News

Zombie-infested world is a great playground for mature gamers

Justin Hoeger
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
LEFT 4 DEAD - 3 ½ stars - PUBLISHER: Valve SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360, also for PC PRICE: $59.99 ($49.99 for PC) - AGE RATING: Mature

Zombies are everywhere in "Left 4 Dead," set in the aftermath of a virtually unexplained undead apocalypse.

Players control one of four survivors of the zombie apocalypse as they try to make it from each level's starting point to a safe house on the other side. It's a typical ragtag group - a college student, a nerd, a grizzled old-timer and a rough-edged outlaw. All of them have the same abilities, though: Run, jump and shoot.

The game doesn't really have a story beyond the setup. It can be played solo, but like the "Battlefield" games and "Team Fortress 2," it's much improved by the addition of a human mind or three. Oh, and please note: "Left 4 Dead" is violent, gory and gross - just like a zombie movie.

Depending on the stage, the survivors may trek through zombie-infested streets, zombie-infested woods or zombie-infested sewers - wherever they go, it will by infested with zombies.

These aren't the slow, dumb zombies of "Dawn of the Dead" or "Resident Evil." These are the fast, angry, virus-infected zombies of "28 Days Later," and they've brought along some special friends.

The Boomer is a bloated specimen whose vomit attracts hordes of the regular kind; the Hunter pounces, pins and tears at hapless survivors; the Smoker can snag a human with its extremely long tongue and drag him or her away; the Witch will only unleash her devastating attack when disturbed; and the rare Tank is just a mound of mutant muscle.

Each zombie type has a distinctive look and sound; after a few games, it's easy to know the situation just by the noises each zombie makes and they way it moves.

The weapon choices are limited: pistols, shotguns and automatics, along with occasional goodies like pipe bombs. Downed survivors can be revived by teammates, but only a couple of times. If all four survivors are taken out, it's game over.

The levels are controlled by what the game calls its "AI Director," which alters the playing field, depending on the players' performance, so no level is the same every time. It even decides where to place item pickups.

Players can team up with computer-controlled bots for the game's four campaign settings (each with five areas), play split-screen with friends or hop online. The game is fun on its own, but working with fellow live brains is better.

And better than that is the versus mode, which sets a team of survivors against an opposing foursome of player-controlled Boomers, Hunters, Smokers and Tanks. (Witches remain computer-controlled.)

This mode offers all the frantic action of the standard multiplayer mode, along with the knowledge that some of those zombies are smart. And playing as the zombies is a blast - they're individually weak but just keep on coming; they can see in the dark and spot survivors through walls; and there's a wicked thrill in snagging a straggler with a Smoker's tongue or pouncing on an unsuspecting human as a Hunter.

After each round, the situation flips, so each team gets to try a level from both sides before moving on to the next.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.