The Special Infected are the mutated variants of Common Infected. Through some unknown mechanism of the Green Flu, a small percentage of Infected humans will undergo a dramatic mutation, eventually turning into one of these Special Infected, each with their own unique inhuman abilities. They don't spawn as regularly as the Common Infected do, but their abilities can easily wipe out a team of Survivors if not dealt with quickly, making them the true teamwork testers of the Left 4 Dead games.
Four of these Special Infected (namely the Hunter, Smoker, Charger, and Jockey) are "pinners", as when they attack you, they "pin" you, requiring another Survivor to knock them off (or in the Charger's case, kill them) for the trapped Survivor to be free from certain death. The other two Special Infected (the Boomer and the Spitter) act as support for the pinning Infected, as their attacks can help slow down the Survivors enough for a pinning Infected to attack them. The final two Special Infected (the Tank and the Witch) are considered to be "Boss Infected", as they have a very high amount of health, they spawn at the rarest rates (sometimes at fixed points), and they can easily kill a Survivor in a matter of seconds.
The Special Infected have higher intelligence than the Common Infected, shown throughout the whole game. Special Infected are not affected by the beeping sounds of the Pipe Bomb. They will bide their time, waiting for Survivors to reach "ambush" areas before attacking them sometimes. Several Special Infected, like the Boomer, Spitter and Smoker may also hide after attacking/attempting to attack a Survivor.
The Director can decide what Special Infected it should spawn to combat the Survivors progress through the levels. It can spawn any Special Infected, although it will look at the team's progress; if they do fairly well, it will spawn more threatening Special Infected while if they do poorly, will spawn Special Infected that can be easily countered. The Director will usually spawn one or two Special Infected at a time, only spawning more then that during Finales and panic/crescendo events. The Director will also be unable to spawn that Special Infected once it spawns, apart from special circumstances; for example, in most situations, it can only send one Tank at a time, apart from The Plantation and The Port finales, where it can summon two or three at the team.
Special Infected have a cap of 4 present on the map at any time in a normal game (e.g Single Player). If playing on Mutations, it will greatly affect the Director's ability on spawning Special Infected; for example, playing on the mutation "Hard Eight" allows the Director to double the spawn cap (up 8 Special Infected present at any time on the map).
Seven of the Special Infected are playable by human players in the following gameplay modes:
- Main article: The Boomer
The Boomer is a Special Infected that vomits a special bile at Survivors, which temporarily blinds them and draws a Horde of Common Infected to them. At a distance the Boomer isn't much of a threat; their large size and low health make them an easy target against any weapon at mid or long range. However, if within range, they can vomit on Survivors, attracting the Horde.
When they die, they explode, covering any Survivors who are close enough with bile, blinding them and causing them to stumble backwards. The Boomer is notorious on the Expert difficulty for being able to snipe Survivors. Boomers can be anticipated because of the near-constant gurgling they make. In Left 4 Dead 2, there is also a female Boomer, although the gender has no effect on gameplay.
- Main article: The Hunter
The Hunter is a Special Infected that can pounce and pin down Survivors, clawing at their abdomen until either the victim is dead, or the Hunter has been knocked off or killed by another Survivor. They are also extremely fast and agile, capable of quickly scaling walls. They have the least visible mutations, and can easily be mistaken for a Common Infected. Hunters are not the most physically robust Infected, having relatively low health, and thus it doesn't take very much to kill them.
When the Hunter crouches down in preparation to pounce, he growls, giving himself away to any nearby Survivors. However, whilst standing, he makes no noise. The Hunter is the only Special Infected that can remain absolutely silent. In Left 4 Dead 2, they can be killed with a melee weapon while in the state of pouncing by aiming upwards and hitting, although this is fairly difficult, as timing is vital and it's easier to kill them from a distance with a high-powered primary weapon.
