Left 4 Dead

Call your friends; it's time to survive another zombie apocalypse

Peep Your Yuletide Games

Left 4 Dead

Valve, $59.99
Xbox 360, PC

Lest anyone believe that vampires are the new zombies, Left 4 Dead makes a compelling argument that the latter are still just as fun and exciting to evade and slaughter. The makers of Half-Life reanimate the genre with a first-person shooter that rarely offers a moment's respite. Worries about your health, your teammate's health, your ammo, or whether or not that damn zombie can leap from that distance plague every step.

The plot is simple: Survive long enough to be rescued. Play as one of four survivors in the single-player mode, and the computer will control the remaining three and follow your lead. Left 4 Dead's lasting appeal, however, is in its cooperative mode. Have your friends join you as the other survivors, and ensure that you have one another's backs. Especially since these aren't the "Thriller" zombies; these are sprinting, vomiting, slashing, leaping harbingers of doom. Each campaign plays like a zombie movie with a poster at the opening and credits rolling at the end showing you player stats such as number of kills.

If you tire of helping your friends, then perhaps the versus mode will appeal to you. Play as a survivor or as one of four superzombies. Either way, feel the pent-up anger disappear as you wrap your zombie tongue around your opponent's neck or obliterate the gray matter of a zombiefied ally. Don't give this to a fan of single-player gaming. Left 4 Dead's real strengths are in the addictive and pulse-pounding cooperative modes. Keep your friends close.

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