The zombie hordes return as Valve hand us their next instalment of the Left 4 Dead series.
Last year Left 4 Dead arrived on the gaming scene giving everyone a taste of the two sided fight for life and death that is Left 4 Dead, it was incredibly popular with great previews and reviews, also the aftermath of tournaments and competitions online kept everyone excited about it after its release, but will Valves much anticipated sequel quench that urge for brains again?
For those who are not familiar with Left 4 Dead campaign, the aim of the game is for you and your three other team mates to survive various challenges and hordes of zombies to get to the safe point at the end of the level, obviously there is more to the game than that but that basically is your goal. You start with four brand new characters, Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle, there aren’t any differences between these characters so it doesn’t really matter who you pick, there aren’t many improvements to characters apart from some better dialogue shorts when you fight zombies, which isn’t a bad thing the formula of the game works very well but maybe a little customisation where the characters are concerned as it would be nice to add your own personalising touches to your chosen player as they do seem hollow.
Your character will have four item slots controlled using the D-pad, these slots are very important as they hold everything you will need to help fight the hordes. Your starting equipment will consist of a mêlée weapon and a flash light, weapons are cycled through using the Y button but you’re only allowed one mêlée/pistol and one primary weapon, so choose carefully. You can also pick up medic-packs to heal you or your buddies, you can pick up pain pills too which will give you a temporary health boost, items you can pick up will glow blue making them easier to see in the dark. There’s projectile weapons to be found scattered around the levels and these are great when things get very hectic and can help you create strategies to overcome challenges. The rest of the HUD is easily seen and understood so when things get chaotic you can still see health bars and equipment, Valve really have made a game that is accessible to a lot of people because of simple yet effective design.
The chapters are themed much better and levels are more interesting this time around, almost are like walking around on a zombie film set. The campaign Dark Carnival is one of my favourites, the dark damp look with vicious zombie clowns just adds so much suspense, and I have jumped once or twice unexpectedly. The objectives in levels however are a little disappointing, there too straight forward it’s just the zombies that make it hard, more of a stronger puzzle element would have been welcome. The campaigns are a little longer than before but they still don’t seem long enough, I did get through the Normal campaign rather quickly even though the game is tricky at Normal difficulty which is why the other modes are very welcome, there almost better than the campaign its-self.
This time around you’re given a good selection of modes to hack your way through from a hardcore campaign mode called Realism, to battling constant waves of enemies in the Survival mode which seems to be the in thing at the moment with some of the bigger developers. There’s some cleverly thought out game modes aswell as the more familiar ones, Scavenge mode is an example of this creative but subtle thinking from Valve, it gets you to communicate and work better with the people you’re playing with in an exciting zombie killing manner. The aim of the Scavenge mode is for the four survivors to grab as many fuel canisters while the other four infected try to stop them, simple yes but different and very enjoyable to play with friends. The way you find games online is unique and effective on L4D2, the search results for lobby’s are set out differently to other online menu systems that I’ve seen, having the maps as the category’s means you can easily see the games being hosted on that particular map by selecting the map, no long lists of rooms to scroll through making it a lot easier to navigate online if you’re not playing with friends and especially for people who aren’t totally familiar with online multiplayer side of gaming.
The Survival mode offers a bit more customization in the way of group strategies and is a great way of getting to know the areas you fight in and utilizing it to the best you can, the point is to survive as long as you can, there will be no rescue. You must survive to the maximum allotted time if you want the gold medal and to do this you must really work hard as a group, if you let another team mate die their time stops there giving you a different incentive to help your friends more urgently when in trouble. If you and your friends are still looking for more of a challenge other than the Versus mode then the Realism mode is even more addictively anal, common infected are even harder to kill making headshots a must to save ammo, you must also proceed to the end of the chapter like in campaign but it takes a lot longer to inch your way through the levels and to conserve ammo and health giving you a more raw exciting experience.
These modes are hard, time consuming and challenging, there also thought out well and help direct play in unique and familiar ways for you and your friends. These modes are basically impossible on your own which is a big shame as not everyone plays online all the time and the choice should be there for you, but L4D2 is made for co-op and multiplayer and fails badly to give you the same feeling on your own, the game does depend on your input.
Versus mode can offer some great hours of play with a good variety of characters to pick including the infected. You can take control of an infected if you are on the right team and use their gruesome attacks yourself, this is a lot of fun as the infected ability’s are a great change from firing weapons. Most of the maps work well with Versus mode apart from the smaller maps, they seem to just create chaos especially with common infected running around, the survivors side is equally enjoyable with the array of weapons and equipment you can have, balancing the two teams.
Overall it’s not the best sequel I’ve played, it offers a lot of the same with some minor game-play changes and new modes and as I played the first L4D a lot L4D2 was harder for me to stay involved with as it’s exactly the same and the some excitement wore off prematurely. As games go its polished and unique making you work harder with friends to overcome the horde threats and improve your skills in a very enjoyable way, but I can’t help feel this is what the first title should have been like and with the second title we should have seen some great progression in the series which is a little disappointing, otherwise it’s still a game to adore if you love the zombie game genre.
Gamer Rating: 8.8