Release date 20 Nov 2008
Update: GAME NOW COMING TO PS3 AS WELL.
|You might not think about team-based online multiplayer going hand-in-hand with "survival horror" games--games like the Resident Evil series that give you only limited resources while pitting you against legions of horrible monsters, often in cramped confines. After all, classic survival horror games are usually single-player experiences because they're about your character being all alone in a hostile, zombie-filled world. But Turtle Rock Studios, a developer with credits that include Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and the Xbox version of Counter-Strike, is doing just that with Left 4 Dead. This new team-based game for the PC and Xbox 360 pits small teams of humans against "the infected," which are hordes of ordinary people transformed into mindless killing machines by a mysterious virus that has spread throughout the game's various environments. We sat down with Turtle Rock's Michael Booth to get the first details.
GameSpot: What exactly is Left 4 Dead? We understand that it has survival horror elements, but what else is there to the game? How would you describe it?
Michael Booth: Left 4 Dead is a cooperative survivor horror game where four survivors must work together to escape a city teeming with an overwhelming number of the infected. If you work together, you have a chance. If you run off on your own, you will die.
GS: What's the setting? Is it contemporary America, in the vein of something like Dead Rising? Or is this a postapocalyptic future we're talking about? What sort of environments will we see?
MB: Left 4 Dead is set contemporary America. Although we've pushed the fiction a bit for the sake of gameplay (such as including the "boss infected"), the basic idea of a catastrophic pandemic and the collapse of civilization makes for great survival horror because it is quite plausible. We wanted our environments to remind you of home--but a horribly changed and tortured version of home.
The initial four campaigns of Left 4 Dead include both urban areas and rural areas, with lots of dense architecture and challenging landscapes. Each campaign also ends with an elaborate "finale" where the survivors must make a stand while waiting for a rescue vehicle to arrive and take them to apparent safety.
GS: Who's who in the game? Who are the main characters, what are they trying to do, and what exactly are the infected?
MB: The four survivors include Bill, a Vietnam veteran with combat skills that have helped keep him alive; Louis, an assistant manager at a local retail electronics chain store; Zoey, the teenage daughter of a wealthy family; and Francis, who is big, loud, and rough, but always has your back.
Left 4 Dead will pit a small team of humans against rampaging killing machines.
Imagine that you live in a major city during a time when a new and highly virulent strain of the rabies virus emerges and begins spreading rapidly among the human population. Those infected become dangerously psychotic and attack all noninfected on sight. You are one of the lucky few who seem to be immune to the virus, but are trapped in a city teeming with thousands of extremely violent infected. Banding together with a few other survivors, you try to escape.
GS: It seems safe to say that Left 4 Dead is a class-based game, considering Turtle Rock's previous work on Counter-Strike: Source, and judging from the early graphic showing the four heroes, each carrying a different type of weapon. What are the classes in the game, and how do they complement one another?
MB: From the survivor standpoint, Left 4 Dead is a cooperative game in which success is based upon the skills of each member and the team's ability to work together as a unit. As such, the four survivors have the same weaponry available to them and begin with the same skills.
On the infected side, however, the characters available to human players (the boomer, smoker, hunter, and tank) have very specific skills.
Shoot It in the Head!
GS: It sounds like infected characters play quite a bit differently from the humans. Will you be able to shoot guns, as well?
While survivors will use guns, the infected will have to rely on their other abilities to win.
MB: The experience of playing an infected is entirely different than that of being a survivor. The four "boss infected" classes have very unique abilities based on their particular virus-induced...mutations.
For example, the boomer can vomit blood on his victim, which attracts hordes of infected to this victim. The smoker, meanwhile, has a 50-foot tongue that can pull a survivor out of position or even leave them hanging.
But the infected cannot use items or fire weapons, and will die quickly if they blindly charge at the well-armed survivor group. That said, the infected are legion in number and when one dies, they spawn right back into the fray after a short time. The infected just keep coming.
As such, playing as an infected tends to be more of a "hide and seek" kind of thing. You want to position yourself to attack at the worst possible time for the survivors, lurking and stalking for a bit until you make your move. That is, unless you are the tank. Then you charge right in and cause massive chaos and mayhem--tossing cars into the air, smashing through concrete walls, that sort of thing.
