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Left 4 Dead 2 Review

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Developer: Valve Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: November 17, 2009 Available On: PC and Xbox 360

Left 4 Dead 2 was Valve Software’s fastest turnaround for a game sequel in the company’s history. One factor that helped them get this sequel done quickly was using the same game engine – but even the time gap between, for example, Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2 Episode One, which are on the same engine as well, was two years. Valve delivered Left 4 Dead 2 exactly 365 days after the release of the first game. And unlike Half-Life 2 Episode One, this sequel has double the content of its predecessor, including multiple single and multi-player modes.

When Left 4 Dead was released a year ago, it was met with praise from nearly everyone who played it. And looking back, there wasn’t a whole lot there. When it was originally released, it had just four campaigns. Additionally, only TWO of those four campaigns were playable in versus mode – and that’s it – four campaigns for story mode and two campaigns for versus. Later, of course, Valve released the other two campaigns for Versus, and added a fifth campaign and a new survival mode. Even without these add-ons, however, the game scored a 9/10 here at Game Freaks 365.

When I originally heard that Left 4 Dead 2 was slated for a release just one year after the original, I was disappointed. Knowing Valve, I assumed that this game would ship with even less content, and even more bugs. The demo was released a few weeks ago, and I was still disappointed. The two levels they included were boring to me, and the new features seemed gimmicky. Now that the full game is out, however, I have a new opinion.

Left 4 Dead 2 ships with five full-size campaigns, and a slew of new modes and features. There’s still the co-op “campaign mode”, single player, versus, and survivor, like the “current” version of Left 4 Dead, but the sequel also adds “Realism” mode, which is essentially a tweaked campaign mode, designed to be more difficult. Zombies are harder to kill, there are no respawn closets, no character outlines, and other minor changes. Another mode that was added for Left 4 Dead 2 is “Scavenge” mode, which is a 4 vs 4 player mode, with 4 survivors and 4 infected at a time, in which the survivors have to run to the outskirts of the map to retrieve gas tanks, and bring them back to the center of the map to fuel a generator. As more tanks are returned, the round’s time increases. The infected simply try to stop the survivors, and the game is scored by the number of tanks retrieved. Then the teams switch sides, and compare scores. This mode adds the much needed “capture the flag” type of mode to the franchise, and a second mode in which players can play as the infected.

The campaigns are especially good in this game, and are much more diverse than the original. Some levels are bright, daytime maps in the middle of a city, whereas others are in the middle of a huge storm, an abandoned swamp, or an infected carnival. There’s a new group of survivors, just as stereotypical and outlandish as the originals. The maps are what I would call much “wider”, because there are multiple distinct paths to choose, and many areas to explore at all sides of each path. This makes the team more likely to split up, and more teamwork is required. It also adds significantly to the replayability of the campaigns. Each campaign has its own distinct look and feel, as well as its own “uncommon” infected. On the carnival level, there are zombie carnies, and on the swamp level, there are zombie swamp crawlers. In some cases there’s no difference between these and the “common” infected (other than how they look), but in other campaigns, the uncommon infected can have helmets or bulletproof vests which DO cause you to treat them differently. And unlike the campaigns in the first game, which are all “get to the [rescue vehicle]”, there is some diversity in Left 4 Dead 2. No two campaigns have the same goal.

Technically speaking, the game looks largely the same, which is not surprising, considering it’s the same engine as last year’s game, but at the same time, some noticeable upgrades have been made. There are now dismemberments of the zombies, which include heads and limbs exploding when being shot, or being chopped off when sliced. The associated blood splurting is upgraded as well. I also noticed upgraded water effects, and they added dynamic weather effects, which can start and stop at any time. The multiplayer experience has also been improved. You can now build your versus or scavenge team and then be matched up against another team, rather than scrambling in a lobby of 8. Your team also gets to vote at the end of a match as to whether they want to play against the same team again. Another thing that has to be mentioned is the amazing new local server hosting. In every PC game I’ve played up until now, the host of the game had to have the game’s ports forwarded to his PC and everything had to be just right for the other players to connect. In Left 4 Dead 2, it’s as easy as selecting “Local”, and even behind a university or company firewall, everyone connects no problem. HUGE step in the right direction.

From a gameplay perspective, there are a number of upgrades and tradeouts as well. There are many more weapons, each unique, and there are weapon upgrades. A player can pick up a box of incendiary or “frag” rounds, and deploy it on the ground. Then everyone on the team can apply that upgrade to their current clip of bullets in any gun. The same goes for laser sights, which improve your gun’s accuracy. On the secondary weapon category, there are many more options. In the original, you could have one pistol or you could have two pistols. In Left 4 Dead 2, you can have one or two pistols, one giant pistol, or any melee weapon. Melee weapons range from things like swords and bats to things like frying pans and guitars. The only melee weapon with any “ammo”, per se, is the chainsaw, which would probably be unfair if it was unlimited anyway. My only complaint about the rest of the melee weapons is that they’re basically all the same. They LOOK different, but each one does the exact same thing to the zombies and swings just as fast as every other one – which would certainly lead players to believe that it’s a “gimmicky” feature.

There’s still the Molotov cocktail and the pipebomb, but now they’ve added a jar of boomer bile that you can carry around. When you hit an enemy with it, all of the common infected attack it. This is especially useful against a tank. On the health items side of things, you can now choose between holding a medpack or a defibrillator unit, which can revive a dead team-mate (especially useful in realism mode, which has no respawn closets). There are still pills, but now there are also adrenaline shots, which make you faster and stronger for a short period of time, also occupying the same slot. There are new special infected characters as well. One that spits acid, one that jumps on and controls a survivor, and one that slams a survivor against the ground.

What makes all of these features great is that they’re not “added on”. You have to choose between pistol(s) and a melee weapon. You have to CHOOSE between a medpack and a defibrillator, and you have to CHOOSE between pills and adrenaline. There can still only be 4 special infected on a team. This leads to a MUCH larger range of possibilities for how a game plays out and exponentially increases replayability.

Combine more campaigns, weapons, enemies, and game modes with an already proven formula of co-op zombie killing and you have a five star title. Yes, it has bugs, and yes, there are some things that need to be tweaked, but I’m sure Valve will have these patched in no time, like they have for every game they’ve released. This is one of the rare sequels that doesn’t take any steps back from its predecessor.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9
Written by Dave Linger Write a User Review