Left 4 Dead
|Left 4 Dead|
Cover art for Left 4 Dead
|Series||Left 4 Dead|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, OS X|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, zombie apocalypse, survival horror|
Left 4 Dead is an asymmetrical cooperative first-person shooter survival horror video game, developed by Valve South and published by Valve Corporation. The game uses Valve's proprietary Source engine, and is available for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and OS X. Development on the game was completed on November 13, 2008, and two versions were released digitally: A downloadable digital version, released on November 17, 2008, and a digital retail disc version, with a release date determined by region. The digital retail disc version was released in North America and Australia on November 18, 2008; and in Europe on November 21, 2008.
Set during the aftermath of a worldwide zombie outbreak, the game pits its four protagonists—dubbed the "Survivors"—against hordes of the infected. 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 placements, 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 supplemented the game with free downloadable content. The first, called the "Survival Pack", was released on April 21, 2009. The second piece of DLC was charged for on Xbox Live and came in the form of a new Campaign entitled "Crash Course," released for both the PC and Xbox 360 on September 29, 2009. Left 4 Dead was released for the Mac on October 28, 2010.
The popularity of the game led to the development of a sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, which was released on November 17, 2009. A new map for both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, called "The Sacrifice", was released on October 5, 2010. In July 2012, all Left 4 Dead campaigns were ported over to Left 4 Dead 2, with cross-platform multiplayer support between Windows and Mac versions of the game.
Pennsylvania suffers an outbreak of the "Green Flu", a highly contagious pathogen that causes extreme aggression, mutation to the body cells, and loss of higher brain functions (essentially zombifying those who catch the flu). Two weeks after the first infection four immune survivors—William "Bill" Overbeck (voiced by Jim French), a Green Beret and Vietnam veteran; Zoey (voiced by Jen Taylor), a college student; Louis (voiced by Earl Alexander), a district account manager, and Francis (voiced by Vince Valenzuela), an outlaw biker—make their way through the city of Fairfield, only to discover that the infection is creating more dangerous mutations in some of its hosts. After narrowly avoiding these new infected, along with hordes of others (as seen in the introduction video), the survivors are alerted to the presence of an evacuation point at the nearby Mercy Hospital roof by a passing helicopter. Fighting their way through the city's streets, subway and sewers, they are rescued from the hospital's roof by the pilot, only to discover he is infected.
With Zoey forced to kill him, the helicopter crash lands in an industrial district outside the city. Finding an armored delivery truck, the group uses it to make their way to the town of Riverside. However, they find the road blocked, and travel the rest of the way on foot. After an encounter with a hostile maniac in the local church, they discover that the town is overrun, and decide to head to a nearby boathouse for rescue. Contacting a small fishing vessel, they manage to reach the city of Newburg on the other side of the river, only to find much of it in flames. Seeking cover in a large greenhouse, their rest is interrupted when a military C-130 Hercules passes overhead, leading the survivors to travel through the city's business district towards Metro International Airport. Upon arrival, the group see that in an attempt to contain the infection, the military had bombed the airport. The runway, however, is largely intact, allowing the survivors to fuel up and escape in a waiting C-130. An airplane is seen trying to land, only to crash and explode, giving insight into how the outbreak affected air traffic.
Despite this apparent rescue, it crashes as well, and the survivors once again find themselves alone on the outskirts of Allegheny National Forest. Following a series of train tracks through the area, the group find themselves at a functioning, but abandoned, military outpost. After answering a radio transmission, the survivors make their final stand against hordes of infected, before a military APC arrives to (supposedly) transport them to Northeast Safe Zone Echo, implied to be one of the few (if not the only) safe zones still standing. Instead, they are taken to a military installation and informed that even though they are immune, they still carry the infection. They are temporarily held by the military before the base is overrun with infected. The four escape via train and travel south at Bill's insistence; Bill believes that they can find long-term safety from the infected on the islands of the Florida Keys.
At the portside town of Rayford, they find a boat but must raise an old rusty bridge powered by an aging generator to get the boat into open waters, assured that the machinery noise will alert a large horde. However, the generator gives out. Bill sacrifices himself in order to restart it, so that the others may reach safety. After waiting for the horde to disperse, the three then encounter four more survivors. They move the boat to the other side of the bridge and help them re-lower the bridge so they can cross in their car. Afterwards, Louis, Zoey, and Francis head back to the boat and set course to the Keys.
Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter in which the player takes control of one of four survivors; if 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 rabies-like virus that causes psychosis. The virus does not affect them but they can transmit it to others as carriers.
The game focuses on cooperation and teamwork and thus eschews some "realism" conventions usual in most FPS games of the wider genre. 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 takes enough damage while incapacitated, or is not eventually helped up by teammates, then the incapacitated character will die. During "Campaign" mode, 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. The AI is incapable of accessing the "respawn closets", so if all human player survivors are killed or incapacitated, players will have to restart from the last checkpoint. Survivors can share first-aid kits and pain pills and help each other heal. Left 4 Dead has friendly fire (which causes no damage on the easy difficulty mode), increasing the need for caution around other survivors.
The survivors communicate by voice commands that are accessed by quick menus, and some may 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 headset, the Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead omits the quick phrases feature.
The game is experienced through six campaigns that take place in various urban and rural locales. Multiple visual in-game hints—including license plates, park signs, markings on airport equipment, and lines of dialogue spoken by the survivors—suggest that these locations are in Pennsylvania, 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 (except Crash Course, which has two chapters, and The Sacrifice, which has three) 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. A two-level campaign, "Crash Course", was released on September 29, and is set in the outskirts of a small industrial town. While The Sacrifice is a three-level campaign released on October 5 in 2010, with an industrial port-side setting in Georgia. The levels have 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 20 and 75 minutes depending on the difficulty level. Both platform versions of the game utilize an achievement system.
There are four protagonists of the game: Francis, an outlaw biker (voiced by Vince Valenzuela), Bill, a Vietnam Veteran (voiced by Jim French), Zoey, a university student (voiced by Jen Taylor) and Louis, a district account manager (voiced by Earl Alexander). 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. Aside from appearances, all of the characters play exactly the same in-game.
Survivors are armed with various firearms. Each player starts the game with a semiautomatic pistol. It may be reloaded an unlimited number of times 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, also with unlimited ammo. At the beginning of each campaign, the player can choose between a submachine gun and a pump-action shotgun. As the survivors progress through a campaign, more powerful weapons can be found: the fully automatic assault rifle (an upgrade to the submachine gun), a semi-automatic shotgun (an upgrade to the pump-action shotgun), and a scoped hunting rifle. A flashlight that can be toggled on and off is mounted on each firearm, with the exception of additional pistols. In addition to firearms, a player can also carry three other items in their inventory: improvised grenades (either a Molotov cocktail 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 gas cans, propane cylinders, and oxygen tanks, all of which explode when shot. These environmental weapons 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. Strategically placed minigun turrets are also encountered at various locations throughout the different maps.
The infected (voiced by experimental musician Mike Patton and voice actor Fred Tatasciore) are the survivors' foes in Left 4 Dead, and they appear to be partly inspired by the infected from several modern films, including Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Quarantine. An important distinction from the former is that while the infected do resemble traditional undead zombies, they are, as cited in the game's manual, living humans infected with a rabies-like pathogen, very much like the infected in the latter two films. While they are never seen eating human flesh or brains, multiple 'survivors' who have been killed by the infected appear throughout the game, and appear to have been partially eaten. In The Sacrifice comic, Zoey's mother is bitten in the face. She then begins to attack the rest of her family. One such victim can be heard saying "I can't believe he bit me!" before being encountered later on, fully infected. 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 is 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 far more dangerous. 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. There are five special infected in Left 4 Dead.
- The Boomer is a bloated infected that can spit vision-impairing bile on the Survivors. This bile attracts hordes of common infected to the biled character(s), and he explodes on death, spewing more bile in the immediate area. They emit burping and vomiting like sounds when close by. A 5-note double bass cue plays to signal Boomer.
- The Hunter is an agile foe that can jump and pounce on a survivor, and then tear at his victim until he is knocked off, kills his prey or is killed. A hunter emits animal like screeches or light roars when close by, and a snarling growl can be heard when in close proximity. The Hunter is signaled by a startling high pitched piano cue.
