Left 4 Dead is a brutal PTSD inducing experience. At any moment, and more often the better you’re doing, herds of zombies swarm you – and that’s just the easy stuff. Staggering through the desolate cityscape with nothing but a gun mounted flashlight to light your way, I found myself wading through dozens of zombies to rescue a fallen comrade. Not because having them around would help me win the game, but because I genuinely cared about if they lived or died. And damn it they were not dieing on my watch. Not while I still had bullets in my gun and are in my lungs.
Why I felt so strongly is a really interesting question.
To look at them, they’re not much to see. Look at them – they look tough, but they’re just people really.
Yeah they’re all holding guns and they’re all crack shots. So not completely realistic. Cilche honestly. Sufficiently so that you’d think I just wouldn’t care about them.
But you’d be wrong.
I don’t really know how long it took, but I found my self doing whatever it took to keep them alive. L4D is a scarey game and more than once I was down to my last few rounds of ammunition. But there was no stopping me. It was either all of us or none.
My gut tells me I found myself feeling that way, not only because they were really crack shots, but also what they said and how they said it. They don’t talk much and there isn’t much background dialog exposition at all. In fact at one point, one of them actually cuts off another as he starts in on what sounds like a bit of back story. They’re all in the here and now, defined by their actions, and fleshed out by their words.
Turtle Rock Studios must have done something right, because the Call Of Duty:Black Ops folks cloned their idea for their multi-player replete with zombies and 4 characters with dialog. Like all things CoD, they amped everything up and honestly I think it suffers for it. Too much and trying too hard to be funny. The L4D dialog nearly all focused on specifically relevant information. For example, “Reloading!” means that they can’t cover their sector arc for a few seconds. They offer you assistance. They react (somewhat fearfully) to the presence of a witch and give you tactical advice as to what to do (i.e. turn off your flash light and sneak past.) But in CoD:Blops, it’s at least 60% witticisms and they get tired really fast – like after the second or third time you’ve heard it.
I never got tired of listening to my L4D squad.