Greetings and Salutations, Blog Readers!
I write often about zombies, zombie culture, and zombie video games, and I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t you try and write about what is one of your favorite games?”
And then I realized that wasn’t a bad idea at all, so here I am, discussing the video game, Left 4 Dead.
I couldn’t tell you when I first played Left 4 Dead, but I know I played it pretty soon after it was released, quickly falling in love with the game. When Left 4 Dead 2 came out I was just as excited and happy, and quickly lost myself for hours, submersed in the zombie world.
When I left college, I didn’t play video games with friends, for a good long while, with the exception of WoW, and that informs more than it needs to.
But I wanted to play again, so when I was looking at spending a valentines day weekend alone, after having just received a bonus at work, I went to game stop and bought an Xbox, Left 4 Dead 1 & 2, a headset, a gift-card for a friends birthday, and settled in for a nice weekend, and a nice weekend I had!
I fell back in love with the game exploring it in offline mode by myself, online with asshole dude bros, offline again, trying to teach my sister how to play…(she was very bad at it.) But no matter how hard it got to find a good group in the co-op friendly game, I loved in.
When Bret and I got to play together, years later, it was even better than it had ever been because I had someone to play with who wasn’t as bad as my sister.
He could be better, sure, but he isn’t bad.
So, why do I love this game so much? Why will I always drop money for a new console if it means playing this game series?
Well, for so many reasons.
Replay-ability is the biggest one, in terms of longevity, I mean, they haven’t really added more content to the series outside of the original stuff in the games, but the games “director” keeps it interesting by changing up spawn points, hordes, special infected, etc. This game director also, in my opinion, scales the game based on your performance, so even if you have it set on easy mode, if you are crushing it, it may bump the intensity up a notch.
The game will change where, when, and what spawns, including guns, throw-ables, and health packs.
The game itself is multiple chapters that make up each campaign, with four characters traversing all sorts of terrain to get to a rescue point. The campaigns each have little nuances that make them fun, and, little hidden gems, like a rare spawn zombie in Dead Center, for example, keep the game fun and re-playable for years.
It’s been over a decade…And, get this…people still love it. I mean, on YouTube alone you have content creators who post this game, its play through, and even just videos on the game itself. People keep watching and taking in the new content, because I am not the only zombie obsessed nerd who loves this game…and some love it enough to film content for it, some love it enough to watch content of it.
I watch this game all the time as background noise, and it helps me be productive and get shit done.
Another reason I love this game, and i assume others do as well, is it’s never boring. Zombie fighting can get dull, over time, killing the same zombies shambling toward you etc etc.
In Left 4 Dead, the infected (because they aren’t technically zombies as much as they are infected with the Green Flu, but still) run at you, full of rage, trying to cause harm. This alone could also get boring, just a bunch of violent infected humans attacking you, and you killing them dead before they kill you. (The characters are considered Immune, or as we later find out from the comics after the game (SPOILERS) Carriers, but still, they don’t turn from bites or scratches like much of the population.) This monotony is broken, however, with lots of run special infected that keep things interesting.
In the first Left 4 Dead, we have a few fun special infected, before a couple more are added in the second one. In the first version, you had Smoker, Hunter, Boomer, Witch, and Tank. In the second, we are joined by a Jockey, a Spitter, a Charger, and a female boomer.
Eventually, when the games were ported online, both games had all special infected, but, when playing Left 4 Dead one, it is important to remember those levels weren’t designed with creatures like these new ones, and it made some levels that much more challenging…which also helped up the replay-ability.
So what did these special infected do? What makes them keep it interesting enough to play, on average, a couple hours a week after a decade?
Boomers- Fat and gross, the puke bile that attracts a horde of zombies. They also burst open when killed, covering nearby people with the bile, also triggering a horde. The boomer exploding can also send things like gas cans flying.
Smoker- Likely a smoker when alive, the smoke has a crazy long tongue, mutations from the virus in the intestines and esophagus, that shoots out and traps survivors, requiring another team made to free them by either shooting the smoker, or breaking the tongue.
Hunter- Dressed like a skater boy who dabbles in par-cor, the hunter stalks his prey, leaps on them, pins them down, requiring a team mate’s assistance, and tears the victim to shreds.
Witch- During the day she wonders, at night she sits, either way she has her face covered by her razor talon claws. If bothered, by either making noise, flashlight, or proximity, she will “trigger” and tear you to fucking shreds. Depending on difficulty, she knocks you down and kills you, or kills you instantly and takes off after the rest of the party.