GS: Is there going to be some kind of story, or is the game mainly a series of multiplayer battles, like Counter-Strike? We understand the game will also ship with four campaigns, each containing five maps. Is each campaign basically a chapter, or a collection of maps that share a same theme?
MB: The campaigns are a connected and evolving set of maps. Like CS, the design goal is to create interesting areas that will allow for extended replay value. Unlike CS, the maps in each campaign are connected and lead to an eventual finale that the survivors are challenged to reach and complete. And along the way, player stats are collected and displayed at given intervals.
The only "story" elements in the game are the differing goals of each campaign, which are all of the "survive-and-escape" variety.
This is an intentional design decision. We've kept the overall goal of the game simple, because the moment-to-moment gameplay is often hectic and mentally demanding. Trying to stay with your team, keep everyone alive, and keep moving toward the next checkpoint is often enough to keep track of.
GS: Multiplayer cooperative gameplay is a big feature of Left 4 Dead, but will you be able to play by yourself in some kind of single-player game? If so, in that case is it just your character solo, or will other members of your team be controlled by artificial intelligence?
MB: Left 4 Dead is built upon Turtle Rock Studios' next-generation AI technology. This lets us create a scalable game experience whether you play alone with AI-controlled survivors and infected, or online with and against human players.
GS: Could you go into detail about the multiplayer modes? It sounds like there's going to be cooperative gameplay against the AI, but also competitive gameplay, with one team playing as the humans and the other team playing as the infected.
MB: The game is designed to allow human players to drop in and out without adversely affecting the experience or requiring the scenario to restart. We have also taken steps to maintain the survivor's game experience even with the presence of human-controlled infected. Although the infected can "win" by killing all of the survivors before they reach the finale and escape, it doesn't feel like a traditional competitive game--it still feels very cooperative from the survivor side.
GS: What sort of weapons will be in the game? Are we talking about modern-day equipment mixed in with a few futuristic prototypes? And can we expect any kind of vehicular combat?
The game is scheduled for release on both the PC and the Xbox 360.
MB: For the initial release of Left 4 Dead, the game's arsenal consists of weaponry that you would be able to scavenge during such a catastrophe: handguns, hunting rifles, shotguns, even some homemade weaponry like pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails.
We are planning to continue to create and release new content for the game via Steam, much as we have done for the Counter-Strike franchise. Over time, we expect the inventory of items in Left 4 Dead to continue to grow.
GS: Finally, a PC version is scheduled for the first half of 2007, with an Xbox 360 version scheduled that winter. Can we expect both versions to be identical? And will the two versions be playable against one another?
MB: Left 4 Dead was explicitly designed as an online cooperative survivor horror experience. I've been quite impressed with the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live interface. Our game will be a perfect fit for it.
Allowing the PC and Xbox 360 versions of Left 4 Dead to play together is something we're still investigating.
GS: Fair enough. Thanks, Michael.
|Previews: Left 4 Dead Hands-on with Left 4 Dead.
By Kathleen Sanders 04/20/2007
VIDEO: Click on the image above to check out Left 4 Dead on The 1UP Show.
"Reloading!" A biker clad in typical black leather spits through a mustache and beard, seconds later slamming a clip into an assault rifle. It's quiet, now. It wasn't just moments ago. Did someone check the room we just came from? Why is he standing near the window? Didn't he play Resident Evil? In the seconds he spent reloading, he could've been made into a meal by the not-so-shambling undead. Their corpses litter the room we're in. In Valve's Left 4 Dead, the only way you survive them is by sticking together.
It doesn't matter what you call them: The Infected, The Living Dead, Walking Corpses, The Undead, The Reanimated, Zacks, Zs, Zombies. And it certainly doesn't matter where they come from, be it Voodoo rituals, curses, science gone awry, the dark underbelly of an evil corporation or, in Left 4 Dead's case, a highly infectious mutation of the Rabies virus. No matter how you name them, they all get brought down the same way -- with bullets...and we're getting short on those.
"I'm low on ammo," the biker growls. How low? We just cleared a checkpoint a couple of rooms ago. Or was that on a completely different floor? How long has it been since then? "My auto-shotty is empty and all I have left is this pistol." A pistol against the writhing undead? This is going to end poorly. Just minutes ago, he'd emptied the shotgun into the belly of a "Tank."
