Short Version: Left 4 Dead 2 uses the same old team-based game play with new content, new game types and updated graphics to earn the title of sequel and not “DLC.” This fast-paced shooter is built for Left 4 Dead fans, co-op enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to stay in practice for when the next variant of the flu turns into a zombie apocalypse.
Game Rant reviews Left 4 Dead 2
The end is near. The zombie apocalypse is upon us. Everyone but you and three of your friends have changed into rabid, violent monsters. The government suggests you barricade your home, stay inside and wait for instructions. Yeah, right! I’m gonna kill me some zombies!
Left 4 Dead 2 comes complete with five new campaigns, four new survivors, new and old weapons, new special infected, new items, new graphics and the new Scavenge mode. Did I mention there’s a whole lot of new?
The first Left 4 Dead only came out a year ago and since the sequel was announced the internet’s been full of customer complaints that they’re forced to pay full game price for what should be an update or at very least cheaper downloadable content. The improvements and new content crammed into the sequel create a completely new game that I’m happy to say I own. It’s worth every penny.
I’ll start by saying that the basic framework for the game play is exactly the same as you should expect from a sequel. Left 4 Dead 2 takes its predecessors best feature, the absolute team dependency game play, and creates a whole new game around it. The game still relies on excellent teamwork to survive and advance through any mode of play. “Stick together” will quickly become your mantra if you’re going to survive and make your way to the evacuation point. Your tactics must change to adapt to the new special infected and the new levels that have been specially designed for them to be very effective.
I mentioned that the graphics have been updated and I really meant that. The increased detail on all the models really brings out the ugly in the smoker and the fat in the boomer, but the best part is the gore. Now that the zombies can be dismembered you can bask in rain of zombie flesh when a pipe bomb surrounded by interested zombies explodes and body parts go flying. It makes clearing an area that much more satisfying. I really expected the same old source engine that the original ran but they’ve really made the game look nastier and prettier at the same time.
I’ll explain campaign mode quickly for those that haven’t played Left 4 Dead. You play as one of the survivor characters on a team of four and use the weapons and items you find along the way to clear out a zombie infested path leading you from safe room to safe room in an attempt make it to safety. A difficulty setting can be selected which mostly controls the amount of damage that infected and friendly fire causes.
Left 4 Dead 2 also adds a new mode for those who thought expert difficulty wasn’t hard enough, realism mode. Realism mode is like expert mode with five times more special infected; including witches that kill you in one hit… Like we needed more witches. Special mutated infected zombies have the ability to pin, constrict, blind or otherwise disable you, requiring your team to save kill or shove the attacking zombie to get you back in the game. At points during the campaign, the survivors must activate switches or alarms that cause “crescendo events.” These are periods of time that the survivors must either survive for a certain amount of time or reach a certain point in the map to stop the alarm. While the horns and alarms are blaring, the survivors are pelted by hordes of common and special infected. The campaigns typically conclude as one of the survivors comes up with an idea just crazy enough to get them the hell out where ever they’ve found themselves. Their ideas range from the simple to the insane, but always end with hordes of zombies being attracted by whatever they’re doing in attempt to earn their escape.
The campaigns themselves link together as a complete story line as the survivors travel from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans, Louisiana. Each campaign presents the characters with opportunities to develop their personality as they reminisce about their old lives or make wise cracks about each other. The selection of campaign locations sets the mood like any zombie movie would, either an interesting place to find zombies, or a scary place where you definitely wouldn’t want to be during a zombie outbreak. In Left 4 Dead, a fan favorite and the first campaign, the survivors traveled to Mercy Hospital in “No Mercy.” Carrying on with the theme of “worst places to go during a zombie outbreak,” Left 4 Dead 2 has the survivors take a head to the mall in search of an evacuation helicopter in the campaign, “Dead Center.” In the continuing search for help, the survivors continue through an amusement park (“Dark Carnival”) where my favorite squeaky targets reside, zombie clowns. Have you seen Zombieland? Yeah, be a hero.
