Left 4 Dead: Updated Hands On: Dead Air
Written Thursday, October 30, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It’s been a while since Left 4 Dead and I have crossed paths and it had definitely been too long for my liking. For all those unfamiliar, let me get you up to speed but rather quickly. Left 4 Dead is a team, co-operative first person shooter where you and like-minded survivors must fight off wave after wave of infected zombie-esque beings on the way to safety. We’ve seen plenty of Left 4 Dead up until now, but this was the first time we got to see a new chapter, aptly titled Dead Air.
Dead Air is the third of four story chapters that Left 4 Dead offers its users; having seen the hospital and the desolate wood cabin environments, it was now time to look at a pretty diverse set of locations. In Dead Air, you and the other survivors kick off proceedings in a greenhouse of all places. From there you will have to battle your way through the subsequent infected beings up to the roof, across the rooftops, down to the street, with the chapter finally culminating in an epic battle at the airport.
You’ll be quick to notice that I have avoided referring to them as standalone zombies up to now. This is simply because, the speed and ferocity that some of them move at is reminiscent of the infected in 28 Days Later, rather than the relatively slow paced zombies you’ll see in Dawn of the Dead. Some of them move incredibly fast and it must be warned now, this game is not for the jumpy. Watching a wave of zombies move at this incredible pace from roof to roof towards you is incredibly unnerving and adds to the whole tension of the atmosphere.
The speed and frequency of the zombies is directly tied to the AI Director code which responds to your playthrough, assessing numerous factors in to its equations. We were pretty strong when we were playing through and of course, the director responds accordingly with more and quicker moving zombies. The thrill of surviving a wave and wall of the rampant infected is unmatched by even the best games.
The game runs on the classic Source engine which roots trace all the way back to Valve’s hugely popular Counter Strike. The controls are quick and responsive, although sometimes they maybe a little bit too sensitive, but that should be fixed by adjusting your joysticks sensitivity. The gameplay seemed very manic at times, and you got that sense that you never knew where to look and what was coming next. I suppose it’s the sign of a great survival-horror game.
As far as the guns and such go, they’re pretty basic; with shotguns, uzis, rifles and even allows you to dual wield the pistols. At the beginning of the mission, there will be a big stash of weapons, ammo, explosives and health kits and pain pills, so stock up before you move out. You’ll have to make good use of your trusty torch because light is not all that frequent in Left 4 Dead. It almost felt a bit like Doom 3 in places with the dark corridors and reliance on the torch, but it doesn’t go as far to make you holster the torch to fire. I mean, who’d do that in their right mind? Oh sorry id Software.
Visually, the game is very ordinary and suffers from the same graphical glitches that Counter Strike suffered from, with characters passing through each other when healing and what not. It’s safe to say though, that the focus isn’t on visuals and is most definitely on the gameplay. It’s a shame as well because after seeing Left 4 Dead running on a high end PC, you can’t help but feel like there is so much us console gamers are missing out on.
Left 4 Dead on so many levels will require 4 human controlled AI players if you’re going to get the most out of it. Playing with computer controlled AI was a frustrating state of affairs and too many times will you rely on your survivor team mates to help out and you’ll be severely disappointed. Whether they are running in your firing line or dragging their feet, Left 4 Dead is best tackled with a group of friends or you may as well go in alone ... I suppose they make good decoys.
Left 4 Dead is an adrenaline fuelled rollercoaster ride of emotions where you must have your wits about you if you’re going to survive. This newest level captured that mood perfectly and seeing the sheer speed of the wave of infected flying towards you is a frightening experience but when you decapitate the lot of them with your pack of survivors, it’s a good feeling. My only concern at this present time is going to be longevity of the title; with its 4 main campaign chapters lasting just over an hour, each we’re worried that if the AI Director doesn’t offer the different-play-every-time aspect we’ve been promised, then gamers will be left a little short on value for money. However, at this present moment, this should be on everyone’s radar and then when the demo drops, you can make your own mind up.
Left 4 Dead will be available on PC and Xbox 360 on November 18th in North America and the 21st in Europe.