Left 4 Dead Hands-On Preview And Movie BlowoutPublished by Predtech on Saturday, August 11, 2007
Tagged: Gaming, Xbox 360,
he city has been infected by a hideous new strain of rabies, and youíre one of the few survivors, however, you may not always be helping them. Even though Left 4 Dead is essentially a shooter thatís built with the Source Engine (and not part of the upcoming Orange Box) this is not a run and gun shooter. If you donít play alongside the other survivors, and try to Rambo everything - you will die. However, the beauty of Left 4 Dead is that you also have the option of playing on the Infected side, meaning campers and griefers now have a game to call their own.
As a Survivor you will play as one of the four remaining humans untouched by the rabies strain. In the episode we played, Hospital, you begin on the rooftop and need to traverse through the city, get to the hospital, make your way to the rooftop and board the rescue helicopter. Easy? Not so much. All of the Survivors are only defined by their load outs. As each new checkpoint section begins all Survivors will be in a room that contains health packs, firearms, and grenades. Youíll know exactly who has what in the group because as each Survivor picks up a weapon, heíll announce it. Then itís time to make your way from point A to point BÖwith a few things to stop you on your way.
Left 4 Dead is a horror game, and fortunately for you youíll have a flashlight (which has unlimited power) that will light your dangerous path. Controls are pretty WASD standard, with F turning the flashlight on and off, and E allowing teammates to give items such as health packs and grenades to each other, and the right mouse button controlling melee attacks. Considering how insane everything can get, the simpler the better.
For the most part youíll be traveling in a pack like formation, itís good to know that the survivors are quite chatty. You will always know whatís going on with your fellow teammates, whether they need health, have spotted a specific boss type Infected, need cover while healing, or, oops, taking friendly fire. With all thatís on your plate, and since youíre always relying on your teammates to heal you, give you a grenade, or to pick off a baddie thatís rushing you, this proves quite helpful. You will bleed out in time if youíre not healed, and can only be dropped three times before youíre completely dead, so youíll want to make sure other survivors are close.
As the squad of Survivors make their way through the city, they will be bombarded by a variety of the Infected Scourge Ė whether theyíre AI controlled or controlled by human players. However, where the Infected spawn or move is controlled by an AI Director, so every time you play through a specific check point the experience will be different. Once a quiet hallway may been populated the next time, etc. But what really changes up the experience is when humans are in control of the Infected.
The Infected are a force to be reckoned with, and it often seems as if thereís more than one person can handle Ė making the team work together to survive. Infected can traverse the city in multiple ways the Survivors canít, such as climbing fences, walls, and buildings. There are the base Infected which are basically zombies that will work to surround you. They will die after a few hits, but will charge at you, and if youíre not paying attention, will most likely sneak up behind you. Unfortunately these are the least of your worries. There are four different Infected that can be controlled by humans (or AI bots).
Smokers have a 50-foot tongue that they can lash out and choke survivors with. If firing down, smokers can lift you off the ground and hang Survivors until they die. Smokers also have the ability to cough out a cloud of smoke that will obscure vision and cloak enemies. This also forces Survivors to cough and blocks verbal communication. Boomers are grotesque, slow moving fat guys that will puke up blood to blind Survivors. They basically take one shot to die, however, they will explode taking out anything close in proximity. Hunters are more or less leaper type enemies that have the ability to quickly traverse the landscape, and pounce on Survivors. By keeping still, the Hunter can become invisible and regenerate health. Invisibility by standing still next to a wall however, quietly regenerates health. Finally the Tank is a boss type enemy that has a lot of hit points. Its main offensive weapon is its brute strength. The Tank can either knock a survivor senseless, or pound a rock or a car into a Survivor effectively taking them out. Tanks donít appear all that often, but when they do, it will take combined firepower to take one down.
Finally, one of the non-human controlled boss enemies is the Witch. With the Witch, itís all about switching up the tactics, and turning off flashlights and shutting the heck up. If Survivors are quiet they do have the ability to sneak by her, but if she senses a Survivor, all hell will break loose. Much like a Tank, Witches will be able to take a lot of damage, as well as deal it. One hit from a Witch will most likely take down a Survivor, so one bad move by one careless Survivor could mean a quick wipe of an entire team. We did happen to encounter a Witch, and someone with an itchy trigger finger was a little too impatient, but with a little luck we did manage to take the Witch down. However, it seemed much more difficult than crushing a Tank.
Gameplay is quite intense, and the focus on teamplay is a must for survival. While the standard Infected are still quite tough when encountered in groups, when you hear one of your cohorts scream out ďSmoker!Ē or ďWitchĒ everything changes from a blast-everything-but-your-friends affair to a more strategic moment. Plus, being able to go silent by turning off your flashlight and standing still can allow for some stealth moments. That is, until youíre discovered.
While we didnít get to play as one of the Infected we did get a good glimpse into how the Infected gameplay will work. On choosing a character type, only one Boomer and one Smoker, and two Hunters can be in the world at one time. Tanks canít be picked in the menu, and are only available at certain times. After you choose your character type, the director will look for a safe and balanced place to drop you. Once youíre dropped, and when still, youíll not only be able to see a red outline of each of the survivors, but a line marking where the survivors will most likely travel. Then itís time to move in for the kill. You do not have control of the normal AI-controlled Infected characters. As you control the Infected, youíll notice green claw-like ladders that only infected can climb to get onto rooftops so you can get the drop on players.
Left 4 Dead will launch with four scenarios that are made up of quite a number of different checkpoints. Each scenario lasts approximately 45 minutes to 75 minutes according to Valve. While this may not seem like a lot of gameplay, every time you play the game, whether it is with bots or humans, will always be different.Valve and Turtle Rock Studios are currently not discussing downloadable content, but knowing Valve, if popular, you can almost expect it.
With Counter-Strike already in their back pocket, itís nice to see Turtle Rock and Valve team up for something very different. Even while the game is still early, our time with Left 4 Dead was extremely memorable, and we canít wait to get our hands on a beta version when released. Sure, itís nice to play the good guys, but who hasnít wanted to switch it up and choke someone with their tongue, or barf up a little blood onto someoneís face? With so many team-based games on the horizon, even coming from Valve themselves, Left 4 Dead really stands out with such a fresh and spooky take on the genre.
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