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Left4Dead review



  • Recommended by TR


Our Score


Review Price free/subscription

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 - PC version reviewed

Please don't gasp with mock-amazement as I let out the year's biggest non-surprise: Left 4 Dead is absolutely brilliant. After Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2 and Portal, we've come to expect nothing less from Valve. This is a developer that seems to knock out games that redefine genres or push new frontiers with the ease that Electronic Arts pumps out annual sports updates. When Valve says that it's going to do for the co-op shooter what Counter-Strike: Source did for the competitive FPS, you have to sit up and listen. Of course, there are other games out there that are making waves in the co-op field - Halo 3, Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2 spring instantly to mind - but I suspect Left 4 Dead will be the one that every developer worth their salt will end up stealing from.

This isn't a set of side missions or a spun-off game mode, but probably the best example yet of how you can take four players and make them feel part of an unfolding story. Like Half-Life 2 and its episodes it's a game packed with moments and villains that are destined to become iconic, yet like Counter-Strike: Source or Team Fortress 2 it's the sort of game that seems endlessly replayable during lunchtimes or after-work sessions. Its an experience that no PC gamer with even the vaguest interest in action games will want to miss.

Of course, it will also help if you like zombie movies. Left 4 Dead follows the same basic premise as George A Romero's classic Dead trilogy (we'll politely ignore Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead if it's all the same with you), which also inspired Capcom's Dead |Rising and Resident Evil 2. In short, some kind of mystery infection (possibly related to Strictly Come Dancing) has turned the general population into mindless, murderous zombies. As a result, the whole world has gone to hell in a hand basket (again, I blame Strictly Come Dancing), leaving only isolated pockets of survivors.

One such group consists of a grizzled vet, a biker, a student and a systems analyst, and each of Left 4 Dead's four scenarios sees that small band trying to get from a perilous start location to some point of escape. Four players each take on or are allocated one of these roles, with any spare positions taken up by the AI. The only thing in your way? A seemingly endless horde of zombies, plus a scattering of 'boss' zombies who will do their best to ensure that a) they don't make it and b) their internal organs will end up as tasty zombie snacks.

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November 23, 2008, 5:10 am

You know these moments when you stand in a shop and you really want a new game and you are faced with several quality titles and you go for a title recommended by a friend (like a sheep off a cliff), well this happened to me today. I wish I had gone for this one rather than Mortal Kumkwat, L4D looks like a really seet deal, hop, on my xmas list.


November 23, 2008, 5:15 am

Have to say I have been thoroughly enjoying this game, but can't help but think this was a missed opportunity.

I just can't imagine how utterly awesome this game would have been in a sandbox / GTA style setting. So that the four players could roam anywhere trying to find the best routes to safety rather than being pushed through an incredibly linear route.

Awesome game that could have been earth shattering in my opinion.


November 23, 2008, 5:23 am

An amazing game and really fun on XBL, my ONLY complaint (and there has to be one :p ) is how easy it is to push of any zombie, spinning in a circle hammering left trigger. I dont do it but I see it all the time and usually with the shotguns. Fix this and its PERFECT! :)


November 23, 2008, 6:35 am

I get the feeling this review was written before the novelty had worn off.

It's a good game, but the thing that's stopping me buying the full version is the lack of content. As mentioned in the review there are only four campaigns which can be played through in 4-5 hours total. The AI Director certainly helps, but from what I saw in the demo the levels are so short and linear that it doesn't make that much difference - you do get different enemies but they all come at you from the same directions and only really the tank forces you to find a nook to hide in. I'll definitely be buying it when it comes down to 㾶-15 but at it's current 㿅 price I think it's a little expensive, fun though it is.


November 23, 2008, 3:44 pm

Bought the game and have to say I'm enjoying it thoroughly :) Granted the campaigns are short and get a little tired after the second run through but versus mode gives you so much more fun.

In versus mode everything is different, playing as survivors you really have to move it if you want to stay alive because playing against boss zombies but with the extra human cunning the AI can't yet replicate makes it extremely challenging, and most importantly, great fun! I thought versus mode would end up where everyone would always want to be one side due to imbalance but it actually turned out pretty well.

And @ BinnsY

I also would have loved to see it more sandbox like, however I think this is a leak that will be plugged most quickly by the huge development community that surrounds Valve games and perhaps by Valve in later updates.

In a way I really can't recommend this game to people with consoles and decent computers since you will get so much more out of this game on the PC as development shots of maps are already surfacing and a few look really good. It almost makes me want to go back into level design!

Tim Sutton

November 23, 2008, 5:46 pm


Only hiding from Tank? I'd MARRY a Tank rather than run into a witch :/

I think L4D isn't really a single player game. At all. I mean, it's fun, but not full-price game fun. But when you have 4 real people, ideally friends, playing it's the most excitement I've ever had with a game.

Versus mode, where you play as the bosses, is particularly inspired.

It's MarioKart with guns and zombies. Sure, you can complete it by yourself in a few hours, but every time your frineds come over for years ahead they'll want to play it.

Matthew Bunton

November 23, 2008, 8:15 pm

Didn't like the demo at all far too arcadey for my taste. But each to their own.:)


November 23, 2008, 9:20 pm

@ Tim

Really? Me and my house mate seem to be the only people who like to play it on advanced or expert and the witch is hardly a challenge compared to the tank. As long as you wait and have 3 people standing back whilst one startles it then all 4 of you just lay into it. Chances are whoever startled it will be down to 30 health after the attack but the others should all be fine.

Hell of a lot less damaging than the Tanks on expert :P


November 24, 2008, 4:13 am

@Wilfried - you shouldn't need any friend recommendations with us around! Consider it lesson learnt ;)


November 25, 2008, 5:52 am

Yeah, the witches can often just be avoided, and if you do startle then you only end up needing to help one person up. I guess she might be nasty if you get caught next to her when the hoard strikes but the tank is deadly every single time.

And I'd agree with BinnsY, you have to play on advanced or expert. Normal is just too easy and no fun at all.

If you've got friends into gaming and they have all have laptops capable of running it then I can see it could get to be a get together classic alongside super smash brothers and mario kart.


November 27, 2008, 9:52 pm

@Gordon: *head down in shame* I know guys, sorry...


January 14, 2009, 2:57 pm

I have played far, far too many hours on this on PC and love it.

It's all about the co-op and should not be purchased for the boring single player bit!

Once you start adding a few friends to your list (usually people you had great games with), you can play with the same people a lot and this improves the game even more.

I have not managed a campaign on Expert yet so still have somewhere to aim for!

Witches: Lights off, one person with shotgun walks up from behind. As she turns to look at that person, they shoot one point blank into her face. She dies, even on Expert, and an achievement ('CROWND') is awarded the first time. If not possible then line up like a firing squad from about 15m away. "3-2-1-fire" ... she won't make it to you :)

Tanks: As long as you can light them up with petrol or molotovs then just run, run, run! They will burn out and die eventually without a shot being fired. If no flames available anywhere then it is a run and gun by all 4 members. If tank jumps on a buddy then shove him off and you get 2 seconds to start running as he will now follow you! After tank dead, go back and help your buddy.

Finales: Each finale has a cupboard somewhere near ammo and Blood Harvest has the big red barn with ammo on the top floor. Stay together and defend the cupboard. When tanks come, disburse, flame etc. and then back to the cupboard. On Death Toll, the rescue boat comes directly after 2nd tank so start to get down near dock if possible.

Didn't mean to type this but game is just so good - buy it :)

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