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Left 4 Dead
  opened by paleface at 01:13:06 01/31/10  
  paleface [sys=X360; cat=Shooter_3D; loc=NA]
The shtick in this first-person shooter is overwhelming tidal waves of zombies that force you into using cooperative tactics with up to three AI or human teammates. I guess it's been pretty popular online, particularly in modes where one team plays as zombies, trying to wipe out the human team, but I've only played it two-player split-screen co-op.
And it was fun! I don't know how fun playing through the campaigns (there are four of them, each maybe a few hours long if you don't suck too bad, but if you die (like we did) you pretty much have to replay an entire stage) would be single-player with just the AI running alongside you, but with at least one other person in the room there's tons of screaming and "accidental" friendly fire and all that good stuff. Friendly fire happens a lot because the AI...well they just get in between your gun and the zombies, you know, and whatareyagonnado? Anyway friendly fire doesn't seem to do all that much damage to a player, so all in good fun...except for that regrettable incident involving me in the middle of the street, coated in zombies, and my friend off to the side with a Molotov and wicked thoughts. Ow.
The level design and pacing are really something special. The campaign we played took place in sort of normal office/hospital/construction/warehousey type buildings, which normally would drive me mad with mundanity, but, without resorting to fantasy constructions, the level designers somehow made each of these places very compelling to play through. A lot of it has to do with how they throw the zombies at you: they'll usually start you off with a few small ambushes, or larger easier to spot clumps, and this builds up and up, along with music and the occasional larger zombie, or quiet bit where you're just anticipating something, then WHAM just at an inconvenient moment, the air itself is made of zombies, and you're just screaming and firing everywhere as quickly as possible and hoping you live through it. Good fun.
Dying isn't usually a problem because before actually dying, your character lies on the ground in a state where you can still fire (only with pistols though), and a team-mate can come revive you. If you continue to take damage without aid, though, you die die, and this is where it gets a little frustrating: you can't play for a while, like minutes at a time, and then eventually you appear, to other players, behind a locked door somewhere in the level, and they have to come get you. How exactly that getting works, we didn't figure out: couldn't get through the doors. Eventually our AI teammates would, somehow, so it sorta worked out, but only after a lot of frustration.
The other irritation I had was the item-getting UI: you don't pick up items automatically or anything, in fact you have to aim at them very precisely, then press a button to pick them up. There's this sort of screen-oriented directional thingy that orbits your screen to point to nearby objects, but I found it pretty hard to read, and picking up items requires so much precision that it's pretty near impossible (for me!) in any kind of zombie incursion situation.
The game could stand to improve a bit in terms of weapon selection too, as there's really only a pistol, shotgun, automatic shotgun, uzi, assault rifle, and eh a hunting rifle and sniper rifle which we didn't use, because you can only carry one weapon aside from the pistol. It's enough of the basic variety to enable different play styles, but if I were playing the game a lot I think I might want more, I dunno. There are also explosives you can throw or place (jugs of gasoline or propane tanks, for instance), which are fun, although the way pipe bombs act as super-zombie-attractants is kind of odd.
There are four or so larger types of zombies, and you really only ever see one of them much, which is the Hulk-like "Tank" who comes out swinging his big ham-hands. You see a big fat one that explodes now and then, but there are two others who like to sit back in shadows and strangle you with long tongues or really annoying wonky-vision-inducing gas or whatnot, and these don't seem all that fun.
Fortunately if you have less than four actual human players with you, the AI fills in the rest of the team, and is really good at picking off the tongue and gas guys; like, you won't see them at all, and you'll hear a gunshot and see a message that one of the AI's killed one. That happened a LOT. The AI is actually pretty darn good in this game: they get around the levels way better than you do, they're very good shots, they cover your ass and heal you, and they even know how to take up good defensive positions for holding off hordes of zombies, which is quite impressive. I noticed a few times that an AI would be standing just say around the edge of a door from a pack of zombies and not really shooting or moving, but that was rare, and I think maybe they were involved in some calculation against risking friendly fire. So all in all very good work on the friendly AI.
The graphics are sort of surprisingly low detail at first, but it's something you get used to aside from an ugly low LOD prop here or there in the levels, because in general you're running around really fast in very dark places with tons of zombies in your face (the zombies are very, very fast!), and you don't have time to worry about lighting detail or what not. They must have had to keep the graphics somewhat simple to allow for hordes of zombies onscreen, and in that respect they did a really good job because even in split-screen I didn't notice undue slowdown; although the framerate was probably lower than it would have been in full-screen, and certainly wasn't lightning quick, it felt steady even in the thickest of frays.

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