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Left 4 Dead 2 Review: Zombie Apocalypse, Cajun Style


So I’ve had a week to chew on Left 4 Dead 2 now, and I have to say that just like last year, Valve has managed to combine zombies, fps action, and co-op gameplay into what has easily been my favorite multiplayer experience of the year.  L4D2 has you following a new set of survivors (man I hope Zoey survived.)  South of the Mason-Dixon, they attempt to find their way out of a Dixie that’s suddenly become infested by IQ-challenged cannibals.  Like the first game, co-op is the core value of L4D2 as the four survivors must work together to survive long enough to reach the end of each successive chapter.

The meat of a game like L4D2 is the horde of bloodthirsty dead people just aching for a taste of your still-breathing human tenderloins, and even the most die-hard zombie fanatics will not be disappointed.  The “common” zombie population has changed to match the new southern setting, so you’ll quickly get used to being rushed by one armed, bloody girls in daisy dukes, and jawless, braindead cajuns.  On top of that, each campaign has its own special “uncommon” zombie.  These are basically setting-appropriate twists on the common zombie that have powers and defenses beyond the rest of the common zombie hordes.  Haz-mat suited zombies are immune to fire, zombified SWAT officers are bulletproof from the front, and mud men come scampering out of the bayou on all fours.

On top of those new baddies, and the tanks, boomers, hunters, smokers, and witches that return from the first game (with new, prettier models) come three new breeds of boss zombie, all designed to negate the strategies Valve noticed players using in the first game.  Spitters attack from range with a burning phlegm that turns the spot that it lands on into a burning death trap.  Jockeys are sadistic midgets that pounce onto the backs of unwary survivors and ride them toward whatever greater danger happens to be waiting nearby.  The charger, most brutal of the new breeds, acts as a sort of mini-tank, charging into groups of survivors and beating the hell out of whichever player is unlucky enough to be grappled.  All of these new zombie types deepen the experience, creating new strategies to consider when playing as both survivor and infected.

But, what fun is a horde of zombies without an armory worth of high powered weaponry to re-kill them with?  In the original game, there were two simple tiers of weaponry made up of standard assault rifle/shotgun/sniper fare accompanied by dual wielded pistols.  L4D2 steps up the weapon selection in a big way, with more rifles, more shotguns, more sniper rifles, special ammo types, and an all new selection of melee weapons.  There’s even a shiny new magnum pistol, a single shot Terminator 2 style grenade launcher, and a brand new grenade slot weapon that’ll be much funnier if I let you see it first with your own eyes.  Let’s just say that it encourages the zombies to fight amongst themselves.  There are even a couple new recovery items thrown into the mix.  The first aid kits and pain pills from the first game are now complimented by defibrillator paddles that let you revive a teammate that’d otherwise be perma-dead, and a shot of adrenaline that temporarily boosts your run speed, and shortens the time it takes to perform actions like healing yourself and reviving downed companions.  This myriad of new equipment options allows a team of survivor players to diversify their arsenal in a way that simply didn’t exist in the first game, adding a whole new strategic element to the experience.

It’s clear right away that the developers at Valve didn’t miss any of the important lessons that the gaming public’s experiences with Left 4 Dead had to teach them.  The biggest gripe people had about Left 4 Dead was the relatively paltry time required to complete a playthrough of the game’s provided levels.  Obviously, this was a bit of a fallacy given that it was designed as a replayable co-op experience.  The second game’s still short in terms of a single play through, but the deepened inventory system, expanded zombie roster, and more open ended level design, combined with the new salvage and realism game modes all add up to much heftier experience than the first game was.

Compared to its predecessor, L4D2 provides a much deeper experience without becoming overcomplicated or bogging down the twitchy action.  All the controversy over the suspiciously short time between this game and its predecessor aside, it really is a big step forward in many respects, for a series that I’m now certain will be spawning entertaining sequels for the next decade at least.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Elle permalink
    11/30/2009 7:32 am

    I’m intrigued…especially by the sadistic midget jockeys.

    I’d probably be a horrible player, and would likely have nightmares about slutty Jessica-Simpson-as-Daisy-Duke-zombies…but I’d settle for watching some undead killing. Maybe pick up a few strategies for my zombie survival plan.

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