Aw, last day of spring break. Well, I figured I might as well crank out this review before I review the second one. Side note, If I'm reviewing a Xbox 360/PC exclusive title, my reviews are for the Xbox 360 version. I don't play computer games. I get a lot of questions on which copy of a game I'm reviewing, and for the record, I have crappy PCs with crappy graphics. I'm a console gamer, not a PC gamer. You gotta love Valve. Time after time they make first person shooters using the same engine, but somehow can make a completely new and completely brilliant game every time. Their newest Source engine game series, Left 4 Dead, provides something completely new, but something that's not for everyone. Still, if you're a fan of cooperative games, then this game is made for you. Left 4 Dead doesn't have much of a narrative. Four survivors, Francis, Bill, Zoey, and Louis, are the only survivors during a zombie apocalypse. The characters are then put into different scenarios where they must fight through hordes of zombies, dubbed "the Infected", to get to safety. The game has no cutscenes outside of the opening one which plays before you get to the menus (it can be skipped, of course). You don't learn about the characters outside of a few personality quirks. You don't even know the survivors' last names. Still, for being a non-story line game, you'll get a sense of personality from it. It's hard to explain, but as you play the game and play with the survivors, you'll get a sense. Like for me, Bill is always the retarded one as an AI, constantly getting raped by a Hunter or something. I know I didn't explain this all too well, but there's not much else I can do to describe it. Gameplay for Left 4 Dead is pretty much survival. I guess you could say survival horror, but really the game isn't all that scary, especially when you get used to the zombies and stuff. Regardless, it's more than a survival game. It's a strategy survival game. The game requires you to work as a team. It's pretty much 99% impossible to complete any campaign without someone beside you, AI or human. I've seen my friends charge forward and leave behind the team, but you know what happens? They die or lose a huge chunk of their health because no one can rescue from getting face raped by zombies. Not to mention you need another person for so many things. If a special zombie pounces on you, you need an ally to kill the zombie or knock them off you. If you lose all your health and fall to the ground, you need someone to help you up. If you're low on health and out of either pain pills or med kits, you need an ally to heal you or lend you an item. Not to mention there's of course the whole "power in numbers" thing. One man fighting a horde of zombies So, if you're someone who hates working with a team or doesn't like fighting off large hordes of zombies, then this isn't your game. Go stick to Call of Duty or something. Anyway, the game has several different classes of zombies. There's your run of the mill zombies which you'll see every where. Then there's your special class zombies. The Hunter can make huge leaps and pounce on survivors, pining them to the ground and requiring a teammate to kill or knock the Hunter off. There's the Smoker who can choke people from a distance with his long tongue and also requires another survivor to break the tongue or kill the Smoker to free their friend. There's the Boomer who can barf on people to attract a horde of zombies (as well as cause "barf" to get on people when it is killed in close distance). Then there's your two most fearsome zombies: the Witch and the Tank. The witch is immobile, but if you get close enough and startle her, whether it be with flashlights or shooting her, she'll bolt at you, knocking off all your health in one hit. The big head honcho though, the Tank, is a huge behemoth, with tons of health and enough strength to throw a car. All these zombies require strategy and teamwork. For instance, you can't just rush a Tank to kill it. You'll get swatted away. The best method is using a Molotov or other source of fire to set it on fire and light it up with lead, provided you keep your distance. For the Witch, you may want to avoid it all together, or get close enough to "crown" it with a 1-hit kill from a shotgun. Smokers and Hunters require a teammate to free the other one, and Boomers should be melee'd back so that their bile won't get on your teammates as they explode. As for the survivors, they get 2 standard weapons (which you start each campaign with a choice of), 3 "power weapons" (which are more powerful versions of your older weapons), and a pistol (or eventually, double pistols). Shotguns have a large radius and deal the most damage but are ineffective at long ranges and take long to reload. Submachine guns fire fast and are more accurate but don't deal as much damage