Review: "Left 4 Dead 2"

12/02/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, David Voyles

Valve is a company known for releasing top-notch titles and an industry-leading digital distribution method in Steam. Each of their previous titles has gone on to hold record sales and include titles such as "Half-Life" and "The Orange Box," which included "Half-Life 2," "Team Fortress 2" and "Portal." Last Year’s "Left 4 Dead" garnered outstanding reviews to no one’s surprise with a final Metacritic rating of 89. The success of a title such as this begs only one question: Why hadn’t the gaming industry thought of a cooperative zombie slaying experience sooner?

"Left 4 Dead 2" is the sequel to last year’s title with improvements in nearly every category. Consumers were a bit frustrated, though, to hear that exactly a year after the first installment, a sequel would be released. Valve is typically known for their strong support for products long after release, many of which are free. Gamers felt as if Valve was beginning to abandon this model in an attempt to squeeze another $50 from their pocket ($60 for consoles). Besides, how much improvement can one game implement over a sequel in only a year?

Apparently, a lot. New to "Left 4 Dead 2" is the scavenger mode where the non-infected must gather a set number of gas tanks in an allotted period of time, and it is the job of the infected to stop them at any cost. This offers a nice change of pace for times when a campaign gets dull. Also new is realism mode, which is your standard campaign of four humans; however, it comes at a heightened difficulty. No longer are items highlighted for you to find across a room, and taking note from zombie lore, they will generally require headshots to put them down. Furthermore, witches will now kill you in one hit. There are no longer closets to revive teammates from, but defibrillators which are scattered across the map. That said, they take the place of the valued med-kit and a teammate is required to resuscitate you.

Also new is the implementation of melee weapons such as fire axes, samurai swords, and baseball bats. These new items are great for keeping the horde at bay when they get too close, and are especially useful in realistic mode, where your bullets will do an increased amount of damage to your partners. These melee weapons replace your pistols though. Oddly enough, if you have a melee weapon equipped and are knocked down, your character magically switches back to a pistol to fight off the horde. An Ak-47, SCAR rifle, along with two new shotguns, and a plethora of other new weapons are thrown in the mix as well.

Graphically, "Left 4 Dead 2" is an improvement over the original, if only marginally. Again, it uses a source engine that is 5 years old now but which holds up well in its various forms ("Half-Life 2," "Counter Strike"). Zombies now have limbs that can be destroyed and most appealing is the area specific damage. For example, in realism mode, I blasted a hole in a zombie’s torso that was large enough to fit a bowling ball through, yet he continued on because it wasn’t a head shot. Seeing a lifeless figure running full speed at you and knowing that only a precise shot can put it down will certainly send chills down your back. Lighting reflections also are a new improvement, as zombies with a construction worker’s vest now will light up in the darkness to reveal a horde of hungry infected beasts waiting to lure you over. While it’s not winning any awards in this area any time soon, the engine does a great job of allowing users with mid-range systems to enjoy the game in its full experience and not make high-end users feel as if they’ve wasted money on that newest graphics card.

In the sound department, "Left 4 Dead 2" is no slouch. With a 5.1 system, you can really get a feel for where the infected are coming from, as well as what type of infected it is. Special infected offer audible clues as to their whereabouts, whether is it the loud burp of a boomer, or the reverberating shriek of the hunter just as he is preparing to pounce. Each weapon sounds unique as well, but it is the dialogue between the characters that will really entertain you. Characters will commonly joke with one another about the current situation, especially Ellis, who is constantly going on about the adventures of him and his friend Kevin.

There are new levels included as well, but unfortunately none of your maps from "Left 4 Dead" will work or plan to be implemented (without a little work around, of course, as it has been done). The levels now are longer, and they include five maps instead of four. At times, the length proves to be another problem with the title. What made the original so appealing was the ability to drop in and play a few quick maps to finish a campaign, and then be finished. An hour was all you needed to finish, whereas now an hour probably won't get you through the first two maps.

Let me tell you this--"Left 4 Dead 2" is hard. It’s really hard. It’s so difficult at times that it is no longer fun. Another thing that made the first title so appealing was the fact that the A.I. director would adjust the game’s difficulty on the fly in order to create an enjoyable experience. Players who were constantly getting trampled on would get thrown an extra health pack, while other groups who were plowing through the horde would now get two special infected launched at them at once. The A.I. director is now relentless and doesn’t let up. There have been times when my team was attacked by three special infected at once--even after two of our players were down. Other experiences had us trying to finish the final map of a scenario 17 times, only to be attacked by a tank, two special infected, and a horde nearly each of the times. Frequently, I noticed our strategies would be sound and solid, only to discover that a chance encounter with a tank in the corner meant certain doom. It is experiences such as these that trample a bit of the game's fun.

So, is "Left 4 Dead 2" more than just a mod or a simple add-on? Absolutely, it's more. But realistically, this title is what the first one should have been, sans the overhauled A.I. director. New maps, modes, characters, weapons, and monsters all add to the mix of an already delectable game. For those seeking a top-notch cooperative experience, this is your title--just make sure your friends have a bit of patience and time.

View the trailer for "Left 4 Dead 2" below. Thoughts?

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  1. Stan said...

    I played this game and this motherf*cker was HARD! Great graphics and fun, though. Solid review.

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