- Main article: The Smoker
The Smoker is an ambush class that can strangle Survivors with his long tongue, similar to Half-Life's Barnacle. The help of another Survivor is required to escape from a Smoker's hold (though if quick enough it is possible, though difficult, to kill a Smoker who has already grabbed you, earning an achievement). As the name implies, Smokers emit smoke when killed to impair Survivors' vision.
A Smoker also will frequently cough, letting the Survivors know when he is in the area. The Smoker can drag players that he has captured with his tongue towards himself, though he remains stationary and cannot move. The Smoker is also momentarily paralyzed for a few seconds after having his tongue removed from his captive by another Survivor. In Left 4 Dead 2, the Smoker has six tongues, but this has no effect on gameplay.
- Main article: The Tank
The Tank is the biggest and strongest of all the Infected, and can easily wipe a team in seconds. He is the only player-controllable "Boss Infected". He is reasonably fast, only slowing if hit with large amounts of automatic weapons fire or when lit on fire (Versus in Left 4 Dead only and any mode aside Versus on Left 4 Dead 2). If any Survivors at 40% or above health (including health gained from pain pills or the Adrenaline Shot) are running away from the Tank, he will not be able to catch them, as they can run slightly faster (unless the Tank in question is an AI Tank in Left 4 Dead).
The Tank has incredible strength and resistance―his punch can send Survivors flying, rendering them temporarily defenseless, and in Expert difficulty, instantly incapacitate them. The blow can send Survivors off high hazards to their deaths. He is also capable of throwing chunks of concrete that he rips out of the ground to momentarily stun Survivors, dealing the same amount of damage as a punch would. He can also punch large objects such as cars, dumpsters, forklifts, etc. in the direction of Survivors with enough force to incapacitate them instantly.
Nevertheless, the Tank will die within 30 to 45 seconds if set on fire (varying with the difficulty), and will move faster when alight in Expert difficulty. In Versus when it is controlled by a player, the Tank has a "Control Meter"; unless the player is able to locate and hit one of the Survivors, the Control Meter of the Tank will slowly lessen, also hitting large objects at Survivors does not bring the meter up. Once it runs out, the player will lose control of the Tank to another randomly assigned player. When idle, the sound that a Tank makes is heavy breathing, along with low grunts and sometimes roars. The Survivors are alerted of an approaching Tank by dramatic music, furious roars and, when they are dangerously close, the screen will start to shake.
The Tank's Music Cue
- Main article: The Charger
The Charger is a Special Infected that appears in Left 4 Dead 2. The Charger's main attack is charging forward and plowing into the Survivors, hence the name. On a successful charge, he will grab and carry a single Survivor away while knocking down the others. Once the Charger has hit a wall or other surface, or after he has run a certain distance, he will begin slamming his captive into the surrounding earth until an ally frees them. If he misses and hits a wall, he will stumble, leaving him open to attack.
The Charger can be detected by the Survivors by the warped growling noise he makes. He will announce his charge with a loud bellow. The Charger appears to have a rocky or calloused surface on his larger right arm, which is what he uses to inflict most of his force when charging, while his other arm appears to have no bones or muscle, flopping around uselessly.
Because of his hulking size, the Charger cannot be shoved off with melee, and must be killed in order to release his victim. If a Survivor has explosive rounds, they will dislodge the Charger from the Survivor and cause him to stumble. Any Survivor that has been knocked out of the way during his charge will fly a considerable distance and slowly stand back up, making the Charger a deadly foe in cramped hallways or near high passageways. He is also the strongest and most durable of the Special Infected (excluding the Tank and the Witch); additionally, his melee attacks are very strong and can easily incapacitate a weakened Survivor.
- Main article: The Jockey
The Jockey is a Special Infected that appears in Left 4 Dead 2. He is a small Infected that attacks Survivors by clinging to them from behind and literally riding the Survivor while attacking them. He can shift his weight around and cause the Survivor to stumble in his desired direction, giving this Special Infected a type of control over the Survivor. He will only let go if his victim becomes incapacitated, or if he gets knocked off/killed.
