Left 4 Dead RPS Review Face-Off


You’d have thought with RPS’ extensive Left 4 Dead coverage, we’d have written all pallid, unattractive men could stand to hammer about zombies tearing flesh. And normally you’d be right. But you forgot about the most potent power-up. Money. Lots of Money. And if there’s one thing that RPS is good at, it’s selling our God-given-lack-of talent for a few tiny coins to spend on crisps. Hence Alec and I have bent to the will of our evil corporate paymasters and reviewed it for them. Now, who reviewed it for IGN and who reviewed it for Eurogamer? Guess, before clicking…

Ah, well, I wrote it for Eurogamer and Alec wrote it for IGN. Perhaps obviously, as IGN have never hired me to work for them ever. Man! Anyway, this is how he starts…

The title’s all wrong. Not just because some befuddled fool is bound to wonder how they missed Left 3 Dead – the film The Madness of King George III being retitled the Madness of King George for just that reason remains one of modern cinema’s finest facepalm moments. It’s also because 4’s ultimately the wrong number. It’s not a four-player game, not really. Yes, there’s an extensive four-player co-op campaign, which offers a good eight hours of slaying zombies in their thousands. And, incidentally, we really mean thousands – your kill count will comfortably hit five figures within a week or two of regular play.

And continues in a similar vein.

Meanwhile, I start like this…

My favourite moment in Left 4 Dead? I’m playing Versus mode, and we’ve reached the apex of the Blood Harvest campaign in a desperate farmhouse siege against overwhelming odds. I’m part of the overwhelming odds, playing the corpulent blob that is the Boomer. I wobble up to a window and look inside, to see Louis firing away desperately at the horde around him. I just watch, smiling, waiting for him to turn in my direction. Only when he does, when he realises that I’m standing there, do I spray him with my zombie-attracting vomit, prompting another wave of infected to crowd in and hammer him to death.

Actually, writing about Blood Harvest reminds me of something that may be even better.

And continue like that for a good 400 words before I even start explaining what the game’s like. Ah, I’ll never learn.

Probably a good time to say publicly that I didn’t write my Eurogamer strap-line. Mine was presumably too long. But frankly, since it’s an awesome “It’s braining men” I wish I did. All credit to whoever hammered it out, presumably Tom “Tom Bramwell” Bramwell.


  1. The Hammer says:

    KG for Eurogamer, and Alec for IGN!

    Ha, now it’s gonna appear in the “Respond” box!

  2. Larington says:

    I guessed correct.
    Teh Win, as the Internets meme goes. lolol!1

  3. Nimic says:

    I really didn’t think Versus was going to be that good. I mean, I thought it was going to be excellent, but not so much that “ordinary” L4D seems like a drag. It’s just so much fun. Infected is obviously incredibly fun, but knowing that you’re fighting actual people helps immensely for the immersion you get as a Survivor. And then, even losing badly to that Tank who just ran through your team isn’t so bad. Particularly since you know you’ll get the chance to do the same to him next.

    I can’t believe that Valve managed to come up with two of the best online shooters ever in a row. TF2 and L4D are just ridiculously good games.

    It almost makes me sad. I mean, what can they possibly come up with next?

  4. Larington says:

    Aside from episode 3 and perhaps portal 2? Don’t know, but its going to be fun finding out…

    I find myself wondering if they are going to try work on a Source engine mark 2 or if they’ll continue to update it incrementally, fixing the most glaringly aged parts as they go.

    As ever, time will tell, or rather the product of people working within the endless march of time will tell.

  5. Cigol says:

    Is versus really that good? I played as a boomer and a hunter and found it mostly clunky and chaotic. It just didn’t feel ‘right’. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time to settle, but I’m enjoying the campaign mode more myself. Versus was a little to rough and tumble for me.

  6. Corion says:

    The secret to versus is that while everyone wants to play the infected now, playing the humans is a LOT more fun.

    The infected have long respawn times and die relatively quick.
    What do the humans get? A frantic co-op experience yet unmatched by any game mode of any game out there. Your heart is pounding as you RACE through the levels as fast as your slowest party member can go, knowing that every single boss zombie is an intelligent, unpredictable human on the other end of a computer whose sole mission is to end your miserable, andrenaline-overdosed life.

    Teamwork is really the key.

