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The Southern-fried, friendly, and musically inclined Ellis instantly stole the hearts of millions of players when Valve originally released Left 4 Dead 2 in 2009.
Ellis holds the honor of winning fan-favorite player in two separate polls, sealing the number one spot for Xbox 360 players and tying for first place with Nick for PC players.
Hot on the heels of Valve’s runaway success with the original installment, the sequel added more maps, new survivors, melee weapons, and even DLC that ties both games together.
While Back4Blood debuted as a spiritual successor to the franchise in 2021, Left 4 Dead 2 still has a devoted following on Steam, and with Left 4 Dead Playable characters like Ellis in the starring role, it’s easy to see why.
Don’t let the age of the game fool you. There is still plenty of life with this series, with new players entering the fray daily and new mods being developed and distributed frequently.
Easy to pick up and complimented by a friendly community eager for adventure, Valve essentially created the interactive zombie horde movie gamers had been dreaming of for decades. Welcome to an Ellis Left 4 Dead Guide.
Bottom Line Up Front
Valve is a highly intentional studio, and every character they put into their games has a deeper meaning behind them and a reason to be there.
Ellis comes off as a naive youngster with a heart of gold, but he’s so much deeper than just that. He’s a Georgia-born everyman who can connect to a wide variety of audiences with his optimistic nature, interest in Japanese culture, various gaming and music references, and is just flat-out likable.
To fully understand him is to understand better the high-quality game design Valve employs, and it is essential to fully comprehend the fleshed-out world they created with the Left 4 Dead universe.
If you’re new to the series and looking to learn more about the characters that help make it so memorable, Ellis is a fantastic one to start with.
While most would be in the throws of depression upon seeing the world torn asunder and dominated by the undead, Ellis views it as an adventure.
In many ways, his eternal optimism matches the excitement new or returning players feel every time they boot the game up. Let’s dive deep into Ellis’s origins, relationships, fun facts, and the qualities that make him lovable.
Origins and Interests
At 23 years of age, Ellis is by far the youngest protagonist of the Left 4 Dead series and holds the perk of being native to the game setting of Georgia. Before the zombies took over, Ellis spent his days working as a mechanic and Sunday nights having dinner with his mom.
He’s also passionate about music and played bass in a band with his friends before the world was turned upside down. Ellis grew up in a religious household and makes a few references, such as telling Nick that his suit reminds him of his First Communion.
Ellis also grew up around guns, making off-hand comments that he learned to shoot a gun before he could walk. At some point in his childhood, his parents even took him to karate lessons, and he is delighted when allowed to wield a katana as a melee weapon.
While he doesn’t name any specific scenarios for shaping his overly optimistic and thrill-seeking personality, it seems like it’s just something he was born with.
While it’s easy for some characters and players to dismiss him as stupid initially, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s incredibly proficient in combat and has come up with some great plans for survival at the drop of a hat.
His combat prowess is so sharp that he’s the only character who can wield a magnum or a handgun with a single hand and not flinch at the recoil.
Other characters only do this upon severe injury, but our man Ellis knows his handling. I feel a strong sense of connection to him due to his rants.
I have severe ADHD and often turn a single observation into a long-winded rant or story about something that has nothing to do with the current situation.
Ellis is very much the same, making his character all the more relatable. While never confirmed, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility to assume his father may have also been a mechanic. Fixing trucks and cars is a massive part of Ellis’s life and personality.
His default outfit includes a mechanic suit and a t-shirt with the “Bull Shifters” on it, a mechanic crew he and some friends were in during their high school years.
Ellis is the biggest fan of the in-game race car superstar Jimmy Gibbs Jr. Both characters are thrill-seekers who seek to raise the bar upon each challenge they take on.
It’s plausible to assume that Ellis either watched his races on TV or potentially saw some of them when he was a kid. Ellis is a seemingly simple tapestry that becomes far more intricate as players get to know him.
Relationships with Other Survivors
Ellis possesses an amicable demeanor and never speaks ill or disrespectfully to any of the survivors. His optimism is more than just situational.
