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Left 4 Dead In-depth Tips

It's easy to learn the basics of Left 4 Dead, but when you ramp up the difficulty or get matched with a skilled team on Versus, it's useful to have some specialized knowledge of the game. Grab your pills and do it fast, because it's the zombie apocalypse and you and your three pals are going straight to hell.

Weapons of choice

Choose the right tool for the job. By look and feel the assault rifle might seem like the most powerful weapon in the game, and in fact it is the most versatile one. However, no other weapon can match the automatic shotgun in pure, brutal damage per second, which is especially important when you're trying to tear up a tank. Always have at least one player with the shotty in your team, preferably two at least in the final fights. For picking out other Special Infected, the assault rifle is far superior mostly due to its better accuracy. Smokers always attack from afar, and it's important to eliminate those Hunters from the top of your pals without hitting them in the process. The hunting rifle is also a powerful weapon and great for getting headshots. Against the Witch, having multiple hunting rifles will let you shoot it without even thinking twice. Its downside is its clumsiness in the short range, which forces you to pull out those pistols every once in a while.

Oh. And don't bother to conserve too much ammo unless you're playing on Expert. There's usually plenty of it lying around.

Shoot through walls. Shoot through ceilings.

If you think there's a Boomer behind that corner, you might as well just kill it before it makes its move. Main weapon bullets in Left 4 Dead do go through most thin walls. This is also especially useful against Hunters attacking someone separated from the team. If there's only a thin wall between you, just shoot the silhouette even when you don't see the actual Hunter.

Melee. Melee more.

Shooting is something that is hardwired straight into any seasoned FPS player's head, but in many situations, using melee is actually the right way to go in Left 4 Dead. Obviously you can melee Boomers to push them away, or you can melee Hunters leaping at you to stop their attack and make them disoriented. But melee is also very useful when helping other players get back in the action: meleeing your pal grabbed by the Smoker is sometimes a faster and safer way to free him than actually trying to kill the Smoker. If you have a shotgun, you shouldn't risk friendly fire in case of a hunter, but just use melee. Avoiding friendly fire is especially important on Expert, where the guns can do some real damage to other survivors.

The closet is your best friend

The Special Infected rely on the element of surprise to get you. The hordes surround you from all sides. When the zombies only have one direction to attack from, they lose the only advantages they have. Even when a Boomer gets the whole team covered in bile, staying in a corner of a small room or crouching back-to-back in the middle of a narrow hallway usually secures your safety. When playing defensively, closets and other closed spaces are the best possible option. Actually they're sometimes so good that using them can almost be called map exploiting in Versus. Valve has already fixed the most unbalanced ones, like getting under the helipad ramp on No Mercy finale - a ridiculous spot, but it worked.

Countering the closet

The best counter to a team defending in a tight spot is going in with a Smoker and a Boomer simultaneously. Either get the bile in and then drag a survivor away while they're disoriented, or try to attack from a well-protected spot with the Smoker and then go in with the Boomer.

Coming out of the closet

Okay, so closets are safe against ordinary zombies and even most Special Infected. But even when staying in the closet there is a chance of thoroughly hurting your butt. That chance is called the Tank.

When the Tank comes, get out in the open. Do it fast. Then consider one of the two following strategies.

Run or shoot?

There are two ways to kill a Tank. One is to light it with a molotov and run far away, and the other is just plain old gunfire. The Tank has a timer that starts ticking after it catches fire, so it won't die faster even if you get a little damage in from shooting. But shooting in itself as a coordinated effort is a viable option. 4000 hit points may sound like much, but four players shooting with automatic shotguns can tear through a Tank pretty quickly. If you manage to spread out in good coordination and the hordes don't bother you, killing a Tank can be a standard procedure.

Explore or move?

This is the real core question in survivor strategy. You can search your surroundings for precious bombs and medical supplies, but doing so will make those spawn timers tick away without you making any real progress. When you have to look for supplies, spreading out saves time but makes you vulnerable. Usually it's the best to compromise. Search known locations of medicine and guns, but don't go out of your way to find every pipe bomb and molotov. On easier difficulties and Versus, the regular zombies are easy kills and balance shifts more towards running. Use pipe bombs to clear out the worst hordes if you have to move fast.

The most important guideline: Coordinate.

One rule in Left 4 Dead goes above all the others: whatever you decide to do, do it together. Survivors should never stray from the pack. It can even be good to set specific roles for your team, divide the team into pairs and choose weapons accordingly. Coordination is equally important for the Infected team, who must attack simultaneously to get anything done. A lone Hunter can at best delay the survivors a little, and while keeping the pressure on them is important, executing a well-planned attack is even more important. Can't really play this game without a headset.

Some more specific Infected strategies

Lure the survivors to alarm cars and Witches. Usually staying hidden is important for the Infected, but Witches and cars with horde-luring alarms make an important exception. Even when the survivors are smart enough not to shoot when you're trying to provoke them, at least staying in the vicinity of a Witch or a car with an alarm will keep you relatively safe until they get close. One of the best tricks is to pull a survivor near a Witch with the Smoker - that one is almost guaranteed trouble for the puny humans.

Boomers are the key. Obviously. Temporary blindness and oncoming hordes of zombies make for a great distraction. So whatever your strategy is, it's probably better if it doesn't involve using the Boomer as a decoy. The basic pattern of almost all effective Infected attacks involves the same elements: first a distraction, then Boomer bile, then going in with all the others simultaneously.

Get the Smoker in from below. Sometimes the Smoker is at its best on rooftops attacking from above, where it's not that easy to kill. But usually it can make the most damage when used from below. Pull a survivor down from a roof or through an opening in the floor, and he might have to climb all the way back up again. No Mercy in particular offers plenty of opportunities for this.

Help the Tank. Just face it: the Tank simply isn't that strong by itself. It's not any faster than the survivors in Versus/Normal, and can take limited damage. But once you mix in some Boomer bile and a couple of well-timed attacks with the Hunters, the survivors can end up in real trouble. Also, when playing as the Tank, be careful not to kill your fellow Infected. Pretty please? They're there to help you.

Just get someone killed. Killing three survivors is easier by an order of a magnitude than killing four. Just three Hunters attacking simultaneously, and bang, that's it, even if they have full health. If you can get one of them down early, chances are you'll get the others later. If the survivors get separated, punish them. Pick out the weakest link and break it. If there isn't one, it's the best to concentrate your efforts on special situations.

Don't spawn in too early. They can hear you. In some places it's possible to spawn just 5 meters away from the survivors with the Boomer. Given even a minor distraction, that makes for an easy chance to vomit on them, whereas spawning too far will just get you killed. On the other hand, in some forest areas it can be really tricky to find a spot to spawn, so adjust your tactics accordingly. In forest areas, the best spawn spots are usually behind big rocks. Inside, just look for tight corners and closets. It might also be a good idea to spawn behind the survivors in an area they have just cleared a few seconds ago - they won't be expecting anything from there.

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