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Left 4 Dead: 4 Reasons Why It Works

  1. Desperation: I thought the speed of the zombies was ridiculous. I was mistaken. The only speed for the zombies is barreling towards the group, looping in wide arches, barreling out of control. The inability to perform any crowd control (outside of limited supply molotov cocktails) turns each firefight into a desperate attempt to keep the zombies at bay. The most desperate moments come when the horde is surrounding you, knocking a teammates health to zero, watching them fire from the ground wildly. It’s your decision when to wade in and help them. The player narratives this creates are phenomenal, being involved in a dire rescue just meters from the safe house is one of the great moments in gaming. Result: You have to rely on your team, not just yourself.
  2. Reward: Left 4 Dead is constantly rewarding you, as if some macabre version of Peggle. Almost every kill results in a message like “Louis protected Zoey.” Some achievements are easy to get in just your first play through. Result: You are compelled to save others, if only for the rewards.
  3. Enforced co-operation: There’s no “I” in team, nor is there one in “Left 4 Dead.” Leaving your team results in either a hunter killing you (hunters can only be removed by teammates), a tank killing you (tanks can only be killed by all members working together), smokers killing you (once choked by a smoker, you can’t save yourself) or your team killing you by voting you out of the game. Result: Those who don’t play nice don’t last long.
  4. Headsets: Now, this might only be the case for the 360 game, but L4D pretty much requires a headset. There’s no way to communicate what’s happening in the event of you becoming separated: you can’t call for help without one. While this was initially off-putting for myself, I soon realized it’s the binding agent of the team. People without headsets get hurt. A lot. You also need that camaraderie if you’re going to be playing an hour long game together. But what this does is also share the scares: “Watch out!” and “Oh no…” add to the game in a way no canned voice acting ever could. Result: L4D is a bonded, shared experience. Talking and laughing over shared experiences are far more powerful than any individual endeavor.

Yes, I know I’m late to the party.

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