Survivors who are being ridden by the Jockey can attempt to "resist" the Jockey, causing the Jockey to slow and even pause for a second, which allows other players a chance to catch up and knock the Jockey off. Jockeys can ride Survivors into dangerous situations, such as into natural hazards, Witches, or other Infected; a Jockey can also pull a Survivor off a ledge, causing them to become incapacitated, or riding them to their death if they are not resisting. The Jockey seems to have a spinal disease, similar to kyphosis, giving him a hunched appearance. He has a maniacal laugh (which gives away his location) and is constantly twitching, giving him a sort of hyperactive nature.
- Main article: The Spitter
The Spitter is a Special Infected in Left 4 Dead 2. She possesses the ability to spit a green ball of acid from long distances, which, upon hitting the ground, will expand into a large puddle and damage any Survivors who make contact with it. After spitting, however, the Spitter is temporarily paralyzed for a second, giving the Survivors a chance to kill her. The Spitter makes these high-pitched noises that give away her location.
The longer the Survivor stands in it, the more damage the Survivor takes from the goo. This ability allows the Spitter to aid other Special Infected; for instance, if a Hunter pounces a Survivor, a Spitter can spit upon that Survivor, causing even more damage. However, in spite of such a useful ability, the Spitter is very weak in terms of health, so taking out a Spitter is an easy task.
Upon death, the Spitter leaves a similar, smaller kind of puddle that has the same effect on the Survivors. She is one of the most powerful Infected if Survivors are caught standing in her spit, and are too distracted to move quickly due to other Infected or a lack of awareness at damage being dealt. On Scavenge Mode or any finale requiring gas cans, when they are dropped, the spit will ignite them if left in the goo long enough.
- Main article: Witch
The Witch is the second "Boss Infected", and is one of the worst obstacles you can come across in a campaign. However, she generally only appears a few times per campaign, and is passive unless provoked by flashlights, gunfire, or Survivors in close proximity. Pistol fire does not provoke her easily, but it will do only a small amount of damage (in Left 4 Dead 2, causing any damage to the Witch will instantly startle her). She is very powerful, capable of incapacitating and even killing Survivors with one hit. When the Director spawns a Witch, the faint chord of the Witch music will play, allowing veterans of the game to quickly prepare for the "obstacle."
The Witch cries loudly. When nearby, Survivors will mention they hear her and warn teammates to turn off their flashlight. While the Witch can be killed, her increased health makes this difficult. It is best to avoid her if possible. Witches can be startled if a Survivor stands too close to her, damages her, or shines their flashlight on her from a close to moderate distance. She will also start to growl if a Survivor looks at her through the Hunting Rifle/Sniper Rifle's scope for a long time.
The Witch is very rarely found in small rooms and normally stays off the main route, but has been found in front of safe rooms (or even inside the safe room), doorways, and in the middle of streets. Once a Witch has killed a Survivor or cannot pathfind to her target, she will retreat from the area and despawn. However, in some strange cases, the Witch has been known to kill the closest Survivor to her. This does not usually happen, and when it does, the Witch runs off as normal after killing the Survivor.
Also, if a Survivor blocks the Witch from attacking the Survivor who startled her, she will attack the Survivor blocking her and either incapacitate the blocking player and run away or incapacitate (or kill on Expert or non-easy Realism mode) both the blocking player and the player who startled her. If the Witch is lit on fire (Molotov, Incendiary ammo, Gas can) while she is chasing a Survivor, she will immediately start chasing after whoever burned her.
- Main article: Wandering Witch
The Wandering Witch appears in Left 4 Dead 2. She is seen only in the daylight hours, aimlessly wandering around and sobbing loudly with her head in her hands. Her constant movement makes the Wandering Witch harder to avoid, but she is also far more introverted and reacts only to direct attacks or physical contact. One can even damage her slightly without startling her. Unlike the sitting Witches, she does not seem to be alerted that readily by flashlights.
