Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Left 4 Dead (both games)

Left 4 Dead – A single review for both games

100% True zombie games. That pretty much sums up this entire review, but let me elaborate on that a bit more. I'll admit, I love the Left 4 Dead games. I've met a bunch of cool people and had a lot of fun shooting stuff. It's not without its flaws though. Probably the biggest complaint I hear about it is the lack of maps. I would have to agree with this, but completely understand why there aren't that many. They're huge. It takes time to develop maps of this size. Even in the linear gameplay that L4D uses, a full campaign can take over an hour to finish. On top of that, the versus maps have to be even more expansive to allow for the player zombies to spawn in strategic, but not completely unfair spots. Of course this all needs to be done while not allowing any players to see the edges of the maps and also preventing at least the survivor team from seeing the regular zombie spawning areas. Speaking of spawn areas, this is one of L4D's strongest points. The AI Director. With this system, the game can literally use any part of the map to spawn any character. The regular little zombies can be spawned anywhere on the ground and are dynamically dropped in and out to allow for a challenging, but not impossible (usually) experience for the survivors. Obviously this doesn't always work perfectly, but the mess ups are very rare. Now then, why do I love these games? They're co-op. Not only that, they are exactly what co-op FPS games should be. There are other co-op games out there, but the problem is that the whole co-op aspect isn't really needed. Even when they do the “co-op moves” that require 2 people, it often times just feels forced. Almost like there's no reason they couldn't have just given the player something to allow them to pass these gimmicky obstacles. L4D, however, doesn't really do this. Sure the Hunter and Smoker's attacks need a co-op partner to free you, but the real benefit to having a 4 player team is the regular zombies. When they attack in a horde, you need 4 guns going off to survive that. This is true co-op gameplay. To this day, the only other co-op experience that even comes close to these games would be the co-op section of Portal 2. Those levels were brilliant. Sure they had those “co-op moves” I said were worthless, but in a puzzle game, it's forgivable since the way you use those moves isn't blatantly obvious. The downfall of Portal 2's co-op was the complete lack of replayability. I already beat the levels. I don't want to do it again. I already know the solutions. L4D, by contrast is almost endlessly replayable. Sure there's only a few maps, but with the AI director making the spawns and, in the second game, paths dynamic, no two runs of the same level will be identical. Storywise there's not a lot going on. There has been some backstory given through comics posted by Valve and some of the in-game visuals and voice-overs show a little story, but that's not why you play L4D. L4D is about gameplay. Specifically Co-op Gameplay. With actual people. If you're playing with bots only, you're doing it wrong. Now might actually be the prime of L4D's online play. It's been around for a while, so most the retards and griefers have moved on to other games, leaving mostly decent and friendly people. As I said before, I've met quite a few cool people I never would have known if I hadn't played L4D and L4D2. I know I haven't really differentiated the two games much in this review. Mostly for the same reasons I made a single review for both games. They're too similar to really get their own reviews. L4D2 has superior weapon choice and, of course, different maps. I still play both interchangeably. They're both equally fun. Both Left 4 Dead games combined: 9/10

Each game is available for PC for $20 each on Steam or in a combo pack together for $30.
Check them out:
Combo Pack
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2

A side note worth mentioning: DLC for both games is available. If you're on the fence of whether to get the PC or 360 versions, PC gets free DLC. 360's DLC is almost all paid for. Just saying.