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"Left 4 Dead"


I paid $40 to buy it last week, and that price point has worked out to perfection:  like that hot girl you dated for three months in-between your second and third jobs who you never saw again, "Left 4 Dead" is about as perfect a casual pleasure as you can get your hands on without being considered a classic.

That's because all you do in "L4D" is shoot zombies.  And because "L4D" has tight controls, beautiful graphics and lighting effects, a simple premise produced very well, fantastic sound effects and a reload button that gets a TON of work.

Playing as one of four human survivors in a town where nearly everyone else has been zombified, you are tasked with picking up weapons and shooting at zombies while running to the end of a map designed to eventually let you escape from harm.  You've got a pistol with unlimited ammo, access to first aid kits and pills (temporary health boost), and access to shotguns, sniper rifles, machine guns and a second pistol.  Because there are so many baddies out there, you need to hang tight with the group and move like a squad from place to place.  Online support allows for three friends to play with you on dedicated servers, so lag is never a problem.

The biggest problem with the game is maybe its best asset--you really can't play it for more than about five hours without starting over again from the beginning.  There are only four maps, broken into five chapters each.  The maps take anywhere from 45-75 minutes to get through (10-15 minutes per chapter), and you have to start chapters over again if your entire team dies, which is pretty rare unless you play the top difficulty levels.  The online versus mode, where four humans take on four people who can spawn as zombies, is so bad that I played for less than five minutes last night and immediately swore to never play that mode again.

So, "L4D" is great as a "what do I do for the next hour until the football game comes on?" game.  It's loud, violent, straightforward and--like the zombies in the game--essentially brain-dead entertainment produced well.  Hopefully, a sequel will have a little more to do...but, not too much.

Rating:  $40


Feedback?  Comments?  Salma Hayek's digits?


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  Buy this game right away, and don't ask me any questions as to why that's a good move.  A game experience that will almost guarantee repeated controller abuse, lots of ManScreaming and high resale value, you will assuredly play this bad boy for months on end. 

"$40":  Usually after games have been out for a while, they drop in price slightly, or can be bought for slightly cheaper in combination with other new games.  Usually, that's about $40.  You'll feel good getting the game for this price, since it isn't quite run-out-and-get-it-right-now good, but it has enough game in the box for a few weeks' worth of enjoyment.

"eBay":  This game is not too bad, but you'd be better off buying it used from either or eBay.  You also might let a friend buy this game, let s/he beat it, and then try to buy it from them to make them feel better.  Yes, this does tend to feel like "Sloppy Seconds."

"Rental":  Like my cousin Ron, you should always rent games that you aren't sure about first, to make sure that your $50 is going towards something worthwhile.  For games in this category, this is the maximum amount of money ($5) and/or time (3-5 days) you'll need to either gain satisfaction from the game, or beat the game in its entirety.  Rental-rated games are also sometimes perfect for a weekend when you are going to be at home on your ass, with some time to kill.

"Dogshit":  Games like this should have never been released.  If you play this game for any reason, you will regret every second of the experience.  Further, if you can get this game for free, don't do it, because even for FREE, it will still be a negative experience for you!

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 03/01/09