Backwards Compatible Classics: Left 4 Dead

The Xbox 360 generation produced some of the greatest games of all time. With the introduction of Xbox 360 backwards compatibility in November 2015 on the Xbox One, there are a wealth of great games waiting to be revisited or played for the very first time! Since it's inception, Backwards Compatibility has been a resounding success for Microsoft, with over 50% of all Xbox One owners utilising it. Moving forward, Backwards Compatibility is very much part of Phil Spencer's vision of Scorpio and the Xbox One platform.

In this series of articles over the coming months, I am going to play some of those classic backwards compatible games in my collection that I never got to play first time round and also revisit the classics that I haven’t played in years. With Microsoft’s brilliant support of backwards compatibility over the last 2 years, more and more games are being added on a weekly basis. What’s more, with Xbox Live’s “Game With Gold”, 2 backwards compatible games are added to your collection each and every month for you to play and enjoy.

For this edition of Backwards Compatible Classics I shall be delving into Valve’s co-op masterpiece Left 4 Dead, and why it’s worth playing right now!

The Essence

Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter co-op game that focuses on teamwork and cooperation. Released on November 17th 2008, Left 4 Dead took the PC and console community by storm. Developed and produced by Valve and Turtle Rock Studios, Left 4 Dead built upon Valve’s already stellar portfolio of games in Half Life, Portal and Team Fortress.

The game follows 4 protagonists in the aftermath of a Zombie apocalypse triggered by a green flu virus. This virus causes the infected to suffer from psychosis and extreme aggression. The 4 key protagonists that the player or players can chose from are: Francis, an outlaw biker, Zoey, a university student, Louis, an Account manager, and Bill, a Vietnam veteran. If any of the characters aren’t selected by a human player for your playthrough, then the unchosen character or characters are AI controlled.

During the course of the 4 or so campaigns, you battle through hordes of differing zombie types. The game features 5 special infected enemy types, as well as the standard infected enemies. These special infected include: Boomers, Hunters, Smokers, Tanks and Witches, who each have their own distinctive sound to alert the player of their presence. Every enemy type brings a different set of problems. For example, be hit by a bloated Boomer’s bile, and you will be swarmed by dozens of zombies until the bile evaporates. Or if you’re unlucky enough to wander into a dark room without your teammates, you could startle a Hunter, Smoker or Witch, who will pin you to the ground until your teammate can save you. Worse of all is the gigantic and muscular infected Tank enemies that can pick up cars and severely injure players. To take down a Tank it takes all 4 players working together and a heck of a lot of bullets!

Although the levels have distinct beginnings and ends, the game contains various alternate routes to the objective, giving the game a non-linear quality. Moreover, the random generation of zombies each time you play, mean no two playthroughs are the same. For this reason, Left 4 Dead encourages replayability and experimentation!

Why You Should Play It

As the game has 4 central characters that can each be selected, Left 4 Dead is a phenomenal co-op game to play via couch co-op with friends, or online through Xbox Live.  

I recently ran through the campaign in co-op with my friend over the course of a couple Friday nights. There is nothing like the thrill of teaming up with a friend to fight through a horde of extremely fast and numerous infected to get to the next objective. This is a game that not only encourages, but demands, teamwork. If you stray too far forward during a firefight in Left 4 Dead, you will be quickly engulfed by zombies, and will have to be revived by your teammate. This is something we quickly recognised playing on the harder difficulties!

The game has a clever way of displaying each characters kills, revives and other statistics at each checkpoint which encourages competition. However, as my friend and I quickly realised, chasing those kills can put the whole mission at risk! To be effective in Left 4 Dead you have to stick together and cover each other. You have to be constantly aware, and if you happen upon a Witch or Tank enemy, it takes careful planning to eliminate or avoid them. You have to make sure you pick up ammunition, grenades and first aid packs at the checkpoints, and also protect any teammate that is low on health as once you die, you’re out the game until the next checkpoint or revive point.

The Bottom Line

Left 4 Dead is one of those games that as soon as you finish it, you want to jump right back in and play it again. Over the course of the 6-8 hours game time, you kill literally hundreds of zombies, and almost die literally hundreds of times. It’s a game that rewards teamwork. Whilst games like Dead Island, Dead Rising and Call of Duty Zombies may have taken elements of Left 4 Dead’s cooperation game play, they don’t come close to capturing the magic that is Left 4 Dead, and its sequel, Left 4 Dead 2.

There is nothing quite like accidentally shooting a Witch or car with an alarm and watching the horde of zombies flock to you like bees. Or the countless times that you’ll happen across a swarm of unsuspecting infected and light them up with a well place molotov cocktail!  It is those near death experiences and misses in Left 4 Dead that make it an unforgettable and hilarious game to play with friends.

The bottom line is if you’re looking for a co-op game that offers great gameplay and fun, with each playthrough different from the next, then Left 4 Dead is the answer!

Des O'Sullivan

Lives in England. Can usually be found working out, reading or checking out some live hiphop shows. Big fan of the Mass Effect, Fallout and Halo franchises. Add me on Xbox Live @ iD35TROYu