Tank- Probably exactly what you expect when you think of a Zombie Tank, this giant creature takes more damage than any infected to bring down, and packs a nasty punch too. Likely created from steroid use as a human, although I like to think it was government experimentation WITH the green flu, but there is NO evidence of that, it’s just my own theory based on one of the Tanks on one of the levels. The Tank is deadly, able to hit survivors and send them flying, some times instantly killing them from throwing them off a building or into water. The Tank can also incapacitate survivors with a hard hit and survivor having low to medium health, or, by throwing a rock he can pull from the ground. Inexplicably, the Tank can ALWAYS pull a piece of rock from wherever he is standing, even if its a metal platform or a bit of fencing. The Tank can also send things like dumpsters and cars into survivors, which will also incapacitate survivors, instantly, no matter their health. Tanks also run as fast as healthy survivors, faster than injured ones, so while you can out run them, you better run fast. It is generally advised for an entire team to team up on the tank, in an open area, with room to run and maneuver around the tank. I’ve also killed him standing in tight sewer quarters. You do what you have to, I guess.
To help dispense these creatures, in the first Left 4 Dead, you are given a selection of decent weapons and two throw-able options, Molotov and pipe bomb, the former good for setting things on fire, the later for dispensing of a large horde.
In Left 4 Dead 2, and then later, when the changes were ported in, Left 4 Dead, we see some new creatures, a few new weapons, and a new throw-able.
In the new special infected, the creators looked to stop people (like me) from “camping” an area, or hiding out in one spot and killing everything, and it is very obvious with some of these special infected, like the Spitter.
The spitter is a female infected, who spits burning hot acid like bile at the survivors. The ground beneath your feet is then basically lava, and it deals more damage the longer it sets and the longer you sit in it. When she dies, she also ends in a puddle of the bile, like the boomer when he explodes, and that puddle also deals damage to survivors.
The male boomer from the first game is joined by his girlfriend, the female boomer, who does everything as her male counterpart does, with a slightly higher pitched “boomer” sound.
Fun fact, every time I say “okay boomer” I do not mean age. I mean these things. Big messy gross zombies that seek to bring more zombies to me.
We also saw a new special infected, the Jockey, who helped prevent people from camping areas. The jockey is the smallest of the special infected, and he leaps onto heads, forcing the character to walk around blindly, possibly into fire, off a ledge, or into bile. The jockey can also drag survivors further from the group, or just cause general chaos. This special infected, like the smoker and hunter, requires a team mate to save you from their grasp.
The last special infected Left 4 Dead 2 brought us was the Charger, who many claim is the cousin to the Tank. Half of his body looks like the tank does, massive muscular arm meant for bashing you into the ground. The Charger “charges” literally, he will charge like a bull, hitting a survivor (unless you duck) and then pummels them into the ground, requiring, you guessed it, a teammate to help you. The teammate also, it should be noted, can’t just “shove” the charger off of you, like you can with the Smoker, Jockey, and Hunter.
These special infected were joined by a new class of weapon, finally, we had melee weapons, frying pans, axe, bat, police baton…and…a magnum pistol that packs 8 massive shots, like a shotgun in a handgun configuration.
The weapons also increased, I don’t recall which ones were new to the second one, but we got some more regular weapons as well, and, to go with the new infected types and weaponry, a new throw-able. This one was a bile jar, which was developed by scientists to be able to get the horde to attack each-other, or at least be drawn to something, not humans. The scientists made the bile not “adhere” to the humans, so tossing a boomer bile would boomer yourself, but it would boomer the regular zombies, making them fight each-other, and giving you a chance to run away and or kill the horde.
In addition to this, we got a new style of “trigger” event. In the past, when you had to “trigger” something, it was always along the lines of hit a buttun, fight the horde until it’s done, move forward, but with the second game, some levels had crescendo events that required additional action, like turning a generator back on, or turning an alarm off.
We also had scavenger finales, like with Dead Center, which requires gassing up a vehicle before leaving, versus summoning for some mysterious third party to come fetch the team.
A lot, right? Plus you have several campaigns, most average about an hour of game play if you take your time or play in versus mode, and then a few smaller campaigns like Crash Course, for if you just want a quick game.
This, coupled with “mutations” in game play, like “Taaaaaank” mode (basically being chased by tons of Tanks) or “Bleed out” help keep the game fresh too. Tired of a level or a game play, just try another mutation, and if that isn’t enough, you can always play on player made maps, which frankly, can be insane, and fucking awesome.
All of this, all contribute to the replay-ability of this game, which is easily my biggest reasoning for loving this game.
Of course, the special infected also help keep the game unique, special, and a stand alone separate special zombie game, and that also helps.
The characters are compelling, I wish only for more games and for the two groups to merge.
The game gives you so many options to play, without even going into the online mode where you can play as the infected. I love this game, and when I started this blog I thought I could explain it shortly how much I love it….and now I know I will likely do another blog all about why I love the Left 4 Dead franchise.
Be sure to check it out, and subscribe/follow the blog if you like Zombie stuff… because if you like zombies, you are going to probably really enjoy things around here.
Thanks for Reading.