'Left 4 Dead' Survival Mode/DLC Preview

'Left 4 Dead' Survival Mode/DLC Preview

By Abbie Heppe - Posted Apr 17, 2009


Can it, whiners! Easily the most common complaint leveraged against Left 4 Dead was that it had too little content and on April 21st players are getting a FREE download with plenty more zombie shooting action. Did I mention it’s free? Xbox 360 users hardly get anything for that price, except refurbished red-ringed consoles. The DLC adds three significant changes to the game, the melee fatigue already introduced on the PC, the inclusion of Dead Air and Death Toll in versus mode, and the addition of Survival Mode with 16 maps, 15 borrowed and one new.

Nasty, Brutish and Short

Survival mode takes all of the areas, 15 in all, from the original Left 4 Dead maps where you call the horde, like at the elevator in No Mercy and at the crane in Dead Air. There’s also the brand new lighthouse themed, “The Last Stand” with the apt tagline “it doesn’t end well”, because, despite being the level loaded with pills, explosives, ammo and health…well, good luck lasting long enough to use any of them. There’s no rescue in sight for Survival mode, just a never-ending flow of zombies and the crushing feeling of impending doom (or a tank beating you into the pavement). Apparently, the team at Valve hasn’t surpassed the 10 minute mark, and our fairly skilled crew topped out at a little over four minutes in Death Toll’s drains, earning a bronze and falling nearly three minutes short of a silver ranking. For comparison, my first lighthouse run relying solely on AI lasted a whopping two minutes and forty-one seconds. That’s longer than some of my attempts with human players, but don’t expect to set any records with the AI in tow.

Now, to illustrate the infinite zombie spawning, Valve put together this chart:
Left 4 Dead Survival Mode/DLC

As you can see, before you even hit the 4 minute cut-off for the bronze rank, you’ll have taken on 3 tanks, numerous special infected and about 5 waves of horde. Every reload, decision to heal and the timing of using explosives affects the outcome of your attempt, and the combination of skill and cooperation makes this mode far more complex than just fending off never-ending waves of zombies. I’ve always felt the brilliance of L4D is how it takes a very simple concept and slowly reveals complex layers of depth to the player. There seems to be a limitless variety in strategies you can employ to survive and with rounds lasting under 7 minutes or so, factoring in time to set up before you call the horde, this is a fast-paced “quick fix” of L4D compared to the versus and campaign modes. It’ll also put you on the fast track to that pesky Zombie Genocidist achievement. Good luck, and leave your friends who cower away from advanced or expert difficulties behind.

Melee Takes a Hit

One common strategy that won’t save you anymore is backing all the survivors up into a corner and spamming melee to thwart the Horde and special infected. It used to be pretty simple to avoid all damage by employing this strategy, it repels snaking tongues, ambitious Hunters and countless zombies with minimal effort. With the addition of “melee fatigue”, you’ll have to wait until your melee “reloads” to continue deflecting zombies. Applicable in both survival and versus mode, the tweak to melee takes some adjustment as a survivor, but it sure makes Boomers and Hunters happy and balances the game nicely. Do I miss melee spam? Ok…a little, but if WiiSports boxing taught me anything, it’s that most people can’t continuously punch things for very long without getting tired.

Versus, Now With Three Maps No One Will Play

Please forgive the tongue-in-cheek, but if you play as much as I do, you’re probably just as sick of the No Mercy favoritism in Versus mode as I am. This is why I’m especially excited to see Death Toll and Dead Air join the circuit. The large open spaces in these levels obviously provided a challenge to adapt for Versus, but the balance is executed well and this was ultimately worth the wait.  I’d elaborate more, but this addition speaks for itself, Dead Air is a personal favorite but both “new” maps provide welcome variety to the versus multiplayer.


Last Words

With the inclusion of Dead Air and Death Toll in versus, there’s something here for players of all skill levels and welcome content for those getting tired of playing the same maps over and over. Survival caters to the upper echelon of players and offers so many map choices and such a challenge that you’re unlikely to tire of it quickly. And again, with the whole update being free, there’s virtually nothing to complain to about. Again, Valve proves how reliable they are in supporting their games after launch with more than just fixes, Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

Left 4 Dead Survival Mode/DLC
Platforms: PC/360
Played on: 360
Release date: 4/21/09

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