Holy fucking shit. So luckily, Nerd City North H.Q. recently scored a copy of Valve’s Left 4 Dead, and it rules. As mentioned in detail in Nerd City episode 21, I am not a particularly big fan of horror movies, mainly cause I’m chicken shit. But I’ve always had a special place in my heart for zombies, and for zombie-themed horror survival games (see Resident Evil). With the recent development of running to the genre (28 Days Later, The Dawn of the Dead remake), the idea of mindless hordes of brain-thirsty monsters has taken an even scarier tone of late. Left 4 Dead perfectly captures this sense of impending doom, as players are forced to face a variety of the speedy, hungry undead.
The game’s design, like Valve’s previous masterpiece, Half Life 2, is top-notch, and the lighting, music, and environmental constructs contribute to a zombie experience like no other I’ve ever encountered: film, video game or otherwise. The A.I., both for survivors and the infected, is exceptionally well-executed and both sides look, act, and move exactly as they should. There really is nothing like standing back-to-back-to-back with your three comrades-in-arms (hence the 4 in the title) as dozens of zombies run, jump, and climb towards you, intent on eating your brains.
Specific breeds of the undead, including long-pouncing Hunters, the nigh-indestructible Tanks, and the zombie-attracting-bile-spewing Boomers, plus the reasonably simple controls and ability to manipulate your surroundings for maximum destruction, give the game a unique identity amongst two increasingly over-crowded genres (zombie-related works and the first person shooter). I literally could go on for hours about how awesome this game is (and I will), but it’s probably best you just check it out yourself. This is, without a doubt, my pick for game of the year.