As we approach the Halloween season and make our way through October, I thought it would be a fun idea(though not unique by any stretch) to spend the month posting about different games with a spooky theme. I will be going over two different games each week leading up to Halloween, which as I’ve stated previously will most likely be spent sitting at home playing Luigi’s Mansion 3. The games I will be writing about will be both games I’m playing through for the first time as well as some of my favorite games to play this time of year(or ALL). I’m going to kick off this Blog-tober fest with the zombie-filled mayhem of the Left 4 Dead series.
Left 4 Dead was developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by Valve being first released in November of 2008. The game is structured as a first-person shooter in which you play as one of four “survivors” making their way through a zombie apocalypse that is the result of a viral outbreak two weeks prior. The core gameplay is a mix of standard FPS and survival horror games, but in Left 4 Dead you control a player in the group of four survivors, with teamwork being imperative to surviving the onslaught of zombie hordes. The co-op element of the game centers providing cover fire for the other survivors as you make your way from start to finish across different campaigns, with each one containing several chapters. One of the unique aspects of the Left 4 Dead games is the campaigns, each one is self-contained and is designed to resemble some of the most used horror movie backdrops. The first campaign – No Mercy sees the 4 survivors make their way across ravaged city streets and subway tunnels to reach the helipad atop Mercy Hospital. In the fourth campaign – Blood Harvest the survivors finally reach an abandoned farmhouse which they must defend from multitudes of the undead after sending a distress signal over the radio. In the sequel Left 4 Dead 2 released only a year later, the opening campaign – Dead Center whose final two chapters take place within a shopping mall overrun by zombies…sounds familiar. Each campaign loading screen depicts the survivors as a poster you would see outside a movie theater. Another cool touch is in the game options you are able to adjust the Film Grain Setting if you wish to experience the game as if watching on an old snowy black and white television set. The lo-fi zombie movie aesthetic is one of my favorite details of the Left 4 Dead games.
The largest portion of zombies you will fight are of the standard mindless variety, but you will also have to defend yourselves against different types of “special infected” which include the Hunter, which will approach low to the ground before pouncing on an unsuspecting player like a lion ambushing its prey. Other types of special infected include Spitters, which spews toxic green…spit(?), dealing damage to the player and can incapacitate quite quickly if not careful, or the Boomer, a giant bloated zombie that can vomit on careless players and the stench of undead bile will quickly attract a horde of zombies, resulting in an early demise. Valve’s AI Director in the game was put to use in adjusting the sheer number of zombies thrown at you or generating great numbers of special infected; this adds a procedurally-generated sense of never knowing when or where you may come across a swarm of hungry zombies.
As one might assume, the game is created with online multiplayer in mind. The game modes include co-op play through the various campaigns, a survival mode, as well as competitive mode in which two teams of four players square off against one another with one team playing as the survivors and the other playing as the special infected whose goal is to keep the opposing team from reaching the end of the chapter. At the end of each chapter the teams are reversed to provide each team with a turn as the survivors and the special infected. Left 4 Dead 2 also added Realism mode, which offers health pack in much scarcer supply as well as not being able distinguish where the other survivors are as the bright character outline has been removed. The other game mode added was Mutations, which works the same as Competitive mode, but with random “perks” may be added such only being able to use specific weapons or the entire opposing team playing as the same type of special infected.
Left 4 Dead 2 took everything that was great about the original and added the two game modes, as well as the ability to wield dual pistols and various melee weapons to pick up and splatter zombie brains. I still feel the shot feedback feels a little better in Left 4 Dead 2 as the zombies don’t feel quite as much like paper targets. The campaign Dead Carnival in which you make your way through an amusement park with the finale being fighting off waves of zombies at the amusement park’s concert arena as you await the evacuation helicopter, this seemed extra awesome as the game was released the same year as Zombieland. Valve supported both Left 4 Dead games with additional dlc campaigns such as The Passing and The Sacrifice. The final campaign released – Cold Stream still may contain the most difficult segments within the games as you at times would have to fight your way through a seemingly infinite number of zombies on screen to reach safety. Eventually all of the campaigns from Left 4 Dead were made playable on Left 4 Dead 2 which made for an impressive 15 different playable campaigns.
I recently sat down and played the game for a while and still found it every bit as fun as when I first played the game on my Xbox 360. The familiar Valve feel is still there….along with difficulty in going through doorways and climbing ladders 😉 I still recall quite frequently, how at the end of several campaigns you escape via helicopter and it was a race as to how quickly someone could use their Arnold Schwarzenegger voice and shout “git to ze choppa!”. If Valve were to ever accomplish making a third title to any of their franchises(Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress), a Left 4 Dead 3 just may be my first wish…maybe. One drawback to the game is the fact there can be so many zombies on screen that the frame rate completely plummets, but outside that I don’t have many negative things to say about the games. Anyone who appreciates the finer things in life, like splattering zombies and explosions I give the Left 4 Dead games a hearty endorsement.
Ok…I admit, Left 4 Dead isn’t necessarily SCARY, but is definitely one of my favorite zombie shooters and I wanted to include it for my spooky games blog 🙂 I’ve got plenty of other fun Halloween-themed games planned for the rest of the month. Has anyone else played the Left 4 Dead games? If so, what do you think of them? Let me know!
“Get to ze choppa!”