Left 4 Dead Review: A Heart-Pumping Zombie Shooter with Shortcomings

Not every Valve game was as polarizing as the usual classics Half life, Portal and Counter strike. One example not many people could list when it comes to the famous publisher is the Left 4 Dead series. Let’s take a closer look at it and figure why its fame had lasted not very long and it was eventually left for dead but also why I would still recommend you to play it if you like dark horror shooters.

Story – Epidemic gone bad

posters warning from the virus

As you can guess from the stylized name, in Left 4 Dead you play as one out of 4 available characters that need to survive a zombie acapolypse. Actually the group should be saved but was Left 4 Dead in the city as the help departed before they could arrive at it. Facing their fate the immune group realises that there is no other way than to fight by all means through the herd of zombies to get to safety. This basics for this story get told by an intro before the actual game. The game itself focuses more on the zombie fighting aspect but if you manage to win you will reach the goal of surviving the acapoyplse by fleeing and being saved.

Left 4 Dead 1 and Left 4 Dead 2 – Where is the difference?

The Left 4 Dead series consist of two games released a year apart from each other (2008 and 2009). Resulting out of the short timespan between the two there is no real difference in graphics quality such as with Portal 1 and 2. They also feature the same basic game mechanics. Furthermore though L4D2 actually has a few more elements such as more zombies and more options regarding the weapons.

Dark setting in Left 4 Dead 1

Although they are quite similar Left 4 Dead 1 also features an overall darker and creepier atmosphere with all the levels happening at night where you are dependent on the light of your flashlight. You need strong nerves for this one. Especially when a zombie starts sprinting to you while you turn your small flashlight into a different direction. In contrast to this Left 4 Dead 2 took a more bright approach with much more light in the map design.

The following points therefore count for both of the games if not otherwise stated. Later I will also give out an recommendation which of the two you should choose and, if you are interested, buy in the end.

Graphics – as realistic as possible

When you are familiar with the games Valve released in the early 2010th you can guess that both the Left 4 Dead games of course ran on the source engine. This gives especially the first L4D the ability to play a bit with the darkness and small lightsources in it. They both look quite good although L4D2 seems like a more friendly version of L4D1 with more comic textures and brighter elements. This was propably Valves way of hoping to make a rather hardcore horror shooter to a more mass friendly product. It should also be said that the graphics aren’t detailed and realistic enough to make the game repulsive. You won’t see much more than a little blood.

Even thought the games were just released a year apart from each other when comparing the games side by side you will find that L4D2 looks a bit more refined especially when paying attention to the texture details.

L4D 1 on the left and L4D 2 on the right

Sound – simply horrifying

The most horrifying aspects of the game though are not the graphics but the screeching and bone wrecking screams of the zombies. When walking through a seemingly empty region the music also lets the player know when there is danger comming. This kind of early warn system is also perceptible when a new wave of zombies rushes to the location you should defend making it easy to prepare for it. Furthermore there is the innocent weeping of the witch which, as the name implies, is not so innocent as it might seem. Once learning this the hard way you will be terrified upon hearing the crying sound of this enemy.

Gameplay – Zombie goes Boooooom

shooting zombies again and again (L4D1)

In the beginning you choose a character out of 4 with who you are going to go through the selected adventure. There are multiple possiblitys such as a PvP (zombie vs surviver [L4D2]) mode, a survival mode where you need to survive as long as possbile against a infinite amount of zombie waves, a realism mode or the classic campaign mode.

same game mechanic in L4D2

In the classic campaign mode you are running from safe room to safe room making you way to the final help. During this voyage you and your teammates kill many zombies using different weapons and heal themselfes and each other when in need. As you might imagine this concept gets a bit repetitiv after a few rounds even with a change of enemys and place.

On the other hand this simplicity also makes it super easy to get used to so you can have fun with L4D within a few minutes of playtime making it perfect for letting a bit of steam off after a hard work day where your concentration isnt at its maximum anymore. As the game is also quite easy feasible on normal difficulty you dont need to think much about any tactics.

Multiplayer – the key element!

playing multiplayer with friends is where the real fun is

The key element for having a good time in Left 4 Dead is the multiplayer as it makes exponentially more fun with friends around. This especially goes very good hand in hand with the strong need for teamwork in the game mechanics such as rescuing a friend from a herd of enemys.

Apart from your friends there is still a tiny active community playing L4D which results in an actually still acceptable waiting time for matchmaking (when you are lucky).

Success – How did L4D hold up against time?

As other Valve games from the time such as Portal set very high expectations regarding the impact of games on the gaming community one could argue that Left 4 Dead kind of lags behind. This is due to multiple factors but as I already mentioned the most important one is the quite repetitive gameplay making the game boring after just a few hours. Also the lack of a really good and elaborated story as well as the lack of good and competitive multiplayer make it hard for Left 4 Dead to stand out amongst titles with incredibly good story such as Portal and really well tuned competitive multiplayer elements such as CS:GO.


Now even though it has its shortcomings I would still recommend you to give it a try as the price is really cheap and you will have a fun time with friends for a few hours.


Left 4 Dead is an action rich horror shooter that features a fun multiplayer, great graphics for the time and a quite horrifying sound design. The game mechanics though become a bit repetitive and boring after a few rounds as they mostly consist of just destroying zombies over and over again.

As with all Valve games Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 are both integrated in the Valve complete pack which also comes with the Portal series and Half life making them an extremely good deal at a Steam sale for 7 for all of these games.

In the end I would recommend you to buy Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 at a Steam sale within the Valve complete pack but if you want to play now and are not too fearful I do recommend getting Left 4 Dead 1 as it is simply the more original with a darker and spookier atmoshphere underlining the genre better.

Left 4 Dead: Left 4 Dead is an action rich horror shooter that features a fun multiplayer and great graphics. The game mechanics though become a bit repetitive and boring after a few rounds as they mostly consist of just destroying zombies. GLPC: phantom

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