A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game contains graphic violence and gore not suitable for young players. It is a first-person shooter in which the player is fighting zombies and other mutated creatures. Gamers can blow off enemy heads and limbs using a variety of weapons and see blood-splattered or streaked floors and walls. Characters will utter profanity.
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What's it about?
We've seen "survival horror" video games, pitting man against deadly creatures in scary environments, and we've seen multiplayer-focused first-person shooters with an emphasis on co-op play. Now there's LEFT 4 DEAD, a new zombie thriller that combines both genres into an intense – yet mature – action experience. Published by Valve, the creators of Half Life and Counter-Strike, comes this modern-day survival horror game that challenges four "survivors" to stay alive despite attacks by hordes of the undead and mutated creatures. By working together and coordinating efforts, players will traipse through dangerous locations – such as a subway tunnel, countryside, airport, loading dock and hospital – and will need to help each other to stay alive (example: only a teammate can help another survivor if taken down by a zombie). Players can also heal each other and save their progress at safehouse spots and rescue points.
The main game is divided into four scenarios, each lasting about 60 to 90 minutes or so, but the time it'll take depends on how the survivors -- the attractive Zoey, a biker Francis, an army vet Bill and an average guy Louis-- tackle the level as a few alternate routes and objectives can extend the adventure. While this doesn't sound like a long game, gamers can play Left 4 Dead solo, with artificial intelligence (A.I.) handling the other survivors (called 'bots), or better yet, with 2 or 3 other online players for both the PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game. In fact, playing with real people is preferred as you can better strategize and work together instead of the A.I. teammates merely following your lead (and if you're hurt, you can't request to change formation with 'bots as you can with human players). Zombies can move slowly, like Night of the Living Dead, or quickly, a la 28 Weeks Later. Then there's creeps like The Smoker with its frog-like tongue that can strangle those out to harm it.
Is it any good?
Left 4 Dead will surely satiate fans of co-op shooters, such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and Halo 3, with its cooperative multiplayer modes, as well as provide some creepy moments for those who are into "survival horror" games. A co-op focused game isn't for everyone, but Left 4 Dead certainly succeeds in trying something new with this hybrid thriller.
For those wanting to give the online co-op play a try, consider the single player experience as a practice round. Another plus is that other game modes exist, too, along with nearly two-dozen maps, such as a "Versus" option that allows gamers to assume role of a "Boss Infected" enemy instead of a human survivor, which proves to be a fun alternative if you have some friends who are up for it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about genre fusing. Does a game like Left 4 Dead successfully combine two different genres to create an all-new experience? Or should game makers only stick to one genre and make it as good as possible? Also, would this game be as effective with considerably less violence and gore or is it very much part of the appeal (and thrill)?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.