Running on the Source Engine, Left 4 Dead is a multiplayer cooperative first-person shooter developed by Turtle Rock Studios, Certain Affinity and Valve Corporation. Left 4 Dead was released on November 18th, 2008 in North America and worldwide through Steam on both the PC and Xbox 360. The game pits four human survivors of a zombie apocalypse against hordes of the undead as they attempt to reach safety or evacuation in Campaign mode, and in Versus another four players as the undead.
The original concept for Left 4 Dead was based on a Counter-Strike mod called Terror Strike. This gameplay featured a small group of counter terrorists armed with weapons fighting off hordes of knife wielding terrorists. The team wanted to make a full experience out of this mod, and the zombie apocalypse was a perfect fit.
Pre-Order Bonus and Demo
On Thursday November 6th, 2008 early access was granted to the Left 4 Dead demo for people who pre-ordered the game for the Xbox 360 console and Windows PC. The console version of the demo was released a few hours earlier than the PC version. The demo features both online co-op and a single-player experience of two levels within one of the game's chapters.
As well as early access to the demo the game had a 10% reduction in price for people who wished to pre-order the game. This applied to the version of Left 4 Dead being release through Steam for PC players or retail outlets such as GameStop and EB Games for Xbox 360 players. There has however been some controversy regarding the pre-orders for the game from GameStop where pre-order codes were not issued in time for the early release of the demo, as well as the fact people could sign up to the GameStop website and receive a pre-order code for the demo even if they did not actually pre-order the game itself.
For those who did not pre-order the game the demo was made available on November 11th, 2008 for both the PC and Xbox 360. After the game's release the demo was taken off the Xbox Live Marketplace.
According to Shacknews, Left 4 Dead's preorders surpassed those of The Orange Box by around 95%.
Each scenario, or "movie," is divided into five sub-scenarios, showcasing a desperate push from one safe house to another, fighting off hordes of ferocious Infected. In the first sub-scenario, for example, the survivors must make their way to the streets below and into the subway system where there is a safehouse, where they may recuperate and re-arm before making their way to the next safehouse. Each campaign ends with what's called a "finale", where the players must hold out against hundreds of charging Infected while awaiting rescue. Players have unlimited time to gather up supplies and figure out a plan before starting the finale, which is done by contacting the rescue vehicle through a radio.
There are four difficulties to choose from: Easy, Normal, Advanced and Expert. The higher difficulties make Infected do more damage, give Special Infected more health, and make the AI Director spawn more Infected and fewer power-ups. Past Easy, friendly fire comes into effect and become more dangerous until Expert where it can down a teammate in one hit. A combination of severe accident penalties and Infected hordes dealing 20 damage per hit guarantees that only the most experienced of players survive on Expert.
Multiple visual in-game hints, including license plates, park signs, and markings on airplane equipment, imply that these locations are in Pennsylvania. The following is a list and description of the 4 campaigns as well as Crash Course and The Sacrifice:
- No Mercy - The survivors must make their way from the rooftop of an apartment building, through the subway system, down into the sewers, and then fight their way through a hospital in order to reach the helicopter pad on top of the hospital's roof.
- Death Toll - An urban woodland map where the survivors must find a boathouse and wait for evacuation by boat.
- Dead Air - The survivors make their way across rooftops before going through an airport with the hope of being rescued by a plane.
- Blood Harvest - The survivors head to what they think is a military outpost only to find out it is abandoned. They must wait until the military comes back to rescue them.
- Crash Course - After the helicopter the survivors escape in from No Mercy crashes the survivors are forced to walk on foot to a truck depot to escape.
- The Sacrifice - Also included as L4D2 DLC, the sacrifice takes place shortly after the L4D2 campaign, the crossing. The players must cross small inlets, to get to their escape point. Survivors must collect fuel for a cargo elevator in order to escape. One survivor is forced to suicide as the generator jams and must be activated manually in the middle of a horde.
Aside from the normal campaign mode where only the survivors are playable characters, there is also a Versus mode. In this mode human controlled players can play as advanced zombie mutations, known as Special Infected, which come in four types: “ Boomers”, “ Hunters”, “ Smokers”, or “ Tanks”; the latter of which will spawn only a few times during a game.