- The Smoker is a boil-covered creature with six long tongues that he uses to ensnare and drag a survivor back to himself. He may then either attack the survivor directly, allow the horde to attack him, or leave the survivor suspended over a cliff or roof-edge. The Smoker only releases his victim if a teammate shoves the ensnared survivor, if the tongue is shot, the survivor is killed, or upon the Smoker's death, which results in an explosion that leaves a vision-obscuring cloud. Smokers have raspy voices and frequently wheeze and cough, presuming that they may have been an avid smoker before becoming an Infected. A 2-note low piano cue signals the Smoker. A glitch for the Smoker is to pull a survivor to an edge and they will grab onto it, but the Smoker will continue suffocating the survivor with their tongue.
- The Tank is a gigantic, muscular infected that has the ability to swipe at survivors, knocking them off their feet and incapacitating them; he can also throw rocks and knock cars and other debris into the survivors. The Tank looks like his lower jaw is missing, but it's actually hidden in his neck muscle. The Tank is the most durable of all the special infected, and requires the full support of all of the survivors in order to be killed. The Tank is accompanied by a booming orchestral score to signal his appearance.
- The Witch is a female infected with long claws that stays crying in one spot. Survivors can often avoid the Witch but if they disturb her with light, loud noises, gunfire, or remain too close to her for a period of time, she will become aggressive and charge at the one who "startled" her. Along with crying, an eerie choir tune plays when she is near. The Witch has the strongest attack of the infected in the game; able to kill a survivor outright with one blow on the hardest difficulty. As such she is not playable by human players in Versus mode.
In versus mode, four additional players can take control of the special infected—apart from the witch, who 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 10–25 seconds before re-entering 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.
A cut special infected called the "Screamer" would be bound in a strait jacket and its presence made known by its maniacal cackling. If spotted, he would run away to find a safe hiding place; once it did, it would emit a loud scream to attract common infected. The directors soon found him to be stressful, especially if he was in a crowd, so they removed him from the game. At one point he coexisted with the Boomer; the Boomer would simply explode when killed and damage nearby player characters, and the Screamer would attract the common infected. The strait jacket suggests that the Screamer might have been insane (and subsequently bound by some sort of mental institution) prior to being infected. But he was scrapped, and the Boomer was reworked to resemble the Screamers ability.
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 playthrough. 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.
Left 4 Dead contains four game modes: campaign, versus, survival, and single-player. The cooperative campaign consists of up to 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 one to 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 player-controlled survivor finishes the level, the survivor team earns 100 points 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 player-controlled survivors are killed, the survivor team only earns points according to their average progress through the chapter 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, added in April 2009 in the Survival Pack downloadable content. Single-player mode is similar to campaign mode, but played offline with three AI-controlled bots as the other survivors. On Xbox 360, other players can join in on the same console to turn single player into an offline co-op game. The game can also be played through a system link, or local area network. Players have also discovered a way to do splitscreen co-op play with the PC version.
Development on Left 4 Dead started in mid-2005. Turtle Rock Studios aimed to create a horror film-inspired game that merges single player games' character-driven narrative structure with multiplayer games' social interaction and high replayability. The game was first revealed in the Christmas 2006 publication of PC Gamer UK with a six-page article describing a playthrough at Turtle Rock Studios headquarters. A teaser was released with The Orange Box. The game was first playable at the Showdown 2007 LAN in San Jose and at QuakeCon 2007. Turtle Rock Studios announced Left 4 Dead on November 20, 2006, and was acquired by Valve Corporation on January 10, 2008, because of the game and long-standing relationship between the companies. The game opened up to pre-purchasing on Valve's Steam system on October 15, 2008.
To give Left 4 Dead significant exposure, Valve financed a $10-million marketing campaign for the game in the United States and Europe, with advertisements appearing on television, print, websites and outdoor placements in many cities. Valve also hosted photo contests called, "Dude, where's my thumb?" offering copies of Left 4 Dead to people who submitted the best picture involving zombies or the outdoor advertising.
Left 4 Dead uses the 2008 version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths. Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for a greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping, or breaking obstacles. Lighting was enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions. Wet surfaces and fog are used to create mood. Many kinds of post processing cinematic visual effects inspired by horror movies have been added to the game. There is dynamic color correction that accentuates details based on importance, contrast and sharpening to focus attention on critical areas, film grain to expose details or imply details in dark areas and vignetting to evoke tension and a horror-film look.
