|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Valve Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (8 online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
September 11, 2007 - The survival horror genre seems to have been done to death. Every time you turn around, there's a new one coming out. Whether it is you versus hordes of zombies, you versus the dark elements of the night, or you versus the creepiest town on the planet, they all share one common element, the "you versus" side of gaming. This isn't a bad thing always; sometimes it is more enjoyable or immersive to experience these classic genre games by your lonesome. However, what would it be like if you had a buddy to come along for the ride? If you think one buddy is intriguing, then how about three? Putting you and three friends in an impossible scenario and finding out who's left for dead seems to be the biggest draw to this game from Turtle Rock Studios.
The game itself will take place in some traditional landmarks of the horror genre like urban streets, wooded rural areas, small hamlets, and a shopping mall. There will be a few other areas for us to try to survive, but those are the confirmed ones. What might you be surviving against in the game? This is an interesting twist on some of the formulaic games on the market. The villains of the game are called "The Infected." I know you might immediately think, "Oh great - more zombies." Instead of the ravenous undead, we will have to deal with those who have been transformed into ravenous people with a severe form of rabies. It makes one wonder if people are the only "Infected" or if we will have any pooches to square off against. For that matter, it might look like an evil Disney Woodland valley unleashed. Four players will assume the roles of "The Survivors" in the game. Each level will have you working together to reach the ultimate goal. For example, one level's mission is to catch a helicopter out of the area, and through teamwork, you will have to fend off The Infected until the helicopter has time to arrive.
The Survivors will be selected at random once the players hop on to the server. At first I thought this would only cause complication with how players join up in the group, but each human character will have the same abilities and capability to use every weapon. The characters themselves will have distinguishing attributes for you to easily recognize who's a friend and who's not. This could eliminate some of the problems of friendly gaming online. As for the characters that will be selected for us to play as, we have Francis Barrels, a tattooed biker, Zoey Coen, the teenage daughter of a wealthy family, Bill Calhoun, a Vietnam vet with combat skills that have kept him alive, and Louis Parker, an assistant manager at a local electronics store, to choose from. This is truly an eclectic group of characters to throw together in a situation like this. There is something interesting about The characters of the game we will be cast as. Instead of always being the good guy, we will have the opportunity to be one of the Infected as well. Of course, The Infected will have that appeal of extra abilities and capabilities that the human players won't. For example, the Boomer can projectile vomit on the human players causing them to go blind and attracting other Infected. The Boomer also explodes when it dies causing more damage. In addition to the Boomer, player will have the chance to play as The Hunter, which is agile and can climb walls, The Smoker, a fiend with an extremely long tongue similar to Resident Evil's Licker, and The Tank, who will only be playable for short periods of time, in which players of the Infected will be notified when it becomes available. There will also be a character that players will not be able to control. The Witch will be mostly passive unless provoked, similar to how the Big Daddies were in BioShock.
The A.I. in the game is being promised as so convincing that you will not be able to tell which players are bots and which are controlled by human players. This feature, as long as it holds up, will increase the playability of the game. Another feature for the A.I. is that if for whatever reason you can't seem to accumulate the team you want in the game, you will be able to play singularly with bots filling in the remaining slots on the team. As long as some of that impressive A.I. they are talking about holds true, then this could be a great game alone and with friends. Also, as long as a the game doesn't fall into the traps of some recent games trying to mimic success of previous titles, then I for one cannot wait until it hits shelves.
Left 4 Dead has all the markings of a game that you want to really play. Unfortunately, as has been the case in recent years, there have been several titles that have you hooked until the day arrives for you put the game into the console or PC, and then there's nothing but disappointment. However, at present, Turtle Rock seems to have the formulaic genre by the reins and guiding it into a new aspect that could be beneficial for other developers to explore as well. Only time will tell how the game holds up, but with a release date in the Spring of 2008, it gives me enough time to find three comrades to survive the horrors of the Infected, or to push in front of the Boomer's special attack. We'll have more as we get closer to the date of release.
CCC Project Coordinator