It’s who he is and how he sees the world. While his relationships with other characters are nuanced, they all follow his consistent theme of friendliness, respect, and belief in their best qualities.
He’s downright loyal and will tell injured characters that he won’t leave them and will gladly use a med-kit to heal one’s injuries.
His life is defined by teamwork, be it the smooth relationship with his family, his working relationship in the Bull Shifters crew, and his dedication to being the best bassist he can be for the band he was in.
He frequently tells stories about his friends Keith and Dave, who unfortunately are never formally seen in the game, and their status as dead or alive is debatable.
Nevertheless, Ellis quickly makes friends with just about anyone he crosses paths with, as seen in his dynamics with other survivors in the series.
Right off the bat Rochelle and Ellis click smoothly. Often greeting her with a formal honorific, he harbors respect for her and sees her as a grown woman.
Despite that, Ellis is ultimately a casual person and will even compare Rochelle to Annie Oakley when she pulls off an impressive shot. Rochelle even refers to him as “Sweetie” during his Keith stories and has a platonic and grounded bond with him.
While Ellis may be referred to as a “Five-year-old with guns,” Rochelle never disrespects him and always sees his side of the situation.
Rochelle comes from a more dynamic background working in the media before the outbreak and has a sharp intuition regarding people. With Ellis, she quickly deduces that he’s no threat and doesn’t hold ulterior motives that could compromise the survivors, so she likes him quite a bit.
While Coach is a pretty personable and friendly guy, he and Ellis instantly bond over being Georgia natives. Due to their age difference and the fact that Coach is well versed in working with younger men, they ultimately have a pseudo uncle and nephew dynamic.
Ellis is the young buck who sometimes grinds Coach’s gears, but it’s clear they have each other’s backs at the end of the day.
On multiple occasions, Coach will make quips that Ellis isn’t right in the head, but it’s fair game to assume that this is something Coach has said about many people while coaching young athletes.
Coach arguably takes on the archetype of “papa bear” for the team, and his brand of motivational encouragement is extended to Ellis.
He does make an off-hand comment about leaving Ellis behind during “The Passing,” but it’s more likely that he was trying to make a joke than revealing a deeper intention.
Ellis and Coach are very straightforward in their personas, and neither is the type to backstab or craft secret plans without the team’s knowledge. Coach is a straight shooter who seeks to lead, and Ellis is a straight shooter who doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Nick became a fan favorite due to his unique origin as a con man and his starkly different personality type compared to the rest of the survivors. He’s like having Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the team. Blunt, bold, and deadly with a weapon.
Nick often plays mental chess and tries to pivot himself a few steps ahead of the others. While Ellis is the eternal optimist, Nick is initially the constant pessimist.
He frequently complains and expresses apathy about being a part of the team and the current state of the world. While Coach, Rochelle, and Ellis worry about the future, initially, all Nick seems to worry about is how filthy his suit is becoming.
While Ellis embodies the values of becoming stronger as a team, Nick has always been all about himself and his goals only. Despite this and that he often talks down or makes rude comments to Ellis, this is more of a mask than anything else.
As the player gets deeper into the campaign, Nick evolves and begins to show vulnerability and loyalty as the gravity of the situation sets into him. If Ellis is to die during a mission, Nick will lament his fallen friend and reveal that he does have some love for him.
Nick’s initial contempt for Ellis seems to do more with his insecurities and his trying to place Ellis on a lower rung on the survivor’s ladder to make himself feel better as a man.
As time goes on, he’ll even compliment Ellis once he sees what he brings to the table and realizes Ellis’s value to the team. Despite being frequently mocked in the earlier levels, Ellis is never hostile or defensive towards Nick. Instead, Ellis chooses to laugh it off and has genuine respect for Nick.
Ellis and Louis instantly hit it off with both possessing sunny dispositions and a friendly demeanor. They bond over multiple video game references and have a strong camaraderie as both characters look to the bright side in all situations.
They ultimately part ways, believing in one other’s abilities to survive and thrive in an infected world. The two of them would have been good friends if they had met before the infection took the world by storm.
