I Heart…Left 4 Dead

At the time of writing this piece I am striken by plague…some lurgy that has left me temporarily bonded to my sofa and groaning softly.  Naturally, the thought eventually occurs to me that I’m probably turning into a Special Infected.  Not the kind that pulls you off buildings with it’s tongue or covers you in Boomer bile (yet, thankfully!) but a really crap one that crawls up to survivors, coughs a bit then dies at their feet with a whimper.  Zombies will find a way to infiltrate my life in some form or other. Not literally, so far, I hasten to add but all gamers know that one day, the apocalypse will come and we’ll be highly trained in dealing with the situation.

The new world order will be run by us fans of Dead Rising or Resident Evil, we will be left to repopulate the planet.  I can stock up on first aid kits which, fortunately, heal any wound no matter how near-fatal it is but I am relying on one of you to have a stockpile of shotguns and molotovs.

The one thing that can genuinely scare me in films is zombies. I wouldn’t like to meet the fast moving kind and the thought of hundreds of them eerily shuffling towards my hideout sends shivers down my spine.  It’s a horrible way to go.  A vampire will at least seduce you and drain your blood while you’re busy swooning.  A werewolf will quickly rip you to shreds.  A zombie though can start by nibbling your fingertips off or gnawing slowly through your skull – that’s pretty horrific in my book.  Putting zombies and games together is close to my idea of heaven and so with this, I pay homage to my personal favourite – Left 4 Dead.

Although, in my opinion, the sequel was a superior game, the original has a special place in my undead heart. It was my first proper introduction to the joys of online multiplayer and also the first “scary” game I was able to summon up enough courage to play on my own. I remember firing up the campaign for ‘No Mercy’ for the first time and ever so slowly edging down the staircase from the roof, literally on the edge of my seat, waiting to jump at any moment. Multiplayer befuddled me the first few times I played as Special Infected but being able to control the zombie attacking the humans was a great twist for me and I’m glad I persevered with the mode.

The series of campaigns take the four survivors through various areas in their hunt for saferooms and eventual rescue via choppers, planes, boats and army vehicles, all the while they are battling through your common or garden variety zombies and the Special Infected. These souped-up zombies have different abilities such as dragging you away from the action, temporarily blinding you with bile, or pouncing from afar and ripping your intestines out. Not to mention the random spawns of the sobbing Witch, shhh don’t startle her, or the Tank who has the ability to seriously mess up your game.

The teamwork required is co-op at its very best. When pinned by a Hunter, watching your health bar drain, you feel utterly helpless while awaiting a teammate to come and rescue you. I still feel the need to hammer the controller as if, one day, the X button will actually shove the Hunter away. You have to rely on your fellow gamers to help protect you when covered in blinding Boomer bile or get you back up when incapacitated (or “incapped” as the cool kids say, honest). Snap judgements have to be made as to where to take a stand in a finale or the best way to deal with an impending Tank attack.

It’s fascinating how the real life personalities of the gamer is revealed in-game. Those more impatient call back to the others to hurry up, somebody who is cautious wants to check out of the way areas for ammo or health supplies, a multitasker seems to be everywhere at once – fending off Tanks with one hand while reviving you with another and there’s always the one with the “hero” complex who has to take down the Witch even if she’s over the other side of the map.

The survivors – Bill, Zoey, Francis and Louis are loveable, even if their actions as AI could be infuriating at times. Free me from this Smoker tongue and imminent death, Bill? No? Rather stand there and watch me die? Fair enough. Everybody seems to have their favourite, whether it’s Zoey calling zombie bullshit, Louis grabbin’ pills, the experienced war veteran Bill or “I hate everything except vests” Francis. The banter between characters is well written and amusing and I refuse to believe there isn’t a Left 4 Dead fan in the world who hasn’t at some point exclaimed “PILLS HERE!” while rifling through their bathroom cabinet.  When Bill’s body was found during The Passing DLC for Left 4 Dead 2 I felt a genuine pang of sadness and still do. I made a simple YouTube video for my gamer friends so we could half-jokingly mourn together but it surprised me by getting over 3000 views and a string of L4D fans also “paying their respects” in the comments section. This was for a character from a game released over a year previously and highlights the adoration gamers like me have for the title.

