Review: Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 Review Main

Having more of something can be a hit or a miss depending on what that something is.  More cake is always a good thing, while more cavities is not so good.  Left 4 Dead 2 is the sequel to Valve’s hugely popular zombie genocidal shooter that was released last year.  Can more zombie killing be considered a good thing, or does it feel just like the same ole thing with some new bells and whistles?

As I mentioned earlier, Left 4 Dead 2 is a sequel to last year’s Left 4 Dead, but it shouldn’t be considered a direct sequel.  The events in Left 4 Dead 2 take place around the same time as the events in Left 4 Dead.  We are introduced to 4 new survivors who are fighting their way through the southeastern part of the US to survive the ongoing zombie outbreak.  Players can take control of one of the 4 survivors, but neither one of them play different in any way. During each campaign, the survivors will talk to one another about their current situation, past experiences, and even complain when taking friendly-fire damage.  I felt there was more of a connection between the player and the characters in Left 4 Dead 2 due to the constant chatter between them which helped give us a glimpse into the personality and traits of each character.

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Left 4 Dead 2’s campaigns offer a better variety than the original Left 4 Dead.  The game features 5 campaigns: Dead Center, Dark Carnival, Swamp Fever, Hard Rain, and The Parish.  Each has their own distinct surroundings, style, and even infected (known as uncommon infected).  Valve also dared to make one of the campaigns occur during the day.  Overall the campaigns are either hit or miss.  Some campaigns, like Dark Carnival and Heavy Rain, really suck you in and offer a terrifying experience, while others are set in typical locations that serve just as a spot to kill zombies in.  One improvement I enjoyed was the different ways to complete a scenario.  In Left 4 Dead, all of the campaigns required you to call for help, to which a vehicle had to come by and swoop you to safety.  Some campaigns are still completed in this fashion, but there are campaigns that require you and your team to fill up a vehicle with fuel to make your own getaway.

Two new game modes are included in Left 4 Dead 2.  Realism mode is a new game mode in Left 4 Dead 2.  The premise is a simple one, but is definitely a challenge to new players.  All of the hints that players normally receive while they play the campaign are taken away, leaving you to search really hard for weapons, med packs, and other points of interest.  Survival is a mode that was DLC for Left 4 Dead which places the survivors on a particular map to fend off against wave after wave of infected.  The time lapse between special infected and tanks coming into the game is greatly shortened, to the point where a handful of them might be attacking the survivors all at once.  The longer the survivors can last, the higher the team’s score.

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As fun as playing co-op with a couple of friends while fighting during a zombie apocalypse can be, sometimes you want to play the side of the zombies and make the lives of the survivors that much more miserable.  Left 4 Dead 2 offers a versus mode straight out of the box (compared to Left 4 Dead offering the same mode as DLC months after its release).  Players play as either the survivors or infected.  Survivors play through a campaign, while the infected are able to spawn at various points of the map to hopefully pick the right place and time in order to attack the survivors.  Infected from Left 4 Dead make a triumphant return, while a new cast of infected join the ranks as well.  The Spitter, Jockey, and Charger make fine additions to the Infected team and offer a wider variety of special abilities the infected team can perform.  Valve also added an additional versus mode, called Scavenge.  In Scavenge mode, the goals are simple.  The survivor team needs to fill up a vehicle (or equipment with an engine) with fuel that’s scattered across a level.  As the fuel is gathered and poured into the engine, the survivor team will score points and add 20 seconds to the clock.  Each team takes turns being the survivors & infected and the team that scores best out of three rounds, wins the match.  Scavenger mode was one of my favorite modes as I felt it allowed me to play Left 4 Dead 2’s versus mode, but without dedicating hours of my time to play through an entire match.  Being able to play it within 10-15 minutes was very satisfying.

