Home > Gaming, Reviews, Xbox 360 > “Left 4 Dead” Xbox 360 Review

“Left 4 Dead” Xbox 360 Review

Do you like zombie movies? First-person shooters? A good online multiplayer match? Of course you do, and Left 4 Dead not only gives you your fix of all of those things – it elevates them to the next level.

No, Left 4 Dead is not a movie, despite what I said in the first paragraph. But it sure acts like one in the way each level is set up. In the game, there are four main campaigns, each composed of 5 separate levels. Left 4 Dead lets you experience them in two different ways – in Campaign Mode, where you’re a survivor working with three others to be rescued from the zombie apocalypse, or in Versus Mode, a four-on-four multiplayer battle. I’ll start with Campaign Mode, as that is what mostly gives you the feel of being in a zombie movie. Assuming the role of one of the four survivors, you must all work to together to progress through the environments. On your way, you’ll encounter hundreds of Infected, who want nothing more than to tear the flesh off your bones. Unlike the zombies of Resident Evil or Dawn of the Dead– slow moving, groaning, small-minded things – these zombies run fast, scream loud, and climb over whatever surface they need to get to you. Don’t think a door will stop them either… they’ll just smash their way through it.

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Luckily for you, you’ve got a handful of powerful weapons, a very helpful melee attack (this is so important that it’s mapped to the left trigger – right opposite the shoot trigger)  and most importantly, each other. I’ve never played another game where teamwork was this important. Even if no one uses a headset in an online match, people actually work together. If dozens of zombies are ganging up against you, people will come to help. If you’re low on health, your teammates will give you a first-aid kid or pain pills. If you’ve been incapitated and are lying helplessly on the ground while enemies move closer, you’ll be helped up. And playing through the game, it’s hard not to want to help your teammates as well. Each and every person contributes so much in the game, and when people die you do feel like you’ve failed. This excellent co-op is Left 4 Dead‘s strongest point.

Story is not. There is really no story to speak of in the game, unless you count the Portal-style scribblings on the walls. None of the four survivors have any backstory besides what you can infer about them through their appearance and in-game remarks. Most people agree that Bill is probably a Vietnam war veteran, Louis is some sort of office worker, Francis is a biker, and Zoey is in college. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what everyone’s story is though, which really opens the door to fan fiction writers.

The campaigns are nicely varied. All of them are structured the same way; expect to see at least one moment where you’ll have to alert the zombie horde in order to progress, and when you get to the final level of a campaign, you can expect to have to survive a huge wave of enemies while a rescue vehicle travels your way. Still, those moments are always fun, and even when they take place in different levels, it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same thing over and over.

Despite only having four campaigns, each one is incredibly replayable thanks to something called the AI Director, which is the hidden coding working behind the scenes to rearrange item placement, zombie count, and the types and frequency of the Special Infected. As a result, no two campaign play-throughs are ever the same.

The above-mentioned Special Infected are particularly powerful zombies that can easily bring a player down if the four survivors aren’t working together. There is the the Hunter, a guy in a hoodie that can leap through the air, pin you down, and rip your flesh apart while you are rendered helpless. The Smoker, someone who obviously had a smoking problem before becoming a zombie, can shoot out his incredibly long tongue at survivors, wrap it around them, and them pull them in to be suffocated to death… if the other zombies don’t gang up on the victim and kill them with their own attacks.

The morbidly obese Boomer can puke on the survivors, obscuring their view and attracting the horde of normal Infected. It’s also important not to kill this guy when he’s right next to you, because his stomach will explode in a huge red cloud, spraying any nearby survivors with the bile that was inside of him.

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Tanks are monsters you especially want to watch out for, as their huge health count and sheer power can easily cripple any survivor. Apparently they were some sort of bodybuilder in the past, because these guys are strong enough to knock cars at you, send you flying with a single punch, and rip blocks of concrete out of the ground and hurl them at you.

Lastly, there is the Witch. Her tell-tale cry can be heard when you approach her. It’s best to just leave her alone, because startling a Witch is one of the fastest ways to die in the game. You can’t always just sneak past her though, because most of the time she’s sitting right in the middle of the only path you can take. It’s these situations that make the game so interesting, and teamwork so important. The Witch is the only zombie you cannot play as in Versus Mode.

Ah, Versus Mode. The campaigns are amazingly fun on their own, but this is what will keep players coming back to Left 4 Dead years from now. Versus Mode is unlike anything you’ve ever played in a multiplayer game, and being such a new experience is part of what makes the game so fun. Four players control the survivors trying to complete the level, and the other four players each take control of one of the Special Infected. Just like when you play as a survivor, teamwork is incredibly important in a team of zombies. None of the Special Infected have very much health (with the exception of the Tank), so assaulting one person in a group of survivors while playing as a Hunter or Smoker is never a good idea, as you’ll get killed pretty easily. But, if a Smoker can catch one lonely survivor, a Hunter can pounce on whoever tries to come back and help, and a Boomer can spray any remaining players with his zombie-attracting bile, adding chaos to the whole affair. That’s just an example – I don’t know how your Versus Mode game will play out, but I’ll bet it ends up being pretty fun.