  7. Leeks! says:

    I really had a good time with versus the one time that I tried it, but I ended up with a bad case of co-op guilt because I felt like I wasn’t very good at playing as the infected. Is it just me, or do tanks move a lot faster when you aren’t controlling them?

  8. Radiant says:

    Left 4 Dead.
    Or rather:
    We 8 U.

  9. malkav11 says:

    Alec fails at math. He mentions six boss types, five of which can be played in versus, which was one more than I’d ever heard about, so I was all excited to find out what this sixth mysterious boss infected was. And then it turned out that Alec just got the count wrong.

  10. StormTec says:

    The only thing I don’t like about versus mode is that everyone leaves the freakin’ game if they can’t get first spawn as infected (or even worse, leave as soon as the game swaps sides). Goddamn wussies.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Stormtec: As Corion said earlier. It’s the “This is the new thing” factor. It’ll even out. The Survivors are the most fun.


  12. aiusepsi says:

    I feel like saying something almost blasphemous:

    L4D Versus mode is better than TF2.

    I played a game earlier on Blood Harvest – my first for both that and versus – and I just had one hell of a time. Playing the Infected takes some getting used to, but the rush of watching the people you vomited on getting smashed up by the horde, the sheer power of the tank, the adrenaline rush of knowing there are monsters out there trying their hardest to kill you…

    It’s good. It’s so good. I wish I didn’t have to go sleep now.

  13. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Sorry Kieron.. the hay bales looked defensible!

  14. NRD says:

    He might not have been wrong by mentioning 6 boss infected.

  15. NegativeZero says:

    Well, I feel like saying something even more blasphemous:

    I really, really don’t like the core shooty gameplay any valve game. I’m not talking about them being FPSes – a heck of a chunk of my teenage years were consumed playing Doom, Heretic and Marathon religiously – I’m talking mainly about the way that weapons feel. I don’t know what it is, but I always feel like what I’m shooting has no punch to it at all. I really noticed it in L4D, but I also noticed it in Valve’s stuff way back to the original Half Life. It’s always felt somehow ‘off’ to me. I’ve never figured out what it is exactly, but I think it has to do with the lack of reaction that enemies have. It feels like the guns have no ‘punch’ behind them. Whatever it is, it leeches the fun out of the gameplay in their games for me. I can see why people enjoy them, and they’re certainly not bad, but I end up feeling more frustration than I do enjoyment out of them. HL2E2 was the worst of them, especially the sequence with the striders towards the end of the game. I absolutely never want to play that game ever again.

    But then everyone raves about how awesome their games are. I feel like there’s something broken in my brain. :(

  16. Saflo says:

    I would completely agree if you were talking about Team Fortress Classic, but otherwise…

    The HL2 weapons, in particular, I find incredibly pleasing. Time to see a neurologist!

  17. rupert says:

    NegativeZero: Cheer up, brother, you are not alone! I never could understand how a company solely making great shooters stop short of making FANTASTIC shooters by seemingly failing to understand that what is absolutely central to the experience just has to be more satisfying… I find it very odd too. So, er, let’s get married?

  18. solomun says:

    I’m with you – the HL2 SMG really feels like a waterpistol or something. The L4D one is better but still seems unsatisfingly weak. Valve does shotguns really well though.

  19. Saflo says:

    The SMG is definitely the worst at making you believe you’re firing a deadly weapon, but I like to think that was to drive you toward less conventional choices. Every other gun has at least one attribute that makes it satisfying to use.

  20. Saul says:

    @NegativeZero: I respectively disagree, although not many games have managed to give their weapons the punch that games like Doom and the orginal Quake had. For me the worst offenders, in terms of pissweak-feeling weapons, have always been the Unreal games. I suppose the title says it all…

    Versus is freakin’ awesome, no matter who you play with. Campaign is also awesome, but less so if you’re playing with strangers. L4D is therefore two seperate awesome games in one. Go Valve.

    This weekend my brother is hosting an 8-person L4D LAN. I can hardly wait.

  21. Saflo says:

    Funny you should say that. The flak cannon from Unreal Tournament is one of my favorite weapons ever.

  22. Saflo says:

    I get lots of chicks, I swear.

  23. unique_identifier says:

    Versus mode is glorious. There’s such a sense of urgency when playing as survivors – staying in a tight group while advancing is absolutely key.

    Best Survivor moments : those rare runs where everyone makes it to the safehouse in one of the harder stages.

