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Left 4 Dead Hands-On PreviewE3 2008 Coverage » Left 4 Dead Hands-On Preview
July 18, 2008
ActionTrip Editors

Valve and Turtle Rock give us a glimpse at their zombie-infested shooter Left 4 Dead, currently in development for the PC and Xbox 360. Left 4 Dead is a cooperative action game powered by the Counter-Strike: Source engine. The dark horror-like ambiance is maintained throughout the entire game, as four "human" players run for their lives in the face of "the infected" (i.e. zombies, what else?).

Getting into the spirit of this game is easy and this is probably going to be its best asset when it faces tons of competing shooters on the market. Its simplicity and steady flow of the gameplay makes you want to just keep on playing. L4D's mechanics are straightforward and will have you and three other characters struggling to stay alive and make it out of LA, while trying to escape a multitude of bloodthirsty zombies.

During the E3 presentation, the developers underlined a few improvements since the game was last seen in action. Levels are now crammed with extra details and are looking better than before. They've also admitted to have redesigned the four available characters. The models appear quite convincing - Zoey (a nice-looking teenage chick), Bill (Vietnam War veteran), Louis (the store manager) and Francis (a biker). Every one of the characters now has something distinctive and easy to notice. But why the redesign? Well, Valve claims that the effort comes from a common complaint from testers, who said that it was difficult to discern friend from foe during combat. With this new look, it's going to be a lot easier to recognize characters. Using the flashlight is an option too, but it can reveal your position to the zombies.

The tension and suspense are in there, since the general idea is that players are controlling four completely ordinary individuals who are trying to survive. It's not about using special powers or super-human strength. At times you're gonna wish you did were some type of superhero though, because the zombies are a serious threat. They can burst through doors, climb down from air vents or move through elevator shafts. The moment when you feel safe is probably a sign you're in deep trouble. You jump into a corner to catch your breath only to witness a tough zombie breaking through the wall, lunging forth at you and your teammates.

The selection of weapons should make things even more exciting. Shotguns, dual pistols, Molotov cocktails and such, are all in the picture. We mustn't forget the inclusion off the very effective M16 assault rifle, in addition to the handy pipe bombs. Tossing one of these onto the ground attracts zombies around it and then blows them to bits as they get close. Quite an intriguing addition to the gameplay. You pick all these cool little toys mostly on safe-house locations, where your team can stock up and recuperate. Speaking of which, injury or the loss of health is manifested visually throughout the game - characters start limping or if you approach them you can see their eyes twitching.

Without any exaggeration, Valve's Left 4 Dead has a fair chance of climbing atop the throne of PC and 360 shooters once it hits retail. It looks like a well-structured multiplayer shooter, one that can easily achieve the fame of Counter-Strike.

Valve and Turtle Rock targeted November 4, 2008 to release Left 4 Dead.

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