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Left 4 Dead

Imaginative, Visceral, and Indecently Impactful

If your Xbox 360 isn't connected to Xbox Live, hang your head in shame and moan like a flesh-starved zombie. You offliners are missing the multiplayer event of the year. Whether you assume the role of a human fighting for survival within the wastes of a dead city or the zombie who eyes this walking meat buffet as a tasty appetizer, Left 4 Dead's online battles will consume your soul and bathe you in the blood of one of video games' most imaginative, visceral, and indecently impactful experiences.

When you fire the game up, three additional players join you. If you select cooperative play, you and your teammates must blaze a trail through AI-controlled zombie forces to a safe house  where weapons, ammo, and precious health packs await. If you select competitive play, the goal for your team remains the same, but a second team of humans now controls the elite zombies (which I'll detail later). The goal for each team is simple: survive, or on the contrary, kill.

The gameplay for the two factions is completely different, but at the same time, unified by the game's strongest component - teamwork. If you wander off for just one second, you could endanger the lives of everyone on your team, or if you are the zombies, allow the humans to reach the safe house. Even if you've played through a particular level 100 times, it's impossible to predict when and how the zombies will attack your squad. The level's geometry never changes, but the zombie spawns do. In one playthrough, a street may be calm and quiet. In another, it could look like a rolling river of undead bodies. Thus, it is imperative that you stick together, and better yet, coordinate your tactics.

Survivors can only carry two weapons: a default pistol and your choice of an assault rifle, shotgun, or sniper rifle. The sniper rifle may seem like an odd weapon to use against zombies hordes that are faster than Carl Lewis, but its lightning quick reloads makes it reliable. The control mechanics are mapped strangely (with reload on B, and no iron sight), but perfectly fit the action. Targeting (with a little aim assist) is spot on, pipe bomb grenades are easy to place, and the melee gun bash is a highly effective way to keep zombies from gnawing on your bones.

If you are playing as the undead axis, each respawn places you in the body of either a smoker (who grabs survivors with his tongue from afar and slashes them when they get near), a hunter (who pounces onto survivors and claws them to death), a boomer (a ball of lard that moves slowly and blinds survivors with his pukey belch), or, on rare occasions, a tank (a Hulk-like abomination that can smack humans into next week and take entire magazines of bullets). The tank's movements are sluggish, but each baddie is a riot to play, especially when your team strategizes to launch full-on assaults against the survivors.

After playing just one match, you'll think twice before mocking the cheesy dialogue found in b-rate zombie movies again. Given the intensity of each fight, you'll find yourself screaming ''get it off me, man!'', ''eat lead, fleshbag!'' or whatever groan-inducing one-liner your brain can produce after a hard fought victory. If you don't say anything, there's a chance a smoker may make off with you, or a teammate may not get the ammo he or she needs to hold off a swarm.

While they deliver a thrill a second, both the competitive and multiplayer modes are limited in content. The game only consists of four levels, each lasting about an hour. The amazing level designs will remind you of every zombie movie ever made. All of them conclude in style as well, with survivors barring themselves in a building as zombies tear through the doors and windows, and also a rooftop showdown that concludes with undead bodies pouring off its sides with the consistency of rain. The lack of levels is a major letdown, and the fact that each level recycles the same five enemy types doesn't help matters. Let's just cross our fingers and hope Valve quickly delivers downloadable content and/or expansion packs.

I've neglected to talk about single player, which the game lists as the third option on its title screen. There is no story to soak in, and sadly, it's just not the same game without buddies at your side. If anything, this mode is worth a look just to witness Valve's amazing teammate AI. They are almost too good, often shooting a little too quickly and taking down elite zombies before you see them (which sucks for multiplayer matches without eight players). The split-screen co-op is fun, but results in a drop in graphical fidelity.

If you are even thinking about playing this game, pony up for the Xbox Live Gold membership. It's just as necessary as the controller. While light on content, Left 4 Dead needs to be in everyone's library, not only because it innovates in ways that will shape the future of gaming, but also because it's so *** fun.

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Second Opinion:

9.25

Consider me infected. Left 4 Dead's creative brand of human-versus-zombie gameplay is the year's best team-based multiplayer experience. The premise is simple: Like 28 Days Later, an infection creates a legion of zombies who overrun the gorgeously rendered city and countryside, and four survivors must work together to shoot their way through the brain-dead masses and escape. Your chances of survival are extremely compromised by limping teammates or diminished numbers, so the game encourages players to cover each other's backs, heal those in need of medical attention, and wander guns blazing into hordes of flesh-starved zombies to save the unfortunate survivor who gets overwhelmed. Taking up the cause of the infected in multiplayer is even more fun. The creative gameplay structure allows you to pick your exact spawn point and plan out attacks with your three zombie cohorts. The only serious gripes I have with Left 4 Dead are its dearth of content (only four campaigns, each of which takes a little over an hour to complete) and its paltry weapon selection (this game is screaming for a flamethrower and more melee weapons). But the purity of the gameplay experience is tough to refute. This is the best zombie game ever made.

User Reviews:

  • 9.00
    I was fortunate a while ago that my friend invited me over to play this. This isn't my cup of tea, but I'm like worth a shot. I had so much fun playing this game. Killing zombies with friends have never been better. The graphics are pretty good. Reminds you of a Half-life feeling, but also give...
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  • 9.00
    Horror usually isn't my cup of tea. Movies, books, video games, et cetera. Nope, nada. I don't find the idea of peeing my pants funny, because I am easy to scare, I'll admit. When I saw the very first screenshots of Left 4 Dead, I thought I'd never play this game. One weekend, I went...
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  • 9.00
    There's nothing more satisfying than shooting a moaning, stinking piece of carcass at two in the morning. At least, that's the time it was when I first tried this game. Left 4 Dead surely isn't what most would call "Original", but it sure is fun. You're plunked in a post-apocalypse...
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  • Playing demos for this game got me so pumped and it didn't fail at all, it exceeded what I thought the game would become. The simplicity of this game makes it amazing, there's not too many things to pick up or deal with it. It allows you to focus on teamwork and get through the objectives. It...
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  • 9.25
    "It’s the zombie apocalypse. Bring friends..." This was the original marketing campaign for Left 4 Dead . As the epidemic spreads four strangers; Francis, Bill, Louis, and Zoey, find themselves in the awkward position of having to trust each other and work together in order to survive...
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  • 9.75
    left 4 dead was the best game i ever played on xbox live i never had so much fun killing zombies with friends i just wish they made this game for the ps3 it would be way better but over all this was the best game i have ever played online
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