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Left 4 Dead Strategies
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We're going to talk about Left 4 Dead Strategies here, with a special emphasis on Versus Mode. Most first person shooters don't really need strategy guides, as they're usually "Shoot and kill" and that's pretty much it. Left 4 Dead is different. It's ALL about teamwork. And with teamwork comes necessary strategy. Just as with MMOs, you won't be killing any bosses without every player doing his proper role, so you won't win L4D if your teammates aren't working together.

How Versus Mode Works

In versus mode, you get to play as both the Survivors and as the Infected. Each campaign is played first with Team A playing as the Survivors and Team B as the infected, and then vice versa: The goal of Versus mode is the same as the goal of the normal game: The survivors try to survive, and the infected try to kill.

As the survivors

As stated, the survivors must progress through and complete the level (or get as far as possible with as many people alive as possible). The survivors do not respawn in versus mode, this means that it's absolutely essential to keep everyone alive (note, that each level you'll start with all four survivors, even if they died on the previous level). The survivors (and only the survivors) earn points at the end of each round based on a number of key factors:
  • Average Distance traveled - if you all make it to the end, that's 100%
  • Average Health - The more health you have when you close the door, the higher your score. If you're feeling very safe, step into the safe room and before closing the door, heal up to get a better score
  • Survivors - For each survivors that's made it to the end, the score gets multiplied. So if four survivors make it to the end, the score gets multiplied by 4, if three make it, then three, and so on (the exception is if no one makes it, the score remains unmultiplied)
  • Difficulty - This is just a multiplier that is applied based on the length of the level. It's the only factor not affected by the players.

Note that there is no score for "Kills" or "Frags." The score is based ENTIRELY on survival: How far you made it, how much health you have, and how many of you are still alive. This is absolutely crucial. Kills are useful only to the extent that they get you to the next part.

As the infected

When playing as the infected, you'll be randomly assigned a special infected from the following: smoker, hunter, boomer, or tank.

The infected earn no points. Instead, the purpose of playing as the infected is to prevent the survivors from scoring. That means knowing the point system above. Stop them from advancing, kill as many of them as possible, and do as much damage as possible.

Basic Strategy

Teamwork is the absolute essential here. Regardless of which team you're on, it's absolutely essential that you work together. Going at it alone is a guaranteed way to be (at best) useless, and (at worst) a complete hindrance.

Basic Survivor Strategy

As a survivor, your goal is to survive, and to ensure that your teammates survive. The following rules are vital to survival.
  • Stay together - if you're on your own, you will die. If you are too spread apart, it'll take you too long to save an incapped teammate
  • Haul ass - The longer you take to complete the level, the more opportunities the zombies will have to coordinate and attempt attacks. There should be no sitting around at all. Special player zombies take between 20 and 30 seconds to respawn, so you need to take advantage of those free windows and move. Stop to heal only if necessary (particularly if you are being slowed by your wounds).
  • Only kill when it's necessary - Plenty of zombies are a safe distance away that they won't kill you unless you shoot at them. Only shoot (or shine your flashlight) on zombies in your way. If you shoot one, the others near it will likely come running at you as well. There's no reason to take on the extra load.
  • When a wave comes, back into a corner, or back to the wall. Or best, try to get inside a room and shut the door. You can shoot through at the zombies as they try to get in. - If you can get into a corner when a wave comes, you're in good shape. If you're covered in bile and can't see, just melee until you can, then open fire and take the zombies down. But keeping your back against a solid wall will prevent the zombies from coming at you from behind.
  • Listen for the sounds of the special infected - Each special infected makes a distinct noise. Learn them and know when they're near. Smokers cough, hunters growl and shriek, boomers burb, and tanks growl loudly and make everything shake
  • Close doors behind you - As you progress, make it habit to close doors behind you. Zombies are dumber than raptors: they can't open doors. The pounding they will have to do on the doors will be plenty enough notice that you're getting attacked from behind. More critically, it'll stop a sneak attack from behind from a special zombie.
  • Melee like you mean it - Seriously, Melee is the bread and butter of your arsenal. Any wave of zombies can be indefinitely held at bay by enough of you in a corner meleeing
  • Shoot special zombies only when they're not on a teammate - If a hunter has a teammate pinned down. Shove it off, and THEN start firing. If a smoker grabs a teammate, shoving the teammate frees him from the tongue. THEN start shooting the smoker. Pouring rounds into a special infected while a teammate is incapacitated only allows them to keep dealing damage while you're trying to kill them.

