Ill-Timed Dawn Of The Dead

Ill-timed because 1) it came out over Halloween and we’re only just posting about it. That is, of course, because none of RPS have ever demonstrated any kind of fear about anything, hence we do not recognise Halloween as a OH GOD WHAT WAS THAT I’M GONNA DIE I’M GONNA DIE… Oh, it’s just a yogurt pot. Cough. And 2) Because I’ve heard a rumour there might some sort of sequel to Left 4 Dead due any day now. Anyone heard anything about that? Nonetheless, you probably couldn’t wish for a more delectably violent stopgap than this vast and lavish tribute to Dawn of the Dead – a super-spiffy Left 4 Dead 1 mod replete with zombie-infested shopping mall…

I’ve just spent more time than intended playing it – partly because it is impressively huge, weighing in at five chapters (with a sixth due in an update) over a snappy variety of locations, and partly because an occasional spot of missed directional polish meant I kept getting lost. But it’s good stuff, it really is. I don’t know the original Dawn of the Dead intimately enough to be aware of just how exact an homage it is, but I do know that it feels like a journey, a tale through a fairly believable city. To a certain extent, even more so than Left 4 Dead’s official campaigns, which tend towards the themed snippet rather than multi-scenery voyages.

The creators have absolutely gone to town on the environments, blending L4D assets with a huge bunch of their own to create something that looks incredibly slick. It’s even got a few patches of daylight in it, plus a surprisingly well-voiced narrator character – which is both a neat way around not being able to come up with new Francis, Bill & co soundbytes, and of giving the mod a distinctly different feel to L4D vanilla.

But I did keep getting lost, and even had to skip the last part of the third chapter because I couldn’t work out how to open a key door (or, rather, couldn’t be bothered to continue traipising about trying to find out how to open it). Obviously such things aren’t too much of a problem on future play-throughs, plus the accomplished team behind it can always do a spot of canny patching. Such niggles aside, this is a mighty work of moddery, and one you should definitely grab all 1.1Gb of. Frankly, I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I did the L4D2 demo, but then this doesn’t suffer from the distracting brevity of the latter.

Here’s the rather lovely (in a blood’n’terrifying music kinda way) trailer/credits:


  1. Railick says:

    This is a mod for L4D or something else?

    • Railick says:

      Reading back through it now I see it is a mod for L4D :P sorry I dunno how I missed that the first time through.

    • Railick says:

      -edit- WTFBBQ double post sorry :(

      Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

  2. Lilliput King says:

    A map/campaign.

  3. Mike says:

    The_B’s been bigging this up to me for a couple of weeks now. It certainly looks better than I was expecting (sorry, Ben). Tempted to give it a try, but in a couple of weeks I imagine I’ll be sucked into the vortex of L4D2.

  4. gulag says:

    That was a very slick piece of work.

    Game developers take note. Put your names all over the front of your game, not in some apologetic little credit roll at the back. Level designers just became the new production designers.

  5. Alexander Norris says:

    Note to anyone downloading the 1.1Gb of this: once installed, follow the instructions. If you forget to rebuild your sound cache before playing, you’ll have none of the custom music or voice acting playing, which will make it impossible to play the campaign.

  6. RobF says:

    How do you get past that keycard segment? I winched the generator up then got stuck.

  7. Ozzie says:

    I only saw the first, second and atm last map. The real last map doesn’t seem to be available so far.
    Sadly, the mod is very buggy so far.
    We encountered an invisible boomer, were killed by some weird invisible fire/explosion for no apparent reason and zombies seem to spawn outside of the level, behind doors that are locked. Weird…
    And the shopping mall level sucked. It’s boring to play and built like a maze. You can only escape from the cellar thanks to the holes in the walls and the mall must be the most irritating, customer unfriendly one I ever saw.

    On the upside, the beginning was very good, and the second map had an awesome design. It was much more open then the default campaigns, but you always had an idea where to go. The new music and sound effects are also very good. So, a mixed bag so far.
    Since it is from fans and I paid nothing for it I can’t complain, but I hope it will be patched and finished soon. :-)

    • RobF says:

      Yeah, it’s showing a -lot- of promise right now. If they can get the greatness of the first two maps across the whole thing and avoid some of the gamebreakers it’ll be a pretty stellar campaign.

