Xbox 360 Review: Left 4 Dead

Valve takes on the Zombie genre in this satisfying, yet brief shooter

There have been many games based on zombies over the years. Resident Evil is of course the most famous while Dead Rising follows behind it. Zombies are notoriously slow and stupid, but Valve’s Left 4 Dead breaks that tradition and makes them more like the zombies from 28 Days Later. Will the gamble pay off?

Left 4 Dead is a co-op shooter with 4 players. You can tackle the game on your own but will be accompanied with 3 other AI players who take the other parts. The game is made up of 4 “movies” which are basically the campaigns that each contains 5 levels which take around an hour or so to complete. So it’s very short but it does have a ton of replay value thanks to the challenges the game poses.

The story for Left 4 Dead is incredibly basic. The game opens up with a cutscene that takes place 2 weeks after the first infection, but you don’t find out what caused it or even if it comes to an end. The whole point of L4D is simply to make your way through the levels to a rescue point and hold out till you are rescued.

Working together is the key to survival in L4D. Each character can be knocked down 2 times, after that they’ll die but will respawn in closets around the levels which must be opened by other players to rescue them. It’s important to do that to get through the hardest difficulty there is, but even then it’s a struggle. I came so close to completing the No Mercy campaign on Expert and got to the helicopter pad but we just couldn’t survive the onslaught of zombies. I’m sure with some excellent planning we could have done it, even if only one of us escaped…but alas we didn’t.

Enemies are mostly made up of very fast, dumb zombies but there are other types of zombies that will cause you some severe problems. Smokers will grab a player with its tongue and strangle them; Hunters will leap on a player and constrict them, Boomers will puke on everyone attracting the horde of zombies to your position and the Tank is a huge beast that will kick everyone’s ass and takes a lot of damage to die. There’s also Witches which just cry on the floor but if startled, will kill you instantly.

To escape the grasp of the Smokers and Hunters, other players must intervene to save them, putting their own health at risk…L4D is a game all about risk and reward, it’s actually very clever. The Smokers have to be the most annoying enemy as they literally come out of nowhere and get you, but enemies do rotate each time you play through it. For example, an area might have a Tank in it one time and not the next. The same applies to weapons like in the finale on No Mercy where there are Molotov’s and Pipe Bombs located around the area, yet sometimes not at all. Planning strategies can be hard since the pattern of enemies and weapons changes each time, but at least it keeps things fresh. Just don’t expect the game to be a breeze on Expert; it will challenge your very soul!

The characters in L4D are fairly basic and stereotypical, which sadly doesn’t offer much to the story. Bill is an old war veteran, Zoey is the typical female of the horror genre, Louis is the dorky, annoying guy and Francis is a typical redneck. There is a bit of dialogue between them through the “movies” but it isn’t that enticing. The main problem with L4D is that it leaves you wanting more from it, the story never really opens up or ends…the last thing you see in each “movie” is the survivors escaping with their vehicle of choice. The total gameplay only takes upto a few hours too, unless you want the achievements…then it’ll be considerably more. All I can say is thank god for replay value, if it didn’t then L4D would become boring fast.

Weapons won’t surprise you. The typical arsenal of pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns can be found but there is sadly no Rocket Launcher…which the game is dying for. Pipe Bombs are great as all zombies will chase it and crowd around it, blowing them all pieces. Molotov’s are handy but the fire can become contagious with your allies, so be careful where you throw them. There are also mounted mini-guns in a few areas, but you’ll need the support of your friends to protect you from the horde. The overall gameplay of L4D is a bit repetitive. You keep pushing forward to a safe house; get supplies and then move on till the last level where you escape. Each movie has around 1500+ zombies in it, so prepare to kill a ton.

There’s also multiplayer, which allows you to take on a group of zombies on the other team or vice versa. Zombies are at a disadvantage, especially those playing the Boomer…but it rotates, so it’s pretty fair. The visuals for Left 4 Dead are good, but not groundbreaking. However, it is impressive to see hundreds of zombies run towards you with no slowdown. I’ve played a handful of online and haven’t seen much in terms of lag. Voice-acting is average at best, but suits the feel of the game.

The Verdict

Left 4 Dead is probably the first game to push co-op play as a main mode. It works really well but the campaigns are far too brief to be memorable. Having said that, trying to survive on Expert will keep hardcore gamers hooked for ages. You won’t find a better Zombie game in 2008.



  1. I played it at a local game store and found it to be very satisfying. However I will wait for a used copy to show up. Valve always makes good games.

  2. left for dead is an awesome game there are many typs of infected like boomer hunter smoker tank witch and screamer but the witch is dangourus to get by her you got to turn off your flashlight and bend down sometimes it is impossible to get by her for example no mercy the sewer level there is a little straight hall leading to stairs sometimes there is a witch in the middle of the hall you can not jump over her

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