Left 4 Dead
Saying you're a massive zombie fan seems to be part of the after-dinner patter of most gamers, but in my view you're only a zombie fan if you've managed to sit through the films of Lucio Fulci – that's Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead. Like most zombie games, Left 4 Dead inexplicably ignores this important canon of 1970's exploitation cinema and plumps for the more traditional George Romero zombus (our preferred plural of zombie).
That said, Left 4 Dead is freaking ace. For anyone who can remember the travesty that Resident Evil Outbreak became – this is the game that it should have been. A co-op FPS where four survivors of a zombus-infected city have to fight their way to safety, helping each other out along the way whenever they are inevitably overpowered by the undead hordes.
What's most satisfying from a zombie fan's point of view is the pace and volume with which the festering dead-tards come at you. It's properly intense. Luckily the weapon set afforded you to lay them to waste is ferocious – there's nothing better than spraying the Uzi at the legs of an approaching brace of zombus and seeing them topple to the ground, The only downside is when you get teamed up with a group of Judas's (one of whom is supposed to be my 'friend', Stephen) who seem happy to let you die instead of playing by the rules and assisting you.
In the demo we played the four of us manage to play a pretty tight game, which means the adaptive game AI actually makes the game harder and sends in more canon fodder. Then someone decides to go go all Lone Wolf McZombie on us and break up the party. The ensuing carnage ends with two of the group of four (including me) lying wounded in a sewer, awaiting impending doom at the hands of the zombus. This is supposed to be 'co-op' you jerks not 'let-everyone-die-op'. However, it's this sense of dependence on your gang that lends this a true sense of 'survival' horror – you need to work as a group or you're zombie meat.
If any company can have a go at creating the ultimate zombie shooter it's Valve – and this first encounter has us sold. And I haven't even played it on Xbox 360 yet with a joypad (it was being demoed on PC) and my skills with WASD and mouse are somewhat limited.
Hype justified?: Most definitely.