L4D Demo Impressions

The Left 4 Dead demo kicked off today for pre-order customers and I’ve put in a lot of playtime already.  I’m not going to write any long-winded review for you guys, but I will give you my quick impressions and let you know if the game is worth buying based on what I’ve seen thus far.

Graphics & Performance – Let’s get this one out of the way
Fantastic! The game runs at amazing FPS with zero slowdown. The graphics, which include a lot of lighting and cinema effects, are perfect for the game and leave nothing to be desired. The environmental details and the attention that went into creating the levels (or at least the one we get to play in the demo) is top notch.

Gameplay – Pure win
The basic gameplay in L4D is a rush of adrenaline and excitement. Every second of play feels fresh and exhilarating. The premise of the game is cooperative play and, for the first time in a first-person shooter, I feel like I have to work with the people I’m playing with in order to survive. Probably the biggest contributor to this feeling is the AI Director – a little piece of design that scales the difficulty and experience of the game depending on how well (or horrible) you’re doing. If you’ve been following the game at all then you don’t need me to go into much more detail. The important thing here is that the AI director functions exactly as promised and delivers a unique zombie survival experience every time. The levels may be laid out exactly the same each play through, but the minute-to-minute happenings are all different and the feel of the levels change as the AI director makes different parts of the map feel more dangerous than others. It’s very, very well done.

We’ve had a blast shooting zombies all day! The level is really well designed and begins with the survivors on the rooftop; as seen at the end of the introduction video. The goal of this level is to work your way through an apartment complex to the street level where you’ll find the first “safe room”. This acts as a check point or the end of the first part of the map. From there it leads you into a subway system… or death trap as it should be referred to… where you’ll eventually … Heck, I won’t spoil it for you. I’ll just say that it is very fun and I really, really, can’t wait for the full version.

Multiplayer Functionality – The game ain’t perfect!
This is one of the neatest and worst features of the game currently. L4D introduces a matchmaking feature to Steam for L4D and, in theory, the system seems great. It effortlessly lets you set up games with your friends and join, or create, a server together to play. However, in practice the system lacks polish and 9/10 leads to a laggy or disconnect game. If Valve can get this part of the game under control then the game will easily be on its way to a perfect score across the charts.

The modding community is going to have a field day with this game. I can already see the massive potential for maps and modes that will lead to months, if not years, of enjoyment.

Left 4 Dead is fun, scary, and well worth the money.

  • Hah, I was going to skip the preorder demo and wait for the full game, but I couldn’t resist. Having a blast so far even with just the two maps.

    Already noticed a small patch come through this evening which cleaned up some of the server stuff, but they still have a few fixes that I hope they make before the full game hits in two weeks.

    BTW, if anyone doesn’t like the automatic matchmaking, you can call up the usual Half-Life console and use the oldstyle server lists you may be accustomed to. The command is: openserverbrowser

    I also recommend setting a server password if you just want to play with your friends, because so far the friendslist-only option doesn’t seem to work, people may randomly connect anyway: sv_password “yourpassword”

    At first it felt a lot like Half-Life with swarms of zombies running at you, but the more I play it the more I’m appreciating the AI they’ve put into this thing, it doesn’t feel completely random. Closest game yet to grab the feel of a good zombie movie.

    Performance wise, it’s pretty good, but I think one of the biggest drawbacks will be how much more L4D uses in server resources compared to CS or TF2. I don’t think I’ll be running a dedicated server for this one, my little Linux box is a bit underpowered for it.

  • this game rocks it is everything its said to be an everything i wanted it to be can not wait to play till the 18th an then do the whole game. just sayin expert is best setting.

  • Seen the video and read some basic stuff on the game. Looks pretty cool. Can you fill in the remaining details though by giving a basic understanding of co-op play, as well as multiplayer play? For example, in co-op, how many people can be in the group (4? 6? 8+?), since it has AI to scale the encounters? With regards to multiplayer, is it still co-op (all vs AI) or is one side the zombies and the other side the humans? So in a nutshell is there just one style of play (co-op) or two (co-op & head2head)?

  • There is a lot of information on our Left 4 Dead Forum that you will find helpful.

    The basics:

    Co-op is the entire game. But, there are modes of it. There is the basic campaign mode that you can play multiplayer with a total of 4 Survivors pitted solely against the AI Director which creates a unique experience every time you play through. There is also the verses mode where on top of everything you get with the basic campaign, 4 additional players can play as zombie bosses and try ot kill you (the survivors) before you can finish the campaign (or escape, as it is referred to).

    If there are not 4 players in the game (let’s say it’s just me and Graev) then the AI takes control of the other 2 survivors. The AI Director will scale the difficulty and experience based on how goo you are at the game, etc.