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Reviews Comments: A truly cinematic experience. Left 4 Dead season review by Robin Zimm

One of the most interesting conversations in the community of videogame philosophers is the idea of emergent narrative - the story and Emotional Torque that isn't in the text or the cutscenes, but, like the idea that a queen is worth nine pawns, is created by the way the game plays.

Valve gets this. And when they created Left 4 Dead, they did it right.

This game trains you to be a zombie movie protagonist - you shoot for the head, you never split up, and No One Gets Left Behind unless they're dead. The game mechanics support the narrative of the zombie movie - the enforced darkness when the Witch is near; the fading of the light as you lie bleeding on the ground, desperately firing your pistol at the zombies swarming around you; the agonizing slowness of your pace when you've taken major damage; and, of course, the terror of the lone survivor, sprinting towards safety knowing that every monster in the world closes in.

It can be played one-player or over the Internet, but I recommend holding a LAN party or meeting friends at an internet cafe, if at all possible. After all, your only hope of survival depends on your three comrades, and if you want to avoid the natural limitations of computer-controlled characters (although that can be mitigated to an extent via the built-in voice-command macros), it's best to have partners for whom the GIFT doesn't apply.


  • BonsaiForest
  • 29th May 12
Your review excellently points out many things I wouldn't have noticed (as I don't watch zombie movies), and which are an excellent part of what makes Left 4 Dead just plain work. The "narrative" IS the gameplay, which is unheard of in cutscene-filled "story-driven" games.

I was going to do my review on how this game has arcade-like design elements (such as Drop In Drop Out Multiplayer, and a pick-up-and-play mentality with easy-to-learn rules), which I think are also a big part of its appeal and what makes it approachable to a large audience. But you absolutely nailed the other half of the equation.
  • JimmyTMalice
  • 7th Nov 12
I don't know about the whole GIFT thing. I mainly play with randomers, and I've only encountered one or two griefers. Most of the others have been excellent teammates.
  • RobinZimm
  • 20th Feb 13
@Bonsai Forest: Thanks for your kind words (and complementary review)!

@Jimmy T Malice: I'm glad to hear it — my experience when I wrote the review was almost entirely based on playing at my local Internet cafe, and I imagine I overestimated the population of griefers.

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