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10 Reviews

Left 4 Dead

Bring out the Dead! Bring out the Dead! So we can club them to death...

Francis is not the sort of guy you want to get trapped with in a zombie apocalypse. While you're fighting the undead hordes he's cowering behind a burning wreck of a car. He's the guy hogging all the medical supplies, leaving you hanging off a roof-top instead of giving you a helping hand.

Yet when you're bleeding out, knocked off your feet and being mauled by endless zombies, Francis suddenly does an Arnie, pulling your ass out of the gore-fuelled fire with the sort of precision sharpshooting of a Terminator.

So you forgive his failings and end up helping his dumb ass up on the occasion that he gets dragged off by a Smoker or lies incapacitated.

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Even if it is sort of funny watching him getting a kicking from the zombie horde, and it is drawing the attention off you. Because in this game you have to stick together, even if there is a moronic imbecile like Francis covering your back.

Helping out each other is the only way that you're going to survive Left 4 Dead, the four-player co-operative FPS from Half-Life creator Valve. Cheesy horror movie posters that bookmark each of the four chapters aside, this is a straight attempt at covering a post-zombie invasion of cities, airports and countryside, told from the perspective of four gun-totting strangers trying to escape.

There's no deep-rooted storyline here; this isn't Resident Evil. You're not worried about uncovering the reasons for the infection, you just care about having enough bullets to survive running from point A to point B. It's a run-and-gun shooter as stripped down as Doom, with the important twist that you're never quite sure how each attack is going to play out.

Zombie nation
OK, first thing's first. You're not going to be blown away by the visuals. They're competent if not spectacular, with the four year-old game engine finally starting to show its age against the likes of Dead Space and Gears of War 2.

This is a game built toward pouring zombies down the funnel-neck streets in your general direction, not licking your eyeballs with sunlight bloom, real-time physics or whatever other press release nom du jour is in fashion nowadays.

The effect of blood-thirsty zombies tearing at the air as they screech and scream towards you is far removed from the usual shuffling, moaning sea of bodies.

Which brings us onto the star of the show: the zombies. The reason for the stripped-down scenery is fairly apparent the first time you accidentally trip a car alarm; the zombie count is nearly on a par with Capcom's Dead Rising.

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And we're not talking Romero's original shambling horde here. This is the 28 Days Later variety, Olympian fast and able to follow you wherever you go. It's an impressive sight standing on top of a warehouse roof and seeing the courtyards below you packed out completely with bodies.

Then they start coming out of all the windows around you, the doors behind you and the roof above you. And that's when the co-op thing becomes important, and this game really is at its best, all the players yelling at each other while the horde smashes through the doors.

A variety of score counters at the end of each level track each player's kills, which keeps escape competitive and stops you cowering in a corner.

Taken with the way the game varies ammo and zombie placement it's enough to keep your first few run-throughs entertaining, but the game's long-term appeal is uncertain.

Part of that is due to this not being a game that's supposed to be enjoyed as a single player experience. The bots are competent enough that you'll trust them with your last few shreds of health as you charge into battle.

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