No, not the M1-Abrams kind -- an auto shotgun wouldn't have dented that. This Tank is a grotesque, hulking creature that greeted our four-person party by chucking a fire hydrant at my head and then followed it up with a sedan. The destruction continued until the Tank was ripped apart by a barrage of bullet fire while blood, bile, and sewage dripped around us.
Beside the biker, a rough Green Beret chews on a cigar. Our fourth "party" member -- this was no party -- we've been calling "Punk Orlando Jones." It's a name that probably has some history behind it, but no one's really interested in hearing it right now. The catch is, while only one of the two guys in our foursome is actually being played -- the other is an A.I. teammate -- we won't find out which one is the "bot" until after the match; the A.I. in Left 4 Dead is that good.
SCREENS: [Click the image above to check out all Left 4 Dead screens.]
Co-op is vital in L4D, just like in Epic's Gears of War, but the way the drama unfolds is entirely different. In Gears of War, during the campaign's branching moments, you and your partners separate -- if one dies, you all fail. In L4D when one of your team members goes down, the round doesn't end; it just gets that much harder. The Tank we brought to its knees earlier would've stomped, eaten and torn us apart if we were anything other than four-people strong.
A room later, a Smoker -- one of the boss-level Infected (zombies) in L4D -- wraps its tongue up the biker's face and drags him towards certain doom. Two bursts from my assault rifle blow the Smoker off of my teammate. When the round ends, I've netted a "Savior" medal for my actions.
But it isn't over yet. Here in this safe room -- with the only doors in the game the Infected can't eventually breakdown -- we refuel, take deep breaths, and ready ourselves to head back out there.
We're heading up, because it is our only way out. We've got to blast our way through this hospital and that's not the place you want to be when trying to avoid The Infected. Somewhere on the roof of the building we know there is a radio that we can use to call a helicopter to take us out of this nightmare. Did we make it to the roof? Did the helicopter come? Tune in to this week's episode of The 1UP Show to see the rest of the story.
|Previews: Left 4 Dead We play Valve's zombie apocalypse. New impressions of the PC and Xbox 360 co-op shooter.
By Scott Sharkey 05/13/2008
Target: Left 4 Dead
Background: I love you, zombies. You're such a convenient metaphor for the dead uniformity of modern life. Even better, you're a guilt-free pile of stupid for us to shoot in the head without pangs of conscience. But most of all, you're an unnatural disaster that forces a disparate mess of strangers into a struggle for survival, laying bare all of their simple human failings and causing us to question just what it is that makes us human in the first place. Bonus points if you can work in a little "in fighting monsters we became monsters ourselves" crap.
Yeah, that's pretty much the whole slew of zombie-movie tropes. It's funny that pretty much every game that's ever been packed full of zombies misses damn near all of them, other than the obvious "something ugly to shoot at" bit. The single most interesting aspect of a good zombie flick is just what the situation brings out in a group of human beings, and other than the disastrously crappy Resident Evil: Outbreak, games have completely ignored that social aspect. That's the experience I'm hoping to catch with my first hands-on time with the PC version of Valve's co-op shooter Left 4 Dead. I want to jump into a desperate situation with a gang of strangers, and in the course of that trial, learn which of my companions is a reckless hothead, who's a coward, who will watch my back, and who will panic and shoot his buddies when he's nervous.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Left 4 Dead screens.
It seems like every other Half-Life mod is some kind of zombie-survival deal. It only makes sense that Valve would get on the stick and finally make the game everyone seems to want so much.
What We Played: This was my first time playing the co-op survivor game that 1UP has previewed before (another mode allows you to play as the zombie Infected, but Valve wasn't showing that here) -- but a press event is never the best environment to be playing with something like this. Noise and distractions overpower the speakers (there are no headsets), and a PR person stands over my shoulder, helpfully trying to tell me where to go when I wander off exploring and begging me to stop throwing Molotov cocktails all over the place. On the upside, the setting offers the chance to observe a lot of strangers going into the thing without any preconceptions.
