E3 2018: Left 4 Dead Fans Need to Pay Attention to These Two Games

By Mark Delaney,
A day apart during my E3 trip I saw two games that both unabashedly intend on carrying the torch handed over from Valve's long-dormant Left 4 Dead franchise. If you're a fan of the classic co-op zombie shooter series, you absolutely must pay attention to these two games. One, if not both of them, will almost surely scratch the itch left untouched over the past decade since the last game in the Left 4 Dead series released.

Earthfall

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What is probably the smaller budgeted game of the two also happens to be the one that feels more like its inspiration. Earthfall is simply Left 4 Dead with aliens. In just about every way, it plays out like Valve and Turtle Rock's classic series. Players choose one of four characters, each with their own voice acting and personality, team up with friends or others online, and survive ever-changing chapters of campaigns. The game will launch with ten chapters total, split across two campaigns, and post-release content is planned as well.

The aliens are broken up into different classes. There are commons and special types and even the specials are, in some cases, very reminiscent of the special infected of Left 4 Dead. My eventual undoing during my demo was caused by a massive hulking alien that is definitely the Tank analog. There is another that spits a type of acid bath at you too, and even one that pounces on you and attacks, which are both again unavoidably reminiscent of Left 4 Dead.

The developers seem fine with the comparisons — and why not? There's a massive hole that Valve has chosen not to fill and as I told one of the devs on site, "if they're not gonna do it themselves, why not you?" What's nice about it is even as chapters play out similarly, there's a bit more lore to be found in the world in the form of collectibles. If you loved Left 4 Dead but always wished for something more than their very sparse approach to story, Earthfall does a better job with this. It's also many years newer, so even as an indie game it looks much better than Left 4 Dead ever did.

The structure of missions is again the same and you'll have to deal with an AI director that tries to counter your moves with hordes and obstacles that can vary by playthrough. It will launch with only a traditional campaign mode, but it didn't sound like the studio is ruling out Versus or other modes later.

OVERKILL's The Walking Dead

E3

If your Left 4 Dead fix absolutely needs to keep intact the zombie element, Overkill's The Walking Dead is shaping up to be a worthy go-to. When Overkill's parent company Starbreeze created the PAYDAY series, it was hailed as "Left 4 Dead but with bank robberies," so things have really come full circle now as some of the same creators move on to make a zombie game that plays much like PAYDAY.

Set in the comic book universe created by Robert Kirkman, I spoke to producers for the new game who gleefully shared that the game is being made closely with Kirkman's assistance to keep it in the official canon. While the game introduces four new characters in the Washington D.C. area, I was told it's not far-fetched to expect more familiar faces to be added later.

While Earthfall essentially swaps out the zombie look for aliens and keeps everything else the same as Left 4 Dead, Overkill's TWD does change things up a bit more. The characters are class-based, for one. One character can pick locks, for example, which may open up new pathways or allow them to scavenge more supplies from locked areas and containers. That scavenging plays a bigger role too as ammo won't always come as abundantly.

Another big change is the behavior of the zombies. As it's canon, the "walkers" in Overkill's co-op shooter are slow moving, but that doesn't make them easy. Just like we see in the comics and TV show, a horde of them can still overrun you quite quickly. Teamwork is just as crucial as it is in Earthfall or Left 4 Dead. Straying from your group is a deathwish. Also just like the series, you'll have to contend with not just the undead, but the living as well. It was quite startling when in my demo I turned a corner and found a group of human survivors, armed and dangerous. I didn't expect anyone else but me and my teammates to be holding firearms.

The best part about the demo is how it also retains a crucial element of such a dedicated zombie game: you have to destroy the brain. Be it with bullets or melee weapons, nothing but shots to the head will stop the walkers permanently. It's that kind of detail that will help set Overkill's The Walking Dead apart from Earthfall and Left 4 Dead.



Each game will surely find an audience so long as they play well and offer post-launch support just like their inspirator did. Though they could arguably be considered rivals vying for the same market share, I think they're also just different enough to warrant checking out both of them. You'll probably have a favorite and that may depend on whether you want the truer to L4D experience or something slightly different, but in either case, the roots of these games owe a lot to Turtle Rock Studios' masterful shooters of a decade ago, and for fans who've been waiting years for someone to come along and carry that torch, it's pretty cool that we'll soon have a pair of torchbearers.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.