Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead was created by Valve Corporation and published by Valve Corporation on 2008-11-18. Left 4 Dead is a First Person Shooter (FPS) game.

Left 4 Dead is a cooperative first-person shooter video game. It was developed by Turtle Rock Studios, which was purchased by Valve Corporation during development. The game uses Valve's proprietary Source engine, and is available for Windows and the Xbox 360. Development on the game was completed on November 13, 2008 and was released on November 18, 2008 in the United States and on November 21, 2008 in Europe.

Set during the aftermath of an apocalyptic pandemic, the game pits its four protagonists—dubbed the "survivors"—against hordes of the infected, zombie-like aggressive mutants. There are four game modes: a single-player mode in which allied characters are controlled by AI; a four-player, co-op campaign mode; an eight-player online versus mode; and a four-player survival mode. In all modes, an artificial intelligence (AI), dubbed the "Director", controls level pacing and item spawns, in an attempt to create a dynamic experience and increase replay value.

Left 4 Dead was well received by the industry media upon its release, with praise given for its replay value, focus on cooperative play, and movie-like experience. Several criticisms were aimed at limited level selection and the lack of a narrative. The game has won several publication awards, as well as distinctions from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and British Academy of Film and Television Arts. As was done with Team Fortress 2, Valve plans on supplementing the game with free downloadable content. The first of these, called the "Survival Pack", was released on April 21, 2009.

Gameplay

Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter, though it makes use of the third-person perspective during cut scenes and some player actions. In campaign mode, the player takes control of one of the survivors; if four human players are not available, then the remaining survivors are AI-controlled bots. They play through the levels fighting off the infected—living humans who have been infected with a mutagenic, rabies-like virus to which the survivors are immune.

The game is focused on cooperation and team play; colored outlines of teammates are visible through walls to help players stick together and coordinate their movement. If a survivor falls off a ledge, then they may automatically hang onto it and can only be helped up by another survivor. If a survivor's health is depleted, then they become incapacitated and can only be revived by another survivor, at which point they continue playing with a low amount of health that decreases over time. If a survivor has been incapacitated and revived twice without tending to their wounds, then they will experience distorted black-and-white vision, and the next incapacitation will kill the character. If a survivor incurs enough damage while incapacitated, or is not eventually helped up by teammates, then the incapacitated character will die. If a survivor is killed, then they will respawn in a closet or other enclosed space after a period of time (except during key points in the scenario), but must be freed by another survivor to rejoin the team. Otherwise, the player must wait until the next level. Survivors can share first-aid kits and pain pills and help each other heal. Left 4 Dead has friendly fire that cannot be disabled, increasing the need for caution around other survivors. On the easy difficulty level, friendly fire does not harm teammates but still registers as having occurred with a notice on the screen saying, "Don't shoot teammates!"

The survivors communicate by voice commands that are accessed by quick menus, and some sound off automatically when performing actions such as reloading or spotting infected. Over 1,000 unique lines have been recorded for each survivor. Additional communication of player actions is conveyed through character lights. Also, weapon-mounted flashlights and muzzle flashes help the players in determining whether their companions are shooting, performing melee attacks, reloading or moving. Due to control issues and the likelihood of players using a LIVE headset, the Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead omits the quick phrases feature.

The game is experienced through four campaigns that take place in various urban and rural locales. Multiple visual in-game hints—including license plates, park signs, and markings on airport equipment—imply that these locations are in Pennsylvania,[original research?] and similarly a memorial wall giving names of those who have died in the infection (actually names of the game's development team) along with their dates of birth and death suggests that the game takes place in October 2009. Each campaign is divided into five chapters marked by safe rooms, which are checkpoints where players can heal, re-arm and revive characters who were killed. Specifically, the four campaigns are: "No Mercy", an urban setting culminating in a hospital skyscraper; "Death Toll", a small-town and countryside setting; "Dead Air", an airport setting; and "Blood Harvest", a woodland and farm setting. The levels are essentially linear, with distinct beginnings and ends, but there are a number of alternate routes to follow with more supplies, helping to create a sense of non-linearity. In the final chapter of each campaign, the players must defend a position from an onslaught of infected until rescue arrives. Each campaign typically lasts between 35 and 75 minutes depending on the difficulty level. The Windows and Xbox 360 versions of the game both contain achievements.

Survivor characters

There are four playable human characters in the game: Francis (voiced by Vince Valenzuela), a tattoo-covered biker; Zoey (voiced by Jen Taylor), a college student and horror movie enthusiast; Louis (voiced by Earl Alexander), a junior systems analyst in his company's IT department; and Bill (voiced by Jim French), a former Green Beret and a Vietnam veteran. Early plans were for players to be randomly assigned to characters but in the final release, players can choose any character—provided that the character has not already been selected—or be randomly assigned an unselected character.

Survivors are armed with various firearms. Each player starts the game with a M1911 pistol. It has unlimited ammo and is the only weapon that the survivor can use when they are incapacitated. When a second pistol is found, the player can dual wield them. At the beginning of each campaign, the player can choose between an Uzi submachine gun and a pump-action shotgun. As the survivors progress through a campaign, more powerful weapons can be found: the fully automatic M16A2 assault rifle, Benelli M4 Super 90 semi-automatic shotgun and a scoped Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle. In addition to firearms, a player can also carry three other items in their inventory: improvised grenades (either a Molotov cocktail to create a wall of fire or a pipe bomb, modified with an attached smoke alarm designed to attract the infected to it before it explodes); a first-aid kit, which can be used to heal any survivor; and pain pills, which provide temporary health that depletes gradually and quicker with damage from infected, and can be handed to teammates for later use. Regardless of what weapon or item a player is using, a melee attack can be used to shove away any infected within reach. Also available are environmental weapons, such as gasoline cans, oxygen cylinders and propane tanks, which explode when shot. These can be picked up, moved and used as a melee weapon by the survivors, but while carrying an object they cannot use their weapons or health items.