The main characters are a group of four (don’t make me explain the title’s play on words or the box art) stuck in the southern US. They’re strangers to each other until they are left behind by the evacuation helicopter and left stranded at the beginning of the Dead Center campaign. This is likely Valve’s response to the complaints that there wasn’t much of a story in the first Left 4 Dead as they try to tell a story from beginning to end.
Ellis, the white hick comedic relief makes up for Rochelle’s mildly annoying “No you di’nt” attitude. Coach spills amusing middle-aged, southern knowledge and Louis… I mean, Nick… Man, I miss Louis (I miss all the old characters). The new ones are starting to grow on me, but I think that after hundreds of hours spent playing Left 4 Dead, you grow attached to the characters that you worked with to save their lives over and over again. The characters don’t break the game but they certainly don’t make it.
New mutations have surfaced in the infected population and they are very focused on keeping survivors from sitting in a corner and camping with their shiny new melee weapons. The spitter looks like the smoker’s ugly female equivalent with a similar long neck and slouched posture. She drools acid as she stands and run around slowly and awkwardly. Her attack involves spitting a pool of acidic goo that lands on the ground a covers a medium sized area. Survivor’s caught standing in the goo will suffer damage but that’s not all; Her goo also affects the gas cans that have been picked up and dropped in Scavenge mode. This makes her a key infected as she can destroy tanks that would have been turned in, preventing points from being earned, time being added to the clock and to top it off, there’s a big pool of flaming guess where the survivors probably didn’t plan to have one.
The jockey, aptly named for his small stature and riding abilities, mounts a survivor’s head and steers them towards certain doom. This doom may include the spitter’s goo, the boomers bile, or a nearby ledge to walk off. Picture a baby hunter dressed like trailer trash with a hyena laugh and the ability to drag their enemy away. Finally, infected have gained the coverall-wearing, hick cousin of the Tank: the over weight-trained “Charger.” This big guy can run a fair distance in a straight line through a group of survivors sending most of them flying while grabbing one and pinning him against a wall or the ground and pummeling him to death.
The special infected from Left 4 Dead have updated models, including a female boomer, but act and are controlled exactly the same. You can sometimes find common infected wearing different types of clothing or armor, Riot gear on police and bio-hazard/fire retardant suits on the scientists apparently didn’t protect them from zombie bites but it definitely keeps improves their defenses against a survivor’s bullets. The variety in models that have been made for the common infected keeps the scenery interesting as you mow down the crowd but more often than not you’re opening fire before you see what costume they’re wearing.
The first round of a campaign often begin a selection of pistols or the new melee weapons. As your secondary, you can only carry a handgun or a melee weapon, one or the other. Melee weapons are one hit kill on most infected but really, it’s just satisfying to knock the head off a zombie with a baseball bat and have blood spatter all over your screen. Tanks aren’t the only ones saying, “Homerun!”. Melee weapons are also very helpful for preserving ammo, as you slice and dice with your shiny katana sword you’re not wasting one of your one-hundred shotgun shots will lengthen your life span exponentially.
In Left 4 Dead survivors were limited to measly pickings for weapons and items. Old school zombie slayers like yours truly will appreciate the variety of shotguns that have been introduced. The pump and chrome shotguns, though very similar in damage, capacity and reload speed, have varying spreads of fire. The combat shotgun, though holding fewer shots, fires and reloads much more quickly. The sniper rifle, machine guns, and pistols all have upgraded versions with their characteristics tweaked. The additional weapons give survivors the ability to customize their load out to their team mechanics or playing style. I’m personally a big fan of the combat rifle, modeled after a SCAR rifle. It’s three shot burst and pinpoint accuracy makes it my utility gun although it just doesn’t have the power to take out a tank like the combat shotty so I find myself looking for a better weapon if that situation arises. Specialty weapons like the gas powered chainsaw (that runs out of gas) and the grenade launcher (also limited ammo) will make your fellow survivors jealous of your absolute power. Left 4 Dead 2 has weapons that you pick up and immediately make feel like a zombie killing machine made specifically for the undead dismemberment production line.