The Special Infected players re-spawn after they have been killed in combat (the time it takes varies depending on how well the survivors are doing and how many player infected there are), being able to choose their re-spawn location by walking around as a ghost until they find the perfect ambush spot, though it must be a certain distance from the survivors and they must be out of sight of the survivors. A player cannot pick which class he will play in Versus mode and it will be chosen at random by the AI Director based on what classes are available in the current game. The Hunter is the most common Infected in Versus, and some teams can have up to 4 Hunters in play at once.
During a round of Versus, the Survivors earn points based on a few factors. They'll get points based on how far they got, how many Survivors are alive when they arrive at the safehouse, and how high their health bonus is. The Special Infected get points, but those points do not affect the overall score of the game.
Survival is a game mode released by Valve. The DLC is free of charge and comes with the two campaigns that were missing in Versus mode. Survival mode is played in one of sixteen levels available, fifteen of which are taken from the current campaigns, and includes one new level called The Last Stand, which features a lighthouse. No enemies will appear before the players start the event and they have as much time as they want to set up, mostly consisting of placing gas cans and other explosives around the map. They need to work together to survive against waves of zombie attacks by making organized runs for ammo and fighting off the horde as well as Special Infected for as long as possible; it is said that rounds will rarely last up to 9 minutes because of continual increase in difficulty as the round goes on. The longer the survivors are alive the more frequently they will be attacked by the special infected. The goal of Survival mode is to survive as long as possible and you get a bronze, silver or gold medal at the 4, 7 and 10 minutes mark.
Survival comes with world leaderboards although they are next to useless as many players have found ways to exploit glitches and get to the top positions with thousands and thousands of minutes survived.
Players must work together to fight off numerous zombie attacks in order to reach a safe room or an escape vehicle. In addition to the standard zombies, advanced mutations occasionally appear, each causing their own type of havoc. The "Boomer" type of Infected will vomit on players, which causes the player's vision to become a green haze while attracting other zombies. The "Hunter" type will pin down a player, making it necessary for the other teammates to come to their rescue by shooting or shoving the zombie off of them (shooting a survivor being attacked by a Hunter or Smoker does no damage to them). The "Smoker" has an extremely long prehensile tongue, which it uses to grab and strangle them until they are rescued or dead. The "Tank" type is essentially a large hulk zombie with the ability to throw rocks, attack the enemies with his fists, or hit cars or other items in order to incapacitate the survivors.
The health for all of the characters is displayed in the HUD, and characters automatically speak when doing certain actions to facilitate teamwork. Messages are also displayed for players in need of assistance, such as those pinned or caught by advanced zombies. Players may use items such as medkits on themselves or on other teammates.
Down But Not Out
To force cooperative behavior in the party, Left 4 Dead is filled with situations that incapacitate players, such as attacks by Hunter or Smoker type zombies, or pitfalls such as falling off of ledges, where another character must come and help the victim back to their feet. A player losing all health is not instantaneously fatal, as they will fall to the ground and be able to fire a sidearm while they wait for a teammate to assist them. If they are hurt too much during this time, are left too long, or if they have already been disabled twice before, they will die and become a spectator. Some instance, such as being hit by a Witch, instantly knock players to the ground. If the players reach a safe house or find one of the many "respawn rooms" they can let dead players come back into the game. Players do have the option to play solely with bots, though the game can support up to three other human players in online co-op for the campaigns. If players come in or drop out of the game, the developers claim the AI is solid enough that the switch is almost unnoticeable.
An important concept in Left 4 Dead is its "Director" AI. The Director controls the pacing of the game to match the players style and skill level. It also adds variety to the same levels since the director will spawn infected in different places. At E3 2008 Valve showed the first level played by two different groups of different skill levels. The inexperienced group stumbled through the game and director sent them less baddies. The experienced group got more tougher bad guys, and led to more on-screen explosions. Specifically a docile gas station for the first group became an exploding war zone for the better group. One Turtle Rock developer stated that they want the player to feel as though they've just barely survived.
