Left 4 Dead‘s premise was such a no-brainer (pun intended), I was starting to think no one would ever make it: a four-player cooperative zombie apocalypse.
Having a developer like Valve — known for the high quality of their games — work on it is just icing on the cake. No, actually, it’s more than mere icing. I haven’t played many Valve games, but from what I understand, the high level of polish present in those I have played (Portal and Team Fortress 2) is a trademark of theirs — and Left 4 Dead definitely seems better for it. From the B movie poster loading screens to the fake ads plastered everywhere to the horror film-esque gore, I can’t help but smile (and cringe) when I play.
In fact, I would say Valve is theoretically the best company there is to handle something like this, since the time I’ve spent with Team Fortress 2 really shows that they get what will and will not work when you want people to play as a team. The easiest difficulty is a cakewalk, but everything else requires your teammates if you want to avoid becoming a mob’s lunch. Much like TF2, a careful balance is struck between the freedom to do what you want –- like rampage with a shotgun –– and the need to be mindful of your friends; otherwise, who’s going to free you when you’re pinned to the floor by a corpse that hungers for your living flesh?
I’ve never been a fan of standard “team” deathmatch multiplayer, since it always feels like you’re playing next to the guys on your team, rather than with them; I prefer something with more of a cooperative mechanic to it, like Team Fortress 2 and (theoretically) Metal Gear Online. Left 4 Dead, so far, seems to be the best entry into this esteemed category. Of course, I would assume this is also present in what is arguably the game’s most interesting aspect: the ability to play on the Infected side. I only have access to the Xbox Live demo, though, so I’m unable to try that out just yet. But let’s be honest, here: having a friend herd humans your way so you can puke all over them is the very definition of teamwork. I’m so excited about the full release I can hardly wait.
…Even if the zombies can run.