      Definitely needs more work though but I think they kinda knew that.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      You forgot to rebuild your sound cache.

      The “weird fire explosion” is the military bombing the city, which you get told about by the custom audio which you can only here if you rebuild your sound cache, as indicated in the instructions and further up.

  8. mrrobsa says:

    I got stuck at that same bit with the door, but through a stroke of luck, the mapmaker Darth Brush joined the game and helped us out! But yeah I’d been banging my head against the wall prior to that so it needs sorting really.
    Overall though it’s great, and all the custom content is lovely. I do believe it might be more of an homage to the Dawn of the Dead remake? Which is a pity. But nevertheless looking forward to playing the finished product!

  9. Vinraith says:

    This actually looks considerably more promising than the L4D2 demo, downloading now. :)

  10. DarkNoghri says:

    They’ve been stressing that this IS a beta release. As such, it is quite buggy, needs balance testing, and people are getting lost.

    That said, I haven’t gotten this yet because for 1.1 GB, I’d like to have all the maps and all the kinks worked out.

  11. abhishek says:

    It was actually labeled a Beta release only after it came out and people realized how buggy it is. And dear god, it’s horribly buggy. Map glitches, clipping problems, major scripting bugs, server and client crashes… the list goes on and on and on. If you managed to get into a game which actually managed to load all 5 maps correctly, consider yourself to have experienced a minor miracle. It’s that bad.

    While actually inside the game, the bright spots (some very interesting gameplay) is mired in poor game design decisions. More than a few times, you will have no clue at all as to what needs to be done or where you need to go. I’m not asking for hand holding, but in this campaign, you will literally have to figure stuff out by trial and error. No cues at all. If stepping outside a door kills you instantly, you shouldn’t have to find out by dying in that way.

    The best thing that can be said about the mod is that it’s free. And I honestly feel a little bad about being so critical of it because of that. But then I think of all the crashes and frustrating moments I had to encounter. The campaign was severely broken and they knew it, and still went ahead and released it any way to meet an arbitrary deadline. This is one of the worst trends of the gaming industry that we bemoan all the time. Now it comes to the mod scene as well. And it’s such a shame, because this was supposed to be the custom campaign that we waited months for.

    There are custom campaigns out there made by smaller teams and in lesser time that are vastly better than this one.

    • OctaneHugo says:

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. Most people defend it with “oh, it’s just a beta” and quite honestly that makes my stomach boil. Labeling something as a beta does not give you a free pass on terrible, game-breaking glitches that ruin any enjoyment that was to be had. And it’s a shame most people seem to ignore this aspect and focus on “OH MY GOD CUSTOM SOUNDS AND VOICE ACTING DAWN OF THE DEAD THIS IS SO HYPED UP IT MUST BE GOOD DEAR LORD MY EYEBALLS JUST EXPLODED FROM THE AWESOMENESS” and don’t dare to actually be critical of the damn thing. I tried to play it a couple of times and just found it to be a hollow, fun-less experience.

    • Mark says:

      “Labeling something as a beta does not give you a free pass on terrible, game-breaking glitches that ruin any enjoyment that was to be had.”

      It doesn’t? You should see some of the internal betas commercial games have.

      Seriously, this has been produced by amateurs, no one is forcing you to play it, and it is totally 100% FREE. Sure you can hate it and not have any fun. But just because some mods have been very polished on release in the last couple of years doesn’t mean you can start slinging crap when people release things like this (the way almost all mods were until very recently).

      It is FREE and the makers have made it for their own pleasure, they can do whatever they want.

    • abhishek says:

      So what you’re saying is, by adding the BETA tag (after it’s release), the mod is now immune from criticism?

    • Dominic White says:

      It labels it immune from criticism about bugs and glitches, because beta testing is specifically about finding and cracking down on those problems.

      People don’t seem to understand that these things just don’t magically pop into existance fully formed and bug-free. Dear god, there were people complaining about glitches in the first-wave *alpha* builds of Love, for fucks sake! Complaining about ALPHA bugs!

      The divide between people who make games and people who play them seems to get wider each year.

    • OctaneHugo says:

      I also hate that argument. “It’s free and not professional, therefore you cannot criticize it”. OK, then I guess every free thing ever will never improve because no one can criticize it.

