Left4Dead First Impressions

Written by Joe Martin

November 8, 2008 | 08:01

Tags: #left4dead #left4dead-demo #zombie-game

Companies: #valve

Final Impressions

Tactical thought isn’t the only thing you’ll need though – you’ll need to know the mechanics of the game as well, which is more important than you’d think.

For example; friendly fire is always on and cannot be turned off, ever. In terms of the game that’s an important thing as it means you’ll have to co-ordinate yourself when you try to hold off against a stream of enemies as they break down the door.

It also means that when your ally gets pinned down by a Hunter, a type of infected that pounces huge distances and pummels allies when it is on top of them, you’ll have to remember to charge at it instead of try and shoot it with your shotgun. The best tactic is to run up and whack it to the floor with a melee attack – not only will it incapacitate the zombie, but melee attacks can’t hurt your allies.

The interface comes in and plays a huge role in the tactics behind each decision, telling you at the bottom of the screen not only how much health each player has, but also what supplies they are carrying. If you’re getting hammered by a swarm of zombies then you’ll know to protect the person carrying the pipe bomb first – the loud beeping they give before exploding will attract all nearby infected, buying you time to reload.

Left4Dead First Impressions Left4Dead First Impressions - Conclusions

Unfortunately, Left4Dead isn’t without flaws. There are small graphical bugs that are noticeable when the view switches to third person that really stand out, such as when you try to heal someone who is too far away and end up watching your character bandaging mid-air.

Our main concern though at the moment is the levels themselves are quite small – a restriction of the Source engine that’s been there ever since the beginning and is being further impinged on by the fact that the game has to run on the Xbox 360 too.

The levels are so small in fact that we’ve even seen people able to run through the entire demo, which is roughly one and a half levels in length, in less than two minutes. We’ve seen some early versions of the later levels too and know that they too aren’t quite as long as we’d want.

To some degree though that’s countered by the fact that Valve has designed Left4Dead as a replayable game, not necessarily a very long game. You’re supposed to play the levels over and over, taking different routes and facing different challenges. If you play the demo once and damn it for being too short then you’re missing out on something truly essential about the game – simply crank up the difficulty and try again – you’ll find it much more challenging.

Left4Dead First Impressions Left4Dead First Impressions - Conclusions

Besides, this is a Valve-made game built on a newly revamped and great looking version of the Source engine. Do you really think there won’t be community maps?

You’ve also got to take into account the fact that we’ve only got one mode on offer here – and barely more than a fifth of a campaign. There’s still the Versus mode, which lets players take on the roles of certain Boss zombies, to be unveiled in the final version of the game.

Left4Dead isn’t perfect – we can see that much from the demo already – but it’s a whole ton of fun. Still, if Valve can fix the server browsing and bring the LAN options more in line with gamer expectations and if the community gets behind the game as fast as we expect them too then Left4Dead looks to be an utter stonker of a game.

And now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to go play it again. And again. And again.

The public demo for Left4Dead becomes available for those who haven't pre-ordered the game on November 11th. The full game then gets released on November 18th, at which point the demo is taken offline. If you've got the demo already and want to set up a match with other bit-tech readers (or writers!) or if you just want to pass on your comments then let us know in the forums.
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