Game Reviews
Left 4 Dead 2 - Industrial Sunset
“All Survivors will ‘Parish'” – Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Like a hellbound Hunter, Left 4 Dead 2 startled and surprised a lot of people at E3 this year. Many who had just purchased the Steam deal for $25 and were just now seeing the series’ potential were understandably upset. The gaming media (who undoubtedly had early access to actually playing the game) was however quick to pronounce “Noobs, shut up it’s Valve. Spoiled brats.” But now I’m just opening old wounds. I’ll sum up the sequel real simply: It’s more of a bottle of pills than a full fledged med kit. But anyone knows how in a tight bind they can make all the difference.

Everything old is new again. If you’ve played the demo, you know right away if the game has changed enough for you. Even if you haven’t played the original in a while, you still notice things. Zombies are more aggressive and they take more of a beating. It’s not easy to just shove them back with the butt of your gun and keep trudging. If even just a couple are behind you it’s impossible to proceed forward. Sure, the first game was “Spray and pray,” but I’d like to think this game is “Spray, pray,  and give thanks amen.” Watching zombie limbs fly off and their torsos split in half is a thrill that you don’t realize until you’re writing a review. Then you understand how sick and depraved the game has made you, and you love it. I’d just like to appeal to your moral sensibilities for a moment – they were just gonna die anyway.

Left 4 Dead 2 - Zombie Chick

One of your first treats in the opening chapter of the game is getting to a gun store. It really is like Christmas. You’re going to see two types of automatic shotguns. Why I haven’t a clue. I know they make zombies dead almost identically, but who is really going to complain about more stuff in a video game? The minute I do, my immunity has been compromised, and I’ll need to be put down before I succumb to the zombie strain. The new weapons really have their own individual feel (except for the auto-shotguns, I don’t know the difference!). Incendiary and Explosive ammunition “spark” the experience enough to make that extra push possible under dire circumstances. I’d also recommend equipping a laser sight whenever possible. I consider myself pretty accurate, but after seeing Francis, Louis, Bill and Zoey for so long, these new people aren’t exactly in my T-Mobile five. At least that’s the excuse I’m sticking with when I see the friendly fire indicator.

As far as the level design goes, it’s consistent yet varied. It really works, none of it sticking out or coming off as “Oh, they just added that to be cool.” I’ve never been to Louisiana, and God willing I never will (zombies man), but I asked a real live Cajun (Czartim) and he says it’s an accurate portrayal. You’ll be seeing residential, industrial and morbidal areas. The last word isn’t a word btw. Ideally you’ll be moving along the levels so quickly you really won’t ever notice the detail put into this. And whenever you do slow down to look for items and find those nice touches, you accidentally stumble upon the horde and get F’d in the A. You would think it’d be in the level designers’ best interest for more modders to examine their work, as only through making your own changes do you realize what was already there. Your best chance at seeing anything the developers meant for you to see is written inside of the safe house walls.

Left 4 Dead 2 - New Sniper Rifle

The campaign is very solid providing quite a few chills and thrills, but it really could use a bit of story. It’s a little more invovled than the first. You don’t seem to be going from one random disaster scenario to the next. There’s a small amount of continuity, it’s very vague. You see that there are men in Hazmat suits that are now infected, with chemical vials of Boomer bile in various areas. It’s clear that the government attempted to get involved. At the end you see that there are dead people. Dead people who were shot. It’s mentioned slightly, but just left as “one of those things.” You would think with the craziness of Resident Evil that they could make a cool down to earth adventure on top of the great mechanics they have in place. But when Valve closes a script they open a microphone. The survivor dialogue is as good as ever. The things that they think up people to say. “Hot burning goo is on my face! Get that thing off of me man! It ain’t right to be ridden like that.” As Left 4 Bed has taught us, anything in the wrong context is hilarious.

I’d like to add, that for a five year old engine, Source still manages to look great. I was impressed with character models in the first game, and there’s just some subtle lighting effects that look so pronounced when you shine the flashlight on your teammate or an oncoming zombie. I was never one to complain about the graphics, but I was definitely surprised how well the game manages to handle daylight, and even more convincingly dusk. I’m not sure if these were actually changes done to the engine or they just changed a few sliders in the level editor, but they’re great to look at regardless.

Left 4 Dead 2 - Industrial Sunset

Variety was definitely upped in this title. There are more modes than you realize at first, which is an improvement from the “two” that you had in the original. Scavenger is now my go to zombie multiplayer fix and Realism will test your endurance and accuracy. I hope you like gas cans, because you’ll need to collect a lot of them in Scavenger. Even more so than the first game, being a Special Infected is the most frustratingly fun challenge you’ll have this year. Separating and subduing the Survivors is a game of cunning. It’s the unspoken team work that arises from one good Smoker grab and another good Jockey ride. The Charger can be the most unbalanced enemy type on both ends of the spectrum. Hard to use, hard to defend against. One slip up and he can whisk you away or get shot in his crooked ass.

The experience in both co-op and multiplayer can be a bit disjointed. Every so often the game will glitch or you’ll be rendered useless. During the Swamp mission I was hit by a Charger and knocked into the water. The problem was I was still alive, even able to to shoot from down under the water to save a friend being constricted by a Smoker. The problem was I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t die. Later on one of our team members was stuck getting out of the elevator in Hard Rain. He just couldn’t move. We had to wait around for a Jockey to spawn and ride him out of the glitch. It was difficult trying to attract it without getting ridden. The same thing happened to me playing a match of Scavenger, but luckily a Hunter came along and killed me… With Achievements still refreshing and not being tracked properly, the experience is both enjoyable and messy, like Boomer and Spitter lovin’. Eww.

Left 4 Dead 2 - Industrial Sunset

As I mentioned before about “shoot me if I ever complain about getting more,” I don’t see a reason to ask why there couldn’t have been more content added for a 2010 release. At roughly 5hrs for the main story, there’s no arguing that you’re gonna replay it quite a few times. But what about maybe taking it into the full fledged campaign zone, not just fight your way through to safe rooms? A little non-linear exploration wouldn’t hurt too much. They’re obviously a very capable team, and they were able to make a complete game with more content than the original in twelve months. You can’t argue that a whole lot more could’ve been added in twenty-four. I love the first game a lot. It was something I hadn’t experienced before and it got a ridiculous amount of playtime from me despite having a very lacking multiplayer component. When everyone is using the first game to justify the content of the sequel, I tend to re-evaluate the original. It’s a testament to good gameplay overcoming a lack of content, but I don’t see why with a sequel there couldn’t be both.

But I will say this, of all the other games on the market right now, this was the only one that was able to pull me away from Modern Warfare 2 a week after launch. Hour for hour, I’ve put more time into this November sequel than the other. But, it is Black Friday, and if you can find the game for cheap I recommend getting it. You won’t find a better game to play with your friends this holiday, and any glitches and bugs you encounter really just give you more to laugh about. It’s better than the first game in every way, but you’ll have to ask yourself if this is what you wanted from the sequel. I’m sure Left 4 Dead 3 will be hitting sometime next year, so you can grab the Steam deal of that and then join the five other remaining boycotters at E3 2010.

Left 4 Dead 2 - Safe Room

It’s still great to see Valve has the ability to get good games out in a decent time frame. In regards to Half Life though…

“The last time I saw my Grandmother, she asked me if I was still a Half Life fan. I said yes ma’am. She said pray harder, cause it ain’t workin! I ain’t gonna die waitin on Half Life 3. As long as we still have games with guns, we gonna keep playing. And when we run out of Left 4 Dead games, baby, they gonna wish we hadn’t.”

– Coach Phaethon