Despite being total opposites in how they view and negotiate the world around them, Francis and Ellis get along smoothly. They bond over shared beliefs of the supernatural and a mutual passion for cars, trucks, and mechanics.
If they were able to spend more time together, it would be fair to assume that Francis would take on a particular mentor-mentee relationship with Ellis, possibly even viewing him as a little brother.
The only friction the two have is when Francis makes disparaging comments about Jimmy Gibbs Jr. Upon hearing Francis’s words, Ellis jokingly says that he will kill him to his teammates.
While Francis is often pessimistic, his attitude stems more toward his life as a whole versus Nick, whose salty demeanor has more to do with his profession. Nevertheless, Ellis thinks he’s cool and has his back.
While eager to be a crowd-pleaser and everyone’s friend, Ellis has a different connection to Zoey. At first sight, he becomes tongue-tied and even admits that he wants to marry her.
While Ellis may have a profane vocabulary, he ultimately is a wholesome southern gent at his core, and there is nobody else he wants to show that to than Zoey.
His schoolboy crush on her is well-intentioned and even endearing. While Zoey never confirms a mutual interest, she does tease at the idea expressing a similar desire to see him and his time again and even pondering if she would have been better off joining Ellis’s crew than staying with her own.
Due to events within the first game, Zoey becomes a more hardened individual, and deep down, she knows that Ellis is the type of guy who could loosen her up and bring back her more bubbly demeanor.
- Ellis makes direct references to two songs by The Misfits. One is “Where Eagles Dare,” and the other is “Die Die Die, My Darling”
- Ellis gives his own nicknames to the Special Infected the survivors cross paths with, such as calling Tanks “Big Thing.”
- Even with a religious upbringing, Ellis is a potty mouth and often drops profanity.
- The zombie outbreak didn’t change his personality. Instead, it encouraged it. Ellis is committed to being 100% himself in all situations. He’s friendly to everybody and unphased by any critiques other survivors may throw his way.
- He is a big fan of horror movies making indirect references to Evil Dead and Day of the Dead, respectively.
- He is obsessed with theme parks, having several stories involving him, Keith, or someone else he knew on Ferris wheels, rollercoasters, and the Tunnel of Love ride. They all end in mischief or cliffhangers that reflect his stream of consciousness social patterns.
- His friend Keith seems to be indestructible, with several of their stories together ending with Keith being covered in burns and wounds, losing some of his fingers to frostbite, surviving a stabbing by a homeless man who may or may not have been a ghost, and one in particular in which he almost dies of food poisoning due to making his own sushi out of raw chicken.
- Ellis is a huge weeb and makes several comments about ninjas and throwing stars throughout the game.
- He prefers sub-machine guns and rifles but is effective with any weapon.
An American Sweetheart
The undying love for the Left 4 Dead series stems beyond the fun and accessible gameplay. It remains a favorite among thousands of players due to the incredibly likable and nuanced characters that exist within it.
It’s easy to take a look at the cast of both L4D games and assume that they’re nothing but familiar tropes that can rope players in, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
They all possess depth, insight, and commentary that brings the game to life and creates a tangible connection between players.
Ellis may come off as a simple boy from Georgia with a twang in his voice and grease on his shirt, but he’s the lovable younger brother who holds the family together and has elements that many players see themselves in.
He makes the game relatable, eases the tension, and heightens the immersion with his stories, quips, and loyalty to the team.
Valve has a gift for creating deep and memorable characters, be it the shady G Man from Half-Life or the wacky avatars of Team Fortress 2, but with Left 4 Dead 2, they truly created a superstar in the form of Ellis.
I grew up playing games with superhuman protagonists like Doom Guy, Duke Nukem, and Lara Croft. They always seemed untouchable and elite.
Characters like Ellis, however, are relatable, and that relatability is his greatest asset and, at the same time, Valve’s greatest asset.
Do you have a preferred character to main while playing Left 4 Dead 2? Let us know! We’d love to hear who’s your favorite and why.