Infected characters

The infected (voiced by experimental musician Mike Patton) are the survivors' foes in Left 4 Dead, and they appear to be partly inspired by the infected from several modern films, including 28 Days Later. An important distinction is that the infected are not traditional undead zombies, but rather living humans infected with a rabies-like pathogen. They are never seen eating human flesh or brains, as traditional zombies are generally portrayed to do, instead simply single-mindedly attacking the survivors. In an interview with 1Up.com, Mike Booth commented on the concept of using a pathogen as an inspiration for the setting:

Even though we obviously pushed well beyond the realm of believability with many of our "boss" infected, the core idea of a mind-destroying, civilization-collapsing pathogen is more horrifying to me than magically animated corpses, precisely because it is plausible. Rabies is a good example of a pathogen that can turn a loyal, friendly, protective family pet into a slavering attack machine. It's a virus that reprograms the behaviors of a complex animal – a mammal, in fact. What if something similar happened to humans? Left 4 Dead is one possible answer.

The common infected encountered during the game are fast and agile, weak individually, but may be overwhelming in numbers. They display a special attraction to high-pitched alarm-type sounds, such as the beeping device attached to pipe bombs and car alarms. Common infected will often chase down the source of these noises while ignoring lower-pitched, but much louder sounds such as gunfire. They occasionally attack in masses referred to in-game as a "horde".

In addition to the common infected, there are five "special" or "boss" infected whose mutations grant them special attacks that make them much more dangerous: the hunter, an agile infected that can pounce on survivors from a great distance; the smoker, an infected that ensnares survivors with its long tongue at a distance and, upon death, releases a cloud of smoke that obscures vision and blocks voice commands and voice communication; the boomer, a bloated infected whose vomit and bile (which may be released at will and upon death) blinds the player briefly and attracts a horde; the tank, a huge, muscular infected that is the most powerful and difficult to kill; and the witch, a passive female infected, who, when provoked by loud sounds, lights, gunshots, a survivor approaching too closely, or general stimulation will trigger her to attack her provoker. She is able to knock down the provoker in one hit and will quickly kill them if not killed herself. The victims of some of these attacks require assistance from a teammate before they can regain control. Each of the special infected, as well as approaching hordes, have a distinctive sound or a timely musical cue, making their presence easily recognizable by players.

In versus mode, four additional players can take control of the special infected—apart from the witch, which remains computer-controlled. Each infected player is randomly assigned a class of special infected when they enter a spawn mode. While in spawn mode, the infected can quickly roam around the map in search of an appropriate place in which to spawn. This location must be sufficiently distant from any survivor, out of the line of sight of any survivor, and outside restricted areas such as safe rooms. Upon death, the infected player must wait up to 20–30 seconds before reentering spawn mode, depending on how many players are on the infected team. When a tank is spawned in the game, infected players receive a message indicating which player will control it. The human-controlled infected can see their teammates' outlines through walls similar to the survivors, but can also see each survivor's outline, which is colored according to the survivor's health and fades out if the survivor refrains from attacking, running and vocalizing. Vertical pathways exclusive to the infected, such as pipes and vines, are marked with animated symbols for the infected players. These can be climbed and used for ambushes.

AI and the Director

The artificial intelligence of Left 4 Dead features a dynamic system for game dramatics, pacing and difficulty called the "Director". Instead of fixed spawn points for enemies, the Director places enemies and items in varying positions and quantities based upon each player's current situation, status, skill and location, creating a new experience for each play through. The Director also creates mood and tension with emotional cues, such as visual effects, dynamic music and character communication. Valve has termed this dynamic set-up "procedural narrative".

In addition to the AI Director, there is a second Director that controls music. It was created as a way to keep the music interesting throughout the game. The music Director monitors what a player has experienced to create an appropriate mix. The process is client-side and done by a multi-track system. Each player hears their own mix, which is being generated as they play through the game, and dead players watching a teammate hear their teammates' mix.

Game modes

Left 4 Dead contains four game modes: campaign, versus, survival, and single-player. The cooperative campaign consists of four human-controlled survivors who attempt to make their way between safe rooms and eventually to rescue. In this mode, the special infected are controlled by the AI. In a versus campaign, each team of four players plays each chapter of the campaign as both survivor and infected, swapping sides once per chapter. Unlike campaign mode, dead survivors do not respawn. If at least one survivor finishes the chapter, then the team playing the survivors earns points according to their average progress through the chapter, as well as bonus points based on their health and the health items in their inventory. These points are then multiplied by the chapter's difficulty level, and the number of survivors who finished. If all the survivors are killed, then they only earn progress points and the difficulty multiplier. Survival mode consists of a timed challenge where players try to survive as long as possible against a never-ending flood of the infected. Single-player mode is basically the same as campaign mode, but with three AI-controlled bots as the other survivors.

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