The final design of the Survivors. Left to right: Francis, Bill, Zoey, Louis
There are four playable human characters in the game: Francis (voiced by Vince Valenzuela), a tattoo-covered biker; Zoey (voiced by Jen Taylor), a college student and horror movie enthusiast; Louis (voiced by Earl Alexander), a junior systems analyst in his company's IT department; and Bill (voiced by Jim French), a former Green Beret and a Vietnam veteran. Early plans were for players to be randomly assigned to characters but in the final release, players can choose any character—provided that the character has not already been selected—or be randomly assigned an unselected character.
Survivors are armed with various guns. Each player starts the game with a M1911 pistol. It has unlimited ammo and is the only weapon that the Survivor can use when they are incapacitated. When a second pistol is found, the player can dual wield them. At the beginning of each campaign, the player can choose between an Uzi submachine gun and a pump-action shotgun. As the Survivors progress through a campaign, more powerful weapons can be found: the M16A3 assault rifle, Benelli M4 Super 90 semi-automatic shotgun and a scoped Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle. In addition to firearms, a player can also carry three other items in their inventory: improvised grenades (either a Molotov cocktail to create a wall of fire or a pipe bomb, modified with an attached smoke alarm designed to attract the Infected to it before it explodes); a first-aid kit, which can be used to heal any Survivor; and pain pills, which provide temporary health that depletes gradually and quicker with damage from Infected, and can be handed to teammates for later use. Regardless of what weapon or item a player is using, a melee attack can be used. Also available are environmental weapons, such as gasoline cans, oxygen cylinders and propane tanks, which explode when shot. These can be picked up, moved and used as a melee weapon by the Survivors, but while carrying an object they cannot use their weapons or health items.