In Left 4 Dead 2's Hard Rain campaign, a large number of Wandering Witches have infested an abandoned sugar mill, which the Survivors must traverse to obtain fuel for their rescue boat. An achievement, Sob Story, is earned for navigating the sugar mill without startling any of them.
- All of the Special Infected (except the Tank and the Witch) take 4 times damage when headshot by bullets.
- It is still unclear as to who actually gave the Infected their names in-game. It was probably some external faction, as the Survivors from both games use the same names for them after initial encounters. Possible candidates include CEDA, the military, the media, or even various Survivors.
- Some of the names of the Special Infected, if not all, seem to have been assigned to them by CEDA or the government, and not by the Survivors themselves. For example, in Left 4 Dead 2, there is a poster early on in the Dead Center campaign with photos labeled "Boomer," and on the side of bile bombs there is a label stating that the jar contains "Boomer Excretion." When Rochelle speaks of Smokers, she says that they were called Smokers on the news. Witches are also referred to by name on a safe room wall in Hard Rain, stating that the Sugar Mill is "full of Witches". Also, when exiting the Sugar Mill safe room, the building opposite to it has a banner hanging from the roof with the text "Stay away, Witches!" Additionally, in The Passing, one of the graffiti remarks on a pre-infection piece, stating one of the prostitutes in an establishment had "become a Boomer."
- These could also be cases of official sources catching onto and using more well-known epithets for the Special Infected, as the aforementioned examples are all from the second game, which takes place three weeks after initial Infection.
- The Infected seem to have become much stronger in Left 4 Dead 2. For example, in normal gameplay, the Boomer stumbles much less when shoved than in the first game, and on Versus mode, as a Special Infected, you can kill a Common Infected with one claw attack, whereas in the first game it took several. .
- The Special Infected that appear in Left 4 Dead have mutated further in Left 4 Dead 2. This is shown as the Smoker now has multiple tongues, the Tank has more muscles and less hair and the Boomer appears gorier. Also, the Hunter appears to have more boils and lesions than in the first game, as well as seemingly having clawed off much of its clothing. The addition of the new Special Infected in Left 4 Dead 2 also demonstrates this.
- It appears that most of the Special Infected have some form of intelligence. Smokers and Spitters will often run when sighted, hinting at a sense of self-preservation or at least the knowledge that their attacks must recharge. Boomers and Hunters will often hide before attacking, and Hunters will leap away when under fire. However, the Charger will just run straight into the Survivors without much apparent forethought. A very important aspect of this is that most Special Infected ignore pipe bombs, car alarms, and other noticeable events.
- However, in the opening scene of Left 4 Dead, a Tank (along with a Horde) is drawn to the Survivors after Zoey accidentally shot a car, causing the alarm to go off.
- This could be for gameplay purposes, as the Tank is only spawned at certain points in a campaign (finales, Director spawns, etc).
- All of the Special Infected (excluding The Tank where the only way to see his arm is by using the melee attack, and The Witch which is unplayable) are able to see their arms in first-person view. However, most of them shouldn't, as they hold their arms in third-person view down or out of passive sight. Only the Charger and the Jockey hold their arms high enough to see them.
- The use of orange/yellow filtering for first-person view for the Special Infected in the original Left 4 Dead could have been inspired by the effects used to depict the the world through the eyes of the Infected in the film 28 Weeks Later, in which a similar orange/yellow filter effect was first used.
- In Versus Mode, while playing as the Jockey in first person view, he seems to be as tall as the other Infected, but the Jockey is the shortest of the Infected.
- Unlike the Common Infected, Special Infected do not lose body parts, even if killed with a chainsaw or a Pipe bomb.
- The only exception is the Boomer, which will lose the entire upper part of their body upon death.
|Introduced in Left 4 Dead||Introduced in Left 4 Dead 2|
|The Boomer||The Hunter||The Smoker||The Tank||The Charger||The Jockey||The Spitter|
|Introduced in Left 4 Dead||Introduced in Left 4 Dead 2||Cut Infected|
|The Witch||Common Infected||Uncommon Infected||The Screamer|