by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
The Zombie Escape Plan
Everyone has one. Everyone has looked at their home, or their place of work, and thought what was the best way to defend it from a surging horde of the undead (the Editor has to wonder if this writer needs a vacation...). While the idea has been broached in video games before, most notably with the Resident Evil series, Valve's new first person shooter, Left 4 Dead, approaches things from a slightly different angle. Games like Resident Evil are generally solo affairs whereas Left 4 Dead gives you and three friends the chance to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.
According to the book “The ZOMBIE Survival Guide” (by Max Brooks) the first lesson for surviving a zombie attack should be to Organize before they rise. This is exactly when Left 4 Dead drops you into the action. You, as one of four survivors, will stock up on weapons, ammunition and health packs and then with your team set out to reach safety. Of course everyone knows that no place is truly safe (Lesson 9) but we'll give the game a pass on that one.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a first person shooter, as you will constantly be mowing down wave after wave of zombies. There are six types of zombies to protect yourself against in Left 4 Dead. The most common type you will encounter will be the common infected or the Horde, these attack en masse but are generally brought down fairly easily.
What makes things extra difficult is the inclusion of five variants of "super" zombies. There is the Boomer, a giant grotesque beast that vomits on things drawing the regular horde out of the woodwork in a feeding frenzy. There is the Hunter, an agile creature that will pounce and pin you to the ground until help, hopefully, arrives. There is the Smoker, a particularly dangerous infected that can grab a survivor with his long frog-like tongue and drag them away. The final two "super" zombies are the most dangerous in the game. The Tank is an apt name for this giant zombie and it will require every member of your team to take it down as it hurls you and and anything in its way around the environment. The Witch on the other hand can be avoided as all she wants to do is be left alone but if you disturb her she can make your life a living hell.
Four scenarios to try
Left 4 Dead has four scenarios each placing you in a zombie movie with the express goal of surviving. They will all be fairly familiar to just about anyone who has ever seen more than one zombie film but don't think that just because you know the terrain that Left 4 Dead won't have some tricks up its sleeve for you. In fact, if anything is the stand-out in Left 4 Dead it is the unpredictable nature of the scenarios, thanks to the inclusion of an AI Director. Say you are breezing through tunnel substructure with no problems, the AI Director will adjust the enemy waves, weapon and health drops, as well as the number of "super" zombies to make your life more miserable. Of course, it will also do the same if you and your rag-tag band of survivors are having trouble staying alive, scaling back on enemy waves and "super" zombies and also giving you some extra ammo and health drops along the way.
All this amounts to no game ever being played exactly the same way. You may play the hospital scenario one way but your friend may get an entirely different experience. It adds a lot to the replay value of the game, which is nice because each scenario can be completed between 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on difficulty. It doesn't entirely make up for the lack of variety in the scenario maps but it does help somewhat. Hopefully Valve will continue to support Left 4 Dead on the 360 with new scenarios via downloadable content.
No Pros and Cons at this time