By default, every character has a pistol, to which you can later add a second one. This weapon has an endless supply of bullets, but obviously causes less damage than the M16, the sniper rifle or any of the two shotguns that can be found in-game. The game’s “grenades” are the Molotov Cocktail and Duke Nukem’s favorite belt accessory, the Pipe Bomb. While the first of the two breaks on impact and starts a small fire, the latter is very effective against large clusters of enemies, because of their incontrollable need to gather around noisy cylinders.
And finally, you can push away and hit the Infected with your weapons in melee mode, should you need to reload or are out of bullets. More often than not, this attack won’t instantly kill them, but it’s pretty useful when you’ll need to save a teammate from some twisted beast that’s riding him like there’s no tomorrow.
Because of the Survivors’ arsenal being more powerful than, say… what those from Shaun of the Dead got, variation in the opposite faction is more than welcome. Aside from „normal” Infected, most in-game, who don’t have any special abilities, they just attack in waves and are incredibly ugly, there’s a handful of beasts that will surely stress you out. Be it tongue-strangulation, vomiting that attracts legions of Infected, pouncing a Survivor and fiercely slashing him or backhanding another across the state, these Special Infected are the ones who grant a delicious nuance of instability to the „plan” each group makes.
As I was saying earlier, the co-op mode gets a maximum of 4 people can impersonate the Survivors, and if one is missing or his connection dropped, the respective character is taken over by the AI. The game’s Artificial Intelligence works reasonably and aside from a few minor mishaps, computer-controlled allies are pretty useful, but going through the game in single-player mode is a pretty dry experience and I don’t think it’s way different than being all alone in a club that plays great music (whatever that is to you).
The Versus mode, in my opinion, will dominate servers in a while, because while the cooperative mode loses its glitter after a few runs, the competitive mode get more and more interesting and addictive. Up to four players can play as Special Infected, each of these with their own special abilities. Because of their frail consistency, they have to plan out clever attacks, not just start a random slashing frenzy to eliminate their human opponents.
The latter will have to be a lot more carefully when advancing, because Infected players will always attack where the Survivors are most vulnerable – people left behind, tight spaces, crowded areas with multiple entrances. What happens at the end of each round? The teams switch places. Each map has two ongoing rounds, after which the next episode starts. Yes, the Versus mode takes place on some of the same maps the co-op mode uses, and to be more precise, two of the four campaigns.
Which, sadly, means that when it comes to raw map quantity, Left 4 Dead is pretty limited. We’ve talking about Valve here, though. The same Valve that made Half-Life. The same Half-Life that spawned an enormous quantity of maps, skins and mods. Mods that were later bought by Valve, polished and launched back into the mainstream (Team Fortress, Counter-Strike). The opposite of a vicious circle, where everybody wins. A few interesting maps and mods are already in the works, one of which is an adaptation of the acclaimed romantic zombie apocalypse comedy „Shaun of the Dead”.
Still, another problem arises because of the dedicated servers we’ve been granted. The lobby system is accesible, quick and easy to learn, but you might notice once you’re in the game that you have odd latency problems (and so will many of your teammates), even when there’s nothing in the background that eats up your broadband. For this reason, it would be ideal that the game you’re joining is hosted locally by someone with a good enough connection to support it.