big "bang!" It is enough to throw it over a medium distance and watch how a group of several dozen enemies turns into a cloud of acid. And yet there is also a Molotov cocktail, which after using it, turns zombies into clumsily running torches.

There are 3 game modes in the game. The single player campaign is limited to completing all episodes with bots by your side. It's neither fun nor cute, but it can be used to unlock various achievements in the main menu. The default mode is Cooperative, which allows 4 users to meet the role of Survivors in one session. Then you can see the real power of L4D gameplay. It is based on constant cooperation and sticking together, even in the hottest moments. Loners die quickly and weaken the team. Teamplay is bowing again and the ability to make proper decisions. Seemingly simple, but enriched with the factors I mentioned earlier, it creates a unique position for personal computers.

I really appreciate unpredictable titles, and Left 4 Dead is just that. It is difficult to plan an action a few steps ahead. You have to act quickly, shoot precisely, help your buddies survive. Especially since the medkits on the map are like medicine. From time to time, we are treated to a table with ammunition and painkillers, which partially extend our life. However, during the standstill, zombies can still attack us and this is what is beautiful in this game. We can never feel safe. Accidental death does not mean the end of the world yet. There are so-called Survivors' rooms. If friends get to this place, they will allow us to be reborn. When zombies knock us down, we get an adrenaline rush. While lying down, we have an increased number of health points and we can only use the pistol, which, by the way, has an unlimited number of magazines. Such a culprit must be helped by a partner using the interaction button.

The real ace from the sleeve is the Versus mode (Kontra in Polish). It allows you to join the game as a Survivor or a zombie of a higher category. Hunting people is a bit like the Predator. The character can climb buildings and attack by surprise. The creators showed a lot of wisdom and made it impossible for the crooks to attack from behind the team's back. To enter the game, you need to run around the map a bit as a ghost and choose a spawn spot away from the action area. There are four types of Infected in total. The Hunter is a fast, lively and agile unit that likes to tear people apart. Smoker strangles victims with a long tongue. Boomer is a fat man who uses his vomit to deal damage. Tank, on the other hand, is a bit like a comic Hulk. It is just as strong and big. The only unplayable unit on the evil side is the Witch. It lures the victims with the sound of a small child crying. After the round is over, the roles change and the Infested become the Survivors. The team with the better final score wins. Overall, Versus is a great idea. Playing a hunter is a good springboard from the next fights between policemen and thieves.

The Source engine is responsible for the visuals. I am pleased to announce that it works perfectly. The graphics in the game are not a mix of randomly selected textures and forced effects. The authors focused on the aesthetics and realism of the presented world. The character models look good, especially the main characters are able to express with their expressions the feelings associated with cutting down rivals. The undead have been blessed with great animations. Opponents can climb objects and fall off them even more nicely - Havok does its job. The lighting of the location is also flawless (flashlight!). The whole thing is perfectly optimized and owners of mid-range equipment should not have to worry about any drops in liquidity, even at maximum settings. This is important because the sight of 40 raging zombies running around is not uncommon. I cannot fault the audio sphere either. The sounds of gunshots, dialogues and music (in a small amount) did not fade my ears, so it's not bad.

However, Turtle Rock Studios failed to avoid mishaps. Of course, these are not shortcomings that prevent you from enjoying the game, but their presence is a fact. Compared to such a refined gameplay, the server search engine is unfavorable, or rather the lack of it. We seem to have something similar to it, but I cannot understand how we managed to smuggle such a bad idea into the final version. The game itself searches for the waiting area for the game, and our influence is limited to the choice of campaign and difficulty level. In the newly created lobby there is a chat and a window with available slots. However, there is clearly no information about ping, which does not always have to be beneficial. The second disadvantage is too large a disproportion between the difficulty levels. Easy is too trivial to consider. I doubt that newbies will use it as it is not a challenge. On the other hand, it is very easy to die on the Normal level, not to mention Advanced or Expert, where the slaughterhouse becomes huge.

Zieeeeeef ...

Despite minor flaws, Left 4 Dead is a great proposition for people looking for a strong experience in multiplayer mode. Known previously from the average Condition Zero, Turtle Rock Studios has created an interesting combination of survival-horror and FPS. It is even more appropriate to congratulate the team, because Cooperative for personal computers is a very rare phenomenon, associated mainly with consoles. And here it turned out great. Before the premiere, the game's order record on Steam was broken, which resulted in a slight crisis in server performance. Because what could be better than living dead people with dudes after a hard day?

Adam "eJay" Kaczmarek