Review: ‘Left 4 Dead 2’
What is it about zombies that everybody loves? Whether in movies, TV shows, comics, or even music, zombies are a part of our lives (or for some…after lives). From the slow walking, shambling undead to the fast running, hungry aggressive “infected”, zombies are the go-to villain for horror stories and games…but none have done it so well as Left 4 Dead. Last year’s multiplayer epic has returned (just like a zombie) for more in this sequel, and it has brought along more than enough friends.
While most gamers will be getting their shooter kicks from [[[Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]] this holiday, I’ll be spending all of my time doing what I love…bashing zombies in the face, or blowing their heads off with high powered weaponry. Find out how to surive the apocalypse below…
Left 4 Dead 2, like its predecessor, has 4 players teaming up cooperatively across various maps and settings in order to escape the oncoming hordes of undead that plague the lands. In this title, we join 4 new protagonists, different from the previous game. While gameplay won’t really change depending on who you play as, gamers will still have their favorites based on personalities, and these characters have a lot to spare, with great dialogue and off-side remarks to break the tension of a world gone mad. Of course, gameplay with these four is dependent on your ability to work and stick together as a team, as running off will only serve to have you killed.
Along the way, you’ll not only gain weapons like an AK-47 or powerful Shotgun, but upgrades for these as well. Scopes add accuracy while incendiary amunition puts a little fire in the belly of your attacking beasts. Best of all, there are new melee weapons as well. The satisfying “twang” of a guitar as you decapitate a zombie with it is one thing, but I can finally live out my “Shaun of the Dead” fantasies by pelting palefaces with the cricket bat. Awesome.
Health aids have changed a bit as well. You have your standard health packs and pain pills, but joining the mix are new adrenaline shots and defibrillator kits. Adrenaline will make your character’s reflexes faster, speeding up their response time as well as their ability to run. Here you move faster and attack a bit stronger with melee weapons, but the ability doesn’t last very long. Defibrillator kits are neat in that if a partner is killed, you have a limited window to bring them back from death’s door, adding a touch more realisim to the games feel.
Gamers will travel across 5 different campaigns, from Georgia to New Orleans in hopes of finding other survivors, as well as trying to outrun death’s cold hand. Along the way they’ll encounter “special infected”: zombies that are a bit stronger than your run-of-the-mill dead dude. Joining the four originals from the first game (Boomer, Hunter, Smoker, and Tank) you have the Jockey, which latches itself on your back and tries to drive you into the hordes, the Spitter, whose acidic spray disables you (and calls forth more brain-munchers) and the Charger who bowls through the group, knocking you about and generally trying to beat your brains in…all the better to eat with a straw, I suppose.
Joining them, however, are level-specific “uncommon” infected. These are baddies that are basically normal zombies, but what they were BEFORE they died has caused them to be more of a hassle in the after life. The hazmat suit zombies were just guys trying to quel the infection when they too became a part of it. Now, the very suits that were to keep them safe from infection serve to stop them from being burned by fire. Clowns are another breed, and at the carnvial their squeeking noses and shoes help them lead the horde to you like some twisted pied piper. These are just two examples of the variety L4D2 throws at you, and a great addition to the mass of zombies you already have to deal with evey step of the way.
As I said, gameplay is built around multiplayer, with you joining three friends to take on the zombie threat. Returning for the sequel is Versus mode, where one group of 4 gamers play as the survivors, while 4 other take on the roles of the special infected and try to stop them from reaching the end of the level. If this is just too “routine” for you, a few new modes are available as well. From the time-based Survival mode, which tasks you with outlasting wave after wave of undead, to the new Scavenge mode, in which survivors must collect items to power up generators or the like while fending off infected baddies, there’s a lot more to do in the sequel. Rounding out everything is the hardcore zombie-lovers dream mode, Realistic. Here, fellow survivors are no longer outlined with a highlighted color for ease of getting back to the group. If you get separated, you must find them without the aid of pop-up arrows or guides. Likewise, all ammo and power-ups in the levels are not highlighted either, and are much more sparce through the land. Finally, and what makes this mode all-important, is the way you must kill the zombies. Headshots are a must here, as the infected only go down as intended, “By removing the head, or destroying the brain”. Coupling this mode with the “expert” difficulty, and consider yourself ready for the zombie apocalypse.
With each set peice in the game, the difficulty to reach the safehouse or finale of the level is amped up almost tenfold fromthe original game. Zombies here are more relentless, and the variety of the end-chapter finales have changed from just “signal the rescue, outlast the hordes til it arrives”. In the games first campaign, Dead Center, there IS no rescue coming. Instead, you must gather fuel to gas up a stock car inside a mall to drive to freedom. Changing up how each chapter ends puts a new spin on the survival aspects ofthe series, and is one of the coolest moments in the game. What makes it work well is working with the other players to reach the same goal.
Whether you’re fighting for survival, or fighting against the survivors, L4D2 is one of the best multiplayer experiences out there. Awesome graphics, great characters, and an AI “Director 2.0” that ensures the hordes never attack or respond the same way twice means the end of civilization will never be more fun than this. For those that want a rating, between Skip It, Rent It or Buy It, I give L4D2:
Ian Bonds is a comedian and video game retailer from Baltimore, MD, who has an uncanny resemblance to “Shaun of the Dead” actor Simon Pegg. When he met him, dressed as Shaun, he told Simon that the picture he was about to take with him was for a paternity test, which is why, if you ever see it, Simon is shaking his fist at the camera. This is a true story.