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E3 08: Hands On: Left 4 Dead [update]

Dustin Burg

Update: Fixed some grammar issues.

We'll come out and say this: Valve's Left 4 Dead impressed the hell out of us. We were not expecting its co-op focused gameplay to be so addictive, intense and so mind-blowingly zombie'riffic. From the game's look to the presentation all the way through experiencing the affects of zombie vomit, we enjoyed our Left 4 Dead ride. Admittedly though, we should make it clear that we only received hands on time with the PC version (mouse and keyboard FTL!), but were told that the 360 version will be nigh identical. Enough setup, let's get to the impressions. Read on to get the Left 4 Dead impressions dish.

Jumping right into it, we (four player co-op!) began our Left 4 Dead experience with the general mission to escape to some sort of hospital location. Sounds innocent enough. But then, right off the get go, the zombie killing mayhem started. You begin your living dead adventure in a room called a "Safe House" which acts as the game's method of saving progress and determining where each "level" begins. Inside the Safe House, you'll also stock up on health packs, ammunition and new weapon assortments. Anyway, the zombie interaction begins with your first step out of the Safe House doors. The best way to explain or describe the zombies and their movements themselves would be by categorizing them as 28 Days Later-style zombies. At first they'll wander about, mindlessly walking the alleyways until they spot you. When spotted, you must shoot. Shoot fast, shoot accurately (team killing is enabled by default) and shoot often, because these zombies will all out sprint directly towards you with no fear and one simple mission. They want your blood. Interesting too is the nice variety of zombie enemies, including zombies of all gender, ones that have lizard tongues, some looked hopped up on steroids and, our personal favorite, the chunky wobbler zombie. He likes to throw up on you. It's gross.

When it comes to dealing with an influx of zombies, you'll soon realize that Valve's "director system" makes the gameplay unpredictable and tense. One moment you and your co-op buddies will be managing the zombie onslaught, then suddenly a stampede of thirty bum rush you from behind in an attempt to eat your ear or leg. And this is where the co-op gameplay really shines. You'll need the assistance of your crew for everything, from watching your back to being able to give a quick revive to sharing a health pack. Knowing this, Valve added a feature to view your partners' character outline no matter if they're in sight, behind a wall or downstairs, you'll know where they are And trust us, you'll want to know where your friends are to help with the fifty plus zombies who'll rush towards your position. The most amazing display of Valve's smartly controlled zombie system was apparent when traversing across the metal roof of an old warehouse. Looking down onto the loading dock, we saw the streets full of zombies descending on our location, leaping up at the roof's ledge in hopes of climbing up, falling over eachother and even climbing up on top of a semi trailer to get a height advantage. They'd even climb up eachother's bodies in a mock zombie-ladder to try to get to us. It was one of the most epic and thrilling displays of pure action-horror-suspense we've ever experienced.

With a robust engine, a large selection of weapons, various multiplayer modes, polished controls and its gorgeous presentation, Left 4 Dead is something very, very special. We don't ever remember specifically asking for a zombie survival co-op gaming experience, but we're glad Valve anticipated the need. We want more Left 4 Dead and we want it now.

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