Left 4 Dead (L4D) has been filling up my free time (which is admittedly a lot). I think it’s an awesome game, but there is something that I find lacking. Prior to the release of L4D, I played ZombiePanic! Source. The graphics and models were nothing to write home about, but since it was a free mod, I wasn’t going to complain. Visuals aside, the game was an awful lot of fun to play. There was always a constant sense of dread. I call it the, “OH SHIT! RUN!” factor.

You see, in Zombie Panic (ZP), you’re affected by an incredibly important tactical factor: weight. The more equipment you carry, the heavier you are, and thusly, the slower you will move. Carrying too much ammo or getting greedy and keeping that assault rifle when you already have a submachine gun, it’ll definitely get you killed. Limited ammunition that you have to scavenge for makes every bullet count.

It’s when you’re just a touch slower than the zombies (who are all controlled by other players) that you’re going to get that feeling where you physically want to jump up and start running. When there’s one on your tail, or even a couple of them, you get that squeamish feeling. You start screaming, “Run faster you fuck! Get the fuck out of there!” The fact that you’re pretty damn vulnerable coupled with scarce ammo made Zombie Panic really fun.Now, L4D is different in its design and philosophy. Here, you’re pitted against hordes and hordes of AI controlled zombies. Two shots a piece from your trusty Colt 1911 will take them down. These zombies are terrifyingly fast though, as opposed to the ones in ZP who trudge along at a jogging pace.The gameplay in L4D is distinctly different from ZP. You have unlimited pistol ammo, and I have yet to run out of primary ammo before reaching an ammo refill point. Instead of the suspense that I felt in ZP, I just felt like blasting everything in sight and moving along quickly.

I believe one main difference is the aspect of mobility. If you’re running around rather freely, and you can comfortably run backwards shooting at zombies, it makes it less suspenseful.Ithink backpedaling should incur an accuracy and/or speed penalty, more so speed than accuracy. Players also take too much damage before they start limping. They also have too much health when they’re down on the ground. I find myself surviving for quite a while, a little too long for someone who’s bleeding out defenselessly on the ground. Okay, maybe it’s not that too much health, but the zombies really don’t do enough damage. I feel that ZP is more survival-minded, where L4D is more about action.

Of course, this is all on Normal and Advanced difficulty modes. It’s quite possible my opinion will change on Expert. But even so, I’d like to see a combination of the stomach-wretching suspenseful vulnerability in Zombie Panic with the massive amounts of zombies that rush you in Left 4 Dead. I also expect to see many more maps coming out. The Versus mode at this point only has two levels. I’m hoping there will be regular releases, similar to episodic content.

Another problem: too much sitting around in a game lobby. For $50, I sure spend a lot of time waiting for games to start. It reminds me of the days when I used to play Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (back then when R6 was still a tactical simulation). I think it was over GameSpy or something like that….no wait, actually it was probably in-game. But in any case, Team Fortress 2 is a great example of easily accessible online play: tons of servers, and the panel for finding a server is very flexible. I wish that L4D didn’t dumb down the server browser. It’d be great to see my ping. I can’t stand it when I’m pulling zig zag pounces as a Hunter, missing because of lag.

Overall though, Left 4 Dead is a great coop game. It successfully creates a sense of camaraderie and encourages teamwork. The game’s a damn lot of fun, and I recommend that everyone give it a spin. Let’s just hope that the server issues clear up and that they’re working on more levels.

Author’s comment: apparently, there’s a way to get the old server browser back: openserverbrowser. Thanks to clutchkills for the tweak guide.