Today I have mostly been...
November 17, 2008

...battling hoardes of the undead with a group of Americans I'm never likely to meet.

Good way to spend the morning, eh?

First impressions: Left 4 Dead is blisteringly good fun, certainly a contender for Game of the Year if the full version lives up to the demo. And yeah, I gave Fallout 3 a 'ten'. I think that sums up how much fun I'm having with this.

It'll be right up the street of anyone who mourns the progression of the FPS into the modern beast it tends to be today. As a reference point, I'd go with the original Doom as a co-op game. It's tense, spooky, linear level design, with moments of complete insanity as seemingly hundreds of monsters charge towards you.

The enemies feel perfectly balanced, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The standard zombies don't do a whole lot of damage on their own, but they travel in packs and are absolutely lightning quick. The second one spots you, the whole group is ripping at your flesh that instant. Bigger monsters are slower but with ranged attacks and more health points. The Witches are particularly fantastic - completely passive until disturbed by sound or light, but absolutely deadly (we're talking one hit kills here) when that happens.

It's weird. Single player mode, particularly on easier difficulty levels, feels 'merely' like an absolutely fantastic old-school shooter. But ramp up the difficulty and get a pack of mates together, and it becomes incredibly tactical despite the mayhem.

Each player is limited, generally, to one health pack per level, but they can be distributed between the group as players see fit. If someone's unharmed and still has their pack, they can pass it on to a mate who's already used his/hers and is in dire need of some more.

And it's all about working out some tactics. The AI system is absolutely superb, with enemies randomly positioned each time the map loads, meaning each race through a level will play out considerably differently. This is brilliant - it means no one can master a level and end up dominating the game; you have to rework your tactics on the fly each time, based on careful judgement of where the enemies may be.

My one gripe with the demo is that you can't actually select a server - I'm not sure whether this will be a feature in the full game or not. Entering online mode drops you into one at random, which is a shame because I can imagine this would be incredible fun with a group of people you regularly play with.

Actually, no, I have two gripes. The demo deactivates after two days, which is a bit annoying, but a very good marketing ploy. Shareware for a new era, perhaps?


Elsewhere, with certain scores in the new issue, Edge Magazine continue to imply that they don't actually enjoy games that much. Sigh.

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Halon Halon - November 17, 2008 (08:03 AM)
I agree, judging by the demo Left4Dead is a great game. The problem I have with it is it might be a little too reliant on teamwork. If you're stuck with a crappy team that shoots you or abandons you the game will really suck. I'm gonna need to start playing with people I know or hope that I'm not stuck with a team of douches.

I think the full version is only matchmaking as well.

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