Unless you’ve been (un)dead for the past year, Left 4 Dead should be nothing explosively new to you.
Valve’s zombie-shooter for PC and Xbox 360 puts you and three other survivors against horde after horde of those delightfully infected humans. And your only objective is to survive. Although Left 4 Dead was released back in November 2008, it’s obvious that the game is still freshly consuming gamer brain after gamer brain, especially after Night Zero’s L5D photo shoot. Valve has recently released the first official DLC pack, Survival Mode, this past Tuesday, April 21. Unlike most DLC packs, it was surprisingly released free of charge.
Survival Mode is unlike the Campaign and Versus modes, where you and your team must battle through legions in order to reach the level’s designated safe zone. Instead, you are placed on an enclosed area, a modified version of a campaign stage, fighting swarm after swarm of zombies as you attempt to hold out for as long as you can. Areas like the Warehouse from the Blood Harvest scenario and the Airport Terminal from Dead Air have been converted into arenas for a zombie battle royale.
So go ahead, zombie. Make my night.
There are 16 survival maps in total, 15 of which are modified versions of areas from the campaign, such as the church from Death Toll. The 16th map is brand new, made specifically for Survival Mode called Last Stand, a lighthouse arena, which is quite impressive. Aside from the Survival Mode, the DLC pack also includes Versus Mode versions of the Death Toll and Dead Air scenarios, which were previously only available in campaign mode.
One minor complaint when it comes to weapons and ammunition is the placement of the extra ammo. Your only weapons cache is found around the center of the stage, the ammo surrounded by a hunter’s rifle, an M4 carbine and an automatic shotgun. During the planning stage, it’s simple to take your time and stock up on ammo if need be. However, in the heat of combat, it is quite simple to change weapons on accident, costing you time that you don’t really have. This isn’t an issue in Campaign, where most weapons caches are usually found in safe houses where there are no zombies. It isn’t really a glaring issue and can be resolved by managing your ammunition and taking advantage of the pistol’s unlimited ammo.
Left 4 Dead is a game that is clearly intended for a multiplayer experience. While the friendly AI is definitely a competent ally in single player, more enjoyment comes out of coordinating an attack with friends. The enemy AI is no slouch either, offering relentless, unpredictable attack patterns, thanks in part to the main AI, dubbed The Director, which controls enemy and weapons spawn points based on player progress and performance. As such, the game play retains a fresh edge for each experience. In addition to regular infected humans, you have the special zombies, such as the brutish Tank, the bulbous Boomer, the passive but deadly Witch, the rabid Hunter, and the Smoker, named for the cloud of smoke it leaves behind.
Left 4 Dead definitely mixes up the survival horror genre, offering gameplay that is both pulse pounding and relentless. The new Survival Mode is definitely a welcome addition, adding to the pulse pounding nature of the game. If you’ve shelved Left 4 Dead and moved onto other things (shame on you by the way), you might want to consider resurrecting your copy and giving Survival Mode a go. It’s relentlessly brutal and bound to keep you on your toes for a while. Let’s just hope the next DLC pack (if there is one), lives up to this.