Good to Go: Friendly fire hurts on a curve. The PR guy over my shoulder kept yelling, "That's your teammate -- friendly fire is on! Stop shooting your teammate!" I was hoping to see some kind of reprisal, which never came (whoever was playing the chick who got shot in the face a bunch: You're a sissy), but I couldn't help but notice that a shotgun blast to a buddy's face hurt a lot when he was at full health, not so much when he was at half health, and less than a sliver when he was almost dead. And it didn't damage people at all when they were lying on the ground or being mauled by zombies -- seems like a clever compromise. Watching your fire and not pissing off your teammates adds a lot, especially when they're going to be pulling a zombie off your back and patching you up a few minutes later. Putting friendly damage on an inverse curve is a great way of preserving that while minimizing the chance of a lone idiot insta-gibbing the whole squad with a badly tossed pipe bomb. Yeah, it seemed worth trying.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Left 4 Dead screens.
Good to Go: You can learn a lot just watching the movement of people at an event like this, and one thing I couldn't help but notice was that while every other game's station was shut down or left alone in the drunken lateness of the hour, Left 4 Dead retained the largest clot of observers -- and eventually, the only clot. Everyone liked this thing. They were crowding it after the bar closed -- and that says a lot.
Warning Sign: Left 4 Dead has one notably absent feature: allies turning on you as zombies. It's a common element of damn near every film and amateur zombie mod, and it just doesn't happen here. There's a mode where opposing players can take control of zombies, but your friends don't change sides after dying. I can understand how that would cause a whole microsociological clusterf***, and balancing a thing like that properly would be a nightmare and a half -- but it's still startling that the mode doesn't exist. Warm Afterglow: I was looking forward to Left 4 Dead before -- but after this, I'm actually counting the days. The absence of zombified buddies getting back up and eating your face is a very minor letdown considering everything else -- especially given that Left 4 Dead's assets will be part of Valve's Source SDK, meaning that pretty much any variant you could want will show up as a mod not too long after release. As well as a slew of Garry's Mod screenshots of the characters in sexually suggestive poses.
|Previews: Left 4 Dead We go on a zombie-hunting spree.
By Thierry Nguyen 06/23/2008
While Left 4 Dead is known as "the co-op zombie invasion game," what you might not know is that it's essentially the inverse of Team Fortress 2. Well, Valve employee Chet Faliszek elaborates, "In [Team Fortress 2] you can pretty much do whatever you want, and people might not notice; you can even win that way. You could be on the blue team as the Soldier running around randomly shooting things or the Spy hiding off somewhere, [and wait for blue to win], with no one the wiser. Left 4 Dead doesn't work that way; you are always on stage. If you screw up, everyone knows you did."
Such is the unrelenting nature of Left 4 Dead's co-op gameplay. The objective is simple: Four players simply survive and escape. Each scenario (it has four) is composed of five acts: The first four, where the survivors must navigate their way to each act's safehouse, and the finale, which can best be summarized by Predator-era Arnold Schwarzenegger screaming "Get to dah choppah!" start with players grabbing weapons and health and end when the safehouse door is closed and secured. Faliszek says that when playing the campaign mode, the first scenario (the one seen/played most often in press demonstrations) is about escaping the hospital via helicopter. This leads to a transition where the helicopter crashes and the survivors are placed in an outdoor scenario (most likely the hilly farmland area that's been seen but not played). Then the campaign transitions back to an interior scenario before concluding outdoors.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Left 4 Dead screens.
For this play session, Valve showed off the latest version of the initial scenario, which culminates in the hospital finale, and it has some new graphical touches (more on those in a bit). Here's a refresher: You start the game by either choosing a shotgun or an Uzi, but at a distinct point in every scenario, the whole team has a chance to replace the beginner arsenal with more powerful weapons. In the previous times that I've played the act, I've opted for the tier-two upgrades to either the shotgun (turning it into an autoshotgun) or the Uzi (turning it into an assault rifle). This time, I opted to use the tier-two weapon I had previously neglected: the hunting rifle. Valve employee Mike Booth says, "The hunting rifle is all about penetration. The bullet will not stop until it hits a hard wall. That's great for moments such as shooting down a hall full of Infected, as the bullet will puncture through each one in a line." While I didn't get to take down an Infected conga line with a single bullet, I did see how some walls were also vulnerable to bullet penetration. It seems that metal walls will stop the bullet, but it'll go through wood and plaster just fine; I managed to pop some Infected that I spotted in another room by aiming slightly past the doorframe and shooting through the wall instead. While the scope isn't that useful in tight hallways (unless you're in a long corridor), in the hospital scenario, the scope helps a lot during a panicked run on the floor that's still under construction and lacks walls, and it will probably be great outdoors.