Left 4 Dead underwent many phases of development; influenced by playtesting, Turtle Rock Studios removed many of the features that were originally in the game. In the initial phases, there was another special infected, called the "screamer", which had no attacks but upon spotting a survivor would run to a safe place and then emit a loud scream that attracted a horde of infected. This infected class was removed, but its ability to attract the horde was incorporated into the boomer's vomit. A persistent merit/demerit system was envisioned to provide positive feedback for good behavior, such as aiding a fallen teammate; and negative feedback for poor behavior, such as shooting a teammate. This would provide a score to rank a player's effectiveness as a teammate, but this system was removed late in the development of the game in favor of immediate, non-persistent feedback displayed in-game. Another significant element removed was a long introduction between campaigns; because the game is designed for replayability, it was difficult to hold the player's attention for repeated viewings of cut scenes, so they were dropped in favor of a sparse narrative. Also, the game started out with one big city design with many routes for the survivors, but playtesters were confused when they began to play, and later they always chose the same route; ultimately Turtle Rock Studios cut the city maps into the first "No Mercy" and "Dead Air" campaigns.
Certain Affinity assisted Turtle Rock Studios with the Xbox 360 version of the game. The Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead has the same game modes as the PC version but has additional features such as support for split screen, allowing for two players to play offline and online from the same console, and System Link play. Split-screen mode can also be achieved on the PC version, but it requires console commands and may require the modification of controller configuration files; and it is not officially supported. Both versions of the game have a new matchmaking system to simplify the process of finding other players. This new server management system was met with a negative reaction from PC server operators, who, with this system, had very little control over their servers. This led to Valve releasing a series of patches that allowed server operators to remove their server from the matchmaking "pool" of servers or make private servers. Valve runs dedicated servers for both versions of the game.
To promote the game and provide basic training to players before starting the game, Valve chose to develop a pre-rendered intro movie. This movie was released on Halloween and shows events prior to the beginning of the "No Mercy" campaign. Valve chose an intro movie over in-game training mechanics because they wanted the players to be immediately dropped into a zombie apocalypse. Valve later detailed in their official Left 4 Dead blog how they designed the movie, from an intentionally very basic animation in the beginning of July 2008 to the final result for the launch of the game.
Early access to the Left 4 Dead demo for people who pre-ordered the game began on November 6, 2008, for both Windows and Xbox 360. It gave users access to both online and single-player play in two "scenes" in one "movie" within the game. This promotion was being offered in addition to the ten percent savings for those who pre-order and applies to all Steam Windows pre-orders and all Windows and Xbox 360 pre-orders from GameStop and EB Games in North America. On November 11, the Left 4 Dead demo was made available to all Windows and Xbox 360 gamers worldwide. The Left 4 Dead demo was removed from the Xbox 360 Marketplace and Valve's own Steam after the game's release on November 18, 2008, however it is still available for those that played it.
The demo had many server problems when it launched, primarily Valve's strategy for server management which made it impossible to set up a dedicated private server with administrator controls. However, a stream of patches led to the availability of a server browser and basic private server functionality as well as Valve's acknowledgment of player concerns. It appears that a patch released just before the game itself has resolved many of the connection issues that demo players were having.
On May 1, 2009, the game was released freely via Steam as a one-day trial called "Freaky Free Friday". The trial was then extended to end on Saturday.
On October 5, 2010, the price of the game via Steam was dropped to US$6.80, or a "4-pack" for $20.40, as a promotion coinciding with the release of "The Sacrifice" DLC.
Left 4 Dead went gold on November 13, 2008, and was released on November 18, 2008, in North America; and on November 21, 2008, in Europe to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the release of Half-Life.
Valve released a server patch in December 2008 to stop players on Xbox Live from using PC-style cheats. A spokesman from Valve said, "The fix is designed to halt the cheating behavior on the dedicated servers, which accounts for the majority of the co-op and versus modes of play."
Valve intended to support the PC version of the game through free content updates and the Xbox 360 version with DLC. On a podcast by Kotaku, writer Chet Faliszek divulged that an announcement regarding DLC for the PC and Xbox 360 would be released "very soon", and that the announcement was delayed by the holiday season. On February 5, 2009, Valve released details about the upcoming downloadable content pack. The two full campaigns of "Death Toll" and "Dead Air" for versus mode—which were previously unavailable—are included, as well as the survival game mode, where the survivors try to survive endless waves of the infected for as long as possible. On February 11, 2009, Valve announced that the downloadable content for the game would be free for both the Xbox 360 and PC; and on April 21, it was released. Survival mode shipped with 16 maps, 15 of them being modified portions of existing maps and one being a new lighthouse-themed level titled "The Last Stand". A Game Of the Year Edition of Left 4 Dead was released on the PC and Xbox 360 on May 12, 2009, with updates and new content included on the disc.