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One complaint the gaming community had with Left 4 Dead was its very limited array of weaponry.  You were given a pistol, and a limited selection of shotguns, SMGs, assault and hunting rifles.  Left 4 Dead 2 improves that by offering a better number of weapons.  Multiple shotguns, SMGs, assault and hunting rifles are made available throughout a campaign, even going as far as supplying laser sights (for better accuracy) and incendiary or explosive bullets.  Melee weapons have also been included in Left 4 Dead 2, which finally gives players the chance to smack around zombies with a frying pan.  Valve has also made sure to include multiple melee weapons such as a katana, baseball bat, and chainsaw.  The additions don’t stop there: Players can also snag an adrenaline shot and boomer bile.  The adrenaline shot is used to make your movements quicker, which can really help in situations where you need to fight off a bunch of zombies or get away very quickly.  The boomer bile for the most part puts a boomer in a small vial.  The vial can then be thrown on an enemy and a swarm of zombies will come and attack it.  This can really be helpful for those really tough enemies.

FINAL THOUGHT: Regardless of a handful of the gaming community boycotting this game, Left 4 Dead 2 offers some much needed improvements over the original Left 4 Dead.  The change of scenery, new survivors, and new infected build on an already solid gaming experience.  Left 4 Dead 2 is yet another sequel that deserves your hard earned money.


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2 responses to “Review: Left 4 Dead 2”

  1. sagesource says:

    Valve’s getting better at continuity, but there are still problems, some caused by the necessity of starting every campaign with the survivors only having first-tier weapons. Dead Center has some bad continuity lapses with the introductory video (the survivors, who were fighting as a tight group in the video, seem to have become instant strangers to each other), but it transitions into Dark Carnival very well, when the car they have borrowed runs out of gas and road. Dark Carnival has a spectacular ending, of course, but the transition to the swamp level is weak — I groaned when we got another “helicopter pilot turns into zombie” scenario, which by rights should have killed all the survivors, not left them at full health. The ending at the plantation is excellent, though, with the survivors being taken off by boat. The only nit I would pick here is that the radio should have been inside a building, or it would have stopped working the first time it rained. Hard Rain again begins quite well, and the expedient of removing the survivors’ second tier weapons is accomplished cleverly by having them forget them on the boat, but can they really carry enough diesel by hand to make a difference? Maybe they should have had to drive a tanker truck back to the dock in the storm, though it would have been harder to arrange interesting attacks that way. While carrying the diesel the survivors should have been acting as if loaded down as well, while instead they were running on air as usual. Finally, the transition to The Parish just glosses over the second tier weapons problem, as well as offering new first tier ones literally served up in front of them (it would be nice if all weapons had to be taken off the dead and from gun cabinets, etc, rather than this restaurant approach). The final finale also has some interesting overtones, with the military referring to them as “carriers” rather than immune, given some of the hostile graffiti about carriers seen throughout the game.

    Three other nits to pick. First, why doesn’t Virgil, the captain of the boat, have a model? It’s downright eerie having the survivors rescued by a boat that apparently has no one at the helm. (At least they didn’t turn him into a zombie.) Second, why do the characters have such short memories? It seems Coach is surprised at the armored zombies almost every time he sees them, and so for the other characters with mudmen and so on. Third and last, why does Rochelle have those damned hoop earrings on? Like Louis’ tie in L4D 1, they’re the sort of thing that anyone with any survival instincts would drop like hot cakes; they wouldn’t survive the first melee she was in, and neither would her ear lobes. If she’s going to be that dumb, they should have gone all the way with the stereotypes and made her a blonde.

    Oh, and one last thing. The introductory video was even better than the one for L4D 1, but could the people making these be told more clearly about the capabilities of the weapons? I winced when Ellis loaded himself with three long guns, and fired a grenade launcher into the face of a tank as if it were a shotgun — and at him popping up from behind a car to do it, where in the game the tank would almost certainly bash the car and incap everyone in its path.

    It’s an excellent game, but a little more attention to detail would have avoided these irritants.

    (PS: And is the American South really that grotty? Parts of The Swamp were third-world squalid. Then again, Valve does grot better than just about anything else, so I suppose it’s natural.)

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