Zombies in Hollywood
Many of you by now may have heard of or even experienced the newest hit from Valve, Left-4-Dead. Hitting shelves this past December, Left-4-Dead has had plenty of time to build up its reputation and fan base as this multiplayer shooter continues to grow in popularity. The attraction of Left-4-Dead is simply, zombies…lots of them. The game takes place two weeks after the onset of your standard Hollywood zombie apocalypse. In fact, the Hollywood theme plays a major part in Left-4-Dead (L4D) since each of the four playable campaigns is set up theatrically as a movie. You play as one of four survivors (the cast) fighting your way though the ruined, zombie-infested city as you race towards your last chance to an evacuation site. The reason why this unidentified Pennsylvania city now lays in ruins has been left up to the imagination of the player. The story begins with the four survivors, Bill, Luis, Francis and Zoey trying to make their way from safe room to safe room in an attempt to get to the designated evacuation point in one piece.
“Ugh, he’s still juicy!”
Valve expanded upon an already formidable game engine and adapted it even further for L4D. The four playable environments range from the cityscape to the farms of the outlaying rural areas. Everything has been beautifully rendered and enhanced with a variety of film style effects to create a horror movie feel. All of the environments throughout the four campaigns, twenty maps in total, are rendered with a dark overwhelming dread that something is terribly wrong. Even common billboards and street lights look oddly twisted, as if the zombie infection has somehow affected more than just the human population of the city.
Movie effects and atmosphere aside, the raw graphics of the game are nothing less than what one expects from Valve. They find a way to combine rich and vibrant with the dark and menacing and it works perfectly. The survivor models aren’t just there to be an extra gun or look good, but they have a full range of emotions that will be clearly recognisable during the game. When one is hurting, the player won’t just know it from the HUD, but they’ll be able to see it on the character's face and behavior.
Of course, the survivors may be the cast in this horror flick, but the zombies are the real stars here. Each of the 1500 possible zombie renders have been brought to life with a full range of movement and emotions. Emotions on a zombie? Well, when they aren’t in a rage for being shot at and provoked by the survivors, they tend to be pretty peaceful, loitering in the streets, hanging out in dark corners or vomiting quietly in a corner.
Did you hear that?
The sound track to L4D is pretty unique. Most other shooters, or any game for that matter, will have some sort of music accompaniment, sort of a sound track to the action, which can take the form of a continuous music loop or a selection of specialized selected music tracks. L4D uses music a little differently. Sticking to the horror movie theme, music is used only to amplify specific situations. More times than not, the only sounds player will hear will be gunfire, footsteps the grunts of zombies and their own breath. Just like any good horror flick, if you start hearing creepy music, you better get ready, because something is definitely coming for you.
In addition to the creepy musical cues, zombie noises and the occasional bump in the night, each of the characters have a list of context dialogue that the player may be treated to during game play. Most of the dialogue is triggered by circumstances and specific conditions. These dialogues will occasionally spark a response from another character resulting in a random but short conversation between the characters. In most cases these short dialogues are only there to lighten the mood a little and to reinforce the feeling that each of the four survivors has a unique personality. The voice acting is extremely well done and definitely adds to the overall experience, buts it’s a shame there wasn’t a bit more of it.
No Pros and Cons at this time