Hate zombies? Love playing in co-op? Have a short attention span?
"Left 4 Dead" is perfect for you.
The M-rated first-person shooter from Valve puts you and up to three friends in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.
You play as one of four survivors — Zoey, a college student; Louis, an office worker; Bill, a Vietnam vet; and Francis, a gruff biker-type guy. Each plays about the same and there’s no time for character development, so it doesn’t really matter which survivor you select. Each survivor appears in each mission, so the computer controls anyone who isn’t claimed by a player. Their artificial intelligence is normally pretty good. They’ll occasionally bumble into trouble, but they normally do a good job of following you, healing you and providing supporting fire.
The game is divided into four movie-like mini-campaigns. Each is basically a running battle from one safe house to another, with the ultimate goal being evacuation by uninfected survivors from the outside world. Lulls in the action rarely last for more than 10 or 15 seconds, and entire campaigns last less than an hour.
Your opponents are the undead horde and a wild collection of "Boss Infected." Once stirred, members of the horde can be pretty agile, but their attacks are weak and they don’t take much damage before going down. The five types of "Boss Infected" are another story. Witches and Hunters pounce on you and deal out quite a bit of damage. Tanks are huge creatures that can smack you and send you flying or pummel you to a pulp. Smokers have 50-foot tongues that can grab you and leave you hanging until other zombies can finish you off. And Boomers are obese zombies that are filled with bile and explosive methane. Their vomit can blind you and attract surrounding members of the horde.
Although you can play the game solo, it’s really built for co-op adventures. Two can play together on one console. Four can link up over the Internet. Or up to eight can play in a versus match, switching between playing as survivors and zombies. The zombie team plays as the "Boss Infected."
Since it’s a co-op game, players need to work together — providing supporting fire, rescuing ensnared teammates or healing the wounded. Teams that don’t communicate don’t last long.
The controls are very efficient and smooth. It seems that the weapons are a bit overpowered, but when you’re facing a dozen of the horde and a tank at once, you won’t mind.
The zombies pop up in different places and react in different ways each time you play, so the game’s replay value is pretty high.
The graphics are OK, but lack the detail and texture of many current games. You’ll also notice that the laws of physics don’t always apply during a zombie apocalypse. It’s not uncommon to see teammates hovering in midair or for two beings to occupy the same space at the same time.
It’s not a game for those who fear bodily fluids. Blood and body parts fly in all directions, and green bile spews from "Boomers" by the gallon. Unlike some recent games, the gore can’t be turned off — which will be a turnoff for some gamers.
"Left 4 Dead" is designed for quick co-op play. If you’re looking for something with more depth and complexity, check out "Gears of War 2" or "Call of Duty: World at War." Both offer excellent co-op play and very cool mass-attack mini-games that are as fun as "Left 4 Dead," though much briefer.
However, if you’re looking for some co-op play that takes more than a few minutes but less than a few hours, check out "Left 4 Dead."
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
On the Web: www.l4d.com