Left 4 Dead 1/2
The Left 4 Dead franchise was developed on the Half-Life 2 engine and it’s possibly one of the best zombie apocalypse games ever created. The games are separated into scenarios and then further into chapters. Each scenario is done like a zombie movie with a poster and title appropriate to the setting. In the first game the scenarios are only loosely connected while in the second they form an overall story of escaping from Savannah, GA to New Orleans, LA.
Players take on the roll of one of four survivors, and each has a unique personality. While the game play is identical regardless of the character you pick, it’s still a lot of fun to switch between them and get a different perspective. In the second game, Ellis, a redneck with a motormouth, provides a great deal of amusement as you blast your way through zombies.
The game has a number of unique zombies to fight. There are plenty of common undead, easily killed with a few rounds. However, there are some that have special abilities, such as the boomer who pukes bile on the survivors that draw a horde of common zombies and obscures your vision, or the smoker who has a whip-like tongue and can strangle survivors from a distance. Perhaps the creepiest of all the unique zombies are the witches, crying women who can kill nearly instantly if disturbed by light or getting too close to them. The music in the game plays a part in their creepiness, becoming a ghostly wail as you approach, and this coupled with the weeping sounds can set even the most jaded gamer’s teeth on edge.
In both games there is a versus mode where players take turns as either playing survivors or zombies, with the zombie player cycling through unique zombies in an attempt to stop the survivors from reaching the safe house. The second game adds variations like scavenger where the game is more about collecting items than killing the other side. Additionally, the second game has a “mutation of the week”, a downloaded new set of rules for online/versus play.
The game’s design is very well done, and in the second game especially you can see that the developers really wanted to immerse the player in a world overrun by the dead. The Hard Rain scenario, for example, forces the survivors to scavenge diesel fuel for their escape boat, which in turn leads to a witch-infested sugar mill in the middle of a torrential rain. The stories feel complete, well thought out, and there is more than a little humor interjected in the horror of the game.
My one wish for Left 4 Dead 3 would be the ability to create my own personalized survivor and then pick a team of three to go with them, perhaps with the ability to level up certain attributes as I go (accuracy, speed, or perhaps gain the ability to hold a third weapon or extra grenade). A little bit of RPG mixed with FPS. Having the ability to make a custom avatar would also be nice, as I wouldn’t mind making essentially myself in game format.
Both games are highly recommended, and I assure anyone who buys them hours of zombie bashing fun.