Left 4 Dead 2 Review
- Immersive audio that positively impacts gameplay
- Excellent graphics
- An exceptional good value with tons of content
- New modes, maps, weapons, and Special Infected are all top-notch
- Fantastic Co-Op play
- Some Campaign levels are a bit TOO long
- Familiar match-making & server issues
- A few bugs
I put in hours of hard work, killing Zombies, to bring you this review of the new Left 4 Dead 2 on PC.
So if you’ve played the original Left 4 Dead and bashed, smashed, and blown apart zillions of Infected (read: Zombies) on your way to successfully completing all 4 original campaigns, why should you be intrigued by the sequel? Is there enough different about Left 4 Dead 2 to make it a must-buy game? Has Valve captured lightning-in-a-bottle yet again? In simple terms, yes. For a bit more complex look at the reasons, read on…
On the surface, one might be forgiven for espousing some cynicism over the shockingly early announcement of Left 4 Dead 2’s development. After all, Left 4 Dead 1 hadn’t even had a proper birthday before its successor was revealed. As the case may be, there was a load of angst among fans that felt that Valve hadn’t offered enough Downloadable Content (DLC) for the first game yet, let alone start working on a new one.
“I swear Murray, if you had half a brain...”
Despite this angst, however, Valve contended that they had too much new stuff to shoehorn into DLC and insisted that it was best served arriving in the form of a standalone sequel. To that extent, Left 4 Dead 2 offers a tweaked version of the AI director that can not only spawn hungry baddies as needed but can also adjust the map layout, along with equipment and weather in response to the players’ successes or (perhaps more frequently) failures. In addition to that improvement, all new weapons join the pre-existing arsenal (including the eagerly anticipated melee weapons) along with 3 new Special Infected (the Spitter, the Jockey, and the Charger), 4 new Survivors, an entirely new location (the New Orleans area), an extra campaign (for a total of 5 this time around), and two new game modes: Scavenger (a fetch-and-return Multi-player mode) & Realism (which removes outlines, the hud, and makes zombies much tougher). So it’s seems reasonable to assume that this was enough content to merit an entirely new game.
“I told you once already, I don’t want to hug it out, geez.”
Initially, I was struck by the fact that it does feel remarkably similar to the original Left 4 Dead. However, just like reading a good book, the depth and intricacy of everything didn’t come to the forefront until after a decent chunk of playing time. After working through all the campaigns, it became apparent that this game rewards and expects a somewhat more cerebral approach to survival than its predecessor. In the original game, survivors could circle the wagons in a good spot and rely on their melee bashing in the front ranks, supported by ranged support from behind. With Left 4 Dead 2, gun-based melee-bashing is on an ever-increasing delay-timer – the more you bash, the longer it takes to reset your bashing. This forces players to experiment with the new melee weapons (guitar, baseball bat, machete, katana, night-stick, or frying pan) and they’re both more enjoyable and more useful than you’ll initially realize. The katana and machete, in particular, are excellent for rapidly finishing off large amounts of encircling foes.
It’s not just weapons that change the playing field, however, as the new Special Infected also have a potent effect on how the Survivors play. The Spitter’s ranged acid attack forces players out of their deeply-entrenched corners and into the (more dangerous) action. The Jockey, who jumps onto and takes over a Survivor, driving him away from safety, helps distract the survivors and split them up. Finally, the Charger, if able to slam into a Survivor, can also violently separate the players. It seems obvious that Valve’s primary goal with this sequel was to further segment groups while forcing them to join the fray and they’ve definitely achieved this goal.
“I can recommend a great Chiropractor.”
Despite the new melee weapons and Special Infected, the campaigns themselves will throw a few new tricks at jaded, experienced players. Rather than facing the usual cut-and-dried mid-game Crescendo events where Survivors can kill off all the Infected before moving forward, Left 4 Dead 2 provides Crescendo events with an never-ending supply of rabid zombies until you trigger some sort of safety valve. To overcome these incredible odds, players are expected, if not required, to utilize the utmost cooperation possible. While I didn’t think it was possible, this sequel offers even more exciting and challenging Campaign Finales, as well, throwing some seriously tricky wrinkles into the mix and keeping players firmly on their toes if they hope to survive.
“Honestly, you really need to do something about your nails.”
The multiplayer aspects of Left 4 Dead 2 are still just as fun as ever with the new Scavenger game stealing a bit of the limelight from Versus mode. This new multi-player format has players rushing out to acquire gas cans to fill a generator while being hunted by their Infected foes. It’s a bit more frenetic, in that regard, than vanilla Versus and requires very careful cooperation. Needless to say it’s a blast.
Graphically and audibly, this game looks and sounds as fantastic as the original and improvements in these regards are subtle but appreciated. Fire effects, for example, seem more vibrant while the newly added weather can be incredibly cool. The Hard Rain campaign, in particular, showcases a jaw-dropping (if you have beefy enough hardware to appreciate it in all its glory) storm sequence that’s surely one of the year’s most memorable gaming moments.
However L4D2 still doesn’t provide a normal Server Browser for players, which is a bit of a disappointment and the Friends concept still works a bit strangely in that you can be stuck with Friends of your Friends showing up, leading to confused confrontations at best or Griefers at worst. It seems odd that Valve provides a Friends match-making feature and then doesn’t stick to your immediate Friends but instead casts the net out to a second-tier. It’s not a deal-breaker but it can lead to some annoying situations from time to time.
“Oh, it’s a roller-coaster alright. A roller-coaster of Death.”
All told, though, this is the best kind of sequel – one that builds and layers onto what was previous enjoyed while offering loads of new content. Whether you’re a zombie fanatic, a Co-Op gamer, or just a huge supporter of the original game, Left 4 Dead 2 offers something for everyone, engaging both the fun center AND the cerebral core of your collective brains. Yummm….brains.
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