December 4th, 2008

I have a confession to make: I’m too scared to play my review copy of Left4Dead. I’m bad at shooters to begin with, plus I’m a total wimp with zombie movies. Yup, I’m the person hiding under the covers, blankets up over her eyes so she doesn’t have to see the monster jump out and eat its victim. This, needless to say, poses some problems for playing zombie games. With previous big releases, like the Resident Evil series, I’ve been able to brave my way through by switching off with my fiancĂ© Scott, who can occasionally take the reins so I can observe and analyze — i.e. hide during the scary parts. Instead of focusing on the gameplay, which I wasn’t always playing, I could focus on the characters, on the aesthetics, on the story.

That approach doesn’t work for Left4Dead though. There’s essentially no character development, and definitely no clear storyline. What’s left for me to analyze? Pretty much just the friends I’m watching play it. And seeing them fight off swarms and swarms of zombies, I got to wondering: once you’re facing thousands of flesh-eating opponents, once it’s about the numbers and not the individual spooky faces, are they even scary anymore? Couldn’t they just as easily be thousands of man-sized bunnies you had to shoot in the face?

The report from my Left4Dead playing buddies: yes and no. You might not think about every zombie you kill, but you when one jumps out at you, you definitely remember you’re dealing with the living dead. How about you, readers who are less chicken than I am? What’s your experience with the game been like?

Tags: new games, survival horror games

5 Responses to “‘Left4Dead’: analysis from under the covers”

  1. Eric Says:

    By and large, Left 4 Dead is not a horror game. There’s very little about it that I would call “scary”, and the vast majority of the time, you’re not actually frightened while playing it. It’s an action game – and a damned good one – first, a horror game a distant second.

    That said, it does have its creepy moments. When you hear the witch moaning around the corner, you switch your flashlight off as quickly as you can hit the “F” key. And when you’re getting towards the end of a campaign and have almost no health left and hear the music cue for yet another hoard descending on you, there is a definite sense of dread. The audio in the game is tremendously well done.

    But no, most of the time, it isn’t scary. You really ought to boot it up, Bonnie. It’s a brilliant game, and we’ll protect you.

    Unless you’re the only one left outside the Safe House when the tank shows up. In that case… well, it is called Left For dead.

  2. some guy Says:

    I agree with Eric, it isn’t scary at all. You can see the living dead approaching from a ways off usually, and only if you’re playing the game online with someone else as the undead waiting to jump out at you would it be somewhat startling.

    Now that I think about it…

    Maybe you should try a new perspective? See if it’s as scary to you when you’re playing as one of the zombies trying to eat the human players? You’ll be able to sense them a mile away, and it’s up to you to scare them. You might be able to play it that way.

  3. Chris Says:

    If you think of it as such, Left 4 Dead could be a game about conquering your fears. When you first play, it’s all “OH SHIT” and “JESUS CHRIST” as zombies swarm you. But after a few times playing along side friends you learn to handle it. The zombies become not so scary or overwhelming anymore. Jinny and I have been playing it together pretty much non stop and not only has her skills in first person shooters improved, we’ve started to become immune to the zombie scariness.

  4. Jinny Says:

    Shit, Chris beat me to commenting on this post (what a jerk! :P). I love zombies and horror movies and wish I could watch them more regularly, but they really frighten me. I wasn’t able to sleep in the dark for a few days after I watched 28 Days Later. This, however, didn’t stop me from playing Left 4 Dead because I love Valve games almost as much as I love Blizzard games. As Chris mentioned above, the zombies don’t scare me so much anymore. What startles me every once in a while is that the zombies are coming for you from the ceiling when you’re looking down and pointing your gun at the gaping hole in the floor. Also, the fact that I can play a shooter on a console with a controller AND get better at it? Awesome. I’m going to attempt playing through Half-Life 1 and 2 now. While it’s my preference to play shooters on a PC, I can credit Left 4 Dead with helping me get better at playing them on a console and make me feel differently about games with first-person controls.

  5. Tim Says:

    It’s the most fun I’ve ever had multiplayer. If you do play it, don’t bother with the single player it’s the same game but with stupider companions.

    The great thing about playing a zombie movie in coop with humans, is they make human errors. Like running off and being annoying. The choices are, run back and save them when they get jumped. Or keep going with a smaller group.

    So many moments..
    I don’t usually get that into multiplayer games. This one is great. The primary interesting mechanic of l4d is the way it forces you to be completely dependent on your companions.

    It is scary at times. More of an adrenaline pumping.. oh fuck another wave when we least needed it! scary.
    One of the best moments I had in this game is when a team were being slowly massacred, we’d dragged our bloody selves nearly towards the safe room, we lost 2 of the 4. Just as we were getting there, the biggest mob yet swarmed in, I tried to hold them off while the last survivor made it to the door. The best timing ever… he just managed to get in the door, I was backing up when I was leaped on over the mob by a ‘hunter’ zombie and pinned down, the mob started tearing me apart. As the zombies tried to pour in through the door, all the last survivor could do was slam the door on my screams. Sigh.. such a good game.

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