Exactly one year after the original Left 4 Dead released on Xbox 360 and PC, Valve put out Left 4 Dead 2. It was a sudden departure from Valve, as the company had often took several years before iterating upon a release. 10 years have since passed since the sequel came out on November 17, 2009, and fans are still waiting for another entry in the cooperative first-person shooter series. Considering how quickly the original follow-up arrived, the wait has been unbearable for fans as an entire console generation has essentially come and gone without even a remaster of one of the best zombie games ever made gracing it. With how often Valve starts and cans projects, it’s not unrealistic to think that fans might have to wait another decade before seeing Left 4 Dead 3 if it even ever occurs at all.
It’s important to note that Left 4 Dead was far more than just another zombie game. It was the rare shooter built around cooperative play. Sure, you could play solo and with A.I. partners if you wanted, but the game still required that players to look out for one another. While the standard zombies could be mowed down by a player on their own, the more terrifying infected, such as the Tank, Jockey, Smoker and Hunter, could easily knock down or disable a single player. If you were to have success in the game, every player had to be on the same page and working together to accomplish their goal and escape successfully.
Valve’s A.I. director was another aspect that made the shooter so special and it made sure every time players played its various campaigns they’d get a different experience. It did this by simulating each player’s stress level in order to control which characters its infected would attack. With fresh enemy encounters, different weapon and item layouts, and weather conditions, Valve created a game that was infinitely replayable. It’s why Left 4 Dead quickly became one of the best hangout games and is still a fantastic title to play with friends over a decade later.
Left 4 Dead 3 came close to happening
Ever since the release of Left 4 Dead 2, there have been rumors floating around about a potential sequel. Earlier this year, we learned there was some truth to this as dozens of screenshots leaked of a 2013 build of the seemingly canceled game. They showed off a new desert environment, showing that it would take place in a far different locale than past installments of the shooter. Based off concept art by artist Moby Francke, it looks like the game was going to star Middle Eastern survivors of a zombie apocalypse. That’s a far change from the American-centric previous titles, and it would have been an interesting portrayal as games often cast the people of the Middle East merely as faceless villains.
Sadly, considering the lack of announcements and how old the initial leaks are, it’s very likely that Left 4 Dead 3, or at least the original version of it, either wound up in development hell or canceled by the studio. The series’ lead writer Chet Faliszek left the company in 2017, so that throws another wrench into the potential development. Either way, it’s clear that Valve isn’t going to announce the game until they feel like it is near completion and it has been complete radio silent for several years. The last tease for Left 4 Dead 3 came way back in 2012.
The closest thing to a sequel looks to be the next game from Turtle Rock Studios, the developer of the original game (Valve handled the sequel itself), The team unveiled Back 4 Blood earlier this year, and while tit has been explicit that this isn’t just a sequel to Left 4 Dead as there’s “a whole lot of new stuff … which makes it unique.” However, it’s a zombie shooter built around cooperative play and that’s probably the best thing we can hope for at this point.
What could the future Left 4 Dead 3 look like?
As we look toward the future of the Left 4 Dead series, it’s worth remembering that the past decade has seen the release of many titles that tried to put their own spin on the formula that Valve and Turtle Rock refined. The Warhammer: Vermintide series of titles followed Valve the closest and had players battling evil rats from a fantasy world rather than zombies. It used the same layout, but added some light role-playing game elements that helped differentiate itself. There’s also the third-person shooter Nazi Zombie Trilogy, which even added the L4D heroes as playable characters back in 2015. It’s clear that there is still a successful niche to be capitalized upon, one that other developers will gladly cater to since Valve isn’t satisfying them right now. While both of those games are fun, they still don’t quite live up to the high standard that Valve had set, so there’s plenty of need for the series to return.
If there’s one potential upside to the long time away, it’s that a potential Left 4 Dead 3 could learn from these other titles and Back 4 Blood once that releases. Some type of overarching RPG elements would give players reasons to keep coming back in order to build their character up. And if Valve wants to keep progression out of gameplay, there’s always the option of letting the player unlock cosmetics. Beyond that, we know that significant improvements would be made graphically (it’s been a whole decade, after all) and that they would enhance the A.I. director to offer up even more differences. From branching pathways to adding more story elements during playthroughs, there are a lot of ways that Valve could iterate on its timeless formula.
Considering how successful the games inspired by Left 4 Dead have been, it is clear that fans still want a new experience that offers up that type of four-player cooperative play while strategically mowing down hordes of zombies. It’s unlikely that we’ll see the version of Left 4 Dead 3 that was originally being developed in 2013, but there’s still enough value in the brand for it to be worthwhile for Valve to bring it back. Even with how frustrating Valve can be with its lengthy development times (just ask any fan of the Half-Life series), it seems more of a question of when rather than if when it comes to Left 4 Dead 3. Well, hopefully, anyway.