Left 4 Dead may have been shunted to one side by its sequel and is gathering dust for now but I am still very fond of the game and it’s one that I never plan on trading in. It’s in my all time favourite games, with its humour, warmth, tense moments, great gameplay PLUS zombies and that is why I <3 it so.

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Last five articles by Kat



  1. Rook says:

    I never bought the second game, I had played the demo though. It seems that with TV programmes and films getting Vampires everywhere, Zombies are turning up in games everywhere.

    I enjoyed what I played of the first Left 4 Dead; joining in with a few of your L4D nights and being spammed with onvites on nights when I hadn’t joined in; however I soon lost interest in playing the same maps over again (sometimes twice if playing versus albeit as either side). Trying out the different special infected, I think I preferred the Smoker most, as I felt I was more effective with that character.

    And you can never forget seeing a group of zombies all rushing for that shiny flashing light on the pipe bomb you had just thrown. They all wanted a piece, and pieces were the result.

    I think you should have included your snow diarama to show how much you loved this game. :D

  2. James says:

    I really loved L4D… but I saw it as a work in progress.
    I recently started playing L4D2, and it feels too jokey. The humour is predictably wacky, and the settings are frankly very boring.
    If only L4D had got the support the L4D2 is getting, it would have been what I really wanted.

    Oh, and they needed to make it so that after you get to a certain level, the Tank isn’t the ONLY challenge. I felt like expert was mostly just spent waiting for the Tank…. and it’s exactly the same in L4D2.

  3. Ben Ben says:

    Fantastic game, supported by a fantastic community and while it may sound like me going on about how good PC is, this is one series that shows its strengths. The modding and custom level ‘scene’ are just phenomenal.

    Best way for me to describe L4D is: simple but affective.

    One thing though, you’d rely on someone else to bring the Molotov’s?

  4. Kat Kat says:

    As if I’d happen to have a kitchen cupboard full of ready-to-go molotovs just on standby… :D

    Had a dig around and this was my lame L4D snowman scene from a couple of years ago – http://i95.photobucket.com/albums/l132/DemonicaB/l4dsnow.jpg

    My basic RIP Bill youtube vid is here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j0N1z7o4OM

  5. Edward Edward says:

    Brilliant, Kat!
    I’d say the second was better, but because it only came out a year after the first, I’d spent so much time on the first one that the second hasn’t seen nearly as much love as a result. =[

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    See now I feel like a total outsider!! I’ve never played Left4Dead or Left4Dead 2 and, as you know, didn’t even OWN any of them until a week or so ago. I feel like I’m the zombie already, and you lot are wanting to lob my head off with an axe just for never having played the game before. I really need to fire this one up as soon as possible.

    Do zombies get to use Laser Rifles or Experimental MIRVs? Am I going to have to resort to stumbling across a playing field slowly while mumbling “braaaaains”… god I hope not. These upcoming Vs matches are going to be fun, I can tell.

    By the way… is it just me that thinks Zoey looks like Michael Jackson in that picture on the bridge thing above??

  7. Richie richie says:

    I know this makes me a big stupid wronghead but I couldn’t get into L4D1 at all. Especially after I died just a few seconds before finishing a level or something. Fucking game.

  8. Samuel Samuel says:

    I couldn’t get into the first game. It was something of a big surprise then when I enjoyed the demo for the sequel so much as I did, to the point of not only buying it, but on the 360 instead of on the PC (which is the platform I prefer my shooters to be on) in order to play co-op with people.

    I’m not especially interested in horror games, but L4D definitely has a sense of humour and style of its own that makes it stand out, and which is rather attractive to me. It will be very interesting to see where the franchise goes next. Assuming it doesn’t go the same way as Half-Life… here’s hoping Valve don’t forget about this one.

  9. Lee says:

    I think I prefer the second one but when something is the first of something it always holds a special place in the players heart. I’m not very good at left 4 dead though I have a tendency to just cheese it at the first sign of trouble.

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