When the original Left 4 Dead came out, I wasn’t too thrilled or excited by it because it looked like a mash up of Counterstrike with zombies with a smattering of modern zombie films interspersed into the whole shebang to make it exciting. Then I downloaded the demo, and I fell in love with it. My one friend who had a zombie fetish for all things zombie and apocalyptical got the game and he beat it, loving it. He let be borrow it and for the first two or three days I loved it, then little nuances started appearing and my enthusiasm for the game faltered, then dropped dead. I had played through most of the campaigns online and with good players but the gunplay was bad, it felt as if I wasn’t truely affecting the world, and playing as the special zombies didn’t do anything to make me exicted more, it seemed as if they just kind of slipped them into it to make it last a bit longer. I know that the gaming community loved it as a whole, but I felt let down. The shoddy controls, the awkward gunplay, and some of the design choices for the levels, characters and world just seemed to me to be a bit… Generic.
I played the XBOX demo just released today and I have to say that my worries about the original game are still persistent. Now, I know that demos are for showing off a game and not a complete representation of the full title, but there are a lot of things that should have been worked on if not already fixed.
The demo takes place in the first two levels of the campaign, The Parish. It starts you off on a brightly lit dock in New Orleans, with said city off in the background. You chose what gun you want, shotgun or Mini-Uzi, and off you go. The swarms of zombies are back, along with new special zombies, but the demo seems to spawn the new ones the most. The Jockey is an enemy that climbs on your back, and the Spitter spits acid at you and leaves it on the ground to walk through. The third type is the Charger which is a mutant with a large arm that pounds you into submission. The four “classic” boss versions return and seem to be a bit weaker than their previous versions.
The original game had something that I loved about it though, it was the seriousness of the game. It took it’s self seriously with out it going to campy. The style seems to have shifted into a much more campy style for this game. The music in the load screens and menus is good, making you know your going to play a zombie game with wispy ethereal sopranos singing softly in the background to the just creepy music. But during the level and at the ends you have this strange hillbilly Rob Zombiesque music playing that is just jarring. The sound effects are decent, and when you use a new power up, the world around you changes visually and audiotoraly to where some sound effects are much more muted and others are ampliflied. I did like this feature though, it added a depth of realism to the interactions with the game world.
Speaking of interactions, the game seems to not be able to register the difference between a real object and an unreal object. I was walking through chairs, especially the white lawn chairs, but bumping into tables and other “solid” objects. The game mechanics are a bit wonky, because you still cannot aim down the sights except for the sniper rifle. In a zombie game, headshots are the most important thing you need to be able to do! Granted that body shots and removing a limb will stop them online in the campaign mode, the new realism mode (which isn’t available to try in the demo) is all about the headshots. I can understand if they want the game to be fast paced especially with the infected running around like in 28 Days later, swarming and climbing over everything, but I prefer an FPS to give the ability to aim down the sights.
Another issue with the game play is the fact that once the zombies get within 2 feet of your character, you cannot seem to hit them with your bullets, no matter where you are aiming. Once you smack them with the left trigger in the melee attack you can fire to your hearts content, hitting everyone near by, you can only then hit them with your bullets once again.
I know that the infected/zombies are attracted to sounds, but it’s a bit strange to find ten to fifteen of them standing around, staring at you once you round a corner until you fire upon them or move right next to them. If they’re zombies, I’d imagine that they’d swarm as soon as they noticed an uninfected in the area, not just act brain dead.
The gun play is awkward as I’ve said earlier, it just doesn’t feel right. The shotgun has the ability to fire into a crowd killing several zombies at a time, but it’s rare to get more than one at a time with all the varieties of the shotgun. I found that the silenced Uzi and the M16 to be the most effective gun in the demo because of the higher rate of fire. The semi auto sniper rifle was fun, because I didn’t have to aim down the sight, just point and pull the trigger at the enemies. The guns just don’t seem to pack that much of an punch, something that a lot of games are guilty of recently.
The final thing that I would like to point out is that the online 4 player campaign mode is available in the demo, but the 10 or so servers that I tried to play with were extremely laggy. I have a fairly fast internet connection speed of 10mb per second, and even while hosting on a dedicated server there was severe lag. I hope that the full game will not be this laggy seeing how the main attraction for the game is the four players online capabilities. it is possible but the demo may not be fully optimized for playing online, even with the support of dedicated servers from Valve.
Overall, the demo gives a taste of what to expect when the game is released November 17, 2009 in North America and on November 20, 2009 in Europe for the XBOX 360 and PC.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com