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Left 4 Dead 2 Review
publisher: Valve Software
developer: Valve Software
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Nov 17, 09 (released)
|» All About Left 4 Dead 2 on ActionTrip|
Most likely you know all about this 'controversy'. Valve released Left 4 Dead last year and it's a huge hit. With a minimal back story, four survivors must band together to fight their way to safety through the zombie horde. Featuring the ability to play co-op against the undead or against friends in PvP mode made for an exciting and viscerally satisfying experience. When Valve came along 6 or 7 months later and announced Left 4 Dead 2 would be released only a year after the original, a good part of the fan base freaked out. "It's too soon for a sequel," they said. "Where is the all the free DLC we were promised," they asked. "It'll just be an add-on that will be sold as a full priced game," they howled (they howled indeed - Vader). As usual when the Internet complaint machine gets going, it's hard to weed the legitimate points from the wharrgarbl when you have a room full of ADD 13-year-olds with who are shouting profanity through a bullhorn. So, here we are today with Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) installed on our Steam accounts and we finally get a chance to see how many of the doomsayers points were on target.
Left 4 Dead 2 keeps the things that worked in the first game (Duh - Ed.) while trying to address its short comings, which is to be expected. In some ways Valve has succeeded and in others they did not quite hit the mark. First and foremost, L4D 2 *IS* a full blown sequel. The graphics have been turned up in a subtle but satisfying manner. Environments and character models are sharper and crisper. Zombies have more detailed location damage as limbs are blown off and torsos are ripped away by a hail of bullets. I was horrified and ashamed to say somewhat pleased to see a blast from my shotgun provide a view through one zombie's head after he popped up in front of me. Zombies clamoring around a pipe bomb now explode in a shower of limbs and body parts instead of just a red mist.
Zombies, zombies, everywhere zombies.
And again, zombies.
Another change that people were concerned would ruin the overall feel of L4D2 was moving from a night time setting found in the first game to episodes played out during the day and in the southern setting of Louisiana no less. However, improved environmental effects liked lense flare from the sun, hanging low in the sky or a torrential rain storm as you dash through a sugar cane field, help to obscure your field of view and keep you on the edge of your seat as much as heading into a darkened subway tunnel. That is not to say that the entire game takes place outside. From the creepy confines of southern amusement park rides to dodging and weaving in and out of building in the Big Easy, players will find plenty of confined spaces for their claustrophobia kick in.
The difficulty has been turned up several notches, which in my opinion, is not a bad thing. The zombies come thick and fast at your group and you are going to need every trick up your sleeve to get past the computer controlled hordes, even on the lower difficulty levels. Add humans to the mix in PvP and you are in for a rocking good time. The in-game AI director seems to be better now at keeping the pressure up by launching additional groups of zombies at the most pressure filled points of the game. L4D2 has added prompts to let your team know how far towards the end of the map you have gone. This is an immense improvement as it helps keep players focused and moving forward. Also, scoring has been improved to help eliminate some of the confusion at the end of PvP rounds. Scores are now based on distance made by each team member and a SMALL bonus for health. If both teams tie at the end of a round, a small bonus is awarded to the team who did the most damage when playing as the Infected.
Having been born in Florida and spending my younger years living in the south, Valve has done a great job in capturing the feel of the new environments. Slogging though the swamp or rushing past knee high weeds along the side of the interstate stirs memories of growing up and areas that just feel, I don't, right in their presentation and design. I can almost feel the cloying humidity and oppressive heat as the group steps onto a dock in downtown New Orleans. The attention to detail in the new levels will often be overlooked as the swarm of undead come after you and your brain like a horde of frat boys looking to tap a beer keg. The accompanying music has also been given a southern overhaul that is still creepy, yet reflects the locale players are fighting through. Jazz styled horns sound a dirge in downtown New Orleans, while scary calliope music rises and falls as zombies in clown makeup hunt you in an amusement park.
Speaking of undead, I already mentioned that the common undead now die in a variety of new and stratifying gross ways. The special infected from the first game got a graphical update as well. The Hunter now blurs as they leap on survivors, helping to better convey the dizzying speed they employ when they pounce. The Smoker has a more mutated, misshapen head complete with several tendrils that somewhat resemble dreadlocks. This makes them a bit easy to pick out from a distance so they can be taken out before they can snag you with their whip like tongue. Boomers have broken the glass ceiling as now there is a female model that will sicken you as much as the original male skin. The Tank seems bulker and at the same time better defined which is apt with the other graphical updates.
The new uncommon include a long necked, horror called the Spitter, which can launch green bubbling gobs of goo from long distances that damages Survivors caught in its splatter (sounds like me after my wedding night - Vader). The Jockey jumps on the shoulders of the survivors and rides them into danger. Finally, the Charger is a misshapen brute that slams into the Survivors at high speed, grabbing and pummeling one while scattering the rest. The new special infected greatly expand the strategy in PvP for those playing the infected and keeps the survivors from hunkering down in a corner until the common zombies have been thinned out; an annoying exploit in the first game.
The survivors also get a new set of toys to repel the horde in L4D2. New pistols, rifles, shotguns and even a grenade launcher allow you to reach out and frag zombies in a variety of new ways. Melee weapons like baseball and cricket bats, swords, guitars and even chainsaws can replace your pistols to beat down the undead. Adrenaline syringes can give you a speed and heath boost, while deployable ammo crates can add explosive or incendiary punch to your shots. Vials of boomer bile will drive the undead into a frenzy attacking anything they're thrown on. Finally, defibrillator units can be picked up instead of the standard med kits to revive comrades who have met an untimely end.
8.7 Very Good
Improved graphics, new weapons, new maps, new Infected, new game modes, increased difficulty makes it seem like a "real" Zombie apocalypse.
Survivors seem like cardboard cutouts compared to the original quartet in Left 4 Dead, same gameplay as previous game, multiplayer game browser still has a long way to go, Survivors have potty mouths.