Friday, January 8, 2010

Zombie Brians with Grits and Sweet Tea

Game: Left 4 Dead 2

System: Xbox 360 & PC

Release: November 2009

Left 4 Dead was a nice change of pace for the FPS genre. It introduced a frantically fun experience centered on four player co-op. Players were even allowed the opportunity to take on the role of a zombie (aka infected) in a revolutionary versus mode. In short L4D was an awesome unique experience that any fan of zombies or first person shooters could appreciate. Check out my previous review for more details about the first game.

When Valve announced a sequel many fans became angry and went to their ultimate source of venting—the internet. Some even went so far as to start/organize a boycott. I don’t agree with the boycott on principle, but I do understand where the hate is coming from. L4D was light on content, and many believed Valve would continue to release new DLC packs. This wasn’t some imaginary assumption made by a nerd in some basement back east. No. This was what Valve stated, and many (including myself) felt ripped off. This feeling was intensified for console gamers, which lacks the supportive community found on the PC. In hind sight, I should not have purchased L4D and saved my money for the complete experience that is L4D2.

The sequel has everything the original had and more. New weapons, characters, maps, enemies, and equipment create a similar yet different experience. The most obvious difference for weapons is the inclusion of melee. Wield everything from an electric guitar to a katana, and slice n’ dice your way to safety. This new feature is ridiculously fun adding an extra layer of combat to the already solid formula. Guns have also seen an improvement with both selection and performance. The same types—shotgun, smg, assault rifle, hunting rifle, and pistol—exist throughout the game, but there is a greater variety. Pistols, for example, include the traditional 9mm along with the new magnum. Assault rifles include AK47, a three round burst rifle, and the old school M16. The final addition to weapons is special ammo. Incendiary and frag bullets add some extra punch to help players survive this zombie apocalypse. Speaking of survivors, there are four new characters to choose from. Just like the first game, each character fulfils a stereotype. There is little to no developed back story. The only window into their personalities is the various one liners stated throughout the game. At first I was sad not to see the original cast, but they simply didn’t fit the setting. The game takes place in the southern United States and including characters from that region helps develop the atmosphere. Another aspect that improves the immersion factor is continuality between campaigns. The first game had four separate stories with no connection between them other then the characters. The sequel denotes a steady progression from Savannah to New Orleans. Each opening connects to the previous campaign events to their current situation. This seems very small on paper, but is vital to creating an engaging believable world.

The South seems to have had a peculiar effect on the infected. They’ve evolved again into three new types: Charger, Jockey, and Spitter. The first infected mentioned should be pretty self explanatory. Chargers charge grabbing one survivor to pummel while knocking the rest back like bowling pins. Jockey’s are the little brother of hunters. They leap onto survivors, but instead of pinning them, they take control of their movements. This is quite deadly especially near ledges and witches. The final new infected is also self describing. Spitters spit a coercive green goop that spreads across the ground on contact. Killing the Spitter will result in a smaller pool of acid spilling from the corpse. All three new infected throw any L4D vet a curve ball, and really supports the idea of a true sequel. For fans of the first game don’t fret. The original infected squad is still present. Players simply get more zombie action with the sequel.

L4D2—and no that’s not an older model of R2D2—include new game modes like Survival, Scavenge, and Realism. Survival was seen in the DLC content of the first game, but was absent from my previous review. Like Halo: ODST’s firefight, or Gears of Wars horde mode, players will face infinite waves of zombies. The game ends when all the survivors are dead. Scavenge takes the first campaigns finally and turns into a separate game type. Like versus mode, players group up into two teams—infected and survivors. The later attempts to collect gas cans for a get away vehicle while the former attempts to eat their brains. This mode is short yet sweet, and allows players to get the versus experience without going through an hour plus campaign. The final new mode is Realism. This limits the games HUD, decreases body damage against infected, and players use the new defibrillator to revive teammates. This mode can be played on any difficulty, and adds a bit of variety to a repetitious game.

Even if you doubted Valve’s ability to make a genuine sequel, and not an over budget expansion pack, you should give Left 4 Dead 2 a chance. The major changes listed above are just the tip of the ice berg. Many smaller features like improved death animations for infected, day time events, and weather effects are akin to frosting on a cake—it makes a good thing that much better. If you are lucky enough to have a choice, then pick this game up for PC. It will be cheaper, and have more support from the community and developers then the Xbox 360. Regardless, any gamer who enjoyed the original will love the sequel. Snerts Snazzy Score grants this title a reputable 4.8 out of 5. Just like their advertisements say L4D2 has, “New Friends. More Zombies. Better Apocalypse.”

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