The new feature we saw this time around is the overall art polish. The HUD seems the same, but notifications (such as friendly fire warnings and revivals) are now more prominent. Visual effects such as film grain, shifts in color palette, and blood spatter have been added to give more of that "relentless zombie movie" vibe to the game. The combination of blur filters plus the black-and-white tint when you're knocked down (your health has been drained, and you're down on the ground, pistols blazing, until another player rescues you) adds a nice measure of visceral impact. This leads to the new help icons. Basically, when you're still a newbie, you'll notice these big, obvious icons that point out things like "Bash this Infected!" or "Heal your friend!" or "Grab more ammo!" Both Faliszek and Booth point out that Half-Life is all about the solitary player seeing the environment and figuring out things for themselves -- which is precisely what Left 4 Dead is not about. To help players get up to speed, these icons are designed to spell out objectives and gameplay behaviors in a clear and immediate fashion. Of course, as you progress and get better, you won't be forced to put up with "Help your buddy!" icons popping up every few seconds. We're hoping that these icons help newbies get into a cooperative mindset fast, or we'll side with Faliszek in his prediction of a flood of YouTube videos highlighting particularly boneheaded mistakes.
|Previews: Left 4 Dead Hands-on with Valve's zombie killing co-op game.
By Jeff Green 07/16/2008
You're reading an E3 2008 preview, which we've broken into three sections to make it easy to sift through during this week of convention madness. Check out E3.1UP.COM for all (meaning words, screens, and videos) of our E3 2008 coverage.
What's the game about? Really fast-moving flesh-eating zombies are trying to kill you. You are trying to kill them first. Valve's followup to last year's monumental Orange Box, Left 4 Dead is a fast-paced co-op shooter for up to four players, in which your goal is simply to run, gun, and survive your way through one nightmarish scenario after another in a zombie-infested urban wasteland.
What's new for E3? It's getting real close now. Recent art passes have added tons of grit and blood and detail to the levels, making it probably the darkest game Valve has done yet - which is what we want in a zombie apocalypse game. The levels we played showed off the zombies' fairly frightening A.I. (and the fact that they won't always spawn in the same places when you repeat levels), as well as the idiot-proof, bone-simple methods for staying with and working with your party. New "safe zones", complete with ammo dumps and health packs, allow for mid-level breaks in the action -- a chance for everyone to regroup, take stock, and prepare for the next invasion. We also got a glimpse or two of a new zombie boss, The Witch, who remains dormant as long as you don't disturb her (by, say, barging into a room blasting your guns at other zombies), but when awakened will hunt you down and do bad things to you.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Left 4 Dead screens.
What our take? Yeah, it's the new Valve game. When your batting average is 1.00, nobody doubts your skills. And our playtests have only confirmed this. The zombie setting is scary as hell (hooray for fast zombies!), and the co-op gameplay, with small, great touches like the ability to pull zombies off your friends, is both easy to get into and ripe for longer-term mastery. Like Portal, Left 4 Dead originally had a much lower profile in Valve's arsenal of games (when the Half-Life franchise is in your portfolio, it's hard to compete), but now that it's nearing release, Left 4 Dead is taking center stage, and is more than holding its own there. Look for it to dominate the multiplayer shooter scene when released this fall.
|Left 4 Dead Infecting PS3s After All?
Magazine blurb says Valve's zombie rampage will hit Sony's hardware.
By Kris Pigna, 08/03/2008
Gabe Newell, it is no secret, is not a fan of the PlayStation 3. But according to the latest issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine (via Kotaku), it seems his company hasn't given up on it yet: "Valve's survival horror game Left 4 Dead is coming to PS3, but EA will be taking on development duties in-house," says a small blurb in the issue.
No other details were given beyond that, so there's no saying whether the PS3 port will arrive alongside the PC (pictured) and Xbox 360 versions of Left 4 Dead when they're released on November 4. Electronic Arts, of course, handled the PS3 port of The Orange Box, which was not without its problems -- frame-drops and lengthy loading times hampered the game, despite the fact that it was released months after the PC and Xbox 360 versions. Let's just hope the PS3 version of Left 4 Dead benefits from their learned experience on the hardware.