Those who’ve been playing the demo over the last few weeks will already be familiar with the core gameplay of Left 4 Dead, and unsurprisingly the full game takes the almost universally praised formula and gives you a whole lot more zombie blasting action to get your shotgun into.
Every campaign starts with a brief fly by cut scene that sets the scene, before the four instantly recognisable survivors, Bill, Francis, Louis and Zoey, load up with weapons and ammo and venture out into the zombie infested world beyond, with the destination a far off safe room, or in the finale level of each campaign, rescue.
While we were initially concerned over whether the levels would quickly become too samey, Valve has done brilliantly to make each of the four campaigns look and feel unique and each genuinely offers something different. The large open road and town sections of the second campaign, Death Toll, are a world away from the tight, almost claustrophobic hospital wards of No Mercy or the catastrophic damage caused by the numerous plane crashes that litter Dead Air.
Valve has also absolutely nailed the look and feel of the graphics throughout, with genuinely creepy environments only adding to the tension that’s endemic in the game and grainy quality enforcing the feeling that you’re playing through a movie rather than a game. The frequent graffiti left by previous survivors who have passed through areas is also a constant cause of entertainment, with in jokes and pop culture references littering the walls of safe rooms serving to help lighten that whole depressing “end of the world” thing.
Each campaign also has a number of triggered sequences where the survivors have to remove an obstacle by means of switch or explosion - inevitably alerting the horde and resulting in especially large mobs of screaming zombies rushing your position. Again, while we’d been concerned these too would become samey, each is unique, and the fact that the infected swarm can come from any direction means each set piece is always that little bit different.
The common zombies themselves are also enormously varied throughout and although you might notice a model or two reappearing here and there, the use of infected models unique to a level like infected baggage handlers or hospital patients still wearing hospital gowns (hehe, bare ass zombies) are a great little touch. This only adds to the feeling of progression and individuality each campaign has.
What we’re trying to stress here is that Left 4 Dead utterly succeeds in taking the mechanic of shooting a whole load of zombies and putting it into enough unique environments and with enough variety therein that it never really gets boring.