I don't play online so see other reviews for reaction to the online content. It could be argued that the game is designed primarily for online play, but since the publisher is happy to take offline players' money it's only right that they have access to reviews focused on what they'll experience.
I've been waiting for this game eagerly as a long-time survival horror fan and born-again FPS addict, but have become totally deflated by the very limited quantity of material in this package. Having spent approximately 6 hours playing I've already completed every stage and fought every type of enemy several times over. Repeated attempts at play have brought instant deja-vu. Despite internal arguments trying to justify this with the AI system, the fact is I'm bored rigid and want to replay Fallout 3 or Dead Space, not this.
The game looks and sounds brilliant, the survivors' AI is great as is the banter. The zombies are interesting and the different types work well. So what's the issue? For a start the vaunted AI system does not produce genuinely different play each time. There aren't enough enemy and weapon types or campaigns to keep it fresh or make it feel like a genuinely different experience. The AI may well tweak this and that behind the scenes, but it's not delivering anything noticeably better than a thoroughly scripted game, for me at least. Considering that this is apparently the justification for such limited campaigns, we have a problem here.
The locations are fairly large, but considering you're just charging from one end of the playing area to the next anything smaller would be ridiculous. Between six and eight campaigns of this size would be a realistic amount for a complete game, leaning heavily towards eight.
The five special zombie types could be split into mini-bosses (the tank and witch) and extras (hunter, smoker and boomer). They really do work well but you see relatively little of the two stronger variants for the bulk of the game. These are what would make the AI system deliver different experiences, and there just isn't enough variety. a further two (at least) more common varieties and another mini-boss type would have given gamers more of a chance to feel they're fighting a genuinely changing army of undead each time they play. The weapon selections are also underwhelming, what's there works well but it's a very limited arsenal.
The game consists of getting from A to B five times in a single campaign, during each stage progress is halted until a certain piece of machinery or other such thing is activated, causing an onslaught of zombies. The problem with these attacks is that they're identical. Bog-standard enemies pluther through every corridor, from overhead or wherever. If you're outside, zombies appear on roof-tops from out of nowhere and bounce down to ground level in an instant. There's no strategy apart from flinging a pipe bomb to thin their numbers or throwing a molotov which may or may not be in a 'hot-spot' where they spawn. Again, coupled with the sheer lack of variety these attacks very quickly become dull.
I am bitterly disappointed. The basic premise is a great one, a lot of love has gone into the game. The developers have somehow grossly misjudged how much content would be needed for a halfway convincing single-player experience. Waiting for a price drop will not change the fact that the game writes cheques that the experience can't cash.
If you aren't online enabled and haven't bought yet, for goodness sake rent first. I didn't think it was necessary but I'll be trading it in three days after it was released as punishment for that slip. Hopefully Valve will rectify this if a sequel is ever created.