Guest Author - James Shea
The polished successor to last year's hit "Left 4 Dead", Left 4 Dead 2 expands the basic gameplay of the previous game and adds several new features to the mix. The game provokes mixed feelings, on one hand coming out only a year after the original L4D (which didn't receive much downloadable content) and on the other hand being full of enough new content to justify a sequel.
Like the first L4D, the game puts players in the shoes of four survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The survivors battle waves of the infected to move from one safe area to another. In L4D, the tools used by the survivors were primarily guns and explosive objects like pipe bombs and fuel cans. One of L4D's shortcomings was that it never really felt like "survival" - ammo could be found easily, and you were never really short on resources.
L4D2 keeps the basic premise - pistols still have infinite ammo, occasional caches of ammo can be found - but generally increases the scarcity of resources to make for a tenser survival experience. In addition, the choice of weaponry is greatly increased from L4D: in addition to a wider range of guns (rather than the 7 offered in L4D, 3 of which were an improved version of the other 3) there are also melee weapons. These allow for close-range damage without needing to reload. There are also more tools and items to be found, like adrenaline that increases your action speed, "boomer bile" which causes the infected to fight amongst themselves, and ammo boxes that make your guns shoot burning or explosive ammunition.
In addition, there are occasional "special infected" with unique abilities who will show up to attack. In L4D, these were the "hunter", who pounced on his prey, the "smoker", who strangled them with his long tongue, and the "boomer", who covered survivors with zombie-attracting bile. In addition, the "tank" (a physical powerhouse) and the "witch" (a super-powerful zombie who could be avoided if the survivors were careful) also made less-frequent appearances. In L4D2, these special infected are joined by the "spitter", who launches gobs of area-covering acid, the "charger", who rams into survivors and pummels them, and the "jockey", who jumps on a survivor and attempts to steer them into nearby hazards. The new special infected affect the balance of the game overall - the spitter forces survivors to keep moving instead of holing up in one spot and the jockey uses environmental hazards to his advantage. The charger is a little annoying, because even if you spot it early, unlike the other special infected it can take so many bullets that you usually end up getting hit anyways.
There are five campaigns, all with much more unique layouts than the campaigns in L4D. "Dead Center" is a fight through a shopping mall, "Dark Carnival" takes place in an amusement park, "Swamp Fever" sees the survivors attempting to get through the bayou, "Hard Rain" involves a two-way trip to get gas during a major thunderstorm, and finally "The Parish" puts you on the streets of New Orleans attempting to reach the last helicopter out. The maps are all much more fleshed out than they are in L4D, and due to the expanded list of items and bonuses in the game there's much more potential benefit to exploring out-of-the-way locations like abandoned houses. There's also more choice in route, though the paths are always ultimately linear. The campaigns on the whole feel much more unique and thematic than their L4D counterparts, and there's a distinct flavor to each of them.
There are more game modes than in L4D. In addition to the regular campaign (human players versus ai-controlled infected), survival (players hold out for as long as they can in one area), and the versus mode (player-controlled survivors versus player-controlled special infected), there's also realism mode (a campaign wherein many elements like glowing silhouettes are disabled, making it harder for players to find each other without good teamwork) and scavenge mode (where players try to collect gas cans and bring them back to a central location). The versus mode is much more fun than in L4D because of the new special infected, but the new game modes are sort of iffy.
Overall, L4D2 is a great game - much improved over its predecessor - but it still feels like it's lacking a lot. The new melee weapons are all basically identical, so there's no real sense of scavenging or anything like that. Everything from a fire axe to a cricket bat is completely capable of tearing apart a zombie with one swing. The new guns are a little better - I liked the idea of adding a grenade launcher that has non-replenishable ammo - but they're so easy to find that there's still really no tension. Basically, though, the game is an action game, not a survival game. If you want to have fun playing cooperatively with your friends, L4D2 is probably the best game to do it with.
Buy Left 4 Dead 2 from Amazon.com
Our Left 4 Dead 2 game was purchased by us via Steam and downloaded.