    • abhishek says:

      It’s also worth mentioning that while most of the mod team did do this work for free, the mod leader himself walked away with a brand new 1300$ computer which was largely paid for by the community. Apparently his old computer broke down, and he told the community that they could either donate some funds so that he could buy a new one, or the campaign would be delayed by 2 months or more. Of course, the donations were completely voluntary, but the total amount raised did exceed 1000$. So, he actually did get something for his work.

    • phuzz says:

      If it’s a beta, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t criticise it, but just that you should criticise in the following manner:

      Bug #1: clipping problem on the first door you come to
      Bug #2: explosions can kill player with no warning

      or similar, unless you’re just criticising in order to make people feel bad, rather than pointing out how they can make it better.

  12. Tisan says:

    I’m yet to play Dead Before Dawn, but the most impressive fan campaign I’ve played is

  13. Tisan says:

    …Suicide Blitz (link to

    • abhishek says:

      Have you tried Death Aboard? That’s pretty good. Then there’s Dam It, which is a single map campaign and slightly on the shorter side but very well made. Then there’s Heaven Can Wait, which is a fabulous campaign but it’s really, really long. I’m talking 2-2.5 hours long. But it’s polished, bug free and extremely well made. Lots of fun to play with friends.

  14. Chaz says:

    Well I’ll give them 10 out of 10 for the credits, but how does the rest of the mod stack up?

  15. Elcor Diplomat says:

    Smug statement, this will be better than Left 4 Dead 2. Condescending assertion, anyone who doesn’t enjoy this mod is a Valve fanboy, so says I.

    • Dominic White says:

      You forgot the confused and contradictory smug assertion that L4D was terrible and bad and nobody should play it but this mod is great and pure and you should play it.

      And then we’d have a complete L4D thread!

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, I’ve already got rid of a few such comments. Oy gevalt.

  16. Derf says:


    If by slick you mean bugs, glitches, incompletion and crashes-to-desktop then sure, it’s slick.

  17. Vinraith says:

    Sorry to hear this one’s so buggy (still haven’t had a chance to play it, though it’s installed). It’s great, however, to see all these suggestions for other user-made campaigns to try. Keep ’em coming!

  18. Jahkaivah says:

    No reason why this cant be imported into Left 4 Dead 2?

    I’ll give it a shot then, course it’ll then have the misfortune of having to compete with Dead Center.

  19. fuggles says:

    You know whilst I appreciate that it has problems and that I too got stuck on that exact same bit because I didn’t refresh the audio cache and thus had no custom sound…but yet still I got through it. I then rebuilt my cache and started from level 4.

    What is with you lot these days? By you lot, I mean the internet. This tries something new with the audio driven objectives, random levels (on level 1 you may have credits, you may have to run for your life at the start) and all around pacing of the game. The million customer idea was genius!

    Can we have some recognition of the good as well as the bad? The second screenshot is my highlight of the maps as look at it – it’s beautiful. It has some real problems right now such as things spawning behind indestructo-doors and that damned end of level 3, but the beta was popped out so that people could play it on Halloween. Arbitrary deadline or not, I appreciated the hand-out – I could have no new L4D level to play on halloween (Im choosing to ignore cold case).

    With a bit more key direction then this will be perfect, but hey it’s a beta. You can criticise, but it would be more beneficial to do so on their forums and constructively. I played through it all with no crashing and thought it was really solid for an early build.

    • abhishek says:

      random levels (on level 1 you may have credits, you may have to run for your life at the start)

      I’d just like to point out that what you describe is a scripting bug. In the first level, when you come to that military humvee type vehicle, that’s where your timer for the airstrikes is supposed to start. The fact that the event doesn’t trigger sometimes is a bug. The rest of the map is designed and balanced around rushing through that section before the timer runs out, and as such, becomes stupidly easy when the event doesn’t trigger.

      And as for being a Beta, just how low should our expectations/standards be? Is it asking too much for all 5 maps to actually load without crashing the game? I’ve played a lot of custom content, including betas, and while they have had their share of issues, none have ever been as broken as this release. I guess the higher you rise, the harder you fall.

