Left 4 Dead took the world of multiplayer gaming by storm earlier in the fourth quarter of 2008 when it released the amazingly addictive cooperative and adversarial multiplayer model that defines the core of its game play. While a first play through in normal mode or possibly even easy mode will leave you aching for more, the game doesn’t really pick up the pace until Advanced or Expert mode, where teams must really come together if they hope to survive the zombie apocalypse.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun if it isn’t played in Expert mode. On the contrary, the following strategies won’t really be necessary unless you and your teammates are playing on at least Advanced mode, or in Versus mode.
The following “Survival Guide” will teach you just that: how to survive in Left 4 Dead’s zombie-infested universe. I’ll be covering a few general tactics, as well as a vast multitude of tactics specific to dealing with the game’s infected “classes.” I will be detailing how to survive in Left 4 Dead, so you’ll have to wait for a little while until I can upload an “infected” guide.
This guide will assist any players who are playing either the cooperative, splitscreen, or solo Campaign mode, or when these players are on the survivors side during a Versus match.
In addition, I’d also like to note that all block quotes used in this guide are taken directly from Left 4 Dead’s user manual, specifically the Xbox 360 version’s.
And now, the Left 4 Dead “Survival Guide.”
- Teamwork: If you’ve played even just one campaign in Left 4 Dead all the way through, you’ll have already noticed the huge emphasis on teamwork in the game. That being said, if you are playing online, even with people you don’t know, you should always, always use your microphone. By use I don’t mean have it plugged in. You should be talking to your teammates, telling them where to go next, or who needs to be healed, or to alert them of a nearby boomer. Without this important element, your team won’t get very far. In addition to the “communication” part of teamwork, you should also be ready to make sacrifices in order to save your teammates. Don’t be afraid to give up your medkit to help out a guy in red, even if you’re already in yellow. The team only functions at 100% if all members are there helping, and, when one guy goes down, a respective 25% of the team’s efficiency is dropped as well.
- Variety: Use a bit of variety when selecting your weapons. Don’t let everybody just grab the shotgun. Stick with the weapons you’re good at, but don’t limit yourself to just one. You’ll need close ranged weapons and long ranged ones in almost every single circumstance, so its good to diversify your team’s loadout.
- Melee: Whether you’re fighting common infected or specials, the melee button is a very important one to remember. Sure, you can kill infected in one shot simply pulling the trigger, but by only relying on the trigger button, you’ll be subject to a continuous stream of damage from the infected that you haven’t shot yet. Meleeing will knock infected back long enough for you to take a few out and melee more back again. When done correctly, you will take significantly less damage if you remember the melee button than if you only stick with the trigger button.
- Listen: Each infected type is signaled by a unique sound cue. Listen for these sounds attentively, and it will be difficult to be caught off guard. Playing loud music while simultaneously playing Left 4 Dead is not recommended.
Common Infected Tactics:
- Listen: Common infected will make weird noises when milling about on the roads and in houses, but what will signal a horde rush is a noticeable change in the background music. The music will become much more fast-paced, and, when the horde picks up, the music will become frantic, with a quick steady beat in the background.
- Kill from Afar: When milling about, commons are easy to pick off with either the Assault Rifle, Hunting Rifle, or the Pistol. Using the Uzi, Shotgun, or Auto-Shotgun will work, but will be significantly less effective. It should be noted that the commons that are milling about are very easy to take out, but if you miss a few, be prepared to lose a few health points, because they can sneak up on you before you know it. This rule applies to horde rushes as well, as a horde rush can be easily dealt with if all team members concentrate their fire on the horde as it rushes. However, not all hordes will come from a long distance, and, more often than not, they’ll rush through a room right next to your group and this advice will go out the window.
- Cornered: Being cornered is not in any way shape or form, a bad thing. Being cornered (literally, being forced into the intersection of two perpendicular walls) will help you in more ways than one. First, you won’t have to worry about infected coming from behind. Second, there’s a good chance that you can escape without taking any damage, as long as you constantly melee the horde. Third, you won’t be a drain on your teammates because you are almost self-sufficient for a small amount of time. However, hiding in a corner alone isn’t a game winning tactic, and you’ll have to move some time. Using this strategy will only help during rushes.
