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First Impressions: Left 4 Dead demo

Posted by: John at 11/6/2008 4:02 PM
Left 4 Dead has been one of those games I’ve been very intrigued with after seeing the footage and some screenshots. I love co-op games and with the demo finally hitting Steam, I was able to go through the few levels with three random folks and fend off the infected. What I came away with from the 25 minute demo was an intense filled action pack experience that has me salivating for the full game immensely.

One of the things I complained about in the console game Dead Rising was the lack of ability to play with others in surviving a zombie holocaust. Left 4 Dead gives you this and much more. You’ll holster one main weapon and a pistol or two as well as Molotov cocktails in the demo. I played around with the machine gun, shotgun, and sniper rifle. The sniper rifle is a quick action gun allowing you to pull off multiple shots in a short amount of time. Trust me; you’ll be glad it fires quickly. I used the pistols when the zombies were far away and switched to my main gun as they drew up close. You can also push the zombies off by pressing your alt-fire button and you'll be doing that a lot when you see a gang of them on top of you.

Zombies come at you slow and very, very quickly. You’ll see the traditional slow wandering zombies but what really gets your adrenaline pumping is when a horde of 20-30 zombies come rushing at your team quickly. They leap over items, run angrily towards you, knock you down, and maul you to no end. It won’t take you long to figure out that you better stick together so you have enough firepower to fend off the rushing onslaught. One of the coolest things I saw in the demo was a smoker zombie shooting a tongue out at me from 20 feet away, catching me and dragging me back towards him. You’re pretty helpless at this point but one of the great things about Left 4 Dead is there are plenty of prompts to let your teammates know who’s in trouble and what is happening to them. They came to my aid quickly and dispatched the Gene Simmons-like monster.

To help with co-op, you’ll have plenty of prompts as I mentioned but there are other small things as well. Characters will shout out if they find an ammo cache, weapon, or health so you can run to where he or she is and pick them up. If your friends are around corners or in other parts of the level, you’ll see an outline of them if you have no line of sight letting you know exactly where they are. When reloading you’ll yell out automatically to let your friends know you’re vulnerable and can’t help at the moment. Healing others is essential so you can patch up those that have been battered by zombies. If one of your friends is down, you’ll see an alert to let you know they need help and a bright yellow silhouette of where they are and what’s happening to them. It’s these little touches that really make for playing with strangers easy.

What I found amazing in my round was that even though the three guys I was playing with have never met, we all knew we had to stick together, work as a team, and found ways to work together without talking. A great example is one portion where we had to go through a subway train. While it’s small and only allowed a two side by side to walk down the path, my colleague and I who were bringing up the rear had an unspoken sense to keep our eye on the rear opening of the train in case zombies came rushing in while the two ahead of us were dispatching zombies. We stuck relatively close behind the two but always kept our eyes on the rear and sides while preserving our ammo. Before this we had run into a few places where zombies would rush from the front and the back. After a few of these incidents, we became more aware and more careful on how to approach locations.

The Left 4 Dead demo surpassed my expectations of the game and while it’s short, it’s a fun and really intense. I haven’t even gone into the graphics which are great and terrifying at the same time. To see zombies shaking widely coming at you in between the beam from the flashlight really draws upon many of the horror elements we are all familiar with. I’m really looking forward to playing the full game with three other friends and I think Valve has another winner on their hands here.