In Left 4 Dead, the player controls one member of a squad of 4 survivors (the other 3 members can either be AI teammates or online players) as they traverse different landscapes of a city overridden with zombies. To get from one “safe area” (level) to the next, the player and his/her teammates must use a variety of melee weapons, grenades, and guns to fight their way through hordes of zombies intent on killing them.
Overall, I enjoyed my time playing Left 4 Dead. Although the game’s generic plot of “fight your way through a zombie-ridden city” is an extremely overused plotline in both video games and movies (Resident Evil series, Silent Hill series, Dead Rising, ect.), this game still distinguishes itself from the pack, and does so in a highly enjoyable way.
For one, this game is very immersive due to its first-person view, something that most other zombie games don’t use. The use of the first person view makes me connect much more with my player avatar, because I am seeing through his eyes and his eyes only. For example, when I come to a dark corner and know I have to turn and go in that direction, the game creates in me a sense of fear/anxiety because I can’t see what I’ll be up against until its directly in my line of sight. The fact that I have to use a flashlight to see anything at all adds to my tension, because my depth and field of view are even more limited.
The game’s use of eerie sounds also caused a sense of fear in me, because the sounds would always come from areas behind me, or out of my scope of vision. This fear that the game evoked in me made me play very cautiously, and made me actually want my character to live, even though his life or death would not really affect anything since I could just respawn.
One thing I found interesting is how this sense of fear and caution would be thrown to the wind during certain portions of the game when hundreds of zombies would suddenly come out of a room/gate/ect at once, accompanied by fast paced music, and attempt to kill me and my teammates. In these instances, I became a trigger-happy child, killing everything in sight. And each kill was gratifying because it was as if I was getting revenge on the creatures that had caused me to have that fear and anxiety in the first place. Because of the many ways possible to kill these zombies, and the sheer number to kill, I felt gratified as having a freedom to kill them however I wanted. This felt more realistic and as if I was not in fact trapped in a limited game world. This freedom was an interesting juxtaposition to the lack of freedom I felt earlier, trapped in a city full of zombies, when I would have to carefully search rooms for zombies that might attack me later.
But as I shot more and more zombies, I used more and more bullets, until the point where I had only a small inefficient pistol left. When this happened I fell right back into those feelings of tension and fear. In this way, the game allowed me to explore both survival and shoot-em-up gameplay experiences, and the change between them allowed for a refreshed sense of enjoyment — just as I was getting bored of one gameplay type, the game would transition to the other.