Introductions, Top 10 Best Video Games, Talking Speakers, and Zombie Plans in the premiere episode of the Usagicast.
Retro Console of the Day: Neo Geo Pocket Color.
Hope you have as much fun listening as we did recording!
Overall, not a bad experience. Will be much better when proper prizes are available.
Developer: Valve (Turtle Rock Studios)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 (1-8 online)
Console: PC/Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Hours Played: 16 hours
Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? Have you ever seen George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, made way back in the 80’s? How about the latest remake? You know the movie where the zombies actually run at the people instead of sleep walking and groaning about back pains? Well, Left 4 Dead is a lot like the new Day of the Dead, it has zombies, blood, guns, and a lot more zombies! The zombies charge at you at full speed, none of that sleep walking business. You and your three other teammates (either humans or bots) will have work together and learn how to coordinate extremely well on the higher difficulties if you plan to survive.
The game places you as one of four characters inside one of four campaigns or “movies”. Each campaign has its own poster when loading and if you make it out alive you can check out your stats for the game in the form of end credits. Within each movie there are five levels, the levels are separated by safe zones. The whole idea with the presentation is to give the game a feel of a zombie flick, lots of action and no story. If I were to rate this game on story alone, well, lets just say I won’t and move on. You play as one of four characters in the movie and basically create your own movie because each time you play a level it will be different thanks to the AI called, “The Director”. Other than relating to a zombie movie, Left 4 Dead isn’t a title with a good story, or any story at all. You start at point A and have to make it alive to point B to escape, that’s it. There is nothing related to why you are there or how the zombies came to be, it’s up to you to use your imagination.
The AI Director is what is unique about this title, I mean I know zombies are unique too but come on, when was the last time you heard something called the AI Director. This director continuously watches over the game, analyzing everything from how much ammo and first aid kits you have to how much health everyone has, who is dead and will either increase or decrease the difficulty depending on those factors. Guns, health, grenades, monsters, all of these things are controlled by the director which means every time you play the game it will be a different experience.
Unfortunately you will only find eleven weapons in Left 4 Dead, which I’m sure is not encouraging some of you to play the game. However, the weapons are extremely well balanced and each weapon has a unique feel. There are first tier guns that you get to choose from when starting a game, a submachine gun, a pump action shotgun and of course you will always have a pistol (infinite ammo). After mercilessly and violently filling the enemy with lead for some time, you will stumble upon tier two weapons, such as a full auto shotgun, assault rifle and a hunting rifle (sniper weapon). Along with the fairly standard weapons, you will find two different types of grenades: Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs. Essentially, you will toss the pipe bomb and watch as the horde of infected run crazily after it and explode after a short duration. Oxygen and propane tanks as well as gas canisters can be found through out the levels, and it’s usually a good idea to grab and position them, as it usually means you are about to be destroyed by mass amounts of enemies. When I say mass amount of enemies I bet you think I’m talking about several hundred, how about a little more than that? After I complete a campaign we have killed on average about 1,800 zombies, so look forward to non-stop action.
The game boasts both single player and multiplayer modes, though the only difference between the two is single player is offline and has bots controlling the other three characters. Single player is only really useful for the two people who don’t have an internet connection or those who are just starting out as it makes for a good tutorial. The bots play extremely defensively and almost never take the lead; it is up to you to lead the group of bots through the level. What the bots lack in offense they make up for it in defence, they are team players who stick together and heal you when needed. Surprisingly the bots are more helpful than bots in other games such as Gears of War, where you want to punch and yell at them for standing in the way of gunfire. Though the single player is fun, this game at heart is meant to be played cooperatively.
Multiplayer is best played with three other people who have headsets or some form of voice communication. If you want to succeed, communication is key. The game can get pretty hairy at times and you will be yelling at your friends to save you because a smoker came from behind and dragged you fifty feet away from everyone else and beat you until there was nothing left of your body. If you don’t have a headset, you will simply not get the full experience, though there are quite a number of preset voice commands you can use. Working as a team really pays off, especially when things go terribly wrong. If you stick together and work as a team there really is a sense of accomplishment after defeating a swarm of infected or grouping up to take down a Tank. That feeling of accomplishment and feeling of working together to overcome an obstacle is a great experience and also something that I find is missing from most games. One thing Valve made sure was in the game is blood. There is tons of it! It’s so satisfying unloading a round from your auto shotgun point blank into an infected and watching the blood splash across the screen.
Another fine touch is the interface, it was the first thing that grabbed my attention when I booted up the game. All of your teammate’s health appears on the bottom of the screen showing you what items they have so you know at all times who has what. Little icons will pop up showing you where items are when you come near them and if you turn away from the item and are still close to it the icon will move to the corner of the screen in the direction of the item with a arrow pointing the way without being annoying. These icons will also appear if you somehow manage to shoot a teammate, a red circle with a line will pop-up on the character you shot to let you know you suck at first person shooters. In fact, I thought the notifications were done extraordinarily well as I usually don’t care enough about little details like that to write about them.
Valve has done a spectacular job with the details in this game. Although the graphics are not up to Crysis standards, the Source engine carries its own weight. The character models and animations are impressive though the movement of the characters feels a little floaty. One of the little things that bugs me and makes me ask, “Why didn’t they put that in?” is the lighting of the flashlights. When you look over at a fellow teammate you can see a beam of light coming from their weapon, but that’s it. Your teammates flashlight doesn't light anything for you, it's just a animation from their gun. Your flashlight is the only one that gives light you can see, why would they do that? Putting my little nit pick aside, I am amazed at the level of detail in this game, everything from the smoke exhaling from your duel pistols to the writing on the walls in the safe rooms, even the blood splattered against the wall. All of the details Valve has put in really add to the atmosphere. Your heart rate and adrenaline will kick up when you hear the music building up and creating suspense, never knowing if a swarm of infected are going to head your way.
Character voices are done extremely well. There is even a little chatter among the characters when you pick up items or if someone's significantly injured. Every gun sounds awesome. I love the feel and sound of the auto shotgun. This shotgun will make you feel extremely bad-ass! Explosions and gun fire all sound as they should. What is really cool about the sound is you can hear the special zombies when you are near them. Each special zombie has a distinct noise they make so you can warn your teammates in advance. By far the creepiest zombie to approach is the Witch, she sounds like a crying child from further away and as you get closer very eerie music begins to play. Another nice touch is that the characters object quite loudly when they are the victims of friendly fire.
+ Graphics are well done
+ Music and sound effects set mood perfectly
+ Multiplayer encourages team work which is rewarding and extremely fun
+ Atmosphere really draws you into the game
- Single player is lonely
- Story is almost nonexistent
- Might become tiresome for people with the few maps and guns (until expansions start coming out)
The lack of a story hurts the game, but also is fitting because it is a zombie game trying to be similar to a zombie movie, and everyone knows how much story there is in those movies. The gameplay is addicting and is very enjoyable especially when everyone is working together. If you have the extra $40-50 to spend on this game and you are not too busy playing Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Fallout 3 or any of the other big titles this year then get this game! Or if you love killing thousands of zombies, you will not be disappointed. This game will have you saying, “Oh sh*t!” every time you play, I guarantee it.
Here's the latest video review from GameUsagi, enjoy.
Special Thanks to RocketXL for the review copy of this game