Left 4 Dead Impressions [PC]
Nov 18th, 2008 by Dan

Hey Dan, did you stay up until around 0300 today playing Left 4 Dead after it went live last night?


But oh man, where to begin?

Valve does not rush a product. They don’t ever release a game that hasn’t been thoroughly playtested and optimized for consumption. It’s why the L4D demo is so brilliant, it allowed them to take a look at the last few things that needed to be tweaked and then release accordingly. Take the difficulty level. There was quite a bit of outcry about the difficulty of the computer version being far too easy compared to the console version. In fact, I’d been refusing to play any levels that were lower than the highest difficulty, Expert. Let’s just say that last night we were stuck on the second level for somewhere around two hours, endlessly being mauled by the zombie hordes.

All the stops were pulled out on this one. The first level used to be devoid of tanks and witches. I’m pretty sure we got rocked by a witch right at the start. Placement is BRUTAL. The tanks just rock everyone’s socks off, the only real valid way to kill them being to molotov and RUN LIKE HELL! It’s so tough that it’s super fun. Who can resist trying to kill these zombie bastards?

Then there was the greatest loop that Valve could possibly throw us. After a particularly difficult part in the second level involving waiting for a door to open and a Gatling gun, the second level usually had a safe room directly following it. Imagine our surprise as we limped into…any other room. They moved the safe room outside to the pawn shop. Naturally, we were rocked over and over again until finally, on the last playthrough, this one guy and I were the only two survivors alive and we scrambled into the pawn shop screaming as Hunters and Smokers chased us, my heart beating at an intense 1000 BPM all the while. The tension is so masterfully created it’s ridiculous.

The other huge heartbeating moment for me (not common in video gaming for me, by the way, I’m generally more sturdy, having seen just about everything) was within the third level (the farthest we got out of the five in the first campaign). There was a Tank and we accidentally aroused its ire. I threw a molotov at it, setting it on fire (and one of the other survivors, but his life was forfeit after seeing the Tank anyway, and began hightailing it back to the start, closing doors behind me all the way. I could hear the Tank lumbering behind me until it died. At this point, I was the only survivor left alive. I’d climbed jumped down the lift, but now I had to get myself properly to the other survivors to rescue them since they’d all respawned in a room nearby. As I make my way back up the lift, I hear not just the Hunter growl, but the Smoker fanfare. I’m thinking “I’m fucked…” After my heart just exploded out of my body running in abject terror from the tank, now I had to face these two zombies who could incapacitate me in one hit via pounce or tongue and cause us to restart.

I first spotted the Hunter. My group kept imploring me to ignore them both and just try to rez them, but I knew that if I did, they would get me, without a doubt, and make it all in vain. After a dodge and some great rifle fire, I’d dispatched the Hunter, but the Smoker used that time to get good position on me. He was above me where I’d never be able to see him until it was too late. Time to make a break for the hole in the floor where I would find my compatriots. Running, jumping, falling through the hole, my partners said that the tongue just barely missed nabbing me as I fell through the final hole in the floor and freed them. It was exhilarating.

One last thing about my first night of playing: Valve is great at using the visual medium to tell a story. In most safe rooms you can find little notes from other people who have passed through warning you to evacuate the city, looking for family, claiming that there’s no survival, assigning blame for the plague. It’s brilliant.

Yesterday as I left work, I saw a license plate in front of me. It read Zombied.

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