I must be one of the few poor sods who at this stage still does not have some sort of LAN/broadband that enables playing online games.
As such, I've watched with a sense of foreboding and even sadness as the trend has shifted from single player to multiplayer. I suppose when I finally get the facility to play online with the rest of the world this won't be as big of an issue, but for the moment, and indeed for the past year or so, things have not been good in a single player sense!
And its with this introduction I can say that, based on the games I've played (I've recently purchased a new PC so for the first time in years can play graphics-hungry PC titles again), Left 4 Dead is the first in a series of final nails in the potential coffin of the single player game.
While the game looks fabulous and is eminently playable, it was clearly written for the multiplayer market. As such, I can see the following pros and cons:
As already mentioned, looks gr8, plays gr8, sequence at the start is amazing.
Good for a bash if u just want some good old fashioned zombie blasting for a few minutes, even after you've finished it;
I imagine its a gr8 laugh with mates but;
That said, I can see it getting repetitive even with friends.
This is basically a multiplayer game. There is no real storyline after the initial sequence. All four episodes can be played in any order, and all chapters in each episode can be played in any order. This, for me anyway, completely ruined the single player experience.
There's no real sense of pregression; no cut scenes to indicate progress or furthering the storyline. Once you've finished one episode you've essentially finished them all, since they all only have a small cut scene showing the heroes' escape from that location.
So there's no real sense of satisfaction when you 'finish' the game. There's no big cut sequence at the end of the game to show the heroes have finally escaped.
The game doesn't get harder. All 4 episodes are the same. Sure you can up the difficulty level, but all games have this in any case and once you've played it once the enthusiasm has waned to just play it thru again with a few more zombies thrown into the mix.
The weapons choice is limited to denote realism which is fair enough, but barring one point in all episodes when you get slightly better verisions of the guns that are available at the start, that's it.
Pretty much all zombie types are available from the offset; there are no really harder/nastier ones introduced.
In the end, I finished the last episode in the hope there would be an end sequence like the one at the start; but sadly no. Even by episode 3 my interest was waning; it was basically the same old thing in a different location.
To sum up then, Left 4 Dead is a great game (i'd imagine!) if you go online and have a blast with your buddies, but from a single player point of view it offers almost nothing to recommend it after the initial hour or two, and the aforementioned return after a few days when you can blast zombies for a few minutes. So longevity for single player is non-existant.
I really hope this isn't the beginning of the end for the single player aspect of games; sure, i'd say its loads of fun playing online, but in terms of what makes single player games great (progression, unfolding of storyline, sense of satisfaction at the end), Left 4 Dead is unfortunately sadly lacking.