Review: Not 4 the faint of heart.
Valve knows how to make a great video game. With a pedigree that includes the Half-Life, Counter Strike, Team Fortess and Portal, you cannot question their ability or sensibility when it comes to making games that gamers want. With Left 4 Dead, they have proved, once again, that they know how to take a good idea and make it great. This time around, the fun is for you and three of your friends.
Left 4 Dead's core gameplay does not stray far from its Source Engine roots. The controls are immediately familiar to anyone that picked-up The Orange Box. However, don't expect to see the creative weapons of HL2 or Portal in the mix. Since this is a modern-day Zombie story, your arsenal is limited to weapons that most of us could get our hands on (if we tried hard enough). This keeps the fight personal as the zombie horde use their numbers to push closer and closer to you and your companions.
While Left 4 Dead has plenty of zombie-filled atmosphere to spare (I'd be okay if I never heard a Witch crying again), the game doesn't rely on shock moments to keep your pulse pounding, instead focusing on overwhelming you with numbers. At its heart, L4D is an action game, not a survival horror game. The story in Left 4 Dead takes a backseat to the overall experience as it does in many horror films. The effect is a cinematic experience. We're not talking Citizen Kane, but more in line with George Romero's Living Dead films.
While a competent first-person shooter, Left 4 Dead really thrives on the multiplayer experience that it delivers. The game mechanics push you to stay together by, for lack of a better word, punishing stragglers. The number of zombies that populate each of the four campaigns can easily overwhelm a stray survivor and the odds are high that you will wind up pinned to the ground by a Hunter or constricted by a Smoker. Heaven forbid you run into a Tank on your own. Most tasks are easily accomplished if you stay together and work as a team. Even the computer controlled survivors (for when you can't muster up three friends) can carry you through much of the game.