At the main menu of the game, the third choice you can select after “Play Campaign” and “Play Versus” is “Play Single Player”. Obviously, single-player is not how the game’s developers wanted you to experience Left 4 Dead. Even though the AI players are very smart, they just don’t provide that teamwork element that makes the multiplayer so fun. Believe me, this game is not worth the $60 if you’re not going to play online.

Some may even debate whether or not the game is worth $60 with the online, as the amount of content is a little on the shallow side. I think that it’s so replayable that it’s worth it. People have been playing Tetris and Pac-Man for years and years, but people don’t get tired of that, do they? Granted, there are deeper online experiences out there, like the weapons/perks balancing of Call of Duty 4 or the class-based warfare of Team Fortress 2 (made by Valve, the same developer of Left 4 Dead), but there’s still lots to love about this game as it is. Also, DLC concerning this game has been promised and in fact announced, so we know there will be even more content to Left 4 Dead in the future. Thankfully Valve doesn’t seem to be taking the Team Fortress 2 route and completely ignoring Xbox 360 owners every time a new update is released, because they are going to be released simultaneously.

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One of the main advantages the Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead has over its PC counterpart is a splitscreen option that lets two people play together on the same TV. Taking a cue from Halo 3, you’re even allowed to go online with your buddy. This sounds like a recipe for sucess, but unfortunately it’s not as great as it could be. For starters, the graphics take a noticeable drop in framerate and texture quality. Also, the vertical splitting of the screen gives players a much smaller view of the action than they would have if they were playing the game alone. Finally, you always seem to be paired up with incredibly inexperienced players who often don’t know where to go in a level or resort to team-killing when they get bored. There’s a reason for this, I believe… as far as I know, when the matchmaking is setting up your online game, it will pair you with people of a similar “skill level” as you. How it decides your skill level is a mystery, but it probably has to do with how long you’ve played the game. When you hop online with a guest, that guest’s skill level is at zero, causing the game to pair you with other inexperienced players. I can understand a little bit why this is done (if that is the case), but honestly these three problems combined does not give a very good first impression to your friends who have never played the game. Looks like my buddies and I will be sticking to Halo 3‘s excellent online splitscreen.

This problem may not occur to everyone, but I had trouble running Left 4 Dead on my Xbox 360 when I first bought it. I could enter an online match and play in it for as long as I wanted, but as soon as I left, the game locked up on the loading screen and never fixed itself. On one occasion, I walked away from the TV and returned 20 minutes later, but the screen hadn’t moved at all. Luckily, I was able to fix this problem by installing the game to my hard drive. The downside though, is that the game takes up 5 gigabytes. This isn’t even the first Valve game I’ve had trouble running (to this day, playing Team Fortress 2 on my PC requires a restart and a confusing trip to the configuration menu), but I’m shocked that this kind of lackluster design has spread to a console game (oh, and don’t forget, the first time I put the disc into the system and turned the power on I got the Red Ring of Death… but that probably is just a coincidence). I don’t care that it’s not a widespread problem. The fact that it is a problem is inexcusible. Needless to say, I won’t be able to keep nearly as many demos on my hard drive with Left 4 Dead eating up so much unnecessary space.

Left 4 Dead is a unique and highly entertaining game that stands out amidst the dozens of multiplayer shooters on the Xbox 360. There isn’t a whole lot of meat to it, as you’re essentially playing the same thing over and over, but it’s so incredibly replayable that you can spend countless hours blasting away at zombies without ever growing tired of it. The cooperative mechanic of this game is so strong that it’s almost impossible not to want to work with together with your team, giving this game a much different feel than other shooters out there. Left 4 Dead is a celebration of zombies, first-person shooters, online multiplayer, and fun gameplay.

Pros: Original, amazing co-op, very replayable, fun weapons, great online multiplayer

Cons: Splitscreen is so-so, graphics are not as breathtaking as one would expect from Valve, not the deepest game out there, not scary at all despite all the horror elements, some will have to sacrifice 5 gigabytes of hard drive space just to get the game running properly, offline-only gamers will have a tough time justifying a $60 purchase

Final Score: 8.9 out of 10

By Josh60502

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Categories: Gaming, Reviews, Xbox 360 Tags: , ,
  1. nalfang
    March 3, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Hey, thanks for the pingback on my story.

  2. Sweety
    March 7, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Actually, you CAN get split screen on the pc, so that levels the playing field a bit

    It takes a bit of file editing, but nothing extreme

  3. March 11, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Nice review. I love left 4 dead. such a great game.

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