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Second impressions on Left4Dead

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Yesterday Left4Dead was free on Steam as a promotion. I know why they do that and its a good sales tactic. They let you play it for free for a day and then reduce the price to make it more appealing so you buy it when the ‘free period’ is finished. When combined with last week’s Orange Box sale, I think their sales must have shot up (but there’s actually no way of knowing because Valve don’t release sales figures.) They could probably buy a small country by now. That aside, the ability to play the whole game and not just the demo was greatly beneficial because I got to see a lot more of the campaign. I finished the No Mercy campaign yesterday and got to the third safehouse in the Death Toll campaign.

I’m aware that I said I would post reviews of games on Andriy’s blog but for two things: Andriy’s viewing figures flat-lined last week and he’s going to resurrect them himself with a second, better blog. Secondly, this isn’t technically a review.

There’s no mistaking that Left4Dead is indeed a Valve game (although at first it seems to be a generic zombie-shooting game). I started reading the writing on the walls of the safehouses and the hospitals and it’s just full of that dark humour that Valve have come to be renowned for.

“Travel during they day¬†they only come out at night”
“That’s vampires, moron”

The graphics have certainly improved on Team Fortress 2. Whereas the art style was used to simplify the way the game played in TF2, the graphics in Left4Dead are meant to enhance the feeling of actually running through zombie apocalypse. The graphics complicate things, but there’s never any mistaking the telltale gibsplats from headshots which I belive to have been pulled directly out of Garry’s Mod Deathmatch. The reflections in the tunnels and, dare I say it, the maps themselves all lend clues to Half-Life et al. I mean, we’ve seen the whole zombie thing before. And the middle european rural landscapes. And Trains.

The gameplay itself revolves around the story: You are a group of four survivors, travel to a helipad, or a boat, or a train, or some kind of object which will take you to safety. On the way you have to overcome various challenges – operate a forklift, build a bridge. That kind of thing. In fact, remember Half-Life 2’s physics puzzle sections? it’s like that except with replacing the physics puzzling with zombie hordes who assault you until the bridge has built itself or the lift has gone up. However, the campaign does not make up the bulk of the game, the rest of it is taken up by a superb survivor mode and a zombies versus survivors mode which lets you play as a zombie and rip up the opposition.

Speaking of the connection with Half-Life, the game’s origins as a modification of Counter-Strike are not lost. The weapons although tweaked are similar to the basic subset from Counter-Strike: Uzi, Rapid-firing rifle, sniper, shotgun, auto-shotgun, double pistols. After that there’s a whole bunch of other weapos in your arsenal: Pipe bomb, Moltov cocktail, Various types of compressed gas cylinders and cans of petrol both of which explode/burn when shot, Pain pills and a medical kit.

It’s rated an 18+ game in the UK and I think that’s fair enough, it’s surely not a kids game. I can handle scenes of horror because I’ve played Counter-Strike and that uses the same practice of relying on instinct to target enemies. My common sense has also matured enough (even at 15 years old!) to recognise that zombies don’t exist, that it’s all made up.

Now apart from that, the only real comment I have to make on Left4Dead is that it’s made by Valve. By extension that means I highly reccomend it.

Written by Pierre

May 2, 2009 at 11:08

Posted in gaming

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