On May 15, 2009, an open beta test for the Source Development Kit updated to support Left 4 Dead was started under the name of the "Left 4 Dead Authoring tools". This included a new set of plugins that allowed for users to import data from SketchUp, a free 3D modeling program, directly into the Hammer level editor for use in maps. The beta was concluded on June 25, 2009, with the full release of the Left 4 Dead authoring tools and corresponding server and matchmaking update to support custom maps. The update included a command line tool for packaging custom Left 4 Dead campaigns to ease distribution.
A sequel, announced at the 2009 E3 conference and was released November 17, 2009. Addressing concerns voiced by fans, Gabe Newell responded to an email from Kotaku explaining that despite the upcoming sequel, Left 4 Dead would continue to be supported and more content is planned in the coming months.
On August 4, 2009, Valve announced the second DLC pack. It contains a new campaign called Crash Course, set shortly after the events of the No Mercy campaign, where the Survivors try to get to a Truck Depot after the helicopter they were in crashed. It is available for co-op, versus and survival modes, with various tweaks to game mechanics, and containing new locations and character dialog. The DLC was announced to be released on September 29, 2009, on which date it was released for free for PC, but was accidentally released on Xbox Live at a higher price. The price was amended soon after, and all players who bought the DLC at the higher price were refunded.
An add-on campaign for Left 4 Dead 2, "The Passing", featured the Left 4 Dead survivors meeting the new cast as part of a full campaign. The Left 4 Dead 2 content was set for release in March 2010, however it was delayed until April 22, 2010. To connect the events in "The Passing" to that in Left 4 Dead, Valve released another add-on in October 2010 for both Left 4 Dead and its sequel, entitled "The Sacrifice"; the events of the add-on take place before "The Passing" and tells how the Left 4 Dead survivors come to encounter the group from Left 4 Dead 2, and how one sacrificed themselves for the safety of the others.
Valve announced a 190-page digital comic that has been revealed in four parts in the weeks leading up to the release of The Sacrifice. Part one was released on September 14, 2010, with a new part scheduled for release each week until The Sacrifice's October 5 release. The comic is illustrated by Mike Oeming, the artist behind the Powers comic series, and tells the stories of the original four survivors, as well as the events leading up to the infection. The comic begins with Bill, having just sacrificed himself to save the others, taking on three tanks while severely wounded. It then cuts to the finale of Blood Harvest, which is revealed to be one week earlier. In The Sacrifice DLC, any player, whether playing as Bill or not, can choose to sacrifice themselves to allow the other survivors to complete the campaign.
In March 2010, Valve announced that it would be bringing the Steam content platform to Mac OS X computers; along with it, they will be providing native versions of existing Valve games including Left 4 Dead and its sequel. The game was released for Mac OS X on October 27, 2010 Left 4 Dead support cross-platform play, allowing Mac players to play alongside PC players on the same servers, and is also part of the "Steam Play" cross-compatible and Steam Cloud titles, allowing a player that has purchased the game on one platform to download and play it on the other platform for free.
Overkill Software, the developers of Payday: The Heist, a similar game to Left 4 Dead featuring four player co-operative gameplay, announced in June 2012 that it has worked with Valve to create a DLC level for Payday in the form of a map mirroring the "No Mercy" level from Left 4 Dead, however, this DLC level is not canon to Left 4 Dead and does not lead to the infection that initiated the events in Left 4 Dead.
On August 20, 2015, an update for the game Zombie Army Trilogy was released, which imported the eight survivors from both Left 4 Dead games into ZAT.
