When Valve released the super smash hit Left 4 Dead last year, few would suspect that a sequel was in the works. There was an outrage when the teaser hit the webs, but Valve didn’t back down from the decision. After twelve months of facing a boycott, an Australian ban and box art issues can Valve put itself together? The company is known to show superb quality and innovation in all of its products and above all – support. Patches and content are released frequently for their multiplayer hits such as Team Fortress 2 and Counter Strike. But can they do the same with their zombie lovechild?
Left 4 Dead 2 keeps the same formula, the same recipe, but spiced up. If you don’t know what Left 4 Dead is about then here’s a brief summary: killin’ zombies. There’s no ‘origin of the infection’ or ‘epic tales’, it’s a balls to the walls zombie co-op romp. It was designed to play with your friends or online in co-op against the zombies. The Versus mode (which pits players as the infected versus players playing as the survivors) isn’t available to play to in the demo, but sure looks to stay the same. A fundamental part of L4D is economics. No, not numbers or monies.
Medkits, weapons, ammunition, throwables and other things all have to be balanced between your group. It pays to not be prepared, and you’ll have to pick your moments wisely. Such as when to heal or throw that pipe bomb. It’s one huge giant calculation and reminds me oddly of some of the shooters of the olden days. You’d spend ages building up your ‘nades or saving special ammo for the big boss, but when at his arena, you’d end up saving them just in case there was another. Here however, there’s a ‘big boss’ every single second of the way.
There are ‘crescendo’ moments, in which you have to signal for an elevator or a crane lift. It’s one giant announcement to the infected however – ‘Dinner’s served.’ – and it’s intense as hell. In the original Left 4 Dead, you’d just camp in a corner and hope for the best. But in Left 4 Dead 2 that is impossible. In the crescendo moment in the demo, you have to navigate a maze of fence to get to the off button for an alarm. It’s quite thrilling to be running across the scaffolding, the alarm just out of reach, firing backwards at the oncoming infected.
That’s what Left 4 Dead 2 does. It delivers an entirely new experience with the same fundamentals. You might consider that to be just Left 4 Dead with a few new toys, areas and buddies (infected) to play with, but boy oh boy have the guys at Valve learned a thing or two. The olden days of camping in a corner are gone thanks to the new infected, The Spitter (I always preferred a swallower myself), who spews acid on to the ground. This can ruin your corner camping ways for good and make you think in ways you never thought before.
The new weapons are such a treat to play with, offering up entirely new reasons to scavenge. Throwables and medical items make a return. Now you can pick up a defibrillator to revive dead players, or stick with the old medkit, you can also have Adrenalin in the place of pills now; which quickens your actions. Along with all of these new toys is the addition of melee weapons. Frying pans, machetes, police batons and guitars are all here for you to play with. They’ll be many more in the full game, but from the impression I got, they’ll be hugely satisfying to work with. You can’t beat that chord from the guitar when you hit a zombie in the face with it.
The new infected are a joy too, adding so much to the whole experience. The Jockey, who starts humping your head violently and drives you out of control, can be a true gamebreaker. The Charger, who… charges, can grab you and crush you into the ground, killing you in seconds. The Spitter fixes the big issue of L4D – corner camping. There’s been tweaks to all the other infected too. The true stars of the show however are the new survivors. The characters of the first game were one of the true reasons that it was a true hit. Each of them offering a different perspective and personality. Even if none of them differed in ability.
I can safely say from what I’ve seen, you’re gonna love these guys. Nick, Coach, Ellis and Rochelle are all unique and unlikely. Unlikely in the sense that a group of these people would never hang out together in the normal world. Thanks to the zombie apocalypse, which brings out the best in them, they are stuck together and all have their own perspective. You’ll hear some hilarious banter between the group, and always depend on them for your survival. No other game offers such a detailed co-operative experience.
It’s time which will tell whether or not the title offers more content over innovation. On its surface it looks like a more polished of L4D with more content, but skin deep I can see it’s different. Madden, FIFA, PES, NBA, COD… they all have yearly titles. So why can’t there be room for a zombie apocalyptic co-operative shooter?