Left 4 Dead is very much a zombie apocalypse game — you'll find no deeper meaning here, no Romero-esque political message.
The game opens on the game's four characters at ground zero two weeks after the rise of the zombies. Left 4 Dead will have a short introduction, created by the team behind the Team Fortress 2 cut-scenes, but that will be the only cut scene gamers will see in Left 4 Dead.
Instead the story will be told through the game's more than 8,000 lines of dialog and the occasional messages scrawled on the walls of the game's maps, said Valve's Chet Faliszek.
And the games plentiful dialog (Half-Life 2 only had 2,500 lines) isn't meant to be experienced the first time through, or even the fiftieth. The dialog is selected by the specific situation, so it could be weeks or months before a gamer stumbles upon a particular line which might shed a bit more light on the character's back stories.
The team decided to not include cut-scenes because Left 4 Dead is a game meant to be played over and over again and they believed the cut-scenes would quickly become tiresome.
"We didn't want to have the game game gummed up with a story line," Faliszek said. "We wanted to keep it really clean and tight. A zombie apocalypse."
"It's about killing zombies, not some fable on the reconstruction of humanity."
The fact that a map will be replayed so many times also gives the developers a bit more licence for how they get the story across. They can allow gamers to pull their own experience out of the game, instead of pushing a story at them.
"You're going to play a map 50 to 100 times so we can be more subtle," he said.
After launch, once players have had plenty of time with the four scenarios of five maps each, the developers will likely release new scenarios, Faliszek said. Valve just wants to make sure anything they release and sell for the game will have real value.
"We don't want to give you horse armor," he said.