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Video Game / Left 4 Dead

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L to R: Francis, Bill, Zoey and Louis.

Louis: We made it... I can't believe we made it!
Bill: Son, we just crossed the street. Let's not throw a party 'til we're out of the city.

Describe Left 4 Dead here. Be ready to fight the horde...

Left 4 Dead is a Co-Op Multiplayer First-Person Shooter developed by Valve, released in 2008, and proclaimed by its advertising as "the Zombie Apocalypse you can play with your friends."

The game reduces the zombie genre to its absolute basics: you are one of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits caught in the middle of the outbreak of a deadly virus that's turning people into bloodthirsty mutants. Your objective is to make your way from safe house to safe house through an area infested with these murderous creatures, and finally reach a pickup point from which to summon the cavalry to spirit you to safety.

Of course, this won't be easy. You have your three pals, and due to the Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer nature of the game, there are fairly-competent AI bots standing by for when you don't have allied players. And don't worry about them hogging the kills: there are plenty of infected to go around. There could be a herd of thirty zombies, or just one extremely powerful mutant zombie, waiting around the next corner. The game's "AI Director" is watching your progress and planning your next sudden encounter; play the same campaign five times and each time will be a different experience. The director drops health packs less often than you need it and spawns a horde of zombies whenever he's bored. Which is all the time.

Almost as addictive as the Campaign mode is Versus mode, in which eight players, trading off between rounds, control either the Survivors or the dangerous Special infected: the long-tongued Smoker, the lightning-quick Hunter, the nauseous (and explosive) Boomer, and the Tank (there's another type of Special infected — the Witch, who doesn't react well to flashlights and loud noise — but like the Horde she's not actually a playable character). The goal of Versus is nominally to make it to the next safe room, but nine times out of ten, you won't. The goal is to make it farther than the other team.

The expansion pack takes it further with the ironically-titled Survival Mode: "survival" is pretty much the last thing you'll be doing. The question is how long you and your friends can hold out against an all-out Infected onslaught before you all die.

The game also received massive critical acclaim for both its Myth Arc-style narrative - the parts of the story they don't tell you, as well as the interactions between the survivors - and for its Emergent Narrative, in which different aspects of gameplay combined with elements of randomness mean that every single time you play a new, funny story emerges.

The game would be followed by Left 4 Dead 2 a year after release, taking place in the same setting but starring four new characters. Leaks regarding a third installment in the franchise (along with the long-waited Half-Life 3) have been around for years, but were never confirmed. Instead, the studio "Valve South" returned to its independent roots as Turtle Rock Studios and released Evolve, a 4v1 Asymmetric Multiplayer shooter that drew on the team's experiences from the L4D Versus mode. Because Valve retains the L4D IP, a Spiritual Successor, Back 4 Blood, was announced and to be published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, which released in 2021.

Please take a look at the character sheet to learn more about the characters and the Shout-Out page for countless pop culture references.

Due to the number of examples, they have been divided into categories.

Not to be confused with the trope of Left for Dead, or the 2007 western-horror film Left for Dead. See also Resident Evil: Outbreak.

Left 4 Dead provides examples of:

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    General Media Tropes 
  • 555: Parodied on a poster in No Mercy. The poster lists the phone number for the emergency hotline, but only the first three digits, 555, are visible. The rest of the number is torn off, making the fake 555 redundant.
  • Abandoned Hospital: Mercy Hospital in the No Mercy campaign.
  • Abandoned Warehouse: Nearly every campaign features one.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: At least four of the campaigns feature sewers that are big enough to accommodate whole mobs of zombies for the players to fight off.
  • Acrofatic: Boomers, despite their size and tendency to explode, can jump off objects from moderate heights and suffer no injuries before ambushing the survivors.
  • The Aloner: Any Survivor can become this if all but one die. The sequel even adds a mode that invokes this.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1. In-game posters published by the government indicate that the entire United States has fallen, with only a few surviving cities and towns occupied by the Military which are still standing.
  • Apocalypse Wow: In Death Toll's finale at the Boathouse, you can see the city of Newburg across the river engulfed in flames and a few explosions lighting up. In Dead Air, you visit the city, and see that this is the result of bombing by the US military. You can see distant collapsed buildings, torn skyscrapers and roads which have been ripped apart.
  • As the Good Book Says...: You can find a reference to Exodus 9:15 ("For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the Earth.") in a saferoom in Death Toll.
  • Background Halo: In the poster for The Sacrifice.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: A common occurrence when a horde spawns while the team's in a wide-open area.
  • Badass Crew:
    • The Survivors. "Curing the infection one bullet at a time."
    • The Angels of Death, an apparently successful gang of survivalists mentioned on several saferoom walls.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: The military and CEDA respectively. In the comics, the military is merely useless instead.
  • Balcony Escape: Used a couple of times in apartment complexes. Notably, the survivors escape a Tank in the intro by having a balcony collapse on it.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Deconstructed in Survivor graffiti, believe it or not.
    "October 2nd Johnny killed 12 Infected with his bare hands"
    "October 4th Johnny was killed by friendly fire"
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension:
    • Zoey and Francis were initially supposed to have this dynamic, but it was cut after play testers complained that it was too distracting. Hints of it remain, but this could also just be both their Deadpan Snarker personalities.
    • There are some hints of this between Nick and Rochelle. They tease each other a lot and he even calls her "sweetheart."
  • Bilingual Bonus: A piece of safe room graffiti in The Sacrifice is in Japanese - Louis gives the translation, but only the English half. Fluent speakers alone would be able to read aloud the characters he translates.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The final part of the comic shows Bill jumping off the bridge to restart the generator so the bridge can be fully raised. He gets ambushed by three Tanks and gets killed, but the survivors were able to outlast the horde and take the boat to the Florida Keys to spend the rest of their lives in, thanks to Bill's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: The Witch. See Power Glows below.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: In the No Mercy campaign, the end of the penultimate stage involves traveling twenty-five floors up an elevator where some conversation takes place.
  • Clown-Car Base: Occasionally, you may see an entire horde (thirty or so Infected) emerge from a closet or bathroom.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Downplayed - nobody drops an actual F-bomb, but the survivors say "shit" a lot.
    Louis: Shit!..Shit!...Shit!....SHIT!
  • Cool Car: The armored van at the end of Crash Course, which quickly catches the survivors' attention as a means of escape.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Francis has little difficulty adjusting to the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • They eventually travel to Florida to hold out the apocalypse there.
  • Crazy Survivalist: The survivors to some extent, especially Bill by the time of The Sacrifice. Off-screen NPCs and graffiti taking it to extremes.
  • Credits Gag: The end of each campaign has a credits roll which actually consist of statistics for the players (most infected killed, most headshots, etc.), ending with a disclaimer reading, "[X number of] zombies were harmed in the making of this film."
  • Cryptic Background Reference: The only parts of the story that are completely laid out for you are from the single 4-chapter comic ("The Sacrifice"), and the short character bios that each of the Survivors get (neither of which are found in-game). The rest of the plot that's given to you will only be through random (often campaign-specific) character dialogue, about 99% of which isn't even guaranteed to trigger (usually requiring multiple play-throughs if you want to catch everything), or occasionally from significant pieces of the map, but most of all from the writings on the walls of different saferooms (and occasionally elsewhere) of other people who have passed through that area, describing bits of their experiences as messages to others, agreement or disagreement with what the military is/was doing, just how bad CEDA failed, how fast somebody changes into a zombie after being infected, and so forth, but not even those people are in 100% consensus about whatever's been going on, and nobody really has any idea what even started the whole thing.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: The box art.
  • Death World: Umm, zombie apocalypse. Par for the course.
  • Dedication: If anyone dies during the finale they don't get to respawn, but as long as at least one character escapes, the credits will start with "In memory of [Player Name(s)]".
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The only way to distract a Tank from pummeling a downed survivor to death is to melee him, which otherwise serves absolutely no purpose at all.
    • Lampshaded with Francis in The Sacrifice comic:
    Francis: Hold on. I gotta give this zombie the finger.
  • Drought Level of Doom: A variable example, in that pickups of all varieties are determined by the AI Director - he could take it easy on you and give you plenty of health, ammo, and weapons, or he could force you into this with the bare minimum of supplies.
  • Dungeon Bypass: Guarding the doors and windows is all well and good, but more often than not the horde just crashes through a wall.
  • DVD Commentary: Like most Valve games since Lost Coast, both Left 4 Dead games have a commentary mode, where you can play a campaign that contains commentary nodes which will play audio from the developers. You're locked in Easy difficulty and zombies will ignore you. Naturally, you can't earn achievements this way.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The fourth level of No Mercy requires holding off the horde while waiting for the elevator. Subverted on the elevator ride itself; though any first time player will constantly give the missing elevator panel nervous glances, not much can or will actually happen until it reaches its destination. The panel is intact in the sequel's port, to counter Spitters getting a cheap shot.
  • Elite Zombie: The special infected.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The entire continental US has been overrun with infected hordes, the US Military survives with only a fraction of its intact forces and no long-term plans for rebuilding society, let alone restoring order on the mainland.
  • Escape Convenient Boat: Quite a few. One of them actually kicks them out, though it's only referenced in dialog.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The only non-zombies you hear from in the game are the playable survivors, the (sometimes) unseen pilots and drivers who rescue you at the end of each campaign, the occasional psycho/weirdo, and occasional gunfire off in the distance.
  • Excuse Plot: It's basically "You wake up one day, everybody except you and 3 other misfits with eccentric personality quirks are zombies. Try not to get killed".
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: CHICAGO TED is regarded as the biggest badass in the history of badasses by plenty of players; however, it never has been stated or hinted as to exactly what he did to earn this fame.
  • Film Posters: One for each campaign.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Survivors again.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: The helicopter in No Mercy.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The poster for the Survival Mode-only level, The Last Stand.
    • Both the campaign and the comic for The Sacrifice, given that they came out after The Passing.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Francis as Cynic (hates everything), Louis as Optimist (hopeful), Bill as Realist (experienced) and Zoey as Apathetic (zombie fan).
  • Game Mod: Countless ones, this being a Source Engine game and all.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • The chopper pilot in No Mercy was making repeat trips into the infection zone, getting infected for their trouble. They still kept the rotors spinning right up until the bitter end.
    • The entire purpose of The Sacrifice DLC. Someone has to stay behind and restart the dead generator in order to ensure the other three party members can escape. Canonically Bill is the one who makes this sacrifice; in the level itself the choice is up to the player.
  • Hide Your Children: The Infected are invariably adults. The accepted justification for this is that the virus that turns people into infected is lethal to children.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Valve uses a fog effect in some areas to mimic the Hollywood technique of "smoking the set", which conventionally uses a fog machine to help create atmosphere in "dark" areas. The fog catches the little light available, which makes everything slightly brighter, and allows viewers and players to see the silhouettes in the distance when they would otherwise be indistinguishable against the dark background.
  • Hopeless War: "We're fightin' a war of attrition against a horde of brainless killing machines... I ain't exactly optimistic about our chances!"
  • Horror Comedy: Of the Horror Dominant variety. While character interactions are mostly funny and there is no shortage of lampshading the ridiculous situations the survivors can find themselves in, the infection is absolutely terrifying, there’s no shortage of Body Horror, and the actual story, especially in the Sacrifice comic and campaign, really emphasizes just how nightmarish the entire situation really is.
  • How We Got Here: The tie-in comic for The Sacrifice begins with Bill severely wounded and surrounded by three Tanks. Just as said Tanks charge at him, the comic cuts to one week earlier and eventually reveals how Bill ended up in his situation after he and the other Survivors were taken into military custody at the end of Blood Harvest.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Though a common trope in zombie media, it's totally subverted here. Not even the United States military can hold off the infected, let alone individual bad guys.
    • One writer of graffiti in a safehouse thinks this. Every note below it is berating them (except one, whose author merely remarks "I miss the internet").
    • The survivors only have one encounter with an outright hostile survivor in the church in Death Toll, and he's rather easily dealt with (the large horde of zombies he summons with the church's bell to "test" whether they're immune notwithstanding); even then, by the time the survivors deal with him he's turned. Other survivors such as Whitaker or Virgil are nothing but helpful to the group.
  • Idle Animation: The infected alternate between leaning on the wall, sitting in despair, barfing up their guts (literally) and killing one another. The survivors alternate between stretching, wiping their faces, or rubbing their noses.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...:
    • The game has a music track for being close to dying while incapacitated explicitly called I Am So Cold.
    • Some unused dialogue in the first game which would have been used in a cutscene immediately after completing the "No Mercy" campaign implies that the helicopter pilot had been infected before he picked them up, and was about to make the transformation mid-flight. The pilot then uses the "I'm cold" line. It was cut it from the game because the developers decided to cut any indications that the campaigns were actually linked (until "Crash Course" readded that link, at least between "No Mercy" and "Death Toll"), since the survivors getting rescued only for it to go wrong every time felt like punishing the players for completing the campaign.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Every Special Infected can attack you whilst on fire. Hunters will actually do more damage while aflame, and in campaign tanks become noticeably faster.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The characters and achievements are quite fond of these.
  • In Memoriam:invoked Played with to humorous effect: players who do not live through a campaign's finale have the "credits" dedicated to them.
