Although "Twilight" is rocking the box office, zombies are still the monster du jour when it comes to the gamer set.

Ask a player about a popular vampire game and they'll be clueless. Ask about zombies, and they'll be able to fire off at least three titles.

Credit the undead's popularity to Capcom, which has single-handedly seared zombies into the public's imagination. With its "Resident Evil" franchise and blockbuster "Dead Rising," players have been blasting, fleeing and knifing the monsters for more than a decade.

Not to be left out, Valve has taken its own stab at the genre. With the help of Certain Affinity, it has developed a standout entry in the field.

In "Left 4 Dead," fans play as one of four survivors caught up in a zombie apocalypse. They'll have to survive through four unrelated campaigns that take them to a boathouse, an airport, a hospital and a farm.

Inspired by horror classics, "Left 4 Dead" captures the feeling of being in flicks like "Night of Living Dead." The gameplay is intense as the player and up to three online friends fend off waves of zombies through deserted offices, train stations and abandoned houses.

It's a fine co-op experience as players must stick together and watch each other's backs to survive. Act like a lone wolf and moonlight in a distant room, and players will end up being victims of a Hunter zombie.

Run into a boss creature such as a Tank or a Witch and players will be grateful when friends rush in to save them.

The experience is so great that it's shame that "Left 4 Dead" ends so soon. Players will appreciate these well-crafted levels and compelling scenarios, but the game will leave them hungry for more.

Each campaign lasts about two hours or less. After that, there's little incentive to replay the game other than to join the competitive mode, where fans play as a zombie.

On top of that, the four survivors — Zoey, Francis, Bill and Louis — play similarly so there are no fundamental differences between them. It would have been nice to have a leveling system or different roles for each character.

Although those qualms can't be addressed easily, the need for more campaigns can be fixed with some downloadable levels. If ever a game needed episodic content, "Left 4 Dead" would be a prime candidate.

STILL ON DUTY: After offering a brilliant take on modern warfare, the "Call of Duty" franchise returns, for better or worse, to its roots in World War II.

In its latest iteration, "Call of Duty: World at War" carries over the groundbreaking technology behind the previous game and uses it to tell two tales of revenge in the Pacific and Eastern Europe.

As the Americans fighting the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, the developer, Treyarch, puts players in the role of Pvt. Miller, a soldier in a stoical, war-weary squad, fighting over Peleliu and Okinawa. The campaign offers new weapons such as the flamethrower and a great mission aboard a gunship.

On the other hand, the Russian campaign is focused on bloodthirsty revenge as players fill the shoes of Pvt. Dimitri Petrenko. He and his comrades have to repel a Nazi invasion into the Soviet motherland.

The scenario is much more entertaining with Sgt. Reznov, voiced by Gary Oldman, leading players through sniper and tank missions and an assault on the Reichstag.

Despite treading well-worn territory, Treyarch creates a sequel that's adequate but unspectacular. It's plagued with a handful of problems, most annoying of which is a penchant for cheap deaths that frustrate the player. Often, players will head into battle and be killed by a grenade that magically appears out of nowhere or a hail of bullets from left field.

With so much going on at the screen, it's easy to die repeatedly. Expect to throw a few controllers.

But Treyarch translates the great multiplayer system of Infinity Ward's "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" to the World War II era with new perks and low-tech abilities such as the ability to send out attack dogs.

Fans who couldn't get enough of "Modern Warfare" will probably enjoy another run through World War II.

Reach Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanews group.com. Read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/videogames.

Video Game Reviews
  • WHAT: "Left 4 Dead"
  • PLATFORM: Xbox 360, PC
  • RATING: Mature
  • GRADE: A-
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  • WHAT: "Call of Duty: World at War"
  • PLATFORM: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
  • RATING: Mature
  • GRADE: B