Left 4 Dead Impressions

15 11 2008

 I’ve already mentioned quite a bit on this game, so I’ll try to keep my  impressions brief, and on point. This squad-based, intrinsically  teamwork-oriented shooter, set in the midst of a zombie  apocalypse, is primarily an online, cooperative game.  It was  designed for you to play with people, and to work with those people  to the benefit of your squad of survivors.  To their credit, Valve has  done an amazing job mixing up the shooter elements, the visceral  tension of the scenario, and the balance between individual success and teamwork mindset.

On a quad-core Intel processor (Q6600) with 4GB of RAM and with an NVIDIA 7300LE graphics card, the game ran smoothly and without problems, both with audio and visually, with all settings on high.  Again, this game will play well (albeit without all the bells and whistles) on a moderately equipped gaming rig (meaning, at least a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and at least a mediocre graphics card), so you do not need a high-end rig to play and enjoy L4D in all of it’s gory splendor.

Beyond the tightness of the graphics, the game evokes quite a bit through the audio work.  Simply listening, as you wait in a semi-safe room in a brief lull between skirmishes, you can hear the world outside, as well as your teammates reloading, surveying their surroundings, and the like.  It really immerses you into the world through the sound alone, and that is something unique to this later generation of titles.

Valve has always been good with shooters and this game lives up to the tradition as well, as the gameplay is taut and frenetic throughout, yet despite the overwhelming odds against you, there is never a sense of futility.  And as long as you are working with a decent team, the odds of you making it from your starting point to the next safe-zone are quite good. Actually, the attacks of the zombies themselves are quite weak.  You will take little damage from a couple zombies, should they get close, as long as you dispatch them fairly quickly.  The only time you’re truly in danger of losing significant health, is if you are in a more open area, entirely surrounded, (which can happen a lot, if you let it get that way).  My point here is that the balance seems good.  You are always feeling the tension of turning the next corner, or heading along a corridor, despite the game giving you good odds if your skill is adequate.   In fact, the tension is so good that a friend of mine, James, likened it to “any shooter where you can only use knives”, in terms of your constant vulnerability, yet if you remember that you have access to at least two weapons as well as a long-range “grenade” of sorts at nearly any time, that’s quite a feat.  Even armed to the teeth, you feel like you could be ambushed and killed at any time, but never in an unfair way.  To this point, the levels are designed quite well, and while the game is quite linear, you feel like you have choice in paths.  

However, other than the starting weapons, the characters are pretty much interchangeable.  This isn’t a terrible thing, but it seems like some movement choices (the older man not being as quick, the woman being more spry, etc…) could have been made to differentiate the characters more than their guns.  But this is a minor point. Overall, as a squad-based game, it ranks very highly, in my opinion.  (See the end of the article for scores.)

Now, I’d like to talk about the content from the perspective of a Christian, and as a parent. 

First off, as it’s the most simple point, I feel the M rating is appropriate, due to swearing as well as the very violent content.  However, the content never feels like it’s reaching or trying to be more vulgar than the situation would dictate.  Obviously it’s not the kind of game I’d recommend to my grandmother, but if you’re over 18, it’s highly unlikely that there will be circumstances in the game that you haven’t seen elsewhere in film, television, or with your friends (obviously not the zombie part for that last one).   However, in terms of being a Christian, I think it’s important to discuss that the game adds nothing to edify Christ or his lifestyle.  In fact, there is something to be said about not shooting aliens, or abstract beings, or targets.  That instead you are shooting people.  And not just over-villified people, as if you were killing Nazis in WWII or something… these are people in shirts and ties, dresses, and the like.  Yes, they’re zombies and yes of course, they are made as “non-human” in their appearance as makes sense with the genre. But I still feel it’s worth noting that for some people, this is simply stepping too far across the line.  Many people who love God will likely dismiss the game outright for its content.  I understand that and of course, respect that view.

In the end, however, it’s very important that you, as a gamer, are constantly checking yourself.  Asking yourself, “is this right for me to play?”  If you can truthfully answer yes, and notice that you are not being led down a path that you (and Christ) don’t desire, then by all means, you will find here an excellent shooter with a lot to keep bringing you back.  But please be honest with yourself because this game is definitely not for everyone, and there are also definitely some other great and competent shooters out there that are not anywhere as violent, dealing with such dark material, and that offer tons of fun gameplay as well.   For more on this subject, feel free to check out my next post, as it will go more into detail about where this aspect of my reviews will come from.  

Overall, this game is rated by OtakuDad as:

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Visuals/Immersion – 9/10

“Is the rating appropriate for the game?” – Yes

“Does the game potentially take away from, add to, or toe the line in a Christian walk?” – Take Away




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