Left 4 Dead 2
Release Date: Nov 17, 2009
Pros: Campaigns are longer and more open, Great replay value, New weapons and infected fit nicely, One-liners provided by the cast are very entertaining, Realism and Expert mode prove to be a challenge worthy of bragging rights
Cons: Occasional Laggy Server, Friendly AI remains just as useless while enemy AI has increased
The first Left 4 Dead was an experience all its own. Never before had a game captured the zombie apocalypse with co-op gameplay so well. Valve announced that almost 3 million copies of the game had been sold, showing the success a simple mod could have on the gaming industry. Despite the boycotts and disagreement upon a release one year after its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 takes what the first game offered and improves upon the formula.
The music in the game fits each campaign you are playing through perfectly. The typical Left 4 Dead theme from the first game is played in each level, but depending on the level you are playing on, the style will change. Playing through Dead Carnival stage will loop music fitting of that which you would hear at a circus tied to the classic "horde theme". It provides an entertaining, yet frightening score that intensifies the moment. The classic tank music is cued up upon its entry each time as well, sending the entire party running for their lives. There is also the occasional jukebox that you stumble upon to choose various tracks from while you blast away zombies. The highlight being "Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton, singing about a friend who is a zombie asking for his buddy to let him in to eat him. Its the same guy who brought us "Still Alive' from Portal, so generally its a favorite to play.
Time has been taken for each campaign setting in detailing a truly vibrant and colorful environment. From the bright streets to murky swamps, each level has an incredibly polished look to it. The grain filter overlaying the game only amplifies the detail. This time around there are more well-lit stages that are not completely hidden in the dark, showing off more textures than the previous installment.
Gameplay is split into different types: Campaign/Versus, Scavenge, Realism, and Survival
The campaigns this time around are much longer and much more detailed than the previous installment. There are five campaigns to choose from: Dead Center, Dark Carnival, Swamp Fever, Hard Rain, and The Parish. Each one of these consists of about 4-5 "stages" that the survivors must navigate. The object is to get from one safehouse to the other while surviving numerous encounters with zombies and special Infected. Try and run off and do this by yourself, and you quickly learn how much cooperation is needed.
The new Infected are a nice addition to breaking the party up. The infamous corner hiding strategy is completely gone with the appearance of The Spitter, who spits pools of acid that will scatter the party members. The Charger can also bring one party member from one side of an open area to the other, pummeling them into the ground. The Jockey proves the most elusive, with a small size he is much harder to hit and can easily grab a Survivor and steer them away from the group. Combined with the reappearance of the other Infected, there are numerous strategies that can now be considered. Coordination is key, and nothing is more satisfying than when a plan all melds together as the Survivors are pulled away one by one.
My only complaint about the Campaign lies in the AI. While the AI Director is smarter than ever, the bots that you get stuck with are not. They still will not use any explosive items (pipebombs, molotovs) and are slow to rescue you if incapacitated. Though their accuracy is as godlike as ever, they prove more useless than a noob player. Needless to say, if you plan on playing this offline, prepare for some frustrating moments.
The mode proves as enjoyable as versus, requiring coordination and strategy to gather the most cans. If a can lays on the ground too long and spitter can actually ignite it with her acid, and she can also ruin your chance to pour your gas can in by spitting right at the generator. Survivors must decide how they will move, all in one group or split into two groups? Each move you make is risky, and with the clock ticking it keeps you moving non-stop. Different maps require different strategies. The Dark Carnival map is flat and must be navigated all together, but eh Dead Center has multiple stories, allowing one group to gather gas cans and toss them down to another group to fill the generator.
Survival also makes a return, giving you a large amount of items to hole up in a section of each campaign. A timer ticks by counting up how long you can survive for and awards medals if you make it past a certain time. It's not a very rewarding experience and feels sort of tacked on, but fun to play around with nonetheless.
Left 4 Dead 2 provides a sequel worthy of any gamer's time. The slew of new features have made the game feel like a different experience than the first. The epic campaigns are so enjoyable, that even with only five of them you will play them over and over for those parts you truly enjoyed. With a slew of achievements, and some incredibly difficult segments to conquer, the game provides an enjoyable challenge. With DLC already being hinted at, this will be a game to add to your wish list for the holidays.