    Best Infected moments : playing versus with a team of strangers, where the previous round my team’s survivor run was decimated at 15% completion for a meagre handful of points, amid cries of “lol noobs” from the infected on the other side. Then when the tables turn, destroying them at 10%. Revenge is sweet.

  24. Saul says:

    Respectively = respectfully. Damn broken editing finction.

  25. Saul says:

    See, I did it again….. ‘finction’.

    Ah well, might as well say something new: the flak cannon was the only UT wepon I liked at all, so I get where you’re coming from, Saflo. All the others were pretty lame.

    I’ve already got a plethora of faovurite versus moments, having only played it a few times, but vomiting on a survivor and seeing him go down to the horde about a foot from the safe-room door in the very first map of No Mercy was my first success with the infected, and I’ll remember it a very long time.

  26. Lobotomist says:

    Very nice review

    But i must admit you fail to touch one important point:

    Is the game worth 50$? Cause with all its gameplay glory (and i loved it in demo) Its still 4 hour long – 4 (or 8) player game.

    I personally can not decide if to buy it now, or wait for price drop….

  27. nutterguy says:

    Ok to start with, Kieron, I love you man and I’ve been reading your funny typed words in many forms for almost a decade now. I think your a pretty accurate reviewer and your humor is spot on…
    Eurogamer gives WOW:ROTLK 10/10 (not your score I know)
    Eurogamer gives Left4Dead 9/10 (I’m blaming you for this though)
    I hope your happy…
    This is a Fecking travesty!
    Even on Metacritic
    WOW:ROTLK:Critics 93%; Users 7.0
    L4D: Critics 89%; Users 9.7
    Just tell me why man… WHY?

  28. dartt says:


    I’ve played it for two evenings after work totally 6.4 hours. On the first night after 4.7 hours I still hadn’t completed No Mercy on Expert with RPS buddies. Last night I spent an amazing 1.7 hours in versus mode on Blood Harvest with more RPS buddies. I haven’t even touched Dead Air or Death Toll yet but I can’t wait.

    Saying it’s 4 hours long is like saying Counter Strike is 30 minutes long (~3 minute rounds x ~10 maps), L4D is designed to be played and replayed over and over and Valve’s typical content updates and community maps
    /mods will only serve to extend it’s appeal.

    In short: Yes it’s worth $50.

  29. Psychopomp says:

    Just finished No Mercy on Expert, with friends.

    I’ve never heard four people work together like that, nor have I heard the phrase “AH, FUCK!” repeated that much.

    Three of us died right before reaching the final safe house, however. Smoker grabbed the last one coming through the door, and as we tried to pile back out to save him a boomer vomitted all over someone else.

    This ensuing panic led me backing up into a Witch, and blowing up a boomer, leading to more zombies, and me running from a witch.
    At this point,
    1.One of us(me) was on self-imposed fire, surrounded by zombies, running from a witch, and approaching death.
    2.One of was dead, due to smoker-related injuries.
    3.One of us was surrounded by zombies, wielding a soon-to-be-thrown-at-own-feet molotov, and approaching death.
    4.One of us was standing in the safehouse taking potshots at whatever, trying to save the rest of us.


  30. nutterguy says:

    @ Psychopomp
    ROFL…. excellent man…

  31. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Not even a ten? Tsk tsk.

  32. Alec Meer says:

    I do wish I could count.

  33. nutterguy says:

    What does your ability to count have to do with it Alec?

  34. Kieron Gillen says:

    Nutterguy: That was about him miss-counting the number of enemies.

    I can count. It’s a 9. It’s a genuinely great game, but it’s not a 10.


  35. nutterguy says:

    Any specific reasons?
    Just wondering because for almost everyone I’ve talked to it’s GOTY… and it got less than a WOW expansion. *sob*

  36. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Alright, fair ’nuff. ;)

  37. The Hammer says:

    I’m echoing the opinions about Valve’s guns feeling really weak. Although they weren’t so bad in the original Half Life, the sub machine gun in Half Life 2 was awful. I think it was a combination of sound, lack of recoil, the amount of time it took enemies to go down, and the lack of animations they displayed when being shot.

  38. Tei says:

    20 hours of the demo, and I have enough of the survivors thing for a while.
    But playing as infected… I can play as infected for another 20 hours. Unfortunally the system is you are forced to play as survivor, to be able to play as infested.
    And even 8 players is too lite. Now.. I remenber why I love 64 players BF2 servers: it feel like a livid battlefield, while a server with <14 players feel like somewhat empty and casual, not awar, maybe a vendetta.. or something.
    A versus game become disfunctional if 2 players disconect… Quitters damned!

