Left 4 Dead in the test - zombie film to play by yourself
The common undead has long since had its day. Since the film 28 Days Later at the latest, zombies have been whizzing through games and films as if at speed, since the new, improved brain-eater is often no longer holey corpses, but so-called infected people. As a rule, they are infected with some unspecified virus and therefore attack everything that does not take the legs or the shotgun in hand.
That's exactly how it is in Left 4 Dead: Hordes of voracious ex-humans hunt down four poor sausages who ... well, where, how and when Louis, Francis, Bill and Zoey met, the multiplayer shooter tells you not from Valve. And how the epidemic spread in the country remains in the dark. Left 4 Dead only provides you with the most necessary information at the beginning: Infected plus people equal escape, otherwise mouse dead (but that in a successful little intro film). It sounds meager and it is, but it is thick enough to adequately prepare you for the four gripping chapters of the game.
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»Watch or download the Left 4 Dead test video
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Left 4 Dead can be approached in three ways: Alone, with up to three players as a cooperative shooter and with up to seven (three allies, four adversaries) in versus mode. Co-op and versus can be easily approached via the game menu in the network or the Internet.
Even though the single-player campaign is good for getting the adrenaline pumping, you can tick it off under "nice bonus". Only together with others does the flight develop its full potential. Because the screams and warnings of the allies are at least as important for the fun as surprisingly attacking monster hordes when things get particularly dangerous. Left 4 Dead has built-in voice transmission so that you don't miss it even when playing internet games. A headset is required for this.
Through the darkness
It's night. You are standing on the same roof with your three comrades and have to reach another. A helicopter is supposed to pick you up there. But between you and the helicopter there are houses and street canyons full of aggressive zombies. It comes in handy that four medipacks and two weapons (submachine gun, shotgun) and ammunition are in front of you. You grab the healing package and gun, and off you go - into the first building and into the constant danger.
The same applies to the following three chapters, in which you sometimes have to shoot your way through subway tunnels, sometimes through forest-lined ravines, sometimes through a cemetery or through a village. However, it is seldom enough to just run through it. In an airport, for example, you have to start a transporter, which then slowly approaches a blockade in order to break through it. Another example: a container wants to be lowered by a crane on a roof. It only continues through the container. In such waiting times, Left 4 Dead will chase an extra number of zombies at you.
Only small shelters between the five levels of a section let you breathe. There you will find new healing packages as well as more and better variants of the weapons (M16 and semi-automatic shotgun plus sniper rifle). The rooms also serve as a point of resurrection should your group break it up. However, if you keep your eyes open and occasionally take a closer look at dark corners with a flashlight, you will find more powerful guns on the way, sometimes grenades and Molotov cocktails as well as new medipacks or tablets. The latter only have a temporary effect, so they won't save your life if you are fatally stricken.
Attention: Left 4 Dead never puts such helpers in the same places, but decides what you find where based on your style of play. Weaker zombie hunters, for example, are often given health bonuses, while experienced refugees are kept short in this regard.
The goal of each chapter is a specific place where you have to chase a radio message and then wait for it to be picked up. Almost ten minutes pass between the radio message and the arrival of the respective rescue vehicle. During this time, the game sends wave after wave of zombies to kill you. After all, the developers always screwed a stationary machine gun to the rescue positions and designed the area in such a way that you can easily keep an overview.
Nevertheless, a finale is never easy to master, especially not in higher levels of difficulty, in which the zombies can cause you significantly more damage. If you still made it in a helicopter, boat, plane or armored car, you can read in the long credits what achievements you have achieved in the previous minutes. The game details how many zombies have died from your hand, how many times you've used a healing pack, how many times you've fallen to the ground or helped an ally get back on their feet.
Left 4 Dead mainly attacks normal infected people. With a shotgun and assault rifle, the numerous monsters that attack themselves can easily be fought off. If the zombies have worked their way up close to the grave, you can push several of them back at a distance with one blow of the rifle butt. Three to four blows will knock a zombie down for good.
