A story told on the walls
Although lacking, like Team Fortress 2 or Counter-Strike, a "story" proper, believe Left 4 Dead the classic multiplayer title all gameplay and no narrative depth, would be a mistake.
The game places the four protagonists in as many "acts" unrelated to each other, each made as a sort of short film - complete with a poster - in turn divided into sections that end when the next "safe zone" is reached: areas barricaded against the intrusion of zombies, where survivors can rest and refuel, waiting for the new path to the coveted goal, be it a helicopter, a ship or a military plane.
In Campaign mode, each player - and it is highly recommended to experience the game online right away - is entrusted with the role of one of the four survivors: Bill, Zoe, Francis and Louis. The first a pragmatic former green beret now in the autumn of his years, the second an energetic student, ironically passionate about horror films; followed by a good-natured biker covered in tattoos and a skinny black computer analyst in a shirt and tie who have seen better times.
Initially, absolutely nothing is known about them beyond the names, but the lacuna is intentional and the beauty of the absolute lack of a structured narrative in Left 4 Dead, forces the player to imagine their stories. The four "acts" - each with its own characteristic theme, from the hospital of No Mercy to the airport of Dead Air - are not so much in their own right, as each an integral part of a hypothetical horror film of which they represent the classic sequences of actions that accompany the vision until the final climax.
The premises of the story are not expressed, from the first moment the bullets fly, but for the observers - and listeners - more attentive, the game offers a quantity of details and cues (writings and messages on the walls in the safe zones, comments and quarrels exchanged between the characters) which help to get an idea of both the extent of the crisis and the character of the protagonists. A sort of extremely brilliant indirect storytelling, rich in irony and black humor as much as you find genuinely disturbing, which goes perfectly with an action title, stimulating the player's imagination.
United to survive
A feature worthy of praise of Left 4 Dead it is his ability to push the player to develop real emotional affection for his teammates, derived directly from the most sincere and primordial of sensations: fear.
Being alone results in certain death and it is difficult to recall other titles in which the unpleasant awareness of one's vulnerability and dependence on others is so palpable.
The obvious reason in this case is that there are several dangerous situations in which a player may find himself and that require the intervention of at least one other to get out of it: if you are knocked down and seriously injured by a crowd of zombies for example, do not it is possible to get up again until a companion arrives to help us. The same applies if you are attacked and incapacitated by a Hunter or a Smoker (two of the special undead that we will talk about later) or if you lose your balance on the edge of a precipice: in all these cases it is essential that someone do sweeps away the hostiles and lends us a hand to get us back on track. Crushing under the tearing clutches of a Hunter, unable to react, while we can still see the silhouettes of our unsuspecting comrades climbing the stairs ... pure terror!
Beyond these explicit mechanics, the entire gameplay is invariably built around the idea that collaboration is imperative to survive: if in fact it only takes a few hits to put the average living dead back to sleep, none of the survivors are remotely able to deal with. alone a whole horde of screaming zombies that assault him from every direction, both for the technical impossibility of hitting so many targets, and for the forced complementarity of the different weapons. In addition to the "service" pistol that acts as a secondary weapon, everyone can carry one and only one firearm, with a choice of medium-long range automatic (Uzi and assault rifle) or close-range (shotgun) and combat shotguns). While the former are great for clearing a roof over the horde below before advancing, they are also far less effective against a direct assault from multiple directions. Conversely, the latter, although devastating, force you to let the enemies approach before firing and the few shots and the slow loading condemn to certain death if you suffer an attack too numerous.
Only the combined use of the different weapons - including grenades, Molotov cocktails and the rare but very useful sniper rifle - ensures enough versatility for the group to cope in any situation.
Being alone is the best way to panic and start moving in a frenetic way, ending up in the inevitable ambush prepared by the diabolical Director, the artificial intelligence system that dynamically organizes the extent and frequency of the spawns of each game. enemies and their location, as well as that of health supplies, weapons and ammunition, all depending on the level of difficulty and the conditions in which the players find themselves.
United to survive
What makes the collaborative mode of Left 4 Dead a long-lasting and always fresh experience is precisely the fact that each level of each act is never played exactly the same way: the Director always manages to shuffle the cards and surprise us, working as a good "director" to give an epic cut to the maximum climax points, with sound effects and subtle chromatic changes in our view.