  • The Immune: The main reason why the survivors have survived all the shit hurled at them is that they're immune. Radio dialogue in Left 4 Dead 2's last campaign and then the comic for "The Sacrifice" make it clear that they're not just immune, but asymptomatic carriers of the virus, which means they infect anyone they come in contact with who isn't immune.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: With PAYDAY: The Heist, no less.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: An area is usually only clear of zombies after something big has happened... Or is about to happen.
    • Louis explains this well in the comic:
    Zombies are like... piranhas. They ain't too choosy about who they attack, you know? [...] Point bein', you jump into a lake fulla piranhas and you ain't gettin' attacked? Means there's a shark around.
  • Jerkass:
    • Francis is often belligerent towards Louis and Bill, who insult him back. It's really just friendly ribbing among friends.
    • The Survivors think of Crazy Church Guy as one, and for good reason considering the fact that he purposely rang the church bell and summoned a horde of zombies to attack the survivors to "test" them.
  • Last Stand: Survival mode.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Done in the Sacrifice comic with Zoey and her dad.
    Wade: Remember those zombie movies I used to sneak you into when you were a kid, Zoey? ... Remember the part in all of 'em where they had to shoot the one guy before he turned?
    Zoey: Heh. *sniff* Yeah. We always made fun of that part ...BANG
    • The campaign itself has a bit of this, too - Bill's plan for escaping the infection is to boat to a secluded island, as he says "As far as we know, zombies can't swim." They really can't.
  • Leitmotif: Every Special Infected gets two of their own tunes, one that plays when they spawn, and another that plays while they're attacking a Survivor.
  • Left for Dead: A regular occurrence in the rush for the rescue vehicle. With an incoming Tank that must not enter the rescue vehicle, this choice must be made often.
  • Lighthouse Point: The setting of the "Last Stand" campaign of Survival mode. The Last Stand update finally came out for the sequel over 10 years after Left 4 Dead 2 was released.
  • Made of Incendium: The Infected can be lit up from somewhat understandable sources, such as Molotov cocktails. However it's most obvious when the zombies toast themselves doing relatively not-deadly things such as vaulting over burning barrels or stepping on smoldering coals. Said things, at their worst, would inflict minor burning and welting. The playable "Special Infected" can be set ablaze by small sources as well, and will actively burn for up to an entire minute (depending on HP) before suddenly dropping dead; rendered to a charred heap. Strangely, incendiary ammo will only last for a few seconds before being put out.
  • Made of Plasticine: It's not uncommon for the basic infected to be graphically dismembered by a shotgun blast, a few stray bullets, or being bashed with a rifle butt.
  • Madness Mantra: The Church guy; "Better safe than sorry."
  • Magic Pants: The Tank's grown too big for a shirt, but his pants are practically undamaged.
  • Message Board: Safe room graffiti really acts like this, although people who leave the safe room usually don't return. Ever.
  • Militaries Are Useless: In the comic The Sacrifice, the soldiers are quite bad at fighting zombies. If three civilians and a Vietnam veteran can kill hundreds of infected with hand-made weapons in the worst possible places (airport, hospital, church), do you think that trained soldiers in a base with twenty feet high walls, barbed wires, artillery, choke points and choppers can do the same? Of course they can't, they're soldiers.
  • Monster Closet: While the closets are not hidden, several contain absolutely nothing except respawned survivors. However, sometimes a Horde may spawn in it.
    • Also, some walls are fragile and allow zombies to burst through them.
    • Since the AI Director chooses which closets are used, exploring players will find empty dead ends that could have been monster closets.
    • Hordes of 30 zombies spawning out of a closet is pretty much one of the main game mechanics.
    • At least in the spirit of this trope, though, as you play Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2, you will encounter plenty of zombie configurations that will make you stop and ask, "How the hell did this happen? How did these guys get here? Why did they stay?"
    • It can also lead to unintentional hilarity when a witch spawns in a closet. Open door, toss in molotov, close door, wait for the screaming to stop. Repeat as needed.
    • As the Versus game mode is Player Versus Player, it isn't unheard-of for particularly sneaky or particularly evil Special Infected players to take advantage of small, ignored closets by sitting and waiting until Survivors pass by...or coming up behind them from what they thought was a safe zone.
  • Multiple Reference Pun: The "Cr0wned" achievement, earned by headshotting a Witch with a shotgun, makes three references at once — the crown, or the top of your head (and the injuring thereof); "0wning" an opponent; and crones, or witches.
  • Musical Spoiler: Musical warning is given for when a horde appears, a tank appears, or when a witch is nearby. It also plays softly whenever any special infected are nearby, making those who know each one's theme music able to know one's nearby even without hearing them or seeing them.
  • Near Victory Fanfare: "Skin of our Teeth", a fast-paced, intense tune that plays when the rescue vehicle arrives.
  • The Nicknamer: Francis has a tendency to call his team by pet names on occasion, such as calling Louis "Louie." He'll also call the Hunter cowardly names like "little wussy" and "sweatshirt-wearing sissy."
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The game pretty much shuffles the Horde's character models at random.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Parodied, every campaign's credits ends with "X zombies were harmed in the making of this film."
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Usable vehicles are always fuel-powered, no exceptions. And they never have any fuel in them, either. Even then, though, all vehicles couldn't make it far enough unless it's a sailboat as the zombies can't swim.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Zigzagged; while explosions from grenade launchers, pipe bombs, propane/oxygen tanks and barrels will deal lethal damage to any infected within range, they'll hurt survivors for maybe 5-10 damage at most, even on Expert.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Played straight and averted. The survivors call them zombies, but subtitles consistently refer to them as "infected" regardless of the dialogue. The military is fine using the term "walking dead", which would be abbreviated as "WD" and then transliterated as "Whiskey Deltas".
  • Oh, Crap!: The usual reaction the player characters have when a Tank appears.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome/The Last Dance: Bill's death, fighting three tanks. Only seen in the comic, though it can be played out to some extent in the Sacrifice campaign.
  • The Power of Friendship: Literally. Nothing will get you killed faster than leaving your fellow survivors behind and trying to Rambo your way through the next level alone.
  • Real Is Brown: Used for how a zombie would see the world. Players taking the role of the zombies in VS mode will see the world completely brown.
  • Riddle for the Ages: While the Green Flu's effects are very well shown, how the virus came to be and how the infection started is left a mystery.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Church Guy's safe room.
    • A couple of safe houses are covered in bizarre ramblings, which other survivors mock or show horror at.
  • Running Gag:
    • Francis' berating of Zoey for shooting a zombified pilot, which continues when Ellis in 2 berate Nick for doing the same.
      Francis: Here they come! Zoey, just pretend they're all helicopter pilots!
      Zoey: Zombie, Francis! He. Was. A. ZOMBIE!
    • Francis' cover story and mistaking zombies for vampires.
      Don't worry, we're cops!
    • Francis hates everything. Seriously. Current count: Vans, Trainyards, Hospitals, the woods, Lawyers, Doctors, Ayn Rand, tunnels, stairs, elevators, planes, mazes, barns, helicopters, turnpikes, cops, water, Canada, Canadians, Zombies, Infected, His Traveling companions, islands, etc.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Francis, when he is attacked by a Hunter or when downed.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Several of the campaign posters.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: A touch in the opening cutscene for the first game. Makes sense, considering Versus Mode.
    • The screen will also shake if a Tank is closing in on you.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: Oh, Valve, you sly dog:
    Zoey: I love Steam.
    Francis: Oh yeah. I love steam. I just hate the pipes.
  • Sinister Subway: The second level of "No Mercy" goes through a subway. It is filled with zombies, caved-in tunnels, crashed train cars, dead bodies and signs that it was being used by refugees.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Due to the genetic nature of immunity, men have a 3:1 chance of being immune compared to women, which is why there is only one girl in both sets of survivors. Assuming humanity survives this Infection, expect Gender Rarity Value to come into play.
    • Averted in the Japanese arcade port. There are two guys (Yusuke and Blake) and two girls (Hirose and Sara).
  • Standalone Episode: All of the campaigns in the first game start with the discovery of an evacuation point and end with the survivors successfully escaping. The developers originally planned to have the campaigns lead in to one another, after the survivors escape but have their escape method fail somehow, but then found that it was too depressing to succeed only to learn how that you'd ultimately failed. Averted in the second game, where the campaigns lead directly into each other. In addition, Crash Course ties together No Mercy and Death Toll, and The Sacrifice comic confirms that all the campaigns from the first game are tied to one another (and, of course, tie into... well, The Sacrifice and The Passing.)
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: In Death Toll, you must lower the sewer bridge to get across, causing an alarm and a horde, and you must lower the forklift, causing it to noisily smash some glass and attract a horde. And in the ported version of Dead Air, you must walk through the metal detector in the penultimate stage, setting it off and triggering, you guessed it, a horde.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The Green Flu doesn't kill all its victims, so this applies to all the Infected that didn't actually die.
  • Terrified of Germs: Averted, the survivors don't mind being covered in zombie guts. Or fishing pills out of urinals.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Bill's reaction in the intro movie after a car alarm goes off.
    This is gonna get bad.
  • Token Minority: Louis in the first game.
  • Typhoid Mary: All of the playable survivors are asymptomatic carriers for the virus.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Implied. The military takes Bill and Zoey — an old man and a young woman — out of the cell (rather than Louis and Francis) to be examined by the doctor. The doctor's bodyguard pokes them with his gun one too many times.
  • Unimpressive Progress Reveal: In the intro, the survivors fight their way through a horde of bloodthirsty Infected (including the deadly Special Infected) and just barely escape with their lives. The following Wham Line hammers home just how desperate their situation is:
    Louis: We made it... I can't believe we made it!
    Bill: Son, we just crossed the street. Let's not throw a party until we're out of the city.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The military and government in general is full of them. They imprison survivors (actually carriers) without providing information to them about what happened, execute crowds of panicked civilians and bomb entire cities regardless of whether or not there are still survivors in them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The loose ends of the people that rescued the L4D1 survivors are tied up in the Sacrifice comic, they all turn or can't stand the survivors.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Although not in the game itself, Word of God has stated that Left 4 Dead's survivors do make it to the Florida Keys via boat as they planned after the end of The Sacrifice. Thanks to Valve's track record on making third installments, they probably won't be giving us any further explanation on what happens to any of the survivors for a very, very long time.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: At one point in "The Sacrifice", the survivors' path is blocked by a boxcar with a Tank in it, and someone has to open it up. Needless to say, no one's particularly thrilled at the prospect.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Left. 4. Dead. No explanation should be necessary.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Duh. Two weeks after the initial outbreak and the game is pretty nonchalant about it.
  • Zombie Gait: How individual Infected walk until they see you or hear a car alarm and then they run fast, in hoards no less.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: Boomers. And their puke attracts more zombies!

