Coint & Plick 2008 #4: Left 4 Dead
Brilliam: This game was instrumental to my friends’ ability to keep in touch once everyone moved across this giant, freezing country. Now, I’ll be honest: this is a game best experienced in groups of four or eight. Once you throw strangers into the mix, it’s less fun. But, when you play with a crew that you’ve been gaming with ages, and you know each other’s weird gaming idiosyncrasies and you’re forced to take care of each other while a sadistic AI attempts to bleed you out over the course of a dozen incredibly thoughtful set pieces, you end up realizing how awesome those gaming relationships can really be. My favorite gaming moment of the year was probably when Andy was charging ahead, and Angus was trying to be super-careful and thoughtful, and Travis was accidentally shooting everyone in the back, and I wasn’t paying any attention and a smoker choked me to death. Even though we hadn’t really displayed those tendencies in this game yet, it was so us. And it was great. Add to that some of the most thoughtful social satire in zombie-related media since Dawn of the Dead (‘I miss the Internet,’ the how-many-zombies-I-killed pissing contests, Zoey calling zombie bullshit) and you’ve got a game that was really worth the long wait.
John Justen: Online is great, single player feels mostly pointless and included only as a means to online play.
Nhex: My Left 4 Dead vote is based solely on the demo levels, which were damn good.
JeffLevine: The co-op zombie apocalypse game we always dreamed of.
Mitch Krpata: Each playthrough tells a new and different tale. Left 4 Dead doesn’t follow the traditional rules of survival horror — it’s as slick and responsive a first-person shooter as you’ll find — but it does make its resources scarce, in the classic genre tradition. Each player can carry only one health pack at a time, with the rare opportunity to find more scattered throughout the levels. At least once a game, you’ll have to decide whether to give a spare health pack to a dying teammate or hang onto it because you know you’ll need it later. One of the true pleasures of Left 4 Dead is discovering how other players answer these questions — and how you do.
Polyphonic: Maybe it’s a little weird to put a game I’ve only played three times this high on my list, but this is a seriously impressive game. I tend to overrate games that provide great storytelling and atmosphere. This game has that in spades, and no game has ever been more tense, and few games have ever been as fun to play with friends.