Monday, November 24, 2008

Zombies Ate My Weekend.


This Thursday my wonderful girlfriend Finch gave me an early Christmas present.  She bought me Value Software's newest release "Left 4 Dead".     I've been slaying zombies and having one hell of a time doing it. 

Valve is quickly becoming one of my favourite developers, and I think it is safe to add "Left 4 Dead" onto the growing list of grade A level titles from them.   Left 4 Dead is a truly compelling and engrossing experience.  Placing you right in the center of your own personal zombie apocalypse Left 4 Dead delivers a white knuckle experience from start to finish.   In Left 4 Dead Valve has created a game that is wonderfully simple in it's complexity.  What Valve has basically created here is a shooting gallery.   You and your three teammates travel from one end of a map to the other while killing zombies.   The brilliance of that game is that on top of that simple premise has been built one of the most compelling shooting galleries ever.  

Left 4 Dead can be brutal.  When playing on the higher difficulties one truly begins to believe that the AI Director has a personal vendetta against you.   The true brilliance of Left 4 Dead is the AI Director system.  The AI Director controls your journey determining the locations and numbers of zombie spawn that you will face.    It also controls the appearance of the various "boss" zombies.  Zombies that have special abilities all designed to make your trip as unpleasant as possible.   Start doing well, and the Director will compensate to match your performance.   I really find this system to be wonderfully implemented.   Every play through of the games 4 campaign feels fresh, and the fact that your fates are being decided by the some times sadistic AI Director ensures that you never feel safe until the final credits roll.

The game is gorgeous.   The game takes you through back alleys, forests, rail yards and even a cubical farm that may give Dilbert nightmares.   The game has a general film grain feel to it, playing up the over all aesthetic that you are playing a cheesy Zombie movie.  The zombies that are constantly at your heels are well done, and do change appearance to fit the locale.   While there is a good variety in the look of the common zombies, you do spend a lot of time killing them, and you kill a lot of them and the models can get repetitive.  

The game can be played solo, with the computer (quite competently) controlling your three teammates.  However, the real fun of the game come from playing online with other players controlling your fellow survivors.   To succeed in Left 4 Dead team work is a must.   Part of the challenge of the game  comes from adapting to and playing with your teammates. 

I think that if I have issues with the game, it may be the lack of weapons available to the survivors.   In terms of guns there really are only six to choose from.   A few more options would have been interesting.   Along with the desire for model diverse models for the common zombies would be my two only complaints.

Left 4 Dead is currently available for both the XBox 360 and the PC.  This weekend I had the chance to play both versions quite a bit.  If you are looking for a recommendation of which one to get I would recommend the PC version.  Aside from the typical PC advantages such as online molding communities and the old Keyboard and Mouse argument the game is worth getting on the PC because it is a much better looking game on the PC.  My would rate my PC high middle end in terms of specs and there is a dramatic difference between the game on 360 and on my computer.  Draw distances are much farther, which can be a life saver.  Also I often found maneuvering in the dark on the 360 often times disorienting.

"Left 4 Dead" is a game that I would recommend to anyone.  The game is not exactly scary, delivering more of a nervousness then anything else.  That being said there are quite few moments in this game that will give you a start.  The game is very violent and does not pull punches with the blood.  However, the gore would be considered tame by horror movie standards.   I don't think you'll regret it if you check this game out.

1 comment:

Mad Typist said...

Great review. I completely agree - this game is totally fun. While the single player is okay, I didn't really get hooked till we got together with 2 other buddies and did a coordinated 4 player session. Amazing!