Game Review: Left 4 Dead 2
Release: November 17 (NA) November 20 (EU)
Genre: Survival Horror/ Shooter
Developer: Valve Software
Available Platforms: 360, PC
Players: 1-2, (1-8 online)
ESRB Rating: M
Valve. Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. All of them are diverse and innovative titles, with top-notch quality and the ‘Valve touch’ not seen in any other game. Whenever you go into a Valve game, you expect it to be a fun and engaging experience. What Valve isn’t famous for, however, is annual titles. As I highlighted in my thoughts on L4D2 and in my impressions of the demo, Left 4 Dead 2 comes as a surprise to many. It’s the first Valve title to be released a year after the previous, and we’re all on the edge of our seats to see if the brave Valvers can pull it off once more. The answer?: Hell yeah.
Left 4 Dead 2 builds upon the foundation of its predecessor; a fun and intense zombie shooter. You and 3 AI bots/ friends must traverse through five campaigns set in diverse environments. You must get from point A to B, and along the way, kill billions of zombies. There’s your common infected who, alone, don’t stand a chance against you. They have their strength in numbers. But there’s your special infected. The Boomer, Hunter, Tank, Smoker and Witch all make a return alongside a new cast of characters, who all have their distinct flavor and ‘bite’ to them.
The Spitter is designed to destroy corner-campers, who set up shop in a corner with marshmallows, tents and high-powered machine guns (spamming). The Jockey is a rabid, almost erotic character who jumps on to your head and humps you to death. While doing this, he can tug you in any direction and danger he wants you to. The Charger dashes across the air in a straight line, and into a whole group of survivors, grabbing one and then pounding him/her into the ground. All of the new characters can work in sync with each other, even more from last time. For instance, the Jockey can steer a survivor into Spitter goo for massive damage.
Valve didn’t go with much on the innovation threshold, instead setting up their defences wisely on the content front. There are melee weapons, all of which are so much fun to use. There are new throwables such as boomer bile, which call upon a horde to your chosen spot (or infected). There’s a plethora of new weaponry, instead of just nine flimsy things in the first title. There’s so much variety and ‘taste’ in everything in this title. The story takes a backseat in this, but has its feet inched into the spotlight, now there’s a lot more hints and dialogue dropped about just what the hell happened.
However, there’s just one gigantic, huge, tank-like issue that I have to tackle in this review. The PC version is totally fine in all of its connectivity and retro-working with the original campaigns, but the 360 version is almost a stepchild version. Any public game of Versus, Scavenge or Survival you join, you will have lag. I don’t know if this is just confined to the European version, but I had to do a private set-up with one of my friends in order to experience the full game. It’s an issue that will likely be resolved in the future via a patch, but the connection problems are just too big to ignore.
What Left 4 Dead 2 manages to do is be something that Valve has set out to do. It’s a true sequel. It delivers a more intense experience, a hugely different one from the original, and it is so much better than the original too. The fact that it’s a co-op and competitive experience and sometimes both at the same time (in Versus mode) all adds to the sweet awesomeness. You’re always in for a treat when you delve into a Valve title, but this is just spoiling us. Maybe they’ve even set an example for all of those annual titles that come out; expansion and not innovation.
Nath’s final say: This is Left 4 Dead, but bigger and better. It delivers an entirely new experience, just from expanding on its content and diversity. Ignore all the controversy, the boycotts, the Australian ban and just pick this up. Just make sure its not the 360 version, for a while, and you’ll have more than enough fun just killin’ zombies.