It needs repeating: Survival is primary, killing is secondary. If you take 15 extra damage because you decided to kill zombies that were otherwise avoidable, you've done your team a disservice. If you decided to hang back and kill extra zombies when your team is advancing, and you get incapacitated (by a smoker or hunter), your team will have to backtrack to save you, which gives the infected more time to spawn, and gives them additional changes to attack.

Basic Infected Strategy

As the infected, your job is to kill the survivors, or incapacitate them. Four incapacitated survivors means they can't finish the level. So once one is incapacitated, focus on the others (this is particularly applicable to the tank).

While playing as the infected is more loose, there remain some essentials:
  • Work Together - Work together to stage attacks. A single hunter or smoker attacking a clump of survivors will do nothing. But if two hunters jump in there, or even better, if you can get them with two hunters, a smoker, and a boomer, there will likely be too much chaos to survive. But generally speaking, work together
  • Pick off stragglers - If you've got someone away from the group, pick them off as a hunter or smoker. At the very least, you'll deal a ton of damage before the group is able to get back to save them. At best, you might be able to incap a survivor in a place that the survivors can't get to. If you can get one last person before they jump off a ledge or something, that's going to work wonders.
  • Target the survivor with low health - you can see roughly how much health the survivors have, and and targeting a player in the red or yellow will get them that much closer to being down (or dead, for that matter). Once a survivor falls, there's no respawn, so that's a big victory. Additionally, if you're able to incap a low survivor, the rest of the survivors will be stopped until they're able to get the down survivor back on his feet.

Staging an attack is pretty systematic. Generally speaking, and attack should always come with a wave of common infected, either triggered by the "Call the horde" events or triggered by a boomer's bile. A general order of attack is:
  1. Boomer go in and slime them up
  2. Hunters and Smokers incapacitate the non smiled survivors (if you can). This is particularly helpful because the slimed survivors will have difficulty seeing, which means it'll take longer to save

There is a useful variation, which can be used to split up a group of survivors. You start with a smoker pull to separate one of them from the rest. Then the boomer can boom the rest of the survivors (exploding on them too by dying if you can manage, can buy the smoker a few additional seconds of damage and disorient them more). Or, if the survivors will have difficulty getting to the newly smoked survivor (pounced the survivors), booming on the smoked survivor will help with delivering a ton of damage to that particular survivor while the others are distracted with getting the hunters off the others.


Hunters are the most common form of special infected, and they deal a lot of damage very quickly. Their primary attack is pounce, which means they jump on a survivor and leave them incapacitated until a teammate helps.

As a hunter

To perform the pounce, you first crouch - you'll see a little progress bar swing around your reticle (the crosshairs in the middle of the screen), when that is fully charged, attack and you'll jump far and let out a loud screech. You can chain this, and pounce all over the place, making you a very difficult target to hit.

Some things to do:
  • Your pounce is very fast, and you can pounce all over the place. This can be an effective way to buy some time. Pounce all over the place to distract the survivors who are trying to kill you, and while you're doing this, you can have your other teammates move in for the attack. Or you can do this to wait for your teammates to spawn, and when they're up, pounce away to safety until it's time for the next attack.
  • You are a complete wuss when it comes to getting meleed. If you pounce at a player, make sure to do it from above or from behind - if the player you're trying to pounce is competent, they'll be able to hit you away with melee, stunning you, and eventually killing you, leaving you no escape.
  • Attacking from above does more damage. If you can pounce from high up and nail a survivor, you'll score a few extra hit points worth of damage. Every little bit counts.
  • If you're not able to get away, just take a few basic swipes at them to deal some damage before you get killed.
  • Learn to wall-climb and wall-jump. This allows you to get to higher places in less time, and those higher places allow you to get the maximum pounces (25 damage pounces). The farther you travel from your pounce, the more damage you'll deliver
  • If you can, set yourself on fire. You deal significantly more damage while on fire. If you manage to pounce someone while on fire, you can bring them from full health to being incapped in a matter of 3-5 seconds. It's something like 20 damage per hit.

Against the hunter

  • Melee is the bane of the hunters. Hunters can do practically nothing against a melee-spamming survivors. Once a hunter has been meleed, you can pretty easily melee it to death, since it'll stay perpetually stunned as long as you keep meleeing it.
  • If a teammate gets incapacitated by a hunter, you need to knock it off as quickly as possible. In most cases, melee is the quickest way to get a hunter off a survivor. If you've got the shotgun however, the blast will also effectively throw the hunter off the survivor.