The Director uses a system of pacing and what is considered a player's "stress level" as determined by your actions to give you the best experience possible. The game plays with peaks of high tension and valleys of quiet fear with few zombies, thanks to the Director reading how stressed the player becomes. When the Director 'feels' that you are being overwhelmed, the gameplay will ease up a bit. Players can have fun with the Director by entering sv_cheats in the console and setting the Director to constant "panic" mode. After that, the next event in-game will cause an almost neverending tide of hordes to attack the player. This proves the Director controls the game's pacing. It is assumed that the changes in stress for the player become diminished on the higher difficulties, obviously due to there being more zombies per level.
Not Completely Random
While the AI Director creates a dynamic experience, avoiding scripted enemy attacks that can make a map feel stale and boring after a number of playthroughs, as well as adding bonus items such as weapons randomly in a level, there are still some slightly scripted events. For example, in the first subsection of the Mercy Hospital scenario, there are a number of abandoned cars outside the subway entrance that if disturbed by the players by either bumping into them or firing at them will trigger the car alarms, causing the AI Director to spawn a zombie attack which the players must then fight off or escape. Valve has also mentioned "crescendo" events that occur during the game, where the four survivors have to survive an onslaught of infected for a specific amount of time. These crescendo events are one of the few events that always occur at the same location every single game, but the amount of common and special infected is still decided by the Director on the fly.
Instead of choosing a storyline for the players to follow, the developers decided upon using a looser form of narrative similar to the style of Portal. The opening cut-scene serves to be as much a training video as it is a introduction to the world. The four playable character's personalities are established and four of the five special infected are shown, excluding the Boomer. Additionally concepts such as the shoves and the flashlight are shown. The only information that the player is given is that the infection has spread quickly, taking only two weeks to turn the majority of civilization into zombies.
The campaigns themselves do not have any voice over or story. In the opening seconds of the first section of the campaign, one of the player characters will give an overview of the objective for the campaign after a brief fly-by. Otherwise all of the story occurs via scribblings on the walls of safe houses by previous survivors (see picture on left). These can be humorous messages such as a forum style flame-war with the conclusion of "I miss the internet," or can help to give the players motivation on what they do want to achieve. A few of the scribblings are hints at achievements, such as killing 53,595 infected. The source, cause, and type of the infection is never directly discussed in the game, but there are hints that it was caused by one of the mega-corporations now trying to clean up the mess. Perhaps the now most famous wall scribbling found in the game is from an apparent survivor who calls himself "Chicago Ted" and wrote "No zombie is safe from Chicago Ted."
The game has regular Infected which are encountered throughout the game and have no special abilities or traits at their disposal. Apart from them there are 5 Special Infected in the game, 4 of which are only playable in Versus mode and all of which will be seen (non-playable) in the Campaign mode. Each Special Infected makes a unique sound to alert the players of their presence.
Obese and grotesque, the Boomer is filled with infected vomit which will alert all the nearby Horde when covered over a survivor. Being blown up in range of the survivors can also alert the horde. Boomers can also be knocked back a fair distance by hitting them with your weapon. Falling from high places causes the boomer to explode on contact with the ground.
The Hunter is a fast and nimble Infected, capable of climbing up walls to reach high points in maps so that he can then pounce survivors and rip them to shreds. The Hunter has a small amount of health, but he makes up for this with high speeds and quick reflexes. The hunter also has the ability to jump off of walls to stay airborne. The longer you stay off the ground the more damage you do if you make contact with a survivor.
Equipped with a uniquely long tongue, the Smoker can wrap it around survivors and pull them towards him. Along the way, two things can happen. If the Survivor that's being dragged hits an object, they become constricted and the Smoker begins choking them. If they victim manages to be dragged all the way to the Smoker, they will then get mauled over and over again by the Smoker's claws until they are rescued or killed. A smoker also releases a cloud of smoke when killed, hence the name. The smoker's cloud of smoke damages the survivors if they inhale it.
The TankBy far the most deadly Infected, this behemoth pounds
survivors with its huge fists as well as tossing parts of the environment at them. The Tank has a strong weakness to fire and fire-related weapons. He is the only infected that can't be killed with one headshot. The Tank likes to make his presence known by constantly yelling, and battle music plays whenever a Tank has entered the game. The tank can also hit objects towards the survivors to inflict massive amounts of damage.