    Meta (Community/Developer/Supplemental Material) Tropes 
  • All There in the Manual: The opening movie does a superb job explaining how to not die.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Specifically Architectural Engineering; some of the maps feature buildings with impractical or outright impossible layouts for normal use. The offices in Death Toll's Riverside (the ones immediately before the street crescendo event) have no interior doors in them. The players enter and exit through a balcony on either side, so how would the office workers normally enter?
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • The obligatory scoped weapon is named the "Hunting Rifle". In Pennsylvania, where the first game takes place, hunting with a semi-auto is illegal.
    • Likely intentional in part 3 of the The Sacrifice comic, given Francis' characterization: in the flashback to his first encounter with the infected, he recounts why he's supposed to be going to prison to his bar buddies, getting his current girlfriend's name wrong and claiming he'll have plenty of time to learn her name during conjugal visits. One of his friends tells him that Pennsylvania doesn't do conjugal visits, to which Francis grumbles that the next time he impersonates a cop, they should remind him to do so in Ohio. Ohio also doesn't do conjugal visits.
  • Bag of Spilling: The intro cinematic shows all the survivors using guns that they don't start with. But during that intro, they either drop them, run out of ammo, or are disarmed, and so when the game opens they're just toting pistols. Additionally, this happens at the opening of each campaign as well. Can't carry everything.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: In the Sacrifice comic, one of the soldiers who loses his mask is immediately abandoned by his group, and begins to turn, but when the survivors encounter him, he's still capable of using his gun. He appears when no zombies are attacking, just after Louis made his analogy about "If the piranhas aren't biting, it means there's a shark around". However, this sergeant is not the "shark" - Bill knocks him to the ground easily. The "shark" is the tank that knocks the guy's head off as it runs after the survivors.
  • Character Filibuster: The Crash Course campaign features a safe room with a wall covered in a massive Purple Prose poem... and equally-classy replies to it such as "QQ" and "Cool story, bro!"
  • Darker and Edgier: The Sacrifice comic zigzags between this and more snarks per mile than the games.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: After being downed and revived twice, you see the entire world in black and white, complete with blurry peripheral vision and red item highlights. If you're not healed, you will die if you're downed a third time. The developers included this because playtesters were frustrated when inexperienced players were repeatedly going down and delaying the group.
  • Downer Ending: For one player, The Sacrifice. For the other three it's a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Easter Egg: Found among the apartments in No Mercy is "The Orange Box" cereal. The train station in the same campaign also has ads for "Orange Box Juice".
  • Edge Gravity: If your character steps off a ledge that would result in a fatal fall, he or she will automatically dangle off the ledge, holding on with their hands for dear life for as long as they can until a teammate helps them. It's mechanically identical to getting downed normally, other than that (barring any zombies managing to hit them while they're hanging) they'll still have as much health as they had before once you help them up.
  • Exploding Barrels: In The Sacrifice campaign.
  • Griefer: Being a team-based game, it is extremely easy to grief other players. Even if the griefer gets kicked, they can just join a new game and do it again to others. This also results in Heel–Face Turn because you never know who will be the first to shoot you dead when it is time to escape.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Mostly applies to newbies who keep making common mistakes, such as running ahead of everyone (which usually gets them killed and are too far away to be saved in time), angering a Witch without having the right gun for it (only shotguns can kill her instantly with a well placed shot connecting all pellets, and even then, only a headshot will work on higher difficulty levels), or flinging Molotovs like a hot potato and setting other players on fire from it.
    • Oh, there's more. See the trope page itself for the huge list.
  • Let's Play: Both games have one on the Something Awful forums; the one for the first game is here.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The title.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: Alexandria Neonakis' adorable cartoony designs for the Special Infected, which appear on the licensed Christmas cards, previous Valve Store site headers, and even spawned a series of plushies that make the various Infected's signature noises when squeezed. So far, they've released Boomer, Hunter, and Tank, although a prototype of a Jockey hat is floating around online somewhere.
  • The Millstone: They show up a lot more than in most online games (or maybe the focus on teamwork just makes them a lot more obvious).
  • Mythology Gag: Bill, during early development, shared his last name with Half-Life's Barney Calhoun.
  • Only Six Faces: Played straight.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Of the infected, easily-enraged sort much like in 28 Days Later and various types of Elite Zombies. Notably, most Infected attack Survivors by rabidly pummeling them into a pulp like an angry mob, which is pretty fitting considering the Green Flu works as a Hate Plague.
  • Poor Communication Kills: This will literally be your game ender online if you or the rest of your team fail to talk or at least call for help if being pinned by the infected, especially in Realism and Realism Versus modes where you can't spot each other with glows anymore. Lots of games have been lost due to people simply not speaking up.
  • Pun-Based Title: You play as four survivors, who are left for dead.
  • Rage Quit: Consult the VG Cats guide.
  • Serious Business: Handfuls of people take the game very seriously and will scream at you or call a vote to get you booted if you do anything they don't like (not the Too Dumb to Live type player mind you). More noticeable in VS mode where people will yell at you for not saving them from the infected quick enough and/or yell at you if you don't do enough damage to survivors or just plain outright miss your attacks. note 
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: As it turns out, the Survivors are Carriers of the infection, not directly affected by the disease as they fight to safety, only to infect those around them, rendering it All for Nothing.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: The game is level 0 (Non-Linear Installments) without DLC. Each level is completely stand alone as far as the game leads you to believe. With the release of the DLC, it jumps to level 3 (Subtle Continuity) as we find out that the survivors ended up transitioning from one area to the next. Originally, there were supposed to be story bits connecting the campaigns, but playtesters apparently found it disheartening to learn that the survivors' efforts just kept failing.
  • Super Power Lottery: As far as zombies go, the Tank and Witch have won this.
  • The Virus: If you're... unlucky enough, you turn into a constantly crying, always-guilty Witch, an exploding fatass, get Gene Simmons' tongue, become a flying Parkour expert, or turn into the Hulk.
  • Visual Pun: The boxart is a zombie's left hand holding up four fingers, with the thumb ripped off. Same thing in the game's intro.
    • In the trailer for The Sacrifice, a common infected who gets hit by a car falls to the ground and only its hand is visible on the camera. Its thumb is missing, and its hand twitches so to appear to be holding up the number two briefly; making reference to the box art for the second game.
  • Wham Line: For many an Infected team, seeing "You will become the Tank - Get ready to attack the survivors"note  means that shit is about to get real, as a Tank's actions (and the Survivors' response to it) can singlehandedly make or break a Versus round.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Zoey's dad in the supplemental comic. He and Zoey loved watching zombie movies, so when he gets bitten, he's well aware of the Zombie Infectee trope and has her kill him before he turns. Turns out Zoey carried a genetic immunity to the disease, and her mom didn't, so he was actually immune and died for nothing.