Finally, to multiply the feeling of being hunted prey and not a light-hearted group of defenseless zombie slaughterers, the variables decided by the Director also include the identity and position - always different - of the game's "bosses". There are in fact five types of special zombies (four of which are playable in versus mode) that differ from the conventional horde in terms of intelligence, stamina and special abilities.
Among the relatively more common ones we have the Hunter, a fragile but very agile screaming predator, which moves on all fours and is able to jump enormous distances, landing on the protagonists and incapacitating them, to then proceed to the slaughter. This is followed by the Smoker, tall, slouching and endowed with a very long sprawling tongue that can capture a player from enormous distances and drag him silently into his hiding place if he is not stopped in time. Then it's the turn of the gruesome Boomer, a huge obese zombie, full of fluids and gases, who in addition to exploding in a riot of offal, loves to cover the players with his vomit, thus recalling an instant invasion of the undead, attracted like bees by the honey...
The circus of horrors is closed by the two most dangerous undead, which as such can appear only once for each section of an act: the Tank is a huge zombie with hypertrophic muscles capable of sustaining immense damage and causing frightening punches. than hurling machines and grinders. Finally, the Witch, a skinny little creature apparently defenseless, but who if disturbed by loud noises or the light of the torches, unleashes a razor sharp murderous fury with lightning speed. To avoid! Do not forget that all these lovable creatures (with the exception of the Witch) are impersonable in Versus mode, where four Infected will oppose the survivors, trying to take advantage of the hordes of NPC zombies to prepare ambushes and traps, deciding from time to time in which point to appear.
Beautiful presence apocalypse
Four years after the release of Half-Life 2, the Source graphics engine shows its limits, but thanks to its modernization and in part to the excellent level of the artistic direction of Left 4 Dead, there are very few things to complain about.
Certainly the scenarios suffer a little from the relatively low number of polygons used, which is particularly noticeable in the vicinity of cars, pipes and other objects rich (or lacking, you see) of curved surfaces.
Character animations and object interaction aren't exactly state-of-the-art either: the new procedural element - which changes the character's tilt when he changes direction while running or when making a climb - is noticeable and not noticeable. , while you can see very well how the ladders are still "divinely ascended" while the actions of healing oneself, replacing a weapon and so on translate into a great fluttering of empty hands ...
At the same time the characters are made with absolutely impeccable care, as well as the zombies and their animations, among the most convincing and frightening ever seen in a video game.
The open spaces are also excellent, in particular the foggy countryside outside the city, where cinematographic effects such as "film grain" give their best in defining the atmosphere and in general the introduction of normal maps, of the excellent lighting system. and the great quality of the textures, make it difficult to criticize the graphics sector, especially if you consider the excellent support even for older hardware.
The audio is also very enjoyable: good effects, exceptional voices, verses and gurgles of the zombies. Even the music is spot on even if it is certainly not numerous and the motif performed in the safe room at the beginning of each level is a real monument to tension.
One could complain that Left 4 Dead is objectively a bit sparing of contents and that after all four acts are few and are played quickly.
This is undoubtedly true and can represent a problem for the most eager for news, but with this multiplayer gem, Valve has found a recipe for immediate and genuine fun, and moreover lasting. In this sense we recommend, after the first few games, to devote yourself exclusively to the advanced level of difficulty, challenging, but still within everyone's reach, while the game at Normal was all too easy for our tastes.
And if all this were not enough for you, the Versus mode with the playable Infected adds further variety, fun and dark black humor, while we will at least expect the arrival of more maps in the months to come - strictly free, at least as regards the PC version, on which the game is probably the best deal.
Left 4 Dead is an innovative title whose basic idea, simple and original, required an execution of great quality and precision so that all the elements - collaborative gameplay, atmosphere, irony, graphic style - fit together perfectly. Luckily for us that's the way it went and whatever ideas you have about the game, make sure you at least try the demo. You won't find anything remotely like it out there!
- Visceral fun and satisfying
- Long-lived, replayable for weeks without effort
- First-class aesthetic design
- Technically not the latest cry
- Only four acts are a good start, but we still need more
PC - System Requirements
- 2.4 GHz processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- Video card with 128 MB compatible with DirectX 9.0 and support for Pixel Shader 2.0
- DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 @ 3,0GHz
- RAM: 2 GB
- Scheda Video: Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS
- Sound Card: Creative X-Fi
- Monitor: Samsung 19”@1280x1024