Smokers attack from long distances and shoot their tongue at the survivors, constricting them and pulling them toward the smoker. This is very effective at splitting up groups by pulling survivors away from the group (usually in the opposite direction they want to go).

As a smoker

As a smoker, your job is going to be split the group up. Unlike the hunter, you can be effective at attacking one in a group even if a wave isn't coming.
  • If there is no wave, say if the boomer just died, you can still wreak havoc - just pull the rearmost survivor back in the direction they just came from. This will force the team to backtrack, buying you just a bit of time.
  • If the survivors are just about to jump off a cliff, or into a hole or something, a well timed tongue can spell certain death for someone who straggles even a second. If you can manage to pull the last survivor back just after the rest of the team dropped down the hole, you can single-handed kill that survivor, as the other survivors will have no way to get back to save them.
  • Just like the hunters, you're very effective at incapping a player during a wave. If the boomer slimed them, try to get the survivors that are not slimed.
  • The smoker has the benefit of being able to get weird angles. Try to work it out that you are difficult to target (top of a building) or see (through brush) when you have a survivor constricted.
  • When survivors are on different high levels (like the 2nd floor), try pulling them off onto the ground (for example, pulling them off the roof after the lift on the 2rd level of no Mercy).
  • Your tongue attack only works when the reticule highlights in red.

Against a smoker

Stopping a smoker attack is pretty similar to stopping a hunter attack. A big bonus is that you can just melee a survivor if he's got the tongue on him. That will instantly free him, and is, in most cases, significantly faster than trying to shoot the smoker. Beyond that, there's not too much to say about killing smokers.
  • Melee a constricted survivor to break the tongue
  • Stay away from open windows or risk getting pulled by a smoker
  • When constricted, you have about 2 seconds to react to shoot the smoker yourself, and they tongue serves as an arrow in the direction to shoot. Try your best to kill the smoker before you get incapacitated


Boomers puke bile on you, which causes a wave of zombies to rush. If you kill a boomer too near, their explosion will also slime you with bile causing a wave. A survivor covered in bile has difficulty seeing, so be aware.

As a Boomer

As a boomer, you're the bread and butter of organized attacks. You slime the survivors, and the rest of the damage dealers kick some ass. Your sole job is to slime the survivors and keep the horde rushing.
  • Boomers are easy targets. They're huge and slow so stay out of the open.[li]Get in a corner where the survivors are coming and puke as they come around.
  • You cannot move while puking, so make sure the survivors are in range and in line of sight for puking. You can only turn to aim while puking, but you cannot move (no strafing into them).
  • If you're just puked, and don't want to wait the minute or so recharge, you can always run into them with the intention of getting shot and sliming them again. Doing this after a wave is just subsiding is a great way to extend a wave.

Against a Boomer

  • Pick off a boomer in the open. If they are exposed at all, they're easy shots.
  • If you hear a boomer, assume it's around every corner. Shoot through the walls at likely hiding spots.
  • If a boomer gets too close, melee it away first then back away before shooting. This will prevent the bile explosion from hitting you.
  • If a teammate gets exploded on, get over there and start helping keep the zombies off
  • If you get exploded on, back into a corner and start meleeing until you can see again.
  • [/ul]


    The tank is the beast. It's got a ton of health, and it deals a lot of damage, and an effective tank can singlehandedly disable your team.

    It's important to note this vital knowledge to both the tank and the survivors: A tank that is on fire has most 30 seconds to live. Regardless of how much health a tank has at 30 seconds, if it's been on fire for 30 seconds, it'll die instantly.

    As the tank
    • DO NOT LET YOURSELF GET SET ON FIRE. Once you're on fire, you have 30 seconds to fight before you die. If it means going around something, then go around. You don't lose life for taking a long time to kill anyone, but you will set a maximum life on yourself by foolishly walking through fire.
    • Go for survivors that are low in health first. Those survivors will move slowly and won't be able to outrun you - a full health survivor can backpedal faster than the tank can run, so go for someone in the red first, then in the yellow. If no one is low in health, go for whoever you can reach first.
    • Punch obstacles toward the survivors for instant knockdown. You can punch cars, loose tree stumps, forklifts and other stuff at the survivors and if they get hit with it, it's an instant knockdown.
    • You can throw boulders by right clicking, but be aware that you're not moving while it's happening, and you're an easy target
    • When throwing rocks, lead your target.
    • Punching a survivor off the roof of Mercy hospital is one of the most satisfying experiences you'll ever have. Do it early, do it often. It's instant death.
    • Once a survivor is incapacitated, move onto another. An incapacitated survivor has a TON of health and will take you longer to kill than the survivors will take to kill you. Just move on to the next
    • Try to stay out of the open. Fighting in close quarters means more walls for survivors to be trapped against. In the open, survivors can spread out and be harder to catch, giving them more time to shoot you.

