PAX 08 in Review: Left 4 Dead

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Valve and I have a long standing history. I've yet to be truly disappointed by a game of theirs. From Half-Life to Portal, they've been good to us for a while. Left 4 Dead is no exception. A zombie survival game made for co-operative play, Left 4 Dead sports a strange new way of dealing with enemy AI. The game is lorded over by the "director AI" a series of rules that decides, on the fly, when to throw enemies at you and how to go about attacking you. It will even pick out the weakest of the group and single them out.

No playthrough of Left 4 Dead will ever be exactly the same, as the "director" chooses when to let you rest, how difficult to make the hordes of enemies and even the direction they come from. Our group started out well enough. We cleared out the building we had been sequestered in and ventured out into the street. Dark and desolate, there are places where without your flashlight, you won't be able to see a thing.

The enemies stormed towards us in the alley, numbers climbing near to thirty at once. Our group cleared them out well enough and moved on. High ground, no matter how high has always been a plus in shooters. Thinking this, I hopped up onto a car... just as a warning flash across the bottom of the screen warning us not to set off any alarms. Too late. We could hear them coming . Screams and pounding feet grew ever nearer and I fixed my sights on the alleys. Hearing gunfire and shouts from my teammates, I looked around for the horde they were attacking. Then I saw them pouring off the roofs from three, four, even five stories up. We were in trouble.

Before long I was incapacitated, laying on the ground with only my pistols to stop the hundreds of enemies that surrounded me and my compatriots. Then two of us were on the ground, then three. I fired as quickly as I could, protecting the only teammate I had left. He was almost to me when he too was taken down by a small group of zombies. We all lay there slowly bleeding out, wishing we hadn't messed with the cars.

I've always been strong supporter of co-operative gameplay, especially campaign play. Left 4 Dead combines this love with my love of zombie films. The build they have going now is sharp and clean. The action of fast paced and the director AI works well enough not to be obvious. I look forward to playing this game in it's entirety come November. Hopefully by then, I'll have learned my lesson and I'll stay the hell away from the cars.