Left 4 Dead Impressions: Sloppy Seconds

EA had Valve and Turtle Rock's Left 4 Dead on hand at last week's EA3 event, a title it had just shown last month at the EA Games Spring Break get together. Crecente already handed in his largely comprehensive take on Left 4 Dead, but since this was my first go with the cooperative zombie killer, I thought I'd chime in. As a die hard fan of all things zombie, this was the title I was eying from across the room while waiting my turn on Skate It.

Playing the Steam version via local four-player set up, we ran through one of L4D's scenarios, likely the exact same one that EA showed last month. It involves a run through city streets and subway tunnels choked with undead (that's the fun undead, the sprinting, we-really-want-your-brains undead). The scenario ends in a dramatic helicopter rescue on a hospital rooftop and thousands upon thousands of bullet-ridden zombie corpses.

Getting there was all the fun.

Left 4 Dead is very much survival horror for the new generation, a white-knuckle paced take on zombie games. It's a step up in panic on par with the speed boost that the walking dead have been fortunate to receive via films like 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Trying to not only keep pace with your squadmates—and ensure that they don't get ensnared by a zombie tongue—but also with the parade of rotting hordes forces the player to focus like a laser between safe rooms.

Ammo may not be impossible to find, but unless one conserves, you might find yourself resorting to pistols. During one heavy sequence, I was depleted to nothing, relying on melee attacks to survive. You can restock at the safe room checkpoints found throughout each level, but it does pay to keep an eye on your ammo usage.

Aim will definitely be rewarded elsewhere in the form of not killing your teammates, something I may have been guilty of at one point. Fortunately, helpful icons pop up with important info like "Don't shoot your teammates!" and "Heal your friend!", an ever present reminder that there is no "I" in "team", but that there are two in "Friendly fire."

There are some nice touches scattered throughout that make Left 4 Dead stand out and these pop-up warnings come into play elsewhere. For example, in one area, you are warned that zombies don't like car alarms. In fact, they become enraged when they hear them. Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to avoid hitting an alarmed car and rage sets in. You'll also see pop-ups that essentially say "Pull this level and expect mass hysteria." It's funnier when Valve does it.

Also funny? Zombies in hospital gowns.

Crecente mentioned the variety one will see in the Left 4 Dead bestiary, but didn't break it down. Here's what we saw.

In addition to the stock John Q. Zombie who can sprint, jump, climb and drop from above in an attempt to score some sweet gray matter, you'll face some more random spawns. Tanks, which you can hear coming yards away, will take multiple clips to bring down. Boomers will blow their guts all over you, making you a beacon for the undead. Witches will simply kick your ass. Better to leave them alone, but if you don't have a choice, you'd better unload on them as a team or you're going to get your head handed to you. Keep quiet and she may not notice you, but in the sewer we found ourselves in, we had little choice but to settle our differences with bullets.

And watch out for zombie vomit. It's rough on the eyes.

Left 4 Dead managed to keep the frenetic pace of mowing down zombie hordes at a fun and frenzied level through at least one level. We hope that the excitement can be maintained throughout the game's five scenarios. It's looking good so far and we expect to be pre-loading this one in anticipation of its November 4th release date.

You should too.