      About 2 months ago, they had announced that the mod would release on Halloween. About 3 weeks before release, they mentioned that the campaign would have 5 maps + a separate finale. They also said that the 5 maps were virtually done, and they were working on the finale, but they were not sure if it would meet their standards of quality before release date so they might not include it. As it turned out, they didn’t release the finale, but it really makes me question just what their standards are if they deemed this package worthy of release.

  20. Malagate says:

    I gave this mod a go yesterday, the crash after updating the sound cache really set the tone for me.

    Went through it in Singleplayer, as I do for almost every map, as I don’t like joining in with others online where I go the wrong way or get horribly lost.

    I managed to get through the first map, to the end when it crashed. The first map was quite fun mind, albeit I didn’t really like having to run through the undergrowth with no idea if it’s the right way or not.

    The second map had the beginnings of bugs, such as helicopters which only explode when you get very close to them and winches that don’t work, but then I didn’t like the wooden play house bit where there’s two tunnel exits from the area that are obvious yet it’s not obvious from afar which one is the right way. Walking down a long tunnel to a dead end is just annoying. Had to quit this map after the handle next to the wooden barricade wouldn’t trigger.

    Restarted on the third map, nice beginning with approaching the mall, and fighting to be let in was alright, however I got kind of tired of listening to the guy on the radio jabber on for rather too long. I’d must prefer it if he just got to the point rather than chattering away whilst we wait for him to open a door. Also he wouldn’t open the roof door unless all the team were there, which with me only playing with the single player AI was never going to happen. They tended to be waiting on the stairs below me rather than coming up to the door so that he would open it, also Zoey never even made it to the stairs as she couldn’t traverse the store room wooden platforms.

    Got annoyed enough by that to go online to play it, managed to join a game which I think was on the 4th campaign, getting lost in a warren of wooden panelled offices is not that nice, finally managed to get to the main mall area when I got a crash to desktop.

    After that I just went into Mount & Blade Warbands beta and spent some time kicking people and couch charging.

    Yes, the beta tag does give them some leeway, but I think I’ll only try it again when it is a complete release. Way more annoying bugs then certain other betas I’m a part of, kind of more bugs than enjoyment for myself.

  21. fuggles says:

    I must just be lucky with no ctd’s. In regards to the handle, it’s a red herring – you need to activate the generator which starts a fire from the handle as it sparks.

  22. Malagate says:

    @Fuggles, I had imagined that you had to make a fire for the wooden barricade (ala Dead Air), however I barely registered that generator…I did however

    set off a petrol container right next to the wooden barrier

    instead to try and burn it. Which naturally made a big fire but didn't burn anything away, hence me thinking that switch was a winch rather than the spark generator for burning the wood.
    @abhishek, well that would explain how straight forward I found the level, never heard of anything at all involing an airstrike, had a nice amble around actually rather than an intense rush. This is really quite buggy, perhaps even buggy enough to be considered alpha rather than beta? Well at least all the props and custom content is in place I suppose.

  23. phuzz says:

    I’m not sure about the lack of explosions in the first mission being a bug. The first two times we ran through there were explosions, and we had to wait for the first one to destroy the boarded up front of a shop to progress.
    Third time through there was no explosions, but the shop door was now unbarricaded…

    The biggest annoyance for us was that every server we played on went into VS mode if we died, so we’d either have to wait for the AI to leave the safe room, or just quit and restart on another server.

    Also it seems a bit higher difficulty than Valve’s campaigns, not a bad thing, just saying.

  24. dmauro says:

    I was really hoping to like this mod, but the truth is, it’s just not very good. It’s not all the weird glitches (invisible boomers, wtf?), but the lack of a clear direction. There are just too many instances where you could go a few different ways, but they are all dead ends except for the one. I made it up to the second level’s crescendo event, but it was too awful to finish because the level is very long, and the crescendo is completely unforgiving: as soon as you hit the start lever the zombies are swarming you from every direction so you can’t get to any sort of safe area first.

    And what’s the deal with the first level sometimes having some sort of bombing run where you have to race your way to safety but there is no possible way to get anywhere safe in time? So weird. I just kept playing until it played out normally (you know it will play normally if the credits are showing).

    Anyways, maybe I’ll load up the mall level and check that out, but the level design of the first two just leads me to believe it’s not going to be good enough to hold my attention.