Posts Tagged ‘half-life’

Left 4 Dead

From the creators of Half-Life, CounterStrike, Portal and Team Fortress comes a first-person running zombie survive-‘em-up with what Valve claims has unlimited replayability.

The secret is the Director, an AI program that identifies how well you’re doing, the amount of ammo you have and the number of health kits you carry. The result is that zombie carnage can be unleashed upon you at any one time at any place, depending on how you’re playing.

The game boils down to just this: you pick a character from the four available (old guy, grumpy guy, black guy and girl), you load a map (city, woods, airport, fields) and you run from A to B. That’s all. But you need to make sure that your team mates are less than six feet away from you at all times because the many various ‘boss’ zombies like to interfere with the run as much as possible. There’s the frustrating Boomer that showers the team in zombie-attracting bile, the irritating Smoker that grabs one player and pulls them far away, the aggravating Hunter that jumps and mauls one person, the bitchy Witch that punishes people for not looking around in the shadows and the utterly annoying Tank that strolls in and tears shit up. You can guarantee that you’ll never be more than five minutes away from getting screwed over by a game that doesn’t like to be beaten.

And that’s only half of the problem. Valve have designed Left 4 Dead as a four-player co-op game, forcing you to rely on your living team mates to get through the levels. To cut a long rant relatively short, you can’t play the game without taking it on Xbox Live and playing with three other humans. You can play it in two-player split-screen (but not four – a bizarre choice considering the numbers), but your AI assistants become liabilities when you realise that you can’t give any commands at all.

Playing in single-player is even worse. You can only play it on easy or normal difficulties, as any attempt to play on hard or expert will result in the AI survivors turning into giggling retards by the final part of the level, becoming unwilling to do something as simple as follow you, choosing instead to run away and get killed so the others will run out to save them and get killed, thus screwing you over completely because you can’t win this game by yourself.

As previously stated, the only way to play this game properly is to take it online, but even then, the only way to get a proper go out of Left 4 Dead is to play on the incredibly unfun expert difficulty, because it’s the only place where the game is taken seriously by players who won’t run on ahead. Just like the movies it tries to replicate, relying on other people only leads to humanity’s downfall.

The levels themselves are a mixed batch, with only a handful standing out as memorable or interesting. The four scenarios – amusingly presented as movies – only have two settings: inside a city or outside one, with each scenario containing five maps, the final mission seeing you fight off the zombies while waiting for rescue. And once you’re rescued that’s it – the game ends and you pick a new level and start again. No closure, no reward, nothing to unlock or earn. Everything is open at the start and no scenario is any harder than the next. Replayable? Not really.

The idea behind the zombies is actually really good: they are attracted to sound. So such things as car alarms, activating lifts in deserted buildings, opening creaky shutters and metal detectors will send a horde of screaming zombies to tear off your face. However, the dynamic fails to hold up under close interrogation, because zombies will swarm because of a fuel gauge being turned on, but not a plane crashing. They’ll swarm because a Boomer vomits on you, but not because a petrol station explodes. Zombies swarm because a man three miles down river is on his way to you by boat, but not because you’ve detonated an explosive canister.

And another problem with the zombies is that they’re not scary in the slightest. Do anything to activate the swarm and you’ll get huge white text hampering your view and warning you that in a few moments you will be scared. Even the Director’s random swarms have a bugle cry several seconds before the attack, to give you enough time to prepare.

Of course, ‘preparing’ means simply backing into a corner and firing straight ahead. The zombies aren’t smart enough like, say, Resident Evil 5’s Majini, to attack in other way than by running in a group and making themselves ridiculously easy targets. Also, the Director can be fooled fairly easily, simply by getting hurt very early on and not taking any health kits.

The weapons are a disappointing bunch given that Valve created both the Gravity and Portal gun. You have a pistol (can be upgraded to two), a submachine gun, shotgun, assault rifle, assault shotgun and the utterly pointless long-distance hunting rifle.

There are other modes included on Left 4 Dead, notably the co-op (it’s always co-op, say goodbye to having fun on your own) head-to-head humans versus zombies game, but even that is flawed by the difficulty the game is played on, as one shot kills zombies on easier modes and survivors hit the ground like twelve-year-olds at a Jonas Brothers concert on harder modes.

All in all, it’s a valiant attempt to make a horror FPS, but is flawed by the same old problem: FPSes are not scary and never will be because you’ll always outgun those that outnumber. Worth playing a few times in split-screen with a mate, but nothing more – hugely disappointing. As for the unlimited replayability, maybe more time could have gone into designing levels or better partner AI instead of an AI program that makes the game a chore to play.

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And so there you have it! According to this one guy on the Internet, Dead Rising is a better zombie horror that Left 4 Dead. Thanks for reading. What’s in store for next week?