|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Valve||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
When Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) was unexpectedly announced at this year's E3, the cries of outrage were almost deafening. The common resounding complaints were that Valve was just trying to quickly cash in on the success of the first title, it wasn't a true sequel, and instead of boxing another game everything being put into L4D2 should have just been made into DLC for the original. While I can understand the feelings of apprehension at being faced with buying a sequel so close to the original title's release, after playing the game for a good amount of time I can say that L4D2 needed to be a sequel and deserves its full price tag, even more so than the first L4D.
Perhaps all of the rabid fans of the first game, myself included, who are lashing out and threatening to boycott L4D2 have simply forgotten what a laughably incomplete package the original title really was. On the disc you were given four campaigns and only two of which could actually be played in Versus mode. That's it. It wasn't until months afterwards that the other two Versus campaigns and Survival mode were made available through a free batch of DLC. Now I'm not trying to bag on L4D because it is still one of my favorite games of all time and I've spent more hours playing it than perhaps any other game before it, but even I thought the game felt incomplete.
This is one of the major areas where L4D2 outshines the original. This time around the disc comes overflowing with content including five campaigns plus their Versus counterparts, a host of survival challenges, and the all-new Scavenge mode. And those are just the modes, not to mention all of the other vast improvements made to the gameplay itself to make the sequel feel much more varied and complete.
That being said, the basic core of the L4D experience remains intact. Players control one of four disparate zombie apocalypse survivors trying to make it from one end of a map to the other without being killed by hordes of fast running and sometimes mutated infected. To do this, all four players need to work together and cover each other's back. This often includes freeing teammates from attacks, helping out whenever someone gets overwhelmed, and even selflessly giving up health items when it could mean your own untimely demise. But even though this game shares the same concept as its predecessor, almost everything is done much better this time around.
To begin with, there is actually a coherent story tying this game together. No more questioning how your characters got where they are or why they never arrive at their next destination in the vehicle they left inside like in the previous campaign. Instead, when you finish the first campaign flying out of a mall Dukes of Hazzard style in a stock car, sure enough you begin the next campaign standing around the very same stock car, minus the fuel which has burned away leaving it and your group stranded. All of the campaigns tie together similarly and, as such, feel much more like a complete narrative rather than just a few separate incidents starring the same characters.
The campaigns themselves are also much more varied than in the original L4D. While fighting your way to New Orleans, you'll find yourself battling the undead in a variety of settings such as a city, small towns, a sugar mill, a mall, swamps, a carnival, a cemetery, and on a bridge. These different settings are a far cry from the drab cities and few outdoor excursions that make up its predecessor. Perhaps my favorite of the lot is the carnival, complete with abandoned rides to make your way through and games that you can play to take your mind off of the zombie that is probably about to start gnawing on the back of your head any minute.
Besides just the more diverse environments that you'll make your way through, the basic objectives of events in the game are very different. Instead of just hunkering down in the best position you can find until rescue comes, you'll often be tasked with finding a switch or making it to a specific destination in order to stop zombie hordes from attacking. For example, in a part of one level you'll need to grab a six pack of soda from a nearby convenience store and deliver it to a well armed recluse in order to have him blow open your escape path. Keep in mind that the player carrying the soda is unable to use their firearms and there are hordes and hordes of zombies standing between you and your delivery destination.
Luckily, despite having arguably more difficult objectives throughout the game, Valve didn't leave the survivors out to dry. There are so many additions to the items and weapons that survivors now have access to, it would be difficult to name them all, but I'll give it a go. First off there are a ton of new projectile weapons including several different kinds of shotguns, rifles, uzis, and even a new magnum pistol and grenade launcher. You'll find these scattered about every level, making switching between weapons and tactics throughout levels much easier and more worthwhile. For your main weapons you can also find explosive and incendiary rounds that can add their benefits to one clip worth of bullets for all four survivors. Explosive rounds do more damage and can stagger some enemies while incendiary round will catch anything shot by them on fire, which can also be spread by zombies bumping into one another.