    Gameplay Tropes 
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you don't aim wisely, you'll find yourself running out of ammo very fast even on the lower difficulties. Luckily for you, the ammunition dumps are infinite if somewhat rare, and you get up to two trusty pistols with infinite ammo that work nicely against pretty much everything except witches and tanks. Furthermore, on sub-Expert difficulties, the Director designs the drops so that you always get what you need to take down whatever he's about to throw at you, giving Genre Savvy players an advance warning for the horde that's about to come.
    • During Versus mode, it is impossible for all four players on the Infected team to get 'pinning' Special Infected (Smokers and Hunters). This is so that a well-coordinated team can't instantly incapacitate every survivor at once.
    • Friendly Fire will not apply if your shot also hit an Infected. This means you don't need to worry about being too precise when it comes to killing Special Infected that have a Survivor pinned, for example.
    • Objects punted by a Tank will eventually despawn, so Survivors will never be blocked from progressing.
    • The Survivor AI is incapable of inflicting friendly-fire on other survivors. Their bullets will go right through each other and the worst that happens is flinching.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The Special Infected are quite smart and are very wary of the presence of the players. Hunters and Boomers will always try to hide around corners or behind thick shrubs so that they can ambush the players. The two may also tag team players if a player is caught by a Smoker. Smokers will attempt to run away if their attack fails and Hunters will escape by repeatedly jumping away if they are shot at from a distance. Tanks can try to avoid fire the player makes, assuming the player sets the fire off too early. While they can be quite stupid at times, it doesn't happen too often.
    • Hunter and Smokers will occasionally retreat if spotted, and try to get to places that the survivors can't reach easily before attacking.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Although not too horrible, the Survivor AI has many infamous quirks. This is a great reason to play the game with actual people.
      • Their healing priorities are all out of wack; they will use pills when at under 60 health despite the pills being capable of providing 50 units of temporary health, essentially wasting 10 units of health.
      • They will treat health gained from pain pills as half as much as permanent health. This almost always results in wasted health kits.
      • Bots are hopeless with the Hunting Rifle; as soon as an enemy gets in their personal space they will immediately switch to the less powerful pistols.
    • Boomers sometimes hide behind street lights & most zombies sometimes swerve away from their target at the last second to try to break through a door that isn't in the way. They'll also run through fire to get to you.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: A first aid kit takes five seconds to apply onto a Survivor. This is pretty much about how long it'll take for someone to open up a first aid and get out what they need from it at a minimum, let alone diagnosing and actually applying the first aid. Pain pills are used almost instantly which means somehow the Survivors are able to empty into their mouth and swallow about a bottle's worth of pills in that duration.
  • Aura Vision: Used to find teammates as Survivors and used by Infected to find Survivors health and location.
  • Back Stab: Shoving an idle common from behind is a One-Hit Kill.
  • Bad Boss: The Director in Versus mode. Between showering the survivors with first aid kits and often not bothering to send a horde after a boomer attack, it clearly hates the Infected players even more than the Survivors.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Played straight, to Your Head Asplode levels with common infected. Mercilessly averted with the Tank, which receives the same damage from headshots as being shot anywhere else.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The players must reload them, but they have endless ammunition for their sidearms and supply caches provide infinite replenishment for your main weapons.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Played straight by survivors throwing grenades, invoked with the special infected's vocalizations giving them away.
  • Chandler's Law: The Director AI pulls this quite frequently: stay in one place too long instead of advancing and you'll get a bunch of Special Infected coming at you.
    • It's also more likely to send a Zombie Horde at the Survivors at any given moment the slower they're progressing through the level. This can be something of a vicious cycle when playing on Expert.
  • Cherry Tapping: It's possible to kill even the Special Infected, except tanks and witches, just with the secondary melee attack. Just don't try it on the Boomer - knock him back once to get him away, then shoot from a safe distance.
  • Chiaroscuro: Actively exploited by the developers to guide the players, after they noticed playtesters' tendency to move toward the brightly lit areas. As stated on the page, custom maps that don't follow this idea are known for being extremely hard and it's not just because it's hard to see; by removing a core game play aspect players (who are accustomed to having light guiding where to go) are forced to try to find out what the devs intended the hard way.
  • Combat Resuscitation: Players who run out of health are incapacitated, becoming immobile but still able to use a pistol to help clear away infected while their friends help them up. However, a player can only be incapacitated twice, after which their screen will turn black and white, a Heartbeat Soundtrack will be heard, and if a first-aid kit is not used on them, their next incapacitation will result in their death. Dead players can later be revived by finding them trapped in a closet later on.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Unusual, in that the Director is supposed to be continuously tweaking the challenge of the game up and down based on how well the players are doing. However, on Expert, its moments of mercy are extremely brief.
    • This goes for the survivor bots too, as they have aimbot-like accuracy, and cannot directly cause friendly fire (being able to literally shoot through others). It works, as a half-decent human player is still more efficient overall (due to other factors like bots not being able to use grenades or any particular strategy beyond shooting things), yet a team isn't completely screwed if a player leaves mid-game.
    • Under certain conditions, survivor bots will grab items through walls. Players can't, though in "Death Toll" there is at least one stairway you can revive downed teammates through.
    • Any special infected (other than witches or tanks) can slash you with their claws if you manage to shove them. No "attacking while staggering" animation or anything, blood literally just pulls itself out of your chest.
    • In co-op and other modes where the special infected are AI-controlled, the specials can spawn inside the safe room at the end of the level, leading to fun times. In versus, where the specials are human-controlled, you cannot spawn in the ending safe room, but you can spawn outside of the safe room and go inside, if the door is open. Playing as a Boomer, you can buy the rest of your teammates time to respawn and make one last attempt at the Survivors.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The cemetery leading up to the busted-up church at the end of the third level on Death Toll.
  • Critical Existence Failure:
    • Averted by the survivors, who have multiple states of impairment depending on their Hit Points.
      • When at or above 40 HP, your character performs normally.
      • When at 39 HP or lower, your character has a movement speed and jump-height reduction.
      • If you are reduced to 0 HP, your character is "down" — lying on the ground, defending themselves with a pistol — and requires a Combat Resuscitation (see above). A newly-incapacitated character has 300 HP and loses them at a rate of 3 per second.
      • Once "picked up" from a downed state, the character is granted a temporary buffer of 30 HP that drains over time, until the character is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, at which point movement speed is reduced further, the same as a healthy Survivor's walk speed.
      • If a character has been picked up twice, the screen goes black-and-white with a Heartbeat Soundtrack, as covered above, and if they go down again without using a health kit, then they're dead.
    • Justified by the Infected, who obviously no longer have a self-preservation instinct and are extremely aggressive, causing them to come at you with all they've got no matter what happens to them, until one of you is dead.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: They're called Tanks for a reason. Four Survivors starting a level have a group total of 400 HP. On Normal difficulty, the Tank has 4,000. It goes up to 8k in expert.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Dying does not mean you are forever gone from the game. You will just respawn in a closet or come back in the next map. Versus mode prevents you from coming back until the next map and dying during a finale on any mode gets you Killed Off for Real.
  • Death Is Cheap: You can be rescued from a closet in campaign mode or just simply respawn in the saferoom in the next chapter. Averted if you die during a finale, where there are no respawns unless everyone dies and you're forced to restart it.
  • Death or Glory Attack: Cr0wning the Witch, which generally consists of going up to the Witch and shooting her at point-blank range with a shotgun. Succeed, and it's a One-Hit Kill, removing a major threat from your path; fail, and you've put yourself at point-blank range of a pissed-off Witch.
