Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Left4Dead


Because it's been too long without a mention of the 'z-word'
Surprisingly I've never reviewed Left 4 Dead for the XBox 360 before.  I've had the game since launch, so why haven't I talked about it?  I like zombie games and movies, and if you're reading this then there's a chance that you do too.

Why review now?
It's only been recently that I have been able to experience the game fully, mostly because I finally obtained a Gold Membership for XBox Live, meaning that I can play the game (and many others) online with and/or against actual humans for the first time ever.  Also, the latest DLC (download content) for the game was made available today.

The game is available for PC on disc or via Steam, on disc for the 360, and there is a Game of the Year Edition available for the 360 and PC, which comes reloaded with Survival Mode, and is best described as a first person shooter (FPS) survival horror game.


Time for a Crash Course
Today an extra campaign was added to Left 4 Dead, entitled 'Crash Course'.  As to the basic premise for the whole game: you play as one of four characters trapped in one of several scenarios, trying to escape a rather angry and angsty zombie horde.  Or in the case of Versus Mode: you play as either the particularly potent zombies or the survivors.

When you start the game up an intro movie will play, which introduces the player to the various ways in which to handle the situations and enemies that will be meted out to you by the A.I. director.  Yes that's right, the A.I. director, aka, a malicious thing that will make things more difficult for you, the better you do, and each time you run through a campaign, will make it different than before in terms of enemy spawning, and the locations of ammo, weapons and health items.



Characters
The characters are Zoey, Louis, Bill and Francis.  Neither of them have any strengths or weaknesses, but have different reasons for not being zombie chow at the beginning of the game.  I prefer playing as Zoey, but that's because I always try to play as a female character in a computer game.


What's it like to play?
There are several different ways to play the game that go beyond difficulty settings, however you will need to be able to play the game online to have access to everything.  On the basic level is Campaign Mode, where (after the DLC) you can choose to play through one of five different scenarios.

Each scenario requires a different strategy, but one strategy is always important: stick together.  This is the most important thing to do when playing through this game as one of the survivors, because the director A.I. will quite happily send a Hunter, Smoker or Boomer to make the lone character's life hell.  The other modes are Survival Mode (play in one of the scenarios and see how long you last, online only), and Versus Mode (online only).

In terms of weapons you have a pistol or pistols with unlimited ammo as your primary weapon, followed by either sub-machine gun, assault rifle, hunting rifle, shotgun or automated-shotgun with limited ammo as your secondary weapon.  You can carry only one incendiary device at a time, health pack and pain pills.



Anything else?
Well, Valve were lovely enough to enable a System Link mode for the 360, so not only can you play with people online, you can LAN it as well.  This is great for parties.  Also, when you're online with the game it has a guest mode enabled so that someone can join you online without their Live account, incase they don't have one or don't have Gold, but you can play with two Gold Live accounts on the same system at the same time and go online if you want too.


If your other half enjoys killing zombies then this game is also and excellent game for couples.  My fianc√© and I have a wail of a time playing this together.


Negatives
There's an occasionally annoying glitch with the Hunters where they continue to spout blood after you've killed them.  And if you're a completionist trying to get all the achievements that you can, it is a nightmare to complete the various scenarios on the Expert difficulty (though that's probably why it's called Expert).



'Crash Course' the latest DLC for the game is not as the other chapters or nearly as involving.  If you've played the other scenarios to death, then it might be worth purchasing this bit of DLC.


The only other issue is that the sequel, Left 4 Dead 2 is out in November and I would be worried about just how many people will remain online playing the first game once the new one is released.


Finally
This has been one of my most favourite games of the last year.  It is extremely re-playable and if you're old enough to legally own this game, then you should, because it's available now from all major computer game retailers.

Even though Valve has come under criticism for releasing a completely new sequel for a game that is almost a year old, I'll be reviewing the sequel when it comes out in November this year.



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