The only female Special Infected, but rare and extremely dangerous. Although the Witch may appear harmless, she can kill a survivor in seconds if disturbed by a flashlight or close contact. Witches are easy to spot because of their moaning and crying, and they can often be placed in obvious spots such as doorways or even the saferoom.
Each is uniquely grotesque and possesses unique abilities. The Witch is only AI controlled in Versus mode and is seen more on the harder difficulties. The goal of the player controlled zombies in Versus mode is to stay alive as long as possible and collaborate with the hordes of regular AI infected and other special infected to stop the four survivors from reaching the safe house. If killed, the special infected have to wait for the respawn timer to run down.
These are the weapons found in Left 4 Dead:
You start with a single pistol and can find another during the game for dual pistols. Pistols have infinite ammunition.
||A simple pistol. You always start out with it and it has unlimited ammunition. It holds 15 round per magazine
||Hold two pistols means twice the amount of bullets and firepower. You can fire them as fast as you can pull the trigger. Dual pistols have 30 rounds. The reload speed is twice as long as one pistol.
At the start of a campaign you can pick up an Uzi or shotgun. When respawning, you'll have a basic weapon depending on the weapon you had upon death.
||Fast rate of fire and fairly accurate, but a little weak. Best used for medium distance to short distance. Holds 50 bullets at once. You can carry 480 rounds. It may seem like a lot of ammo, but you'll soon realize that bullets go fast.
||Slow rate of fire, wide burst and powerful blasts. Best used in close quarters against multiple infected. Holds 8 shells at once and you can carry a total of 128 shells.
From later in the first map of a campaign and forward, you can find these weapons in random spots. Later levels have these weapons in the safe room.
||More powerful than the regular shotgun and shoots at a much faster rate. Holds 10 shells at once and you can carry a total of 128 shells. Great for clearing out rooms of Infected
||Very high rate of fire and is accurate at long range when standing still. It holds 50 rounds per magazine and you can carry a total of 360 rounds. The assault rifle burns through ammo very fast, forcing the player to make shots count rather than spraying in every direction.
||Has a scope. Kills regular zombies in a single shot and shots have bullet penetration, meaning that it's possible to kill multiple zombies in a single shot if they're lined up in a row. Holds 15 rounds per magazine and you can carry a total of 180 rounds.
The grenades of Left 4 Dead can be found throughout the game in random spots. Only one grenade can be carried at once.
||The pipe bomb is a home made weapon that has a simple smoke detector attached to it. When thrown, the pipe bomb emits a beeping sound that attracts zombies. Using a pipe bomb is a good strategy to distract zombies if a player has been vomited on by a Boomer or if the team is overwhelmed. The pipe bomb explodes after a set amount of time once thrown.
||A molotov cocktail that sets an area on fire. This fire damages both Survivors and zombies and they will continue to burn in flames for a while after leaving the area of effect. The molotov explodes on impact when thrown but can bounce off walls.
There are three types of explosives that can be randomly found around the levels in Left 4 Dead. Explosives take the place of your weapon's slot (you still have your 2 weapons) and you can carry them anywhere in the level but cannot shoot until you put them down. Both explosives require that you shoot them to activate them, and you can melee with the explosives in hand if need be.
||The gas container is like a bigger, meaner version of the Molotov cocktail. It has a wider area of effect and lasts much longer. Be very careful when placing these because you can easily and unintentionally light your companions on fire if it gets caught in the crossfire. These are best used on the final chapters of each level because the zombies will just run into the fire if you are able to place them in their path towards you.
||The propane tank explodes when shot and has a rather large area of effect. Best used against large clumps of Infected
||Similar to the propane tank, but when shot it leaks a but of oxygen before exploding. Essentially on a timed fuse.
|Mounted Machine Gun
||A heavy duty weapon which is mounted and controlled by one person at a time. It has unlimited ammo but will overheat if fired for too long. It can only shoot in front from left to right so the Survivor operating it is vulnerable to attacks from behind if not protected. It is usually found at "crescendo events" which force the Survivors to defend themselves against the Infected for a certain period of time.