  • Equipment Upgrade: The pistol, which everyone starts with, can be "upgraded" to Guns Akimbo by picking up a second one.
  • Everyone Chasing You: The horde.
  • Exploding Barrels: Gas cans, propane tanks, oxygen tanks, and actual barrels in the Sacrifice campaign.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Versus mode, infected team. While a player can run through the campaign mode to build up their survivor skills before going in, infected players have to learn it all on the fly for their randomly assigned characters.
  • Fetch Quest: Going through waves of infected for some gas.
  • Friendly Fire Proof:
    • Downplayed with the survivors on the easier difficulties. They can get shot, how ever it barely hurts them. You can fire a sub-machine gun at them and still have to reload a few times before they're incapacitated.
    • Played straight as an Anti-Frustration Feature when a survivor has been grabbed by a special infected, meaning that the zombies can't use you as a human shield.
    • In Versus Mode, the special infected can hurt each other, and can instantly kill the common infected. The Tank can do enough damage to kill even the special infected in one hit, so his habit of accidentally killing teammates can be quite frustrating if he's AI-controlled.
    • Very much averted on Expert mode, where one shotgun blast can down a survivor in one hit, and the other weapons aren't much safer to be around. The grenade launcher, in particular, can cause an instant team wipe in the hands of an inexperienced player or Griefer.
  • Game Lobby: The game has lobbies players can set up. While the Quick Match option lets players join in at any game, lobbies give people more controlled settings such as what campaign to play in, difficulty, and server type. However, despite the game's popularity, most people will leave a lobby if they see only one or two people inside, because only the lobby leader can start the game and if they are away from the keyboard, it can't start.
  • Gang Up on the Human: When playing solo, the special infected seem to favor targeting you over the other survivors.
  • Genre Savvy: Zoey spent her time in college watching zombie horror movies, so she knew how to survive.
    • Ironically, ties into Zoey's background: she watched zombie movies with her dad a lot. When he was bit, he had her kill him, as per zombie movie tropes. Turns out... he was immune.
    • Zigzagged with the military in the Comic. The guards outside Louis and Francis do not fall for Francis' attempt at making them come to the cell and get overpowered. They do however make the mistake of thinking one man with a gun is capable of controlling Zoey and Bill.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted:
    Guard: You're trying to get me angry so we'll come in there, and you can over power us and escape, aren't you?
    Francis: What? No. Okay, fine, yes.
  • Goomba Stomp: Jumping on a common infected's head is instantly fatal. Doesn't apply to special infected.
    • Physically being on top of a zombie counts as a stomp, thus an instant kill, which leads to a hilarious moment where you can literally walk over a zombie lying on the ground and kill it from just stepping on it.
    • If you're on a raised position and zombies are climbing up to you, you can drop down and string two or three Goomba Stomps in a row.
    • Standing on top of a ladder which zombies are trying to get up will cause them to get stuck at the top. Jumping will then instantly kill all of them.
  • Gravity Barrier: keeps you away from a zombie breeding ground and to keep you moving along to your safe house.
  • Griefer: Per G.I.F.T, you're guaranteed to come across them in public matches.
    • Playing as the infected is basically griefing the survivors as the goal of the game. The griefers are getting their kicks from the game itself most of the time!
  • Guide Dang It!: Medkits restore 80% of the damage you've taken—if you're at 90 Hit Points it will give you 8, and if you're at 1 it will give you 80. As such, there are times when using them is seriously inefficient. The place this is spelled out in the game is nowhere.
  • Harder Than Hard: Expert mode is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Only experts can expect to survive.
  • Hands-Free Handlamp: Zig-zagged. The guns have flashlights attached to them, but that doesn't stop you from still having a light, perfectly centered on the screen at that, when wielding non-gun items like medkits and grenades.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Every single type of Infected has their own distinct sound/musical cues to warn you of their arrival, including a few who will switch from low growls to all-out screams or roars as soon as it has one of the Survivors in its line of sight.
  • He's Just Hiding: Invoked. Whenever one of the survivors die, they're found later trapped in locked closets (or respawn in the next saferoom). It was meant to reflect how survivors get rescued in zombie films.
    • Averted in the final chapter of each campaign after the rescue vehicle has been summoned. Dying means you get Killed Off for Real.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: This is usually the best way to deal with the Tank, by setting it on fire with a molotov and/or pumping it full of lead while evading it. Just make sure that you're healthy enough that you can run fast, and that there's room to run.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Hitboxes for hunters move in front of them when they pounce, which makes them extraordinarily difficult to knock out of the air with even the slightest bit of lag.
  • Hold the Line: Occurs in all crescendos and finales as well as survival mode.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Meta example. The best players exhibit this, being aware of all the directions from which infected could attack and keeping their eyes (and ears) open for incoming specials. Players that turn on subtitles can get alerts for specials before they actually see or hear them. In comparison, the AI bots (as mentioned above) are Lazy Backup with a horrific case of Selective Obliviousness.
  • Interface Screw: Your vision becomes monochrome with red outlines for items if you're incapped twice without using a medkit.
    • Getting hit with Boomer bile turns your screen green and blurry. Not a good thing when that same bile acts as zombie bait.
  • Invisible Wall: Only the Infected in Versus mode will run into them, and if you get close enough they stop being invisible... instead they become labeled "wrong way!"
  • It Can Think: The Director is actually a rather well working AI system. Depending on the difficulty, it will decide when to place more zombies to hinder your efforts. On Expert difficulty, it just wants you dead and doesn't pull any punches.
  • Kaizo Trap: The end of "The Church" in Death Toll. However, this is rarely ever a problem since you can fire before the infected can hope to attack.
  • Killer Game Master: The AI director. Particularly on Expert mode, when he stops even pretending he doesn't hate your guts.
  • Limited Loadout: You can carry one primary weapon from a selection of five, a handgun with unlimited ammo that can be paired up, one thrown explosive (either a pipe bomb or a Molotov,) one bottle of pills, and one medkit at a time.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Depending on where enemies spawn and what types they are, along with what items you find, you can either have a smooth sailing game or a nightmare of just trying to survive.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: The Tank does this to some zombies in the intro movie.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: The Witch is a small girl with relatively thin limbs (apart from the vicious claws)... limbs with which she can knock you down/kill you outright faster than any other Infected. Including the muscle-mountain Tank. Justified, at least in part, by those claws and perhaps by what could be argued as an overactive metabolism - she's clawed most of her own clothes off, can't stand the light of day, and is drawn to the smell of sugar. The Tank's bulk is more weight that his muscles have to overcome (though you don't want to get in the way of his fist once it's moving, and even less in the path of a car he's just flung at you - that can incap the entire team in one swipe), whereas the Witch's constant supercharge and lack of excess weight means she can swing those claws with deceptive range and vicious speed.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: AI-controlled Survivors occasionally get stuck in the environment, so they simply teleport to the nearest survivors position. AI-controlled infected can spawn anywhere, melee while stumbling, climb things player-controlled infected cannot, and AI-controlled hunters even have a lunge move players cannot perform.
  • Never Split the Party: The game is built on this trope. Get separated or lose track of your teammates and You Are Already Dead.
    • Occasionally averted in Expert and Versus matches when one survivor staying in the safe room with the door closed can be the difference between success or failure.
    • There are also a few jarring situations in which you have passed a Point of No Return and cannot go back and help your teammates. This just reinforces the original lesson, since you are forced to soldier on short-handed.
  • Nerf: The shove motion has been nerfed in a patch with the addition of fatigue: do it too many times and there starts being a delay before you can do it again. This punishes the fact that you can get completely surrounded and need to shove your way out.
    • The reason for the nerf was that players used to pick a corner or doorway, have a couple teammates in front who would spam the shove, and two behind them that would open fire. If a Smoker tried to pull a Survivor out of the formation, the Survivor would be quickly shoved, keeping them from getting too far. A Hunter would have no way of attacking without quickly getting shoved and shot. A Boomer would have the best chance of causing some damage, but if the Survivors picked the right spot, the Boomer wouldn't be able to get close. This type of tactic motivated Valve to both nerf the shove and create Special Infected that would break up highly coordinated Survivors in the sequel, namely, the Spitter and the Charger.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: A lot of the graffiti is this. It gets shot down by both the cast and other graffiti.
