Left 4 Dead 2 Review
The flesh eating un-dead in film, television and videogames tend to be dealt with in one of two ways. Zombies, as we common folk know them, are slow, stupid and otherwise harmless (similar to those seen in George A. Romero’s film series), or fast, intelligent and relentless killers, such as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Developers Valve Entertainment chose the latter option – the result was the first instalment to the franchise and a breath of fresh air to zombie titles. Granted, the objective was to get from A to B, however Left 4 Dead was an intense, relentless and all together fun apocalyptical experience that was less about the horror aspect, and more about fighting to survive.
Similarly, game content can also be dealt with in two ways: it can either be supplied as individual download-able packs, giving a release title an extended shelf life. Or it can be boxed up for a – sometimes questionable – sequel. On the surface, Left 4 Dead 2 offers a decent amount of fresh content. It introduces Nick, Ellis, Rochelle and Coach, a new bunch of survivors prepared to face the rampaging zombie horde. The characters interact well, with humorous quips, comments and dialogue, bringing fresh dimensions to them. Like the original, the objective is to get from A to B, but unlike the original, the scenarios follow on from one another. Amalgamating these scenarios gives them a sense of progression that was lacking in the original, and it also means the survivors find new ingenious means to escape. As the gang trudge through the dank detailed environments, from swampland to theme parks, to get to the streets of New Orleans (where a government-organised evacuation attempt seems to have been abandoned), a sense of the horrific events that unfolded has been created, a depth that the original lacked.
It seems that the zombie horde have been hard at it during the off-season making a few new signings. Zombies in HAZMAT suits, police armour and even clowns skulk in certain levels. Left 4 Dead 2 also includes three new special enemies. Spitters are saggy old women who spit corrosive green acid, Jockies are mutants who ride on the survivors’ shoulders and Chargers, who as the name suggests, charge at the survivors in a group of various zombies. Instead of providing a new challenge the new enemies add to already frustrating prospect of encountering the ‘special’ zombies.
Us humans have also been handed a few new weapons. A variety of gun choices have been included and a new projectile is also available in the ‘bile bomb’. However differences between weapons is minimal, so to a have a choice seems pointless. Meanwhile the ‘bile bomb’ has the same zombie attracting effect as the pipe bomb, minus the advantage of the following explosion. The real attraction though is the melee weapons, nine in total, that allow the survivors to kill zombies in a brutal hand-held manner. Their inclusion brings a fresh and somewhat gory dimension to the combat, although at a cost, as melee weapons put the survivors closer to danger. That said, there is nothing more fun than standing in a doorway decapitating zombies with a Kanata or chainsaw.
Several new game modes have also been included. ‘Realism’ mode is for those hardcore players out there for whom an onslaught of zombies isn’t enough. In it there is no help, no glowing friends, foes or items. Sounds straightforward, that is until a Smoker drags a survivor off into the darkness, as without the glowing aura, he or she more difficult to find. In this mode tactics are key, as is the inclusion of the defibrillator pads, which bring dead survivors back to life. ‘Survival’ and ‘Scavenger’ are two similar modes that see survivors attempting to survive for as long as possible on a well-stocked map (Scavenger has the twist of a time countdown which must be increased through pouring gas into a generator). Death is inevitable, and it’s because of this that these modes are flawed. Without a possible escape it feels more like a never-ending level than an exciting game.
Left 4 Dead 2 is frantic fast paced game, but it’s still the same frantic fast paced game that the original was. Despite the new settings, characters, items and game modes it just doesn’t cut it as a follow up. If Left 4 Dead had not been before it, Left 4 Dead 2 would be the complete package, and while it is a an excellent game, for those that played the first it’s the same old. Not enough has been done to distinguish it from the original. New maps, new characters, new enemies and new weapons could have all been released through downloadable packs to maintain interest in a title that continues to have an impressive online presence.