It all started way back in 2004 with the release of the Source Engine and Counter Strike: Source. From there, we have seen many excellent games from Valve, and Valve has become one of the most loved game developers of today. Their latest installment, Left 4 Dead 2, stands on its own among Valveís repertoire of titles. Whereas Left 4 Dead reflected the atmosphere of 28 Days Later, Left 4 Dead 2 would be better suited to Zombieland or Planet Terror. It exhibits a less dire feel than its predecessor. The characters are more stereotypical, the events are sometimes almost hilarious, and the dialogue could easily have been pulled out of almost any 80s-90s zombie b-film. Fortunately, the quality of game still stands strong.
Taking place chronologically before Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 follows the story of four different survivors in the deep South, heading to New Orleans for evacuation. The gameplay is unchanged from its predecessor. You control a single survivor and fight your way through hordes of the undead in order to reach a goal. Special infected zombies often fall into the mix, attempting to ruin your progress. Typically special infected capture survivors and prevent them from moving or fighting and another survivor is required to save the zombie-laden captive. L4D2 includes all three infected from the previous game (Smoker, Hunter, and Boomer) and three entirely new special infected. The Charger is a giant tank-like zombie with a humungous arm it uses to plow through survivors. If it happens to collide with a survivor, the charger snatches them up and carries them off until it hits a wall, at which time it will pound the survivor into the ground dealing large amounts of damage. The Jockey, denoted by its terrifying and twisted laugh, can leap onto the shoulders of a survivor and steer them in a direction of their choosing, all the while dealing damage to them. The Spitter can launch a small sac of acid at the survivors which will break upon contact with the ground. The acid deals continual damage to any survivor standing in it.
Another addition to the L4D universe is the uncommon common infected. In other words, mixed in with the typical hordes of zombies are regular zombies that have certain immunities. Hazmat zombies are invulnerable to fire, police zombies with body armor are immune to gunfire, and clowns attract other zombies with their squeaky shoes. These are just a few of the multitude of varieties of zombies the survivors face.
For the survivors, the most interesting addition is melee weaponry. Survivors can carry either a pistol or a melee weapon. Melee weapons are an instant kill when they strike any common infected and deal extra damage to special infected. There are nine melee weapons in total, which include cricket bats, police batons, frying pans, and even an electric guitar. The survivors can now also find defibrillators to bring back dead teammates, boomer bile bombs that attract the horde to whatever they strike, and special explosive and incendiary ammunition.
All three gameplay modes from Left 4 Dead are included. Players have the choice between playing through a campaign (consisting of several chapters) with 3 A.I. survivors, with up to 3 human players, or in versus mode in which human players take turns playing as survivors and infected while playing through a campaign. Survival mode is also still included where players must hold up in one spot as long as possible while an ever increasing horde of zombies attacks. L4D2 includes a new game mode called Scavenge in which the survivors are required to collect gas cans and pour them into some sort of tank. Other individuals playing as the infected try to prevent the survivors from successfully fueling up.
The sound and graphics are astounding with this title, as is always the case in a Valve title. Every infected has their own short theme song and sound for survivors to listen for in order to be prepared for battle. Gunfire sounds and looks realistic, dismemberment is realistic to the point of being overwhelming, and the environments are very convincing and atmospheric. Graphically, the game isnít top notch, but it certainly looks good enough. Valve even included some new effects such as downpours and adrenalin that add to the feel of the game. The lighting and atmosphere have only improved over L4D.
Unfortunately, L4D2 falls on its face in the exact same way as its prequel: A.I. When playing any mode in which you donít have the appropriate number of human players, gamers will be forced to suffer the Left 4 Dead horrific, computer controlled players. While they are often effective and nothing short of impressive, it is not uncommon in countless games to see them break. Some issues were as bad as an A.I. survivor leaping off ledges to their death, ignoring incapacitated survivors, and sometimes even ignoring zombies or special infected. This problem has very negative consequences for a game so focused on teamwork and keeping everyone alive. So, for those unfortunate souls with no one to play with, the game is going to be full of frustration in dealing with the occasionally block-headed A.I.
Anyone following the hype surrounding Left 4 Dead 2 will be aware of the rating issues in Australia. The gameís well deserved M rating is primarily the result of its gore. The gore in L4D2 is incredibly detailed and explicit. Bullet wounds on zombies are very realistic and generally reveal their insides and often result in realistic human organs spilling out. Striking zombies with melee weapons results in large amounts of blood spattering in the playerís eyes. Explosives, gunfire, and melee weapons can dismember and mortally wound zombies, sometimes even turning them into a red mist. Mild language also finds its way into the game as the survivors react to their situations. Typically the cursing is lost in the excitement of the game, but it is certainly still present.
Bugs aside, with all of the added material stretched out over five, intense and cinematic campaigns, Left 4 Dead 2 easily lives up to the hype. The new items, characters, and zombies give the game a new dimension while still maintaining the good old Left 4 Dead feeling. The five campaigns are all quite long and interconnected, giving more continuity to the story. The finales are explosive and exciting, the multiplayer is intense and competitive, and the atmosphere is excellent. Had it not been for the faulty A.I., Left 4 Dead 2 could have easily earned itself 5 stars and an editorís choice award, but unfortunately, it is too glaring an issue in a game so focused on teamwork. It certainly earned its 18+ rating due to incredibly explicit and detailed gore and filthy language. Left 4 Dead 2 stands strong both as another excellent Source Engine game and as a striking addition to the weak genre of zombie video games. By the way, Valve just released the development tools for Left 4 Dead 2 just in time for Christmas, so be ready for lots of PC mods and custom content!
Ľ By Daniel Straite, Plain Games. Published 12/28/2009 8:09:40 PM.