  • No FEMA Response: Though CEDA tries to respond to the "Green Flu" in the sequel, there's no hint of them, much less their response, in the first game.
  • Non Standard Game Over: As The Sacrifice requires somebody to sacrifice themselves to restart the generator at the end, if you reach that point with only one Survivor left (or the other Survivors die before managing to turn the generator back on), the game will inform you that it is impossible to win and restart the level.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Hearing a sobbing Witch, knowing she's close and you have to be careful, or you'll startle her. She'll screech and try to rip you apart - and sometimes you just don't find her...
    • Forget Witches, sometimes you hear a special infected or its musical cue long before you see it or you know it's around the corner but don't want to be the guinea pig. The worse still, is when the Tank music starts playing but takes its time finding you so players are left frantically trying to spot it whilst trying to stick together or rethink their plans.
  • Notice This: Witches inexplicably cast a red light in darker areas where you would otherwise have a hard time noticing them.
  • Play as a Boss: The Versus mode allows the players to play as the Special Infected. If one player is lucky enough, they can spawn in as the powerful, fast, and durable Tank to wreak havoc on the survivors.
  • Player Elimination: Players who die are no longer able to participate in the game and must instead spectate their teammates playing. Players can respawn at rescue closets in Campaign mode, and all players respawn after a level ends in Campaign and Versus mode, but in Survival mode, no mechanism exists for a player to respawn, so if you die, you're out until the next game.
  • Press X to Die: The developers left in a suicide command for players who had gotten themselves stuck. The problem was, when players were Boomers, that command caused them to explode instantly, preventing the Survivors from stun-locking them with the melee shove. This was quickly patched out.
    • You can intentionally trip car alarms to call a swarm of Infected upon yourself.
    • It is still possible to trigger suicide as an Infected. However, now this is only possible if the Survivors are really, really far away. It's mainly done so you can catch up.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Headshots on witches remain effective but lack the gruesome aftermath, even if you One-Hit Kill her with a shotgun. Same goes for every Special Infected, and Commons if you're using the pistols or the Uzi.
  • Procedural Generation: The Director determines on the fly spawns for zombies and items, as well as changing the music to fit the situation and mood.
  • Regenerating Health: Inverted. Pills and getting picked up from incapacitation add or give you a temporary buffer of health to your HP (you get 30 when picked up and using pills adds 50 to your current health), which disappears as time goes on.
  • Respawning Enemies: You can surely expect to see all infected more than once.
  • Scripted Event: Generally subverted, but there are a few played straight such as an airliner crash.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge:In-Universe. Several have achievements for them. No examples, please.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: In-Universe.The Sacrifice is much harder than other campaigns in spite of being shorter.
  • Socialization Bonus: The AI bots don't have the necessary perception to leave a partner untreated when temporary health is a better option, they can't use any kind of grenades, and they frequently interrupt your shooting by giving you pills or adrenaline at the most inopportune times. They aren't completely incompetent, being able to shoot very accurately and very rarely getting lost, but they're vastly inferior even to somewhat inexperienced human players. Some custom maps aren't even designed to be bot friendly, meaning you need to have a friend or two to have a shot at completing them.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Major gameplay-changing events (horde attacks and tanks or witches being startled) change the music. Special infected spawning are accompanied by their unique theme (except in Versus) and their vocalizations give them away.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, mounted machine guns, sniper rifles, and some improvised "grenades."
  • Take Up My Sword: If a survivor dies, another can take their weapons and items.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The Special Infected warning sounds.
  • Total Party Kill:
    • Tanks can cause this singlehandedly, especially if the Survivors are clumped together and he swats a car at them. Also can happen when a good ambush is pulled off in Versus.
    • Averted with the Witch, who is programmed specifically to only be aggressive towards one Survivor. She was originally intended to be a threat to all survivors, running after every one of them and incapping all, but the developers figured out she was too hard to deal with like this. Not that things don't go off the rails every now and then...
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Given that you're trying to survive as a team in a zombie apocalypse, you can either always have your team's back, even making sacrifices to save all of their lives...
    • Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...or you can completely ditch them and leave them at the mercy of all the ruthless zombies, taking all the weapons and health for yourself.
    • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Of course, the Director gets pissed at uncooperative play, so he'll often spawn less items and more zombies to target the cruelty-inflicting players.
  • Video Game Setpiece: Most prominently in the last stage of Dead Air, when the survivors leave the saferoom to see a plane on approach go out of control, impact the ground, and slide in on fire before exploding.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • Downing a whole pack of pain pills at once would be fatal in real life, but somehow is a good idea if you're low on health.
    • In the zombie apocalypse, you don't need to remove the cap to swallow a whole bottle of pills.
    • First-aid kits, which visibly just have bandages in them. Got shot? Use bandages. Got torn apart by zombies? Use bandages. Fell off a building? Use bandages. Got hit by a car sent flying at you by a Tank? Use bandages. Infections, blood loss, rest, fractures? Just slap some bandages on and you're good as new!
    • If you get mobbed by common infected, setting yourself on fire with molotovs will usually clear your space a lot faster than trying to shove them away. You'll suffer self inflicted friendly fire damage, but that will be small compared to trying to clear out zombies invading your space without said methods.
    • There are some cases where team killing is actually justified. If someone is about to die and there's nothing to heal with, players will usually kill the wounded survivor and then let them respawn in a closet: it brings the Survivor back with 50 points of full health, rather than the 30 points of temporary health you get from reviving them. If no one speaks of this and do the deed, they could be mistaken for a Griefer.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: If there are any bots on the team, you'll have to start the level over again if all the human players are dead, regardless of if there is a bot player alive. It becomes mind-boggling when playing against a team of bot Survivors in versus mode and they are capable of moving through the level on their own without the guidance of a human player.
    • It gets even better when you jump off the roof of No Mercy before starting the finale with only bot allies. Game over starts playing, bots start the finale, you respawn in the closet due to finale starting, bots free you, then the game restarts the chapter anyway.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Shoot one of your fellow survivors, and they'll call you out for it with scripted response.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Special Infected which are stuck or otherwise unable to catch up to the Survivors will occasionally be killed off by the Director, with the death noise often being faintly audible to human players, particularly in the case of Boomers and Smokers.
    • Tanks will fall victim to this unless they can attack the players within a given amount of time. It's rare but it does happen occasionally.
    • Infected players can manually trigger this when they are at a certain distance behind the survivors, allowing them to skip the respawn time that would happen if they jumped off a cliff instead.
  • Your Head Asplode: Shots to the head of regular zombies with more powerful weapons leave only their neck and a Pink Mist.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: During the finale to The Sacrifice, it seems the survivors are about to escape to the keys, when the generator cuts out and needs to be restarted. Someone has to get down to the generator and start it back up...and it's gonna be a one-way trip for them.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: The basic infected actually have a small number of basic models but are made to look different with various filters, like clothing and blood spatter.
  • Zerg Rush: The AI director will send these at you when a boomer vomits on you, in pre-programmed Crescendo Events where you're forced to make a ton of noise to continue moving, or if you accidentally set off a car alarm, or whenever he's bored, which is all the time. The normal infected also like to rush pipe bombs because of the smoke detector alarms rigged to them.

