Left 4 Dead
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Fast paced, first-person, co-op, zombie survival. That’s what Turtle Rock Studios’ Left 4 Dead has in store for us.
The game will be powered by the Counter-Strike Source engine and involve a group of four playable characters navigating their way around various urban locations trying to survive hordes of The Infected. Not slow lumbering zombies that scare you to sleep but the super fast ones that make you yelp and fire a gun into your mate’s face. As well as the regular brain eaters they will be reinforced by up to 5 special undeads lurking throughout a level. Four of these boss zombies can be controlled by players as well, if desired. This mix will lead to some very intense situations that should prove to be like no other multiplayer co-op game before it.

Now, every Zombie flick I have seen usually punishes those people interested in self preservation at the cost of the group. L4D definitely aims to reinforce the co-op assistance from team mates. Here is an example; if a fellow goes down under the weight of a dozen zombies he can be assisted by a fellow survivor who will work to get them back to their feet. The player who chooses to provide aid in this way will have a short period of time and be unable to use weapons during the assist, making them vulnerable. The fallen player, possibly propped on one elbow, will still be able to fire at the incoming zombies while receiving treatment. The game rewards this sort of aid and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that, four guns are better than three in a never ending tide of undeath.

The Survivors will be pretty similar in capability and by working together they must make it through the various urban areas. Each area is a level, and once they get to the final area a helicopter will land on top of the building and take the survivors off to safety. If all survivors die on any of the levels then they have to start from the very beginning.

Switching to the Infected offers a different experience, one of waiting and preparing for ambush on the fraught Survivors. You see, most of the Undead Bosses actually have very little health and so can be brought down with a few timely shots but they can provide great hindrance to the Survivors with a variety of powers.

The Boomer, a gas filled bloated abomination, can vomit a zombie loving goo, which can stick to survivors. It causes more zombies to turn up and charge straight for those survivors who are coated in the foul ichor. The Boomer will also explode, showering the area in the same sort of goo, if shot a few times.

The Hunter is quite a “normal” looking, hoody wearing member of the Infected. He is capable of leaping from hidden areas high up and landing on a Survivor to tear, shred and sometimes knock them from the top of buildings.

The Smoker, despite some bad skin issues this member of the Infected looks fairly normal. Its power lies in its incredibly long tongue. It can flick out its fifty foot tongue to wrap around a Survivor. Once caught in this way the Survivor will be increasingly poisoned and dragged towards the Smoker, away from his group of friends. The smoker also gives off clouds of disorientating smoke.

The Tank is a brute with a disproportionate upper body, rippling with obscene muscles. This huge creature will be randomly allocated to an infested player by the game’s AI system, known as The Director. The player lucky enough to gain control of the Tank is encouraged, by a stress meter, to head straight towards the Survivors, take too long and control is passed back to the AI. If the player finds the Survivors before his frustration levels get too high then the Tank will likely, charge headlong into the fray. Capable of withstanding large amounts of damage and hurling chunks of concrete torn from the road he will make short work of any foolish enough to go head to head.

The Witch is a randomly placed hag found lying around the streets until her attention is caught. The creature is always controlled by the Director. Survivors may tiptoe their way past her but once she gets a whiff of the living she becomes a blur of motion. Leaping to her feet, she sprints at incredible speeds and will be capable of killing a Survivor in one strike. As such a formidable foe she will only be present in the higher difficulty levels. The Witch will quickly play a strategic point where Infested players will no doubt try and shepherd the Survivors towards her.

The Director is a new approach to game difficulty management. It will control the ebb and flow of the game by adding The Infected at suitably dramatic times and locations based on the difficulty level. This will replace spawn points, making the game fresh and suitably tense each time it is played.

A human or AI can take control of the Survivors and/or The Infected bosses, allowing for a wide combination of coop or single person play.
If there is any doubt about a friendship then this game’s co-op focus is likely to revive it. Left 4 Dead should be with us all by the 14th November 2008.