Meet the zombie horde: eerily fast, sensitive to loud noises and movement, and able to attack in ravenous waves. Luckily, you’ll be given helpful warnings throughout the game to avoid horde attacks.
- Listen: Hunters don’t change the background music, but they can easily be identified by a low growling noise, as well as a high-pitched screeching noise when they pounce. Hunters will only emit the growl when they are crouched, and will only screech when they have pounced. When you hear either, alert your teammates.
- Kill from Afar: While difficult to do, killing Hunters from afar is not impossible. It will save you a lot of time and trouble by simply shooting a Hunter from a distance rather than wait for it to get up close.
- Melee: While killing Hunters with your gun is enjoyable and easy, it is sometimes more beneficial for your teammates’ (and your own) health if you melee the Hunter first, and then gun it down. This applies to Hunters who are jumping at you, and to Hunters who are already pinning one of your teammates. Meleeing will instantly knock them backwards or off of your friends, and will stun them for a few seconds, alllowing you to pop them quickly before moving onwards.
- Pinned: In the event that a Hunter successfully pins you, don’t scream at your teammates. They are more likely to help you if you calmly alert them that there is, in fact, a Hunter ripping your guts out at the moment. If said Hunter kills you, its alright to get a little heated, but don’t take it out on your teammates (unless they sat there and literally watched you die). Whether you’re on a ledge and they don’t have Line of Sight, or they’re getting rushed at the time, or are possibly even blinded by Boomer Bile, sometimes it’s just really difficult for your teammates to give up their own well-being long enough to save your ass.
- Listen: Like Hunters, Boomers will not change the background music. They will, however, emit disgusting gurgling noises wherever they go, and are really easy to hear if you pay attention.
- Kill from Afar: This is a must for Boomers. If you see a Boomer, or maybe just the Boomer’s enormous gut, take a shot at it, even if you don’t have a big chance of hitting it. Boomers have very little health, and shooting the Boomer from afar will kill it faster than you realize. Taking these Boomers out will save you from at least one or more horde rushes.
- Dodge: When Boomers get close enough to you to vomit, you can try to hide behind a wall, door, or really any object big enough to shield you. This will block the vomit and will give you a chance to beat back the Boomer and take him out. I’ve dodged many a Boomer’s Bile attacks by simply closing the door in his face.
- Melee: If a Boomer winds up directly in front of you, don’t panic and unload on him with your gun. This will cause him to explode and will cover you and any nearby teammates with Boomer Bile, blinding you and summoning the horde. Instead, take your time to melee the Boomer, who will be stunned and will be pushed several feet backwards. After you melee him, take a few steps backwards yourself, and, when no teammates are near it, blow the monster to pieces.
- Slimed: If you are unfortunate enough to get covered in bile, again, don’t panic. Take time to find a corner and dig in there, spamming melee if you have to. This is another time when teamwork is important. When you are blinded, you can’t see where your teammates are by using the little blue, orange, or red outlines. You’ll have to rely on communication to find out where your friends are, and whether they’re being eaten by a Hunter or not.
- Listen: Smokers will change the background music and will also emit their own characteristic sounds. A Smoker will be “announced” to players by a quick out of place piano note. While its difficult to pick out of the background music, this subtle note will alert survivors of the Smoker’s presence, and looking for this sound will without doubt increase your chances of survival. In addition, Smoker’s emit coughing noises, as well as strange slurping sounds whenever they attack.
- Kill from Afar: This is perhaps the most difficult class to kill from afar, but knowing how to find a Smoker and take it out is a necessary skill. If a teammate gets dragged and is too far away to save, trace the tongue that is dragging him, crouch down when you’ve spotted the Smoker, and take several burst shots until the Smoker dies in a cloud of smoke. Don’t try this with a shotgun… You can also shoot the tongue if you can’t find the Smoker, although the tongue is harder to hit than the actual Smoker.
- Melee: Meleeing the Smoker, or his victim, is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of him. When he grabs an ally, all you have to do is walk up to that ally and melee him or her, which will break the Smoker’s hold. If the Smoker is closer to you than the ally is, you can alternatively walk up to the Smoker and smack him in the face, which will not only release his hold, but will also stun him, allowing you a few seconds to take him out.
