One of my friends, who occasionally reads these posts, who picked up Left 4 Dead a short while ago on the Xbox, said to me the other day: "Man, that game is awesome. I can't believe you gave it a bad review." I then told him what I'm about to tell you.
First off, not a single post I've written here is a legitimate review. I'm just goofing off and having fun. It's a mental warm-up before working on my script (halfway through the first draft - the second half is going to be the real bitch, though) - or something to do because I'm stuck on said script. I write these things off the cuff, without any planning or forethought, as quickly as possible, which explains the typos, missing words, etc. I do this because the more I rewrite something, the more I sound like a person who has a B.A. in English with a History minor. I'm trying to replace five years of bad writing habits with all new bad writing habits.
Secondly, I don't think I gave Left 4 Dead a bad review - or whatever you want to call it. The game was, for some reason, not exactly what I expected. It took some time to appreciate it for what it is, which is a game that kicks ass in that certain, special way that only Valve can kick it. I was, as always, voicing those opinions quickly and off the cuff. I looked again at my previous Left 4 Dead rants, and I see how someone could view them as negative. Not my intention at all, people.
But I did go about playing the game all wrong, which is why my appreciation of the game has come in three stages: the "eh" phase, the "OK...this is pretty damn good" phase, to the "why the hell am I spending time at work or with my wife when I could be playing Left 4 Dead" phase. I will chronicle these quickly to you, then I must go do chores.
Phase I - "Eh": Here's where I went wrong with Left 4 Dead: I played through the campaigns in single-player mode first. I wanted to get the hang of it before going online, to avoid any form of zombie-killing faux pas. Looking back, that makes absolutely no sense, since I bought the game on day one, and everyone was, to use a term I thoroughly loathe, a noob. I should have just jumped in, accidentally shot a car alarm or startled a witch, and just had fun.
After playing through the campaigns, all I could think was, "That's it?" I didn't touch the game for a week or so after that.
Phase II - "OK...This is Pretty Damn Good": I started thinking this after playing it online - first trying out the versus mode, which I still enjoy more than the straight campaigns if I'm playing with strangers, then going through the campaigns several times with whoever was currently playing online. It's right about here that I posted the previous rant, as the game was growing on me.
Phase III - "Why the Hell am I Spending Time at Work or with My Wife when I Could be Playing Left 4 Dead?": This is where I'm at right now. Right after Christmas, the game was on sale at Gamestop, and my brother and dad - who I usually do my co-op with - bought the game for the Xbox. So, I double-dipped - as I knew I someday would, since I'm weak and frivolous like that. It was finally then, a month after the game came out, that I played Left 4 Dead as it is meant to be played.
Playing this game with friends is a completely different experience than playing alone or with strangers. It has multiplied the tension, excitement, and exhilaration by several orders of magnitude. I now believe that Left 4 Dead is the equal of Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, and, in certain ways, it surpasses those games. Though, it must be said, my heart will always belong to TF 2.
I would say this, though. If you're thinking about buying this game, I wouldn't do it unless you have friends that will regularly play it with you.
End of line.