Left 4 Dead received highly positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, the game received an aggregated score of 89 out of 100 for both Xbox 360 and PC, on Metacritic. IGN stated, "It's almost pitch perfect in how it captures the tension and the action of a Hollywood zombie movie", and went on to describe it as, "quite possibly the perfect co-op shooter." Giant Bomb commented that the Source engine was beginning to show its age, but praised the game's use of lighting and filmic effects that gives the game world, "a desolate, washed-out feeling", as well as the realistic and emotive faces and the engrossing art direction. Eurogamer concluded that Left 4 Dead "is another deeply professional, personality-filled and progressive take on the shooter from Valve." Both IGN and GameSpot praised the game's replayability, but Gamespot criticized the "limited map selection" that could "sometimes feel a bit repetitious". GameSpy noted the lack of an overall narrative between the campaigns was disappointing. However, some reviewers praised its faithfulness to the zombie film genre, including the "deliberately ambiguous" back-story, and the amount of characterization and emotion brought by each of the four survivors. TeamXbox commented that clipping issues hurt the otherwise "incredibly good" visual experience. Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series declared in an interview to 1UP.com that he was "addicted to the game", which was, in his view, one of the "core titles made with movie-industry people that explore the depths of hi-def".
On October 28, 2008, Valve reported that preorders for Left 4 Dead had beaten those of The Orange Box by 95 percent after the Steam pre-order was launched. On November 21, 2008, the day of the game's release in Europe, Valve issued a press release stating that Left 4 Dead had exceeded the pre-order numbers of The Orange Box by over 160 percent. The Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead was the seventh best-selling game of December 2008 in the United States, selling in excess of 629,000 copies. On February 3, Electronic Arts revealed that Left 4 Dead had sold 1.8 million copies, excluding Steam and worldwide sales figures. On March 26, Mike Booth revealed that the game had exceeded 2.5 million sales at retail during a presentation at the Game Developers Conference 2009. On September 24, 2009, Valve announced that almost 3 million copies of the game had been sold. On May 10, 2011, Doug Lombardi mentioned that the game and its sequel have each sold 3 million copies on the Xbox 360. On August 11, 2011, in a phone interview with Giant Bomb, Chet Faliszek said that the series has sold over 11 million units in total.
Left 4 Dead received recognition as one of the best multiplayer and PC games of 2008 from various organizations and gaming publications. The game was named the Best Multiplayer Game of 2008 by IGN, GameSpy, Spike TV, NoFrag and BAFTA; and as the Computer Game of the Year by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), Spike TV, and Bit-tech. Other awards include Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay from the AIAS, Best Use of Sound for the PC and Best Shooting game overall from IGN, Father of All FPS from Nofrag, and the best Cooperative Multiplayer and Shooter of 2008 from GameSpot who also nominated it for Game of the Year.
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Elan Ruskin: Each survivor has a large database of lines to choose from based on their present activity and a variety of factors, such as their health, stress level, kind of special infected seen so far, and many others.
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The things that are happening, all the shit that is hitting the fan and turning everyone into mutant zombies, has gone much bigger than just Pennsylvania, which is where the original game was loosely set.
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Left 4 Dead is a game that venerates zombie movies throughout the ages, from George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later
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The events are trying to give them a sense of narrative. We look at sequences of events and try to take what their actions are to generate new sequences. If they've been particularly challenged by one kind of creature then we can use that information to make decisions about how we use that creature in subsequent encounters. This is what makes procedural narrative more of a story-telling device than, say, a simple difficulty mechanism.
- Valve Corporation (2008). Left 4 Dead. PC. Level/area: No Mercy (developer commentary).
Tim Larkin: We took several steps to keep the music interesting enough that the players would be inclined to keep it on as they play. We keep it changing so it won't become tedious; to this end, we created a music director that runs alongside the AI director, tracking the player's experience rather than their emotional state. We keep the music appropriate to each player's situation and highly personalized. The music engine in Left 4 Dead has a complete client-side, multi-track system per player that is completely unique to that player and can even be monitored by the spectators. Since some of the fun of Left 4 Dead is watching your friends when you're dead, we thought it was important to hear their personal soundtrack as well. This feature is unique to Left 4 Dead.
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The AI director—I don't want to say it fell out of Half-Life 2, but it was definitely a jumping-off point of stuff we did in Half-Life 2, particularly Episode 2. There are a couple of key battles where the number of Combine, and where they come at you from, uses something like that. It's much cruder than what we accomplished with Left 4 Dead, but there was some of that there
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Miles Estes: Since killing zombies is such a big part of this game, we invested a lot of time into making their death animations more dramatic than simple ragdolls. We had a professional stuntman on the motion capture stage perform about a hundred different dying animations from different kinds of weapons and hit from different directions, like from the front or behind. We then combined these mo-cap animations with the physics-driven ragdolls.
