Left 4 Dead had such a rocky start that Gabe Newell wanted to play Counter-Strike instead

Two characters on a rope bridge with guns
(Image credit: Turtle Rock Studios)

Left 4 Dead's co-lead, Chet Faliszek, reminisces about the early days of the co-op PvE (player vs. environment) zombie shooter and what it took to finally get it off the ground. 

Over the years, we've been able to slowly find out more about the iconic zombie shooter from Turtle Rock Studios and Valve. For example, we now know that Left 4 Dead first started amidst the production of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero. Thanks to an interview with GameDeveloper, we've also gotten to hear just how rocky the start of development was from the horse's mouth.  

Thanks to Valve's famous flat structure, where any employee can bring attention to a project that interests them, Left 4 Dead's very beginnings were somewhat shaky. In the interview, Faliszek recalls becoming the project lead almost by accident. "'Well, you should just talk to Chet, Chet's kind of the person.' Like, no one ever told me I'm running [the game]!" Faliszek said. 

The chaos ensued from there, with Left 4 Dead initially going down a PvP (player vs player) route with four survivors battling against four infected in an abandoned apocalyptic city. While this would return later in the Versus mode, the initial interactions with the PvP weren't at all positive. 

"Gabe just asked me very seriously, 'Why don't I just play Counter-Strike instead? That's working'", Faliszek said.  "I thought he was joking. Like, ha, ha, ha. But then he made me watch him play it; he made me sit in his office and watch and play it."

The realization that there were significantly better PvP games available to players, as well as the difficulties of balancing two entirely different classes, the survivors and zombies, is what finally pushed Left 4 Dead into the realm of PvE.

While this was by no means the end of Left 4 Dead's struggles, this saga transformed the zombie shooter into something that would be more palatable to players. This innovation would later go on to shape many of the best zombie games out there, including Left 4 Dead 2.

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Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 


Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.