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Left4Dead Review

By Neil Schneider

  • Introduction
  • General Game Review
  • NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings
  • iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings
  • DDD Tridef Ignition Findings
  • Conclusion

    Introduction


    Left4Dead, DDD Tridef Ignition 2.3.2B1 Drivers

    Ok. I know this game has been out for a long while, and everybody knows about it. Heck, Valve is already working on the sequel due out in November this year! All I can say is when Mike Ambinder, Experimental Psychologist for Valve, emails you a license key, you get the game reviewed (though this should not be considered an endorsement of S-3D gaming by Valve)!

    So grab your rifles, pipe bombs, and lots of that laundry detergent that gets the blood stains out, and let’s find out how well Left4Dead works in stereoscopic 3D!



    General Game Review

    Left4Dead plays out like a late 70’s B-rated zombie movie. It’s two weeks after an unexplained “infection”, and you are a civilian team member that is looking…and shooting…your way to safety. There is no plotline to find the cure, there are no milestones to aim for, there isn’t even a story to follow. You just need to get from point A to point B in one piece.


    Left4Dead, iZ3D 1.10RC2a Drivers

    Well, it’s not quite that simple. There are a lot of nasty zombies in your way, and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on your skin tight flesh.

    The standard zombie sleepwalks around until they see you in their sights. Three or four are easy to handle, but if you set off a car alarm or hit a critical juncture in the game, they suddenly get organized and attack in overwhelming hoards.

    The “Hunter Zombie” is much more personal, because he will go out of his way to tear you limb from limb.


    Left4Dead, iZ3D 1.10RC2a Drivers

    The “Boomer Zombie” is a morbidly obese dude that spews green bile on you if you get too close. The bile practically blinds you, and attracts a hoard of zombies your way. Why is he gross? Well, he gurgles around so much that you can tell he didn’t gain weight from eating too much. His belly is so full of bacteria and indigestion, that when you shoot him, he explodes like a bloody balloon. Yeah, I know…gross (or cool!).


    Left4Dead, DDD Tridef Ignition 2.3.2B1 Drivers

    The “Witch”, who you can hear crying, really just wants to be left alone. Keep your flashlight off and don’t bother shooting her, because if she gets “startled”, she will tackle you and slap you silly with her sharp fingernails until your friends can fend her off.


    Left4Dead, NVIDIA 191.03 GeForce 3D Vision Drivers

    Yanking you or your team mates from great distances, the “Smoker Zombie” has a tongue even Gene Simmons would be envious of. Take him out as soon as possible, but be careful of the Marlboro gas cloud he leaves behind.


    Left4Dead, NVIDIA 191.03 GeForce 3D Vision Drivers

    Finally, the “Tank Zombie” is what Arnold Schwarzenegger would look like if his mother was Thing from Fantastic Four. He breaks through walls and likes to shake the place up, and the more your friends can cooperate against him, the better.

    Given the simplicity of the game, you are probably wondering what the heck Valve needs with an Experimental Psychologist! Well, it’s all about studying gamers and ensuring that Left4Dead is more fun, and this is best exemplified in multiplayer scenarios.

    In your efforts to get from point A to point B, you need to work as a team and always be aware of what your friends are doing and the condition that they are in. It is a shared responsibility to defend each other from zombies, heal one another with a limited supply of health packs, and ultimately keep each other alive as long as possible.


    Left4Dead, NVIDIA 191.03 GeForce 3D Vision Drivers

    Unlike single player mode, multiplayer is very diverse, and you can even play on the zombie side of things too! Playing the Boomer Zombie is my favorite. Unfortunately, I am not the skilled zombie killer I thought I was raised to be, I’ve been voted out of my share of rounds, and have even heard the words “Neil is an idiot” chimed in through the game’s voice-over IP system. Don’t worry, I’ll get better!

    The environments are very detailed and varied with countless apartments, barns, and buildings to explore. It’s fun to open doors and peep inside scoping for zombies. Left4Dead has a Sims feel to it, and I think more detail was placed on having a wide selection of environments and how players would interact with each other than the graphics quality itself. This may have been deliberate because the game runs very smoothly on mid-range hardware, even in stereoscopic 3D.

    One thing that took away from the game is there are no surprises. Usually, you start a game with a modest arsenal, and as you advance, the bad guys get tougher, and the guns get bigger. In Left4Dead, every level features every weapon. No unlocks to look forward to, no enemies to anticipate – the first and the last mission are the same.

    The result is that while Left4Dead is entertaining, it’s not as scary as it could be. In comparison, while I have already finished these games and they are based on older technology already, I’d still be a ball of nerves if I played Doom 3 or the original Fear. Maybe that’s the point of Left4Dead – that killing zombies should just be comic book ketchup goo fun. It’s a cult favorite now, so it obviously hit its mark.

    So, how does the game play out in stereoscopic 3D?



