Left 4 Dead, Valve's highly anticipated cooperative survival shooter, has finally arrived, but does it live up to the flesh-munching, sinew-snapping, shotgun-pumping hype? The short answer is a highly enthusiastic "yes". The long answer follows...

Left 4 Dead: evil in your residence

It's finally happened: the zombie apocalypse is upon us. What exactly spurred this epidemic of the walking dead? Illegal pharmaceutical outbreak? Ancient ritual gone awry? My question to you is, when you're standing before a rampaging behemoth known simply as the "Tank", molotov-cocktail in hand - does it really matter?

Left 4 Dead chronicles four heavily armed Survivors who - under the rather unfortunate circumstance of an undead invasion - are forced to fight alongside one another in order to put an army of corpses back in their shallow graves.

Even with the game's limited selection of playable Survivors, Left 4 Dead's characters don't share any special attributes or skills that really separate them from their gun-toting counterparts.

Where this may feel like a letdown for some, this design choice definitely has its perks as gamers won't be rushing to snag the "best" character out of the four, their differences purely aesthetic.

In Left 4 Dead the way the Survivors play is completely up to the person holding the controller - and in most cases, the adrenaline-filled fire-fights will more than likely have you forgetting who you chose to begin with. While it would have been interesting to see a class system implemented or certain abilities available for specific characters, as long as you have a team-mate with a first-aid kit, there's no reason to even bother shouting "Medic!"

Left 4 Dead: down in the ground

Each player is allowed two default weapons - a pistol with limitless ammo, and a secondary firearm ranging from assault rifles to automatic shotguns.

Variety is certainly the spice of life in Left 4 Dead, as each weapon handles remarkably different, allowing players to really carve out their own niche and style of gameplay. From sniping Smokers with the hunting rifle to a steady stream of bullets with the submachine gun, Left 4 Dead's weapons cover all of your basic zombie-massacre needs, including incredibly rewarding melee attacks from the brunt of each weapon.

Survivors also have four basic item slots designated for flashlights, homebrewn explosives, med-kits, and bottles of pills for quick healing. When playing as the Infected in Versus mode, however, your range of attacks change from simple firearms to incredibly inventive (and oft-disgusting) forms of taking down your opponents, from vomiting streams of Horde attracting bile onto the oncoming survivors to giving a quite literal tongue-lashing to your foes.

No matter how you decide to play, Left 4 Dead's got you covered in variety, style, and control with even the swift clawing that comes from a Hunter's rotting hand feeling incredibly natural with a squeeze of the left trigger.

NEXT PAGE: the spice of the afterlife

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