    Weapons Tropes 
  • Ability Depletion Penalty:
    • If the minigun overheats completely, it becomes inoperable for a long cooldown period.
    • The autoshotgun can be reloaded one shell at a time, but completely emptying the magazine means you have to "prime" the weapon again after reloading.
  • A.K.A.-47: Done subtly: although most of the guns are not named, zooming in on the gun models reveal they are made by fictional companies (example, the pistols in this game are made by "Finleyville Armory").
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The HMG and Gatling, which can shred oncoming hordes like no other, do not provide sufficient cover and with the limited heat capacity, can often be a liability than assistance,
  • Bottomless Magazines: Pistols have infinite ammunition. This is for gameplay reasons; they don't do as much damage as regular guns, and they're the only weapons you can use while incapacitated. The creators also didn't want to ever leave you totally defenseless if you run out of ammo, either.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Bill can be seen doing this with a molotov cocktail in the trailer for "The Sacrifice".
  • Gatling Good: You get the odd mounted minigun here and there. It's set up so that the gunner will have to be covered by the other Survivors, though, and it's pretty effective at pulling tanks away. Unfortunately this HMG overheats, so be careful of what you wish for.
  • Guns Akimbo: All characters can find and dual wield a second pistol for extra ammunition in the magazines.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The pipe bomb is one, but with good reason - its red light and high-pitched beeping make the standard infected flock to it, making it less a question of where to throw them and more a question of when.
  • Kill It with Fire: Molotov cocktails and gas cans. Very effective against all kinds of Infected; Common Infected die instantly when set on fire, while Special Infected - including Tanks and Witches - will eventually burn to death. Note, however, that being on fire doesn't stop Specials from attacking, and the Hunter will in fact deal more damage while on fire, while the tank will move faster. Of course, the tank will have a hard time getting the fire off itself.
  • Molotov Cocktail: Lovely, lovely, molotov cocktails...
  • One Bullet Clips: Applies to every weapon. Around release, however, there was a common misconception that this was averted by mag-fed weapons (read: everything but the shotguns) losing any ammo left in the current magazine when they were reloaded.note 
  • Pink Mist: Pipe bombs produce this effect in the original game, rather than gibs. This was due to the performance issues of having 20 or so commons turn to gibs at once.
  • Ranged Emergency Weapon: Pistols.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Averted. The shotguns are a viable weapon choice, even in open areas.
  • Sticks to the Back: Every primary weapon, melee weapon and medkit slot item, but not pistols (they get holsters), pill slot items, and grenades.

The survivors have escaped!
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