Left 4 Dead Review

Platform: 360/PC
Originally Reviewed: 2012

Left 4 Dead is probably the most unforgiving zombie game ever made. If you’re careless, you’re dead. If you wander off from your group, you’re dead. If you waste ammo, you’re gonna end up dead sooner or later. Hell, if you stick around in one place for too long, more zombies will eventually turn up and make you dead.

Pitting 4 co-op players together against a horde of, not just running, but sprinting zombies (or ‘infected’) both normal and special, Left 4 Dead is a terrific and fast paced zombie-murdering romp. The zombie waves are controlled by an AI dubbed ‘The Director’, that changes when and where zombies will attack each time the same level is tackled.

It’s an ingenious piece of design that leaves players constantly on their toes, never allowing complacency-through-familiarity to set in. It also ensures that once your group has taken out a wave of zombies, you can’t hang around too long or another wave can creep up behind you (possibly drawn to the gunfire). You really do have to keep moving and communicating.

The regular infected are also backed up by several viscous and powerful special infected that can also appear wherever and whenever ‘The Director’ sees fit. From the huge behemoth Tanks that absorb bullets, to the predatory Hunters that can isolate and players and rip them to shreds, each special infected carries a unique and deadly threat. They each have their own signature sounds or musical cues which can send shivers down the spine of even the most hardened of gamers as they await the impending attack.

There’s little story on offer here, but the game is split into 4 campaigns, each of which is presented in the style of various b-movie horrors – movie posters and all. Each campaign’s levels see the group of survivors tackling randomly generated waves of the undead as they make their way to safe houses before the final level sees them attempt to escape via helicopter.

Co-operative multiplayer is a hoot, then, but competitive multiplayer is another area where Left 4 Dead excels. Two teams of 4 players take it in turns to alternate between playing as humans and infected, with the human team scored on survival and the infected team scored on destroying the humans as quickly as possible.

Getting to play as the special infected is one of the most fun things in the game as you can pick your spot to spawn anywhere on the map. This gives a hugely tactical edge that can help spring surprise after surprise. Walking round a corner to see your mate, the Hunter, ready to pounce is a terrifying and exhilarating experience.

Graphically, the game is using a reasonably well-worn engine (seen in Half Life 2) and is really not that pretty, but it definitely doesn’t detract from the terrific gameplay. What does detract from the gameplay is a sense of repetition. Whilst a single level will never be the same twice, the different levels in the game don’t change anything other than the setting. It’s always the same formula of zombies, zombies and more zombies. Not so bad with friends, but as a single player experience it can go flat very quickly.

The lack of story can be a contributing factor to the repetition problem. There’s no story or character progression and no major set pieces or even cut-scenes to break up the shooting. Whilst this keeps the action relentless and exciting, it does little to grip players or endear them to the characters. The weapons, too, don’t feel quite as meaty as they should. Shotguns are cool, but assault rifles feel distinctly puny.

Left 4 Dead was never meant to be a game based around Hollywood-like storytelling. What it was meant to be was a hugely exciting and absolutely punishing multiplayer experience that offers some of the most unique and entertaining competitive multiplayer modes in the current generation. This is what online gaming was designed for and it’s absolutely fantastic.

Alex Aldridge


Looking a bit old thanks to the…old engine it uses, but not terrible by any means.



Fantastic fun, with a huge emphasis on co-operation with mates. A superb example of co-op gaming, but not all that engaging in single player.



The game has little to no story and simply uses dialogue between characters to develop it on the fly. It’s not meant to have one, really.



As long as you have mates who will play with you, it’s an absolute riot. No game will be the same twice, but you’re unlikely to play the single player more than once.



Shouldn’t set you back all that much now and this, or the sequel, remain one of the best 360 exclusives out there.



A really brilliant take on multiplayer gaming, setting incredibly high standards for both co-operative and competitive play with mates. The lack of story and hint of repetition inevitably bring the score down but as far as zombie-blasting shooters go, there’s none better than this.



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