- Valve Corporation (2008). Left 4 Dead. PC. Level/area: No Mercy: The Apartments (developer commentary).
Phil Robb: We treat the infected horde as a major character in Left 4 Dead, and spend a lot of effort in making their movements believable. This includes hundreds of motion-captured animations that are algorithmically blended with the physics system to create characters that realistically interact with their environment and each other. ... When they see a survivor, they become enraged, taking off at a full sprint, leaning into their turns, jumping and climbing over everything in their way, trying to get to their victim. We wanted to express this rage in their faces as well, so we found efficient ways for each member of the horde to make intense facial expressions.
- Valve Corporation (2008). Left 4 Dead. PC. Level/area: No Mercy: The Subway (developer commentary).
Matt Campbell: Although it sounds ridiculous to talk about advanced zombie AI, we spent a great deal of time on the AI systems for the common horde. First and foremost is their ability to navigate. The environments in Left 4 Dead are geometrically complex, and littered with breakable and movable objects such as doors or cars. One of the design goals for the zombie horde was that there can never be a place where a survivor can stand that a zombie cannot navigate to. To make this happen required not only robust path-finding code, but also path-following algorithms as well. These path followers have to continuously evaluate the local geometry around them, and decide whether to crouch, stand, jump, climb over, and otherwise navigate nearly arbitrary environmental obstacles.
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Jaime Sue: The screamer was a boss zombie who didn't have any actual attacks; he was bound in a straitjacket. You knew when he was around because of his crazed, maniacal cackling. The trick to the Screamer was that if he saw you, you had a moment to kill him before he ran away, and once the screamer got away from the survivors to a hiding place, he would emit a loud, howling scream that would cause a huge mob of zombies to attack the survivors. While there were several exciting moments of knowing you had to chase him down to shoot him before he screamed, dodging zombies all the way, ultimately it proved too confusing for the survivors to discover how he worked or even to reliably notice him in the crowd. He was cut, and his horde-drawing attack eventually evolved into the boomer attack.
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- Valve Corporation (2008). Left 4 Dead. PC. Level/area: No Mercy: The Apartments (developer commentary).
Doug Wood: We experimented with a variety of different introductions for each campaign. For "No Mercy", we tried a 40-second fly-in of the helicopter to give the player a more movie-like introduction to the game. Ultimately, we found that such elaborate cut scenes are hard to watch over and over in a game that's built for replayability. Playtesters wanted to get into the game and start playing right away, so we ended up going with a much more streamlined game intro.
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We actually started out with a single, huge city design with a great many routes for the survivors to take to reach the extraction point. As we began to playtest in this zombie city, we immediately discovered that having that much choice combined with the chaos of zombie hordes made for frustrated and paralyzed survivor teams
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We're currently hosting about 5,000 game servers for Left 4 Dead on the PC.(archives are members only to view. Log in with firstname.lastname@example.org and password xetafoki)
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The motion-capture animation that makes up the varied zombie behavior is incredibly good, with the visuals peaking when a rushing gray-black mass of zombies are climbing up, over and through the terrain to get at you(...) On the other hand, it's irritating when you come into a room and see an enraged zombie clipping through from the other side of a wall or door
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First and foremost, it's probably the most faithful video incarnation of the zombie genre that fans have ever been treated to. Yes, even better than Resident Evil 4
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The amazing level designs will remind you of every zombie movie ever made
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Over breakfast yesterday – before playing – we were talking about different takes on the zombie game that we'd like to see. One which didn't come up is one which Left 4 Dead grasps completely – its inherent perverseness. Now, it's a constant internet thing to discuss what you'd do in a Zombie Invasion, the implication being that you're smarter than anyone else. Which is fine... but that's not how the genre works
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As with the best horror flicks, the back-story is left deliberately ambiguous
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Yet it also features four distinct survivors who convey an incredible amount of emotion through their facial animations and the rich amount of voice acting. There's Bill, the grizzled old veteran; Francis, the tough biker; Louis, the everyday dude; and Zoey, the college girl. They're so memorable that you can hear their voices in your mind as clear as day
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There are games everyone can play—maybe calling them 'kids' games' would be inappropriate—but there's also a deep base of core titles made with movie-industry people that explore the depths of hi-def. I'm addicted to Left 4 Dead right now, but people say to me that that game would never work in Japan.
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