or have a larger radius. Pistols have infinite ammo, but are the weakest of the weapons. The sniper rifle is the other power weapon which can be used to pick off zombies at a range. Survivors also all have flashlights to light up the dark, med kits to heal themselves or each other, pain pills for a temporary health boost, and different explosives (the pipe bomb attracts zombies due to its blinking light, helping draw the horde off your allies and killing the zombies in the process, while the Molotov sets a large area on fire, constantly damaging all zombies or survivors who are in its wake). I know I just went into a huge wall of text for the mechanics and not really my feelings, but I'll say this. Left 4 Dead is the cooperative game. Whether it be in versus or in campaign, it's a co-op experience to remember and cherish. Yeah, I just made a wall of text on gameplay, but I need to go into a unique feature of the game, the AI Director, which is the key to keeping the 4 campaigns from being repetitive. The AI Director basically keeps the game fresh and challenging. If you didn't notice, the game never plays through the same way twice. The game doesn't feature spawn points for zombies or triggers to throw a Witch or Tank or horde of zombies at you. All these events are done based on how well you're doing in game. Say for example your team is doing pretty bad. You're all low on supplies and health. The AI Director will notice this and make the game easier. Hordes and special zombies will be less frequent and supplies and power weapons will be found more frequently or earlier in your level. On the other hand, if you're doing really well, the Director will throw lots of hordes at you, lots of special zombies, and make supplies harder to find, less frequent, or later in the level. It's what keeps the strategy going and the game fresh. You can't just turn a corner and say "Oh, a Hunter will be there", because you don't know. It's truly marvelous, to say the least. As for graphics and audio, the game is rather good in both departments. Audio is exceptional in this game mainly because it's a key component of this game. You need to listen to know what's coming up. Each special zombie has a unique sound. And as you listen, you'll have to prepare yourself and teammates for what's ahead. The games background music also changes accordingly. When it's rather quiet and you're relatively safe, you'll hear an eerie haunted piano type melody. When a Tank is coming, you'll hear hear a powerful brass band blowing their horns. The music is also controlled by the Director, and it's a huge part of the game as you can tell. As for graphics, this isn't all too impressive, but they're good. Still, the game looks good quality for the Xbox 360. You get nice lighting effects, decent textures, and good character models. My favorite effect though, blood splatter, is pretty awesome. 'Cause trust me, there's gonna be A LOT of blood. Physics are also pretty good, with a lot of flying limbs creating an ecstatic experience I refer to as a "goregasm". And all the characters on-screen with no slowdown is a huge plus. Overall, Left 4 Dead is a co-op heavy, awesome zombie strategy shooter, and while that's appealing to some, it's not appealing to everyone. Still, for fans of co-op games and teamwork heavy ones, this is one that will stay with you for a while... Or until you play the second one. Presentation: Very skim on story, but you don't need one. It gets a sense of personality to it though, one that's hard to explain. Menus and buttons are mapped very well and make it easy to switch between. 9/10 Graphics: It's not the most impressive game you'll seen, with most great Xbox 360 titles beating it, but it still looks good. Good lighting effects, textures, and models all run well at a constant framerate. Blood splatter is good. Some Survivor animations are a bit stiff, but who cares? 9/10 Audio: The sound makes such a great part of the game, being more than just ambient noise. It affects your strategy and changes to it. It's eerie, powerful, and works great. Sound effects are just as good too. Some of the music bits can be a bit repetitive though. 9.5/10 Gameplay: It's not for everyone, but it provides a great co-op experience, blending teamwork, strategy, and shooting together masterfully. Playing alone is pretty shallow, playing with friends is amazing. Great level designs across the board. 9.5/10 Lasting Appeal: Well, most of the original L4D community migrated to L4D2, so you won't be finding as many people online. Still, the AI Director, a great Versus mode, and awesome online play keep it fresh, whether it was before L4D2 or whether it's today with a few friends. Scenarios can be a little repetitive though, even with all the mixing up from the Director. 9/10 Overall: 9.2/10 I'll try reviewing the second game sometime soon.