    NVIDIA Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    Our NVIDIA solution is based on the following specifications:

    AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
    Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
    NVIDIA GTX285
    Vista 32 Bit
    Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
    191.03 NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision Stereo Driver

    Special thanks go to Electronic Arts for generously supplying an NVIDIA GTX285. How we did as much testing as we did with our out of date NVIDIA 8800GTS 512, I don’t know. Thanks again!


    Left4Dead, NVIDIA 191.03 GeForce 3D Vision Drivers

    Left4Dead with NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision drivers is an example of excellence. By activating the convergence features in the driver’s advanced settings, gamers can enjoy a combined depth and pop-out experience. If I suggested that the graphics were a tad simple before, nothing goes better with a zombie game than stereoscopic 3D technology! Now those zombies really do want to reach out and touch someone!

    While their drivers recommend turning the film grain feature off, I could see no visual anomalies caused by this – it’s just a matter of personal taste and preference.


    Left4Dead, NVIDIA 191.03 GeForce 3D Vision Drivers

    Perhaps the biggest victory for the NVIDIA camp is the dynamic cross-hair. Normally, a first person shooter requires you to use their S-3D lasersight which is an add-on targeting reticule special for stereoscopic 3D gaming. In this case, the in-game crosshair is used, and it dynamically adjusts according to what you are aiming at. The more games that can take advantage of this feature, the better.

    I would expect an 8800 series or better GPU will be able to run this game comfortably in stereoscopic 3D mode.



    iZ3D Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    Our iZ3D solution is based on the following specifications:

    AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
    Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
    EVGA GTX285
    Vista 32 Bit
    Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
    iZ3D 1.10RC2a Drivers


    Left4Dead, iZ3D 1.10RC2a Drivers

    Similar to NVIDIA, Left4Dead is an anomaly free experience. While iZ3D does not have a dynamic crosshair, you can instead select “left shift” or “right shift” separation mode in the game’s profile. This will let you aim with your dominant eye and still use the in-game crosshair. If necessary, an alternative is to use iZ3D’s lasersight add-on.


    Left4Dead, iZ3D 1.10RC2a Drivers

    In the game’s profile, make sure to activate “Simple Shader Projection” because this will prevent your gun from doubling and/or separating too much relative to the other objects on the screen.

    Performance-wise, minimum hardware should include an NVIDIA 8800 series or ATI 3870 series or better graphics card.



    DDD Stereoscopic 3D Findings

    The DDD system specs include:

    AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition Quad Core Processor 2.5Ghz
    Patriot Extreme Viper PC2-8500 4GB RAM
    EVGA GTX285
    Vista 32 Bit
    Zalmon Trimon 22” Monitor
    DDD Tridef Experience 4.0.2 (Tridef Ignition Drivers)


    Left4Dead, DDD Tridef Ignition 2.3.2B1 Drivers

    While DDD includes a default Left4Dead profile with their drivers, I don’t like it. The profile works as it is designed to, but they keep including their auto-convergence feature as a default setting, and it is completely unnecessary.

    The good news is the DDD drivers allow you to go with a “Fixed” setting 3D profile, and you have full control of the depth and out of screen experiences like the other driver developers. Advanced users can also adjust the 3D experience around the different screen areas (sky, scene, gun) to get the perfect mix of the three.

    The only trade-off is the drivers do require use of their lasersight instead of the in-game crosshair, but this is not distracting at all.

    The following Left4Dead S-3D video was made with DDD Tridef Igntion Drivers and FRAPS:


    Left4Dead, DDD Tridef Ignition 2.3.2B1 Drivers

    Be sure to check out the original YouTube version complete with multiple S-3D display options.

    DDD requirements should include a minimum NVIDIA 8800 series or ATI 3870 series or better GPU.



    Conclusion

    Left4Dead has become a cult favorite among gamers because of its cooperative multiplayer nature. While the environments are diverse, its graphics are somewhat simple. This is one of the reasons Left4Dead and stereoscopic 3D technology go so well together because the true depth experiences add more to what would have otherwise been an average visual experience.

    The only caveat with this game is it needs more surprises and measurable goals to aim for. I should not know everything I need to know after an hour of game play, though I invested much more than that for this review.

    DDD, iZ3D, and NVIDIA driver developers fared equally well with Left4Dead, and we look forward to seeing Left4Dead 2 when it hits store shelves in November.

    Share your thoughts on this review in our discussion forums, and check out all the ghoulish S-3D screen shots in our gallery!

    Game Play
    8/10

    Sound
    7/10

    Presentation
    7.5/10

    Immersive Nature
    8/10

    How Memorable Is This Game
    8/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
    9.5/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
    9.5/10

    Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD
    9.5/10

    NVIDIA Overall Rating:
    8/10

    iZ3D Overall Rating:
    8/10

    DDD Overall Rating:
    8/10