An ordinary nudge is more important in Left 4 Dead than it may seem at first glance. Because if one of your comrades is hopped on by a so-called hunter (one of five boss mutants), you shouldn't distribute lead on the clawed attacker right away. The chance that you will catch your ally lying on the ground is pretty good, and "friendly fire" - team fire - is always active. The motto is: first push the hunter away, then blow it over. The same is recommended when a boomer has come too close. The thick mountains of meat covered with pustules not only have the unpleasant habit of pouring their bile over the refugees and thus marking them as particularly tasty bites for normal zombies, they also burst in a green goo fountain when shot at. It sprays meters wide and has the same effect as the ejection of the monsters: a pack of infected people will immediately pounce on the slimy man.
You don't have to be quite as squeamish about the opponent types "Smoker" and "Tank". The former wraps its frog tongue around a person even over a great distance, pulls him towards him and gradually strangles him. So if you see a comrade sliding across the floor in a noose into the distance, you should shoot at the owner of the sticky lasso as quickly as possible. And what about the tank? Keep your distance and see what the lead blows have to offer! The colossus can withstand a lot and not only flings boulders, but can also lift you out of your shoes and send you to the ground with one blow. It's good that the game puts relatively few of the boys on the route to the respective vanishing point.
A special monster brand is the so-called Witch. It is an apparently filigree lady who sits whimpering in various corners of the levels. If you get too close to her and shine a flashlight in her face, the creature can get really angry: It rushes towards the troublemaker and knocks him to the ground with his claws. Those who prefer to be safe rather than exciting will walk around the woman in a spacious manner. Or you can use the otherwise unhelpful sniper rifle to get rid of the problem over a long distance.
So that the four chapters don't get boring quickly, Left 4 Dead does it with the monsters as well as with weapons and healing packages: zombie hordes don't always appear in the same places. And you don't have to expect boss opponents where the boys lurked in the last game. A mixture of chance and an evaluation of your gaming behavior will decide what will attack you, when and where.
Coincidence is also the keyword in versus mode, in which the boss mutants are controlled by players. You are not allowed to freely choose whether you are on the road as a hunter, boomer, smoker or tank (the Witch appears but cannot be controlled by players). Left 4 Dead does that for you. Otherwise there would always be four tanks on the way, because together they would be practically invincible.
As a zombie, you first get into the action in ghost mode. Although they can see allies and enemies, they cannot be spied by humans themselves. This is a great way to find a place that is good for an ambush. If you have decided on a spot that is also not too close to the fleeing and in their direct line of sight, a click of the mouse button is enough to get involved properly. Smokers are best positioned on roofs so that they don't get blown away. Hunters crouch in corners and sneak up from behind, only to strike surprisingly, and boomers wait at bottlenecks in order to sully as many people as possible with bile at the same time.
Occasionally, a player will also be resurrected as a tank - whenever the refugees are too successful or are about to be rescued. So it remains exciting until the end of the Versus games, which can only be played in two of the four chapters.
The graphics of Left 4 Dead are based on the source engine and require roughly the same performance from your computer as Team Fortress 2. Optical blasts are missing, but the animations and faces of the refugees are extremely well done. When Louis runs his hand across his face after a grueling shooting, it looks almost eerily real.
The soundscape of the game, however, is excellent. Boss zombies can be recognized by their specific noises long before you can see them, while hordes of infected people cause a nerve-racking noise. The heroes shout warnings to each other and sometimes rant around when they have been shot by a comrade. After a dangerous Hunter attack, Zoey asks naively girlishly: "How do I look?" And Francis occasionally wants to know who farted. If in doubt, it was a zombie anyway. With what they eat!
The German versions
The PC version of Left 4 Dead was minimally cut for the German market: Severed limbs are missing, as is Ragdoll physics. The corpses of the zombies dissolve in a few seconds. In addition, German players should not encounter zombies that sit or lie defenseless on the floor. The German Xbox 360 version hit it even harder than the PC version: it spurts green instead of red blood on both the human and the zombie side.
Test at Valve
We didn't play Left 4 Dead in the editorial office, but at the developer Valve in Seattle. The conditions were good enough for a reliable two days, two GameStar editors were able to play through the final version of the co-op shooter with other European press representatives in the LAN several times in all modes.
»Gallery: View visit to Valve
Only through Steam
To play Left 4 Dead , you need the game distribution platform Steam developed by Valve. This will be installed on your computer together with Left 4 Dead , if not already available. You must also activate the game key online via Steam.