I arrived yesterday in San Francisco, a city where my evening's entertainment has often taken a turn for the unusual. I certainly wasn't disappointed on this trip, as I joined three friends on a stroll through devastated buildings and wasted streets, blasting hordes of aggressive subhuman attackers into chunks of lifeless meat. Hey, if the local government won't do something about the aggressive panhandler problem in this city….
I'm on the west coast for a an early peek at the upcoming game titles before getting hit in the face with the fire hose blast of information at the annual E3 gaming convention in July. Monday night it was EA's turn, taking over an SF club to show off nine games, some expected but welcome (the Wii version of Rock Band, the PC version of Mass Effect), some only a hardcore fanboy could love (you know I'm talking to you, computerized card battle game junkies).
My favorite by far was Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360 and PC). The game is basically a four-player, first-person shooter. There's a story in here somewhere—human race turned into slavering undead, you and your friends unscathed and heavily armed, blahty-blah-blah—but essentially it’s an opportunity for visceral, cooperative gunplay.
That's where Left 4 Dead shines. It's four-player all the time, with whatever combination of human compatriots and computer-controlled bots you can round up. You're going to need all the help you can get. These are modern movie-style zombies—fast-moving, skillful attackers (think 28 Days Later baddies, not lumbering Dawn of the Dead grunters).
They sometimes appear out of dark niches in close-quarters, indoor environments, sometimes descend in terrifying waves in outdoor spaces. Helping your friends is the only way to survive, whether it's reviving a fallen comrade with a health pack or picking off attackers who are treating your pal like a buffet. Careful with those helpful monster-killing shots though—that undead head you want to hit is just millimeter's away from your pal's noggin.
And if you get tired of being the heroic type, you can take on the role of a zombie bigwig and try a little fancy feasting of your own. Left 4 Dead looks like a tasty treat indeed, due to ship before the end of the year.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.