- Dragged: Like the Hunter, if you find yourself being dragged by a Smoker, don’t panic. Take time to alert your teammates calmly, and give them time to find you and either melee you or take out the Smoker. If they don’t know that meleeing the Smoker’s victim will free said victim, it helps to let them know, but don’t be a jerk about it. Smokers do less damage than a Hunter, so if a team has to prioritize, let them kill any pouncing Hunters first.
- Listen: Tanks will change the background music drastically. It will become even more frantic than when the horde is upon you, and the Tank’s unique music will override any other cues, making it difficult to pick out a Smoker or a Boomer when you’re getting attacked by a Tank. Tanks can also be found if you hear a strange growling noise. It’s difficult to describe, but, if you enter a room, hear the noise, and then the Tank’s music starts, you’ll know what it sounds like. Unfortunately, it seems that whenever you hear the Tank’s growling, you are already too close, and the music will start even if you backtrack.
- Kill from Afar: This is without doubt the most important advice for killing a Tank. Don’t let a Tank get close to you, and you’ll be fine. Survivors in green health will be able to outrun any Tank except a Tank in Expert mode, which will run as fast as the green survivors. If you’re in red or yellow, you aren’t screwed, but you do have to be more careful. Use the environment to cut corners and run in small windows or doors that may slow down the Tank. Tanks will generally pick a target and chase it until it either gets too far away or it dies. It’s run-and-gun when dealing with a Tank, and if you’re not its target, you should be crouching and shooting, so you can get more shots in.
- Molotovs: Molotovs are very effective on Tanks, but should really only be used when playing in either Advanced or Expert Campaign mode. When a Tank is on fire, the fire doesn’t deal any additional damage, but instead sets the Tank on a “timer.” After the timer runs out, the Tank will die, regardless of how much damage it took. Shooting a Tank while it’s on fire will kill it just as fast as shooting a Tank that isn’t on fire. On Expert mode, its often easiest to just light the Tank and run, as Expert Tanks have a ton of health.
- Cornered: Getting cornered by a Tank isn’t something you want to shoot for, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re dead. Alert your teammates, and have them stand behind the Tank while they unload on it. If they respond quick enough, you may just survive. In Versus mode, if you’re downed, the Tank player will generally leave you and go attack your other teammates. It’s a good idea to revive any downed teammates whenever you get the chance during a fight with a Tank, because if you all get downed, you’ll lose.
- Listen: Witches can be distinguished by their crying. It will intensify and the music will get creepier as you get closer. Using these music changes will help you avoid the Witch, even if you never set eyes upon her. When she has been startled, she’ll start making a strange scream, and the music will become frantic.
- Avoid: If you’re able to, just bypass the Witch. She isn’t worth the trouble.
- Kill from Afar: If you can’t walk past her, you might have to gun her down. Under certain circumstances your team can simultaneously open fire on the Witch and she will die before she reaches your group. However, these circumstances are few and far between, so don’t count on having the advantage of distance all the time. Alternatively, one player can startle the Witch and run, and, provided the Witch doesn’t reach the runner, you’ll come out of the encounter unscathed. This method is a bit too chaotic, however, and isn’t recommended.
- Crown’d: The Crown’d method is the best way to take a Witch out if sneaking isn’t an option. To do this, you’ll need a Shotgun. One-shotting the Witch is easiest with the pump-action Shotgun, but is possible with both. What you’ll need to do is sneak up behind the Witch, wait for her to look around at you and stand up, and then pump a few rounds into her head. Don’t stop to see if you got her in one shot, because the moment she turns around, you’re downed.
- Molotovs: The only reason you should be using a Molotov on the Witch is to get the achievement. Other than that, don’t be an idiot and try to light her on fire…
Witches only want to be left alone so they can enjoy a good cry. They hate fl ashlights and loud noises, but what they hate more than anything is being shot at. If you hear the Witch’s tell tale sobs, turn off your flashlights and try to sneak around her. If she starts to get angry, her growl will let you know she’s close to attacking.