Posted by: clangwen | April 30, 2007

Giants Valve and TRS Produce Online Survival Horror for PC & 360

First off allow me to introduce myself ; I’m Chris, the newest addition to the 360insight team. I’m a PC gamer more than a 360 gamer, so expect a lot of comparitive work from me in the future. However let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Industry giant Valve has partnered up once again with Turtle Rock Studios (of Counter-Strike: Source fame) to bring PC gamers and 360 gamers Left4Dead.

Left4Dead is an action packed 4 person co-op zombie survival horror (think Resident Evil 4 with less puzzles and 4 players). The story is simplistic and, to be honest, a bit cliché but that’s to be expected; A new and highly virulent strain of the rabies virus emerges and spreads through the human population with frightening speed. The pandemic’s victims become grotesquely disfigured, wildly violent psychopaths, attacking the uninfected on sight. Playing as one of the “lucky” few apparently immune to the sickness, you are also trapped in a city crawling with thousands of the bloodthirsty infected. Together with a handful of fellow Survivors, you must fight your way to safety or die alone.

A good concept all in all for a highly co-operative game.

With the initial release the game only has one mode of play which is “Survive and Escape” which speaks for itself; the four survivors must reach an escape vehicle somewhere in the city and get out alive. A mode of play which keeps things both simple and fun. The game is designed to be played online and can support up to 8 players in one game, four of the players will be the survivors and the other four are what are being called “Boss Infected”.

Character customisation is minimal, there are four set survivor characters with unique back-stories, character models and voices. The differences are only aesthetic however and anything one player can do, the others can do too.The four protagonists of Left4Dead.

Likewise there are five set “Boss Infected” per game, three of which are player-chosen, one is randomly assigned to one of the infected players and one is AI controlled. However, unlike the survivors, the infected players each have unique abilities to make use of when tracking down and – hopefully – slaughtering the survivors. Playing as the infected claims to be very much about tactics and ambushing the other team, as an infected you’re able to see the position of the Survivors at all times which aids in making tactical movements against them, this goes for three of the infected players in a game.

I mentioned above that one player on the infected team is randomly assigned to be a Boss Infected class, this class is called the Tank and instead of taking a stealthy approach to the game you must take a more direct approach; the survivors are able to hear the Tank from miles away so you must strike at particular times.

Excited yet?

TRS is also doing a fantastic job with the AI, the players won’t be fighting through hordes of zombies from start to finish but instead the Zombies are randomly placed on the map at the start by an AI “Director”. What’s interesting with this Director is that, although TRS could have used flags and checkpoints to assist in positioning the zombies, it doesn’t; it’s smart enough to place them on the map without assistance and this aims to give each player an incredibley unique playing experience every single time.

Left4Dead is shaping up to be an innovative, unique game from TRS and Valve. It’s currently looking at a Q4 2007 release for Xbox360, so if I were you I’d start loading my shotgun because armageddon is-a-comin’ soon.

Chris Walter

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