In Left-4-Dead, zombies don't always fall immediately when killed (especially with a pistol or machine gun), but instead there is a delay. Since I've currently been shooting zombies until they fall, I've been wasting bullets. How do you figure out when to stop shooting and when to move onto the next zombie?

6 Answers 6


Here are a couple ideas.

Foremost, after a while you just get a "feel" for when a zombie is dead, or when he is still coming after you. You know about how much damage it takes. Note that different difficulties will require you to get different feels for this, so you'd need to play on the same one for a while.

Alternatively, you can switch your fire between a couple of zombies. A bullet usually stops or at least slows down a zombie, even if he is going to continue rushing at you. This gives you some time to deal with other zombies that may have gotten ahead in the rush due to this. You can always come back to the first zombie later on if you discover he's really still alive.

Note that you can't rely on their "animations" per se because of the ragdoll physics. If a zombie starts falling, he's dead, but quite often they take a full second or more before they actually begin to fall. You can't rely on a certain pose or position to indicate that a zombie is dead.


Just for the record, this is supposed to add to the terrifying feel of the game (which I completely agree with)

However, if you raise the gamma a bit, then you will be able to see that the zombies start to fade when they die, even if they're still standing. That's always worked for me.


The best way I have found to be sure a lone zombie is dead it to try to walk through them. A living zombie will stop you, but you can walk right through a dead one. If they stop you, just push them back and shoot them again.

If you fighting a hoard, shoot at multiple layers of zombies. When the front one dies, you will just start hitting the back ones.

  • 4
    Hmm, if your method for telling if a zombie is dead is to walk right towards it, I don't think you'll last long in the zombie apocalypse... ;)
    – Wikwocket
    Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 21:18
  • plus on Expert you can't really afford to give even the regular zombies any free hits as they really hurt.
    – Nick T
    Commented Dec 25, 2011 at 17:34
  • 1
    I should note that I play a lot of vs, where moving on quickly is more important that avoiding the occasional hit from a common.
    – ILMTitan
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 19:40
  • passable for Versus, not so for Expert/Realism modes.
    – DrFish
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 8:44

I might be wrong, but they only "fade" in the censored versions of the game.

There is no way to be sure 100%, if a body shot has killed a CI or not. The only way to be sure is landing a head-shot, especially with pistols and the assault rifle.

It's a whole different story in L4D 2 with the introduction of melee weapons, but I won't get into that.

  • 1
    -1 because, actually, the only way to be sure is to nuke the site from orbit. j/k, +1 for good answer. oh and by the way, if you see their leg get blown off, they are dead immediately, even on expert. Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 21:50

Set your Left 4 Dead launch options to include -lv
That way all killed zombies will fade away immediately.

  • just note that, lv stands for "low violence", which also limits other things such as blood spatter etc.
    – DrFish
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 8:42

Count bullets.

Seriously, that's what I do. It's not something I actively do anymore, now it's more of a feel but occasionally I still catch myself mentally counting. As soon as the dead count is reached I just assume the zombie is dead, whether it's standing or not.

Because of this I prefer the AK47 (2 to body always kills), the magnum (one anywhere) and the snipers(one anywhere). It's a little harder with the desert eagle, the trick is to not count each bullet but count each burst. For me the m16 is just a bullet fest.

Obviously there are some caveats. If I'm boomed and in a zombie rush I often just empty my clip at head level(unless I've got a sniper). Anytime I see a headshot the zombie is dead.

My technique doesn't work well in expert mode.

  • My technique is similar: Don't aim for center mass at all, just go for head or limb shots at close range with a shotgun. Head still attached to shoulders? You missed, fire again.
    – Steve V.
    Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 4:12

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