Censored Version in Germany
In Germany, Left 4 Dead has been censored to comply with standards set by the Ministry for protection of minors. None of the games released in Germany feature any form of dismemberment or decapitation. Zombies that have been killed do not remain on the floor but disappear after a few seconds. In the Xbox 360 version red blood has been replaced with green blood. It is impossible to play a legal uncut version on the PC, because the game needs to register with Steam, which is impossible if the IP address from Germany. Uncut Xbox 360 versions can however be imported by surrounding countries such as Switzerland.
Since dismemberment has been banned, the cover of Left 4 Dead also shows an intact hand instead of the one that is missing a thumb.
- OS: Windows Vista, XP or 2000
- CPU: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 or AMD64X2 (or higher)
- RAM: 1 GB for XP / 2GB for Vista
- Disc drive: DVD-ROM Drive
- Hard drive: At least 7.5 GB of free space
- Video: Direct X 9 compatible video card (Video card must be 128 MB or more and should be a DirectX 9-compatible with support for Pixel Shader 2.0)
- Sound: Direct X9.0c compatible sound card
- OS: Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / Vista64
- Processor: Intel core 2 duo 2.4GHz
- Memory: 1 GB
- Graphics: Shader model 3.0, NVidia 7600, ATI X1600 or better
Xbox 360 Version
The Xbox 360 version supports System Link play and Dedicated Servers over Xbox Live. The 360 Version was developed by Certain Affinity. The game also has a 2 player split-screen co-op mode which can be used online or offline play. Certain Affinity also tweaked the gameplay in a few areas from the PC version. Aim assist has been added to account for the lessened precision of a controller and a 180 degree turn can be performed by pressing the right bumper. The Xbox 360 version also has 50 achievements worth 1,000 gamerscore in total. Left 4 Dead requires 5.0GB of space to be installed on an Xbox 360 HDD.
On February 5, 2009, Valve announced that the first DLC for Left 4 Dead would be a new game mode called Survival and two new Versus mode campaigns. This DLC was available for free download on April 21,2009 for PC and Xbox 360. Survival mode pits your team against never ending waves of infected in one of 15 selected locations from the existing campaigns as you try to survive for as long as possible. The DLC also includes a new map exclusively for Survival Mode called 'Last Stand', Leaderboards and fixes many bugs and exploits from the previous version of the game.
The PC version also includes the Source Software Development Kit and new achievements for the 'Survival' mode.
On 15 May, 2009, Left 4 Dead 'Game of the Year' Edition released for PC and Xbox 360 at retail and came with all previously available DLC on the disc.
A new map, titled "Crash Course", was released on September 29, 2009. Crash Course is a new campaign for cooperative and versus game modes. It lasts approximately 30 minutes and bridges the first and second campaigns together. The DLC comes with 10 achievements and is available for 560 Microsoft Points. (The DLC is free on PC).
On October 5, 2010, The Sacrifice was released as DLC for both Left 4 Dead and its sequel. The Sacrifice release for Left 4 Dead adds a new campaign that bridges the gap between the end of the "Blood Harvest" campaign, and the cameo appearance of Bill, Zoey, Louis and Francis in Left 4 Dead 2's "The Passing" DLC. The Sacrifice is fully playable on Campaign, Versus, and Survival modes.
The Sacrifice was simultaneously released as DLC for Left 4 Dead 2, which added both The Sacrifice and No Mercy campaigns to the sequel, both playable with survivors from either game.
The Sacrifice update also marked when Left 4 Dead 2 became available on Macs through Steam, with Left 4 Dead to be expected by October 31, 2010.
On May 16, 2009 Valve released the Left 4 Dead Authoring Tools software. The software allows users to create their own campaign maps, skins, 3D models, sound effects, and music. These maps can be uploaded into the game. Later, Valve will release an update to include player-made levels in the game. Unfortunately, this software only works for the PC version of the game and not the 360.
Left 4 Dead received mostly positive reviews from critics. Both versions of the game hold a score of 89 on Metacritic.