Left 4 Dead is the best thing that happened to zombies since 28 Days Later, and Valve’s recent release of the free Survival Pack for the PC and 360 only sweetens the deal. The highlights of the fresh content are the Survival Mode and the new Lighthouse map that comes with it. Think of Survival Mode as an ultra condensed version of Left 4 Dead on steroids. The object is to survive as long as possible in a small area while the game tries to drown you with endless waves of bloodthirsty zombies. It’s relentless, intense, and extremely difficult. We played through as many rounds of Survival Mode on the Lighthouse map as humanly possible since the new content released yesterday afternoon, taking note of which strategies worked best and which ones were doomed to fail. Here’s what we found.
Most of these general tips are common knowledge by now. But because we ran into so many players who still don’t follow them, we figure they’re worth repeating.
Use a headset: You severely handicap your team when you play Left 4 Dead without a headset. No amount of fast-typing or attempts to use your non-existent psychic powers can replace voice chat when it comes to planning a strategy or alerting your teammates when you need help. Plus, it’s more fun. You like fun, right?
Stick together: Do you see how the three AI-controlled players below are sticking together? When your team splits up, strategies fall apart and each player becomes more vulnerable. This is why you can often outlast full groups with human players by soloing Survival Mode with just three bots. Three bots and your badass self should be more than enough to earn you the Bronze Standard survival time on any Survival Mode map.
Above: Sticking together is the one thing Left 4 Dead’s bots do better than most players
Sticking together is especially important in Survival Mode due to the dense population of special infected. During the regular campaigns, you usually run into only one type of special infected at a time. But as you progress, it’s common to find pairs of Smokers and Hunters around your team, so even traveling a few feet away from your party to grab an item – or to save another teammate – can get everyone killed. That’s why it’s always best to restock on supplies and save teammates as a group.
Push your pals: Another truism that players often forget. If you’re near a teammate who’s been pounced by a Hunter or hung by a Smoker, it’s often best to use a melee attack on your teammate instead of firing at the special infected. A melee attack won’t hurt your teammate with friendly fire and immediately frees them. By firing off a series of shotgun shells at a Smoker or a Hunter’s tongue, you may end up doing more harm than good by nicking your teammate instead. Melee attacks are also good for getting regular zombies off your teammates’ backs. A few rifle-butts and shoves are better than accidentally blasting your partner.
Use items liberally: Don’t covet your molotovs and pipe bombs when playing Lighthouse. The map is littered with them, and they won’t do you any good if they’re just sitting in your inventory. Also, it’s especially easy to forget that pills are plentiful. Use them when low on health to buy some time till things have settled down enough for you to properly heal yourself.
Above: Don’t forget to use your pills. You’re no good to your team if you’re limping or dead
These are the most popular strategies we’ve seen for tackling the Lighthouse map in Left 4 Dead’s new Survival Mode – and we’ve listed them in order of effectiveness. Although some seem to work better than others, none of them are perfect. Our best times involved a combination of the following strategies in teams where players communicated well in order to move from one location to another as a group.
This is by far the most common strategy and it’s easy to understand why. On the upper level of the lighthouse, you’ll find a nice cache of pipe bombs and molotovs. You’ll also have the best view of your surroundings, allowing you to pick off incoming zombies from a distance. Someone on your team will probably want to create a stockpile of gas cans and canisters on one of the upper tiers - the reason being that you can toss them down to the lower levels of the roof and ignite them to cut off zombie rushes and set incoming tanks on fire as you need them.
Above: Right now, the rooftop is the most popular place to make your last stand. But from our experience, it’s the least effective
The rooftop strategy sounds great on paper, but there are just too many things that can go wrong when playing with an average group of players. Coordinating the process of tossing down and igniting the cans and canisters your group collected is easier said than done. Tanks always seem to find their way up to the upper tier, where you’ve stored all your cans and canisters. When this happens, your group will likely split up and try to tackle the tank on one of the lower tiers of the rooftop. It’s during this transition that things usually fall apart.
Above: A typical example of a rooftop stockpile before someone accidentally blows it all up
You may have a great view from the rooftop, but you’ll also be easy pickings for Hunters and Smokers, who will have a go at you from every which way whenever a Tank manages to shake up your formation. As Tanks spawn more frequently and the intensity of regular zombie hordes increases, it’s inevitable that someone will accidentally ignite one of the many gas cans and canisters you and your team spent so much time collecting. Burning to death from the stockpile you spent so much time creating is demoralizing. Making your way down to the ground level to restock on healing supplies and ammunition is also troublesome.
Above: It’s easy to lose your bearing amidst all the chaos, giving Tanks the opportunity to knock you off the cliff into the water for an instant kill