  39. Premium User Badge

    ChaosSmurf says:

    Versus mode has some flaws from what I played yesterday. In fact, the main one is a flaw in the game in general in my opinion – Tank = gg. In coop he can be the killing blow to a run that’s going from “bad” to “middling”. In Versus the intellitank as I call him is just a death sentance.

    Don’t get me wrong, the game is a lot of fun – it just seems a bit too easy to loose in Versus to a random spawning tank.

    It’s also incredibly frustrating to be sent right back to the start of a map on death in coop – some mid-map checkpoints would be appreciated.

    Maybe I’m missing the point… I dunno. Perhaps I’m just too dependant on quick-save and regenerating health bars.

  40. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    At all of those getting in a tizz about the scores given to a game.. it’s probably better if you just read the review and get your impressions on how good it is from that.

    Remember; people are subjective. That means they have opinions, and while the reviewer of WotLK might have loved it unconditionally, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great game, just that they had a great time playing it. So just spend a little longer and read the reviews, and then compare notes.

  41. Malagate says:

    @TPS, you’ve struck upon why I ignore review scores, because they take something that’s entirely subjective (an opinion on a game) and turn it into something that’s objective (an integer on a scale that’s comparable to every other reviewed game). The only useful purpose of review scores is to compare them to other reviews done by the same author to get a picture of their personal tastes, as you suggest the reviews must be read to develope your own opinion rather than just looking at the score and shouting “Why?!”.

  42. shon says:

    I feel the Director makes any statements about a 4-Hour game pointless. Every time I see that rope bridge in Death Toll I know the Director is going to throw something new at me.

  43. nutterguy says:

    @ The Poisoned Sponge
    I have read both reviews and played L4D extensively 19 hours so far…
    I have seen WOW:ROTLK, I do not play wow but I work in a gaming cafe and the general impression has not been great, a bit meh, everyone is playing Left4Dead… the lower scoring game….
    And it is GREAT on LAN….
    I love being able to hear customers scream when I rip their spleens out! X-D

  44. Owen says:

    Both great reviews, good stuff gents.

  45. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Nah don’t get me wrong please – in general I do not care about review scores at all. It’s all about the Words if you ask me (and yes, there are some damn fine words here at RPS for example). However, after all the L4D coverage here, I almost expected a ten. ;) Or maybe it’s just that the Words read ten ten ten to me. Or maybe I am going to give it a ten, just for the fun of it.

    Either way, I love it. Regardless of the score.

  46. Stromko says:

    I have to disagree about the Tank in Versus mode being an automatic end-game. If he had even 1/10th the HP that the Expert Tank has I’d agree, if he had the ability to swipe half your health with one blow I’d agree, if he was as fast as the co-op tank I’d agree, but none of these things are the case.

    That said, if the other Infected players are running good interference for him, the Tank definitely makes a huge difference and definitely becomes a pivotal moment in the match. If all four survivors are up, moving, and shooting at him, his appearance will just be a fizzle. He only gets a one-hit knockdown on players who were already in the red, and it takes several hits to get them there.

    The positioning and appearance of the witch definitely becomes a contentious point in Versus, but as often as not if one round of survivors ends up with the witch directly in their path, the other round of survivors will too. Same for whether or not the Tank appears.

  47. AbyssUK says:

    Why can’t you be a witch ?? huh huh…

  48. cyrenic says:

    Has anyone figured out the auto team balancing on Versus? It seems to arbitrarily switch team members after map changes.

    For instance, last night we were playing with 5 people, and the game switched one person from the 3 person team over to the 2 person team after a map change. Maybe it’s trying to alternate team size to balance out over a campaign?

  49. MarvintheParanoidAndroid says:

    @Saflo: “The flak cannon from Unreal Tournament is one of my favorite weapons ever.”

    Yes. Hell yes.

    Also, Steam confuses me. I was trying to get a bunch of people together to get the L4D four-pack so we could save a bit of money – I enjoyed the demo plenty, but I’m still not convinced I want to shell out $50 on it (however much that converts to in proper money). But then I found that it’s only £20 for a boxed copy on Amazon, which turns out cheaper than it’d be even if we got the four-pack…

    Oh well, I shouldn’t complain. I’m getting it, and saving money :)