About one year ago, Valve gave 360 and PC owners a chance to survive a zombie apocalypse with Left 4 Dead. Furthering the emphasis on four player online co-op, Left 4 Dead 2 is basically the same game as the original but with some new gameplay additions.
When Valve first announced that L4D2 would be a new stand alone game with a full retail price, fans cried foul. Instead of being released as DLC, Valve’s explained that they reworked the game’s engine with the Director 2.0 interface while adding a completely new cast of characters, new weapons, new items, a new location, and new enemies.
This new Director 2.0 was designed to create a new experience every time you play. Depending on how the player(s) plays, the game will automatically adjust spawn points, the behavior of zombies, and even the weather. This assures that no two gameplay sessions will be completely the same. One downside to this is that there seems to be more doors spread throughout each level that will not open or lead to a dead end, keeping them as place holders as invisible enemy spawn points.
L4D2 has a very strong emphasis on co-op. Up to four players can play together online, with the computer controlled AI taking the place of any absent players. Unlike the very forgiving, and helpfully friendly AI in L4D, the friendly AI in L4D2 seems like it was intentionally turned down to make the single player experience a much more challenging one. Friendly AI will no longer have perfect aim or be willing to immediately share their health pack with you. Like sheep, it is up to the player to lead the friendly AI as they will never take point. This means that you, the player, will always be the first one to go down and get overwhelmed. Playing through each campaign solo has to be the game’s highest challenge, especially when on harder difficulty settings.
The friendly AI might have taken a different turn, but the new types of zombies also make your time in the infected south that much more challenging. The spitter will puke up corrosive vomit on you and the floors. The jockey will pounce on your head and take control of your character, leading you away from your friends which makes you a much easier target. Finally, the charger will charge at you will high speeds, knocking you to the ground. These three new types of zombies, along with the usual witch, smoker, hunter and boomer, really stand out from the typical infected.
L4D2 has the player performing new tasks as opposed to the original L4D. Instead of just standing your ground against an entire horde of enemies at the end of each level, the player must complete mission objectives to complete the campaign. For example, in order to complete the first campaign, the player must carry gas cans to a car to fuel it up until you reach a full tank. This brings a new type of challenge to the game as the player cannot defend themselves when holding such an object.
With new types of enemies and gameplay objectives stacked against the player, new weapons have been introduced to even the playing field. Different shotguns, an upgraded SMG, an even a grenade launcher are some of the new toys the player will be able to play around with. The biggest addition to this sequel are the melee weapons. Replacing your standard pistol, weapons like the ax, frying pan, and chainsaw are great for dealing big damage up close. Balancing combat, melee weapons work well against an incoming throng of enemies but lack any type of range. The pistols, with their infinite ammo, are good for picking off distance enemies. And just like the original game, the player can hold one other limited ammo weapon, like a shotgun or SMG. Communicating with teammates and coordinating weapons is just one more aspect to survival.
Besides weapons, there are some new items to help you survive the zombie onslaught. Boomer vials can now be collected and thrown to lead zombies away. The defibrillator, taking the place of a health pack, can bring back a fallen comrade. The adrenaline shot gives you a minor health boost but increases your character’s movement speed. On a rare occasion, you can even find special types of ammo (like fire ammo) and laser sights to make aiming more accurate.
Although the campaigns are about the same length as the first game, each stage has a more open level design. The game still funnels the player to where it wants you to go, but there are more open spaces, like a field or swamp, as opposed to the claustrophobic hallways and tunnels of the first game. L4D2 still holds the player’s hand through each stage, but allows for a slightly higher degree of exploration and variety.
The game also treats multiplayer in a couple new ways. The usual Humans Vs Zombies deathmatch, co-op online, and survivor mode (think ODST’s FireFight mode) all return back in this sequel, but the new scavenge mode is bound to be a fan favorite. Just like some missions in the campaign, the players must fill a device with enough gas to power it while fighting off the incoming horde. This mode is a great new addition to the stellar line up of multiplayer modes.
L4D2’s presentation values have also received an upgrade. Cut scenes are nicely detailed and action packed, and the common zombies are not as common as they were in the first game. Even their dying animations are not as repetitive thanks to the stronger analysis of limb specific damage physics. When played multiplayer online, however, there is a noticeable drop in the frame rate, which makes each zombie animation look like pages were missing out of flip book. This problem was also present in the original game so it is a bit of a shame to not see the engine tweaked to support more fluid animation with each enemy encounter. Unfortunately, it seems like the sound design and soundtrack have been reused from the first game, not that this is really a true negative point, but this audio department seems to have the least amount of updated material.
It is true; L4D2 plays out very similarly to the original smash hit. But the fast paced four player co-op is quite entertaining and the new material is enough to experience this sequel even if you have played the hell out of the first game. This game is much better played in a multiplayer scenario so single players be warned.
Unique Use of: zombie vomit
Better Than: L4D, the original game
Also Try: Boarderlands
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