    Assisting the Tank

    The tank can do a ton of damage, but against survivors who are full on health, a tank will need the help of the other special zombies to cause any lasting damage.

    Your job is to incapacitated the healthy survivors and let the tank work on the weakened survivors. Once your target is low on health, even if he gets saved, the tank will be able to catch them.

    There's no attack more fearsome than a boomer puking while a tank is attacking. The wave of zombies combined with an unstoppable force like the tank is, in many cases, a guaranteed win.

    If a tank is coming, wait until the tank has engaged the survivors before attacking. The last thing you want is to get killed before they've engaged the tank wasting your special abilities.

    Against the tank
    • SET THE TANK ON FIRE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. An engulfed tank only has 30 seconds to live. Ignite and run. If a tank catches you, you're probably dead.
    • If you can explode a propane tank next to the tank, it'll not only take a lot of damage, but it'll also effectively get stunned for a couple seconds. Take this opportunity to light it up.
    • The shotgun and the assault rifle are the most effective weapons against the tank. An autoshotty at close range (go from behind), will absolutely tear a tank apart. Pump all 10 rounds into it and run like hell while you're reloading. The sniper rifle seems rather worthless against the tank
    • If you're full health, the tank won't be able to catch you. Don't get foolish and try to kill it yourself at the expense of mobility.
    • Kite.Related to the last point, the most effective method of attack against a tank is for the remaining survivors to just blast the tank nonstop as it's chasing a teammate. If it changes targets, the person who was running turns around and starts pouring ammo into the tank, while the new target starts kiting. But all this must be done with an awareness of where everybody is. Don't forget about the special infected while you're fighting a tank. You don't want to be in a close group against a tank, but you also don't want to be in hard to reach places, in case a survivor needs to rescue you. Find a balance.
    • In tight quarters (like the beginning of No Mercy 5), have everyone back into the same corner and have the tank run into you there. The tank is limited such that he can only hit target one at a time. With everyone unloading into the tank from point blank range, the tank will die before he can kill anyone, in particular with everyone unloading tier 2 weapons into him, he'll be dead in a matter of seconds.

    The Witch

    The witch is the only special zombie that cannot be player controlled. If she is startled (either by a nearby sound, gun shot, flash light, or a survivor that gets too close), she's going to go berserk and could very well kill a survivor.

    Assisting the Witch

    As the infected, you can take advantage of the witch by trying to cause trouble while the survivors are near the witch. Standing by the witch as a hunter or something to try to draw fire and hope for them to miss and hit the witch might work, but for any decent players, they won't be stupid enough for fall for it.

    The best bet, it seems, is to slime the survivors when they're near the witch. With them shooting wildly, you can hope for a rogue bullet to hit the witch and when this happens, someone will very likely die.

    Incapacitating another survivor while the witch is attacking is a good way to wreak havoc. In short, the witch being startled is a great time to attack.

    Killing the Witch

    If you can safely ignore the witch, then ignore her. There are no bonus points for killing her.

    If you have to engage, do it all at the same time, and dispatch her quickly (make sure everyone's reloaded before engaging).

    The witch can be killed by a single headshot by the shotgun (or so we've heard) or the snifer rifle. Your best bet is no to dick around with getting close and trying to kill her with the shotgun - if you miss, she'll instantly rock your socks. Instead, attack from a distance. The sniper rifle is very effective at this (which is about the only thing the sniper rifle is good for in Versus mode).

    Making it to the safe room

    Once you're in the safe room, there are almost no circumstances that warrant running out of the safe room. Even a downed teammate is likely not worth opening that door, unless you are absolutely confident you can do so without getting trapped out there yourself. If the special zombies had been recently killed, MAYBE you'll have time to revive a teammate and bring him in for the extra points.

    But generally speaking, once you're in the safe room, STAY in the safe room.


    This covered most of the general strategy in Left 4 Dead. As with all things, use your discretion. Sometimes things get so chaotic that you have to do something foolish.

    This document is copyright (c) 2008 by PiaS: http://www.poopinashoe.com

    Last Modified: 2/16/2009 9:33am
    Contributors: chops, Fries
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