Survival mode is the same as Left 4 Dead left it. The whole mode consists of a crescendo event from the campaign turned into an infinity-long wait as the button or lever that was promised to lead the survivors to freedom but didn’t make good but it sure made enough noise to bring all your favorite zombie friends running to the party. Zombie horde and special infected will spawn constantly in increasing frequency the longer you stay alive. It’s not unlikely that you’ll be facing several special infected and two or three tanks at the same time if you last long enough. This mode takes a good setup, planning, and communication (or an AI glitch) to earn gold medal time and the related achievements. Depending on the quality of the plan and its execution it can be a zombie firing squad or lunch served up on a platter. If you’ve beat the campaigns are are looking for a challenge going for high scores in survival is what you’re looking for.
Versus mode is campaign mode with a very important twist. You are given the opportunity to be a zombie and chow down on the survivors. In versus mode, two teams of four attempt to complete (and I mean attempt, because human players are often quite a lot more difficult than computer-controlled infected) the campaign missions while the other team controls a randomly chosen special infected. When a player dies as the special infected they respawn 10-20 seconds later as another randomly chosen special infected. Points are based on how far each member of the team makes it towards the safe house. Bonus multipliers are awarded for each survivor that makes it to the safe house. This continues for each of chapter of the campaign and the team with the most points at the end wins. This mode is the reason I played Left 4 Dead. The ability to team up with friends and prove your worth as zombie slayers. This mode differentiates itself from survival because you’re not trying to put your name on a high score list. Your feeling of accomplishment comes from defeating a team of human players that you can trash talk and assert your dominance over.
Scavenge mode is probably my favorite addition because it brings all the pieces of Left 4 Dead 2 together and takes versus to a whole new level. This is an eight player mode, similar to versus with four infected and four survivors. The survivor’s mission is to gather as many gas tanks for their car/gas generator as they can before time runs out and the infected team has to try and stop them. Once the survivors are killed or time runs out sides are switched and the other team gets a chance to try and beat the score set by the first team. The higher score wins the round and it’s a best of three rounds match. Ties are determined by the amount of time it took to get to the same number with the faster team getting the win. New strategies and team work on this mode that account for the new aspects of time and gas canister collecting make for a lot of added gameplay. This new mode is what Valve brought to the table for original Left 4 Dead players to hold their attention and lengthen the replay value of this game. I’ll be playing this mode until I’m dead… or undead.
There are some things that have stayed exactly the same that I don’t appreciate but don’t apply directly to the game play. One of my issues is the bot AI. If you’re not playing with a full team of humans, you’re probably already dead. You’ll often find a bot standing still getting attacked by several zombies and they’re little help if you’re being restrained by a special zombie. This really isn’t the biggest issue because this game is made to be a co-op game and a bot is usually just a place holder until someone joins your game. Another issue is the multiplayer experience and lobby functionality. Often games will go with one open slot for a very long time if there is a leaver. If you’re any good at the game and you win by too much on versus, you’re going to have some rage quitters on your hands. Without a ranking system or a global list of leavers for people to kick, this will always be a problem and you’ll often be forced to play an unfair 4v3 versus game. One thing Valve did right was adding the ability to vote on a rematch while still connected to the server. This removes the need to exit to the server between rounds and is especially needed for the fast paced scavenge mode.
Left 4 Dead 2 is a true sequel with a whole fresh baked loaf of new. The marks this game loses are the finer details of matchmaking and online play that you’re likely to fall victim to in many multiplayer games. I imagine it holds as much replay value as Left 4 Dead if not more with the relatively recent addition of community created content support. I’ll be playing this game for my fill of co-op FPS zombie killing. Valve went above and beyond what I expected from them for this game by updating everything and even including a new game mode.
Do you think Left 4 Dead 2 came through as a sequel or do you really think this should have been downloadable content? How much do you really think it’s worth and what do you think of all the new content (campaign, characters, infected, weapons)?