Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Turtle Rock
Release Date: November 17, 2008
In their latest co-op creation, Left 4 Dead, Valve's Turtle Rock studio mixes the multiplayer masterpiece of Counter-Strike with the dramatic dialogue of Half-Life.
Left 4 Dead takes place in a postapocalyptic zombie future, where four survivors are trying to fight their way through zombie-infested environments. Up to four players will guide these characters in either online or local cooperative multiplayer and complete a primary team objective for each map. The intuitive AI controls the enemies and your teammates, and the title utilizes a new technology, "The AI Director," which ensures that no two played games will be exactly the same. As players progress through a level, the AI will call for new enemies, sounds, and action to adapt to the team's performance. In short, skilled players will face more swarms of enemies than usual, whereas novice players will encounter toned-down difficulty.
The PAX demo was set in a fairly dark building, with everything in shadows except for the areas illuminated by the flashlight on my gun. With the echoing sounds and limited visibility, Left 4 Dead definitely has the creepy tendencies of a survival horror game. You learn to be careful with your actions and constantly check corners to see if anything is jumping at you. Through the walls, I could see the silhouette of a teammate being attacked by zombies, so I ran over to help him. I shot down my foes, but they had gotten the best of my comrade. Luckily, holding down a button for a few seconds will revive any fallen allies.
Eventually, we made our way outside the building and ended up in an urban alleyway. We saw a horde of zombies running in one direction, and then we heard screams, so we went to aid the victims. I managed to shoot a number of the feasting zombies, but they noticed me and started to attack. The number of zombies was immense, and it was only a matter of time before they overwhelmed me and I was on the ground. The game takes a cue from Call of Duty 4, where players can take a last stand and attempt to shoot down foes while prone. You'll die eventually, but you won't go down without a fight.
While I found the gameplay to be pretty good, the main thing that blew me away about Left 4 Dead was the presentation. The environments are seemingly normal, but with a creepy and shadowy backdrop, which nurtures a sense of paranoia. Environments are beautifully detailed, as are the characters and enemies. The sound was also quite good; I didn't notice any music in the background, but that may be due to all of the shooting sounds and other noises.
Left 4 Dead is shaping up to be one the most intense shooters of 2008. There are plenty of first-person shooter choices on the Xbox 360 and PC, but I was quite pleased with the quality of the gameplay and how easy it was to pick up and play. Based on Valve's track record, it will surprise absolutely no one if Left 4 Dead blows away the competition when it launches simultaneously for Xbox 360 and PC this November.
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