One of my largest criticisms of the video game industry is the real lack of offline co-op and multiplayer games in the next-generation consoles. Pure would've been a great party game had there been an offline multiplayer. Concurrently Battlefield: Bad Company and Far Cry 2, which were awesome single-player games, would have been even better if the game allowed a second player to join in on co-op. There is online co-op with a few games but nothing serious.
Offline co-op is not as popular as it was with the XBox since every video game developer thinks because World of Warcraft has over 10 million subscribers that the vast majority of gamers play online. This couldn't be any further from the truth as the many developers are learning that casual gamers have become the dominating class, which has led to Nintendo's domination in video game sales for the past two years. Most gamers just do not wish to play some random kid in Europe or some 13-year-old kid from Wyoming dropping f-bombs like the Allies in WWII.
And let's face it here! How many times did we wish Resident Evil games were co-op? Especially Resident Evil 4 or the Outbreak series? Zombies are fun to kill (again) and maim but doing it with a friend can be such a (non-gay) bonding moment for us guys.
Enter Left for Dead.
"LFD" was primarily advertised, and hyped at the latest E3 summit, as the great zombie co-op game not just online but offline as well. Based almost primarily on this (that and I love playing as Vietnam veterans), my little brother and I saved up for this one so we could finally kill mass hordes together rather than one at a time while the other sits there patiently twiddling his thumbs. We brought it to our home, put it in and were immediately taken in by the mass sound interacting with our Yamaha home theater. It was, for a lack of a better term, really loud.
We loved the introduction screen, which pretty much summed up the entire game: run, shoot a lot, help others, heal, run some more, shoot a lot more some at special bad guys, revive fallen team member, heal, run a short distance and get to "safe" point and prepare for round 2-4. Simplistic, yet incredibly entertaining. The levels are equally simplistic as the linear environments make the path to follow as easy as the aiming system, which is dead-on accurate. There were many times when zombies would spill through a doorway and were quickly stopped because I took the Microsoft approach of "point, click, and hold" and their advance halted as quickly as it started.
To me, this was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a more Resident Evil experience where you hoarde ammo and supplies in a true survival horror environment. Instead, generic piles of ammo will refill your entire stock as many times as you wish (at least in easy and normal difficulty). Medical kits are a little more sparse and healing requires you to spend about ten seconds without being interupted.
However, this is not to say I did not enjoy it. The gratuitous level of violence, which would make Terrintino retire since he cannot possibly achieve that level of awesomeness, was entertaining. It was also great to see who got the most head-shots and did the most damage to the special villains. The sounds and asthetics also stayed true to survival horror as you could hear the groaning of nearby zombies and the crying of special villains known as witches. Be weary of them as they are NASTY.
LFD's greatest plus is the promotion of team work over one-man-army super soldiers. More often than not, first-person shooters promote the one-man-army mentality by having one person go up against legions of bad guys and emerge victoriously without so much as a scratch. There have been very few (Brothers in Arms, Full-Spectrum Warrior, Conflict: Desert Storm, etc) that promote team work over solo runs but LFD makes, what I see, at the largest leap forward. There are monsters that will lunge one allies and another person must "save" them by fighting off the monsters either on top of them or dragging them off. Other times an ally is required to either revive or pull another ally from dangling over a ledge. Unless the player is unprecedently good, a player cannot survive without help from his/her allies.
The teamwork AI is balanced very well as allies will call enemies as they appear, provide fairly overlapping fields of fire, and assist you when possible. There are some glitches where they will not help you but the majority of the time they will. Co-Op wise, this really promotes teamwork and communication. While playing with my little brother, I would make sure our fields of fire would overlap and we'd cover each other as we'd move. He'd be on point with his shotgun on the left while I provided automatic fire one step behind on the right.
Now, this game does have one or two flaws.
1: The co-op was, initially, a pain to set up. Took us five minutes to set up but after that, no biggie.
2: There are some glitches pertaining to jumping. There were some times, when we were supposed to jump over obstacles but could not due to getting stuck in the environment. We have, so far, managed to get out of every one of them but when you're being swarmed by literally over three dozen zombies it becomes a matter of life and death.
3: There are some serious glitches pertaining to saving your allies. While fighting on the roof of the hospital my character was thrown by a "tank" character and left hanging over the ledge, awaiting for an ally to rescue me. HOWEVER, it was at the very beginning of the level where you are to jump off and not get back up so you could not retreat further into the level. Unfortunately for me, my friends had already jumped down leaving me stranded and waiting to die. Fortunately, a spwan point for survivors was nearby so they could instantly respawn me. This happened one more time to another ally. Such glitches should be avoided.
All in all, LFD is a great offline co-op. I always thought blowing up zombies would be a great way to promote family values such as friendship, loyalty, togetherness, and love of infinite ammo. :)
A solid 95%. 5% docked for glitches, lack of a backstory, lack of a Resident Evil experience, and lacking weapons. They needed way more weapons.