Character development isn’t such a significant focus in Left 4 Dead. In fact, all we know about Bill, Louis, Zoey and Francis, is that they are a mismatched group of individuals who have somehow united together to fight through a seemingly infinite sea of zombies, their primary objective being to survive long enough to be rescued by the diligent military.
While walking my precious mongrel, Indie, I let my mind wander onto the subject of zombies (as you do), and how these 4 ill-assorted characters could have possibly come together in their fight for survival. What follows is my Left 4 Dead backstory theory. Enjoy!
Film studies student, Zoey, had been attending college for the past two years alongside Bill’s son, Ben. Over time Ben and Zoey had crafted quite the solid – but purely platonic – relationship, and with the heavy workload of college, both had become loyal study partners. So much so that with all the impending college projects that spanned late into the night, Zoey had become quite the familiar face around these here parts (these here parts being Bill’s house).
It was Sunday night, and Ben and Zoey had the arduous task of working on a college project due in the following morning. Bill, on the other hand, was looking forward to a relaxing night playing Solitaire on his aging PC. As you would expect, he had been having problems getting Solitaire to run smoothly, and with Zoey’s “get a Mac” suggestion falling on deaf ears, he resorted to calling in a favour from Louis.
For the past 6 miserable years, Louis has been a Junior Systems Analyst at his company’s IT department, therefore he definitely knows his way around a computer. Usually he would find himself feigning an excuse to get out of fulfilling such a trivial favour for someone, but his wife had not long left him for another man. Hence his unkempt appearance of half his shirt tucked in and one trouser leg rolled up (people usually mistake this as a result of killing zombies, but nope, it’s because his wife left him), and sitting in the house alongside Mr Jack Daniels was taking its toll on his well-being. So, any excuse to get himself out of the house in the evening had indeed become a good one.
While Louis half-heartedly tinkered around with Bill’s computer, Bill meandered throughout the furniture dotted around the living room, muttering to himself: “I hate computers…”. With papers piled high and casually scattered across the wooden table top, Zoey and Ben had been huddled around the kitchen table for the past 2 hours. Both were deeply immersed in their work, but a dull thud – which couldn’t be mistaken as a knock – startled them. It was heard again, this time both distinguishing it as coming from the kitchen door leading out to the back garden. Confused, Zoey’s wide eyes met Ben’s, who, with his practical nature, shook it off as “just the wind blowing over the garbage can” (they’re American remember, so they don’t say rubbish or bin like we Brits do). Both shrugged it off, continuing with their essay writing when, once again, two dull thuds were heard, then three, and suddenly a number of dull thuds in quick succession.
Not so surprisingly, Bill scampered into the kitchen aggravated by the noise: “Quit it with all the noise you kids. I hate noise…”. However, as the questionable sound continued, he noticed both Zoey and Ben sitting idly around the kitchen table, both with a bewildered look on their faces. Ben, being the son of an ex war veteran, had always felt his father looked down on him. He would rather watch classic black and white romance films than learn the intricacies of firearms, and he forever felt his father wasn’t proud of his achievements. In an out of character moment, Ben arose to his feet and apprehensively gravitated towards the kitchen door. As cliched as it may sound, and a scene Zoey recognised from the many horror movies she had immersed herself in, Ben’s hand slowly and hesitantly reached for the door knob, anxious about what could possibly be behind it.
As he did this, the small panel of frosted glass on the door smashed open, and an incapacitated arm forced its way through, grabbing Ben’s neck and tugging him towards the door. Bill, having been an ex-war veteran, has forever prided himself on his ability to deal with stressful and violent situations. He darted into the hallway where his precious firearms collection was holed up in a glass cabinet, and snatched the loaded shotgun from its display. Returning to the kitchen, he took one bullet to the zombie’s head, but by this point Ben had blood dripping from the nape of his neck. Had he been bitten?
Ben collapsed against the kitchen cabinet while the other three paced around the room in shock. Zoey dialed 911 for an ambulance, but the line was inevitably dead. “Like it is in the movies…” She said under her breath. A distressed conversation between the three of them erupted. Ben slumped silently, dabbing a cloth helplessly against his wound. It was hard for him to follow what the three of them were yelling to one another, but a deathly silence fell across the room when Zoey mentioned “Zombies”.
“That’s crazy. Zombies are a product of horror movies. They’re not real!” Louis reasoned, but Zoey interrupted: “Didn’t you see that thing?!”. Another panic induced conversation broke out, meanwhile Ben’s heart rate rapidly fell. His eyes glazed over to a state of vacancy, and his deep breaths became idiotic groans. He rose to his feet in such a manner that only a 2 year old toddler would. He had been bitten.
The three of them swiftly stopped feuding and turned their attention to Ben, who was now standing on the other side of the kitchen, arms stretched out in front of him, his groans growing louder. “Shit”, Zoey piped up: “I was right. Zombies”. The three of them stood in shock as Ben gradually swayed towards them, with Zoey nervously whispering: “Do something”. But Bill couldn’t shoot his own son, even if he had become a reanimated corpse just moments from killing them. Louis tremblingly snatched the shotgun from Bill’s hand, and lining the gun up with Ben’s head, took him down with several lucky shots. He faced Bill: “I’m sorry. He wasn’t your son. He was going to kill us”. With Bill’s fighting instinct now kicking in, he walked into the hallway, grabbed two pistols, threw one to Zoey, then to Louis, and said: “I know. I hate zombies…”.
Zoey, who had been prepared for a zombie apocalypse since the age of 6 when she first watched Night Of The Living Dead, and Louis, who intended to win back his wife with his heroic antics, agreed to fight alongside Bill, who wanted revenge for his son’s death. So, as Bill lit up the most durable cigarette in the world, he lead the three of them outside, the only orders being “Conserve your ammo, and shoot only when you have to”.
It wasn’t long before they heard the sound of a firefight in the near distance. As they approached, they saw zombie corpses in a 360 degree circle drop at a significant rate, but it was impossible from the billowing gunfire smoke to see who was responsible. As the smoke cleared they saw the silhouette of a sole figure atop a pick-up truck; a tattooed, waist-coat wearing, muscular figure. “They call me Francis”, he called as he cooly stepped down from the car’s bonnet, blowing the smoke from his trusty assault rifle. “Stick together and we’ll survive”.