The dead are back in town, this time itís New Orleans that has taken the brunt of the zombie infection, donít worry though because Valve has given us four new heroes to brave the zombie infestation and a whole host of seriously cool toys to battle these undead with in Left 4 Dead 2.Story
Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle are thrown together in this zombie apocalypse. Thereís no real story exposition in lavish cut-scenes or vignettes, Valve have placed their story into the character dialogue and the world itself, if you look closely enough at the walls and the environments youíll see hints as to the events that took place before the Big Z infestation. Over the 5 new campaigns itís about getting the heck out of Dodge without being turned into zombie chow.Gameplay
Right from the start, thereís that much new content here in the game and design that itís unfair to call 2 an expansion. This often feels like the game that Valve should have released in the first instance, yet without Left4Dead there would be no 2 and its many innovations in terms of gameplay and the highly effective AI-Director 2.0. I cannot stress just how much fun 2 is in terms of pure adrenaline soaked cooperative gameplay.
For those of you new to L4D well, go and play the first game right now...weíll wait...not long though. Ok, moving on.
2 brings a lot of innovations to the standard FPS gameplay of the first game, new to the sequel are 3 new infected subtypes, retooled standard infected and rebalanced/redesigned special infected including the Witch who no longer sits there and just cries, she can actually patrol now and she is a lethal force to be reckoned with. Additionally Valve have changed up the just-shoot it gameplay by adding melee weapons, a plethora of those run the gamut from the old-skool Freeman favourite, the crowbar to the more eclectic samurai sword, and the downright awesome frying pan, the noise alone was worth the wait, the star of the show is the chainsaw that allows you to relive moments from Army of Darkness.
There are three new special infected to change up the infected gameplay and they provide a cohesive cooperative challenge. The Spitter can throw a gob of noxious area-effect goo that inflicts heavy damage to anything in the area of effect. The Charger is a vicious melee combatant that comes out of nowhere at high speed, can snag a survivor and pummel them into the ground before the rest of the group can react to save them. The Jockey is a truly evil infected that can take control of a survivor and lead them off, usually into a puddle of Spitter goo or even other infected. Itís not uncommon to see the Spitter lay down a goo patch and have a Charger ram a survivor into it, whilst a Jockey comes along to ride another towards a massive group of infected or a Tank.
There are also new weapons to counter the infected with, a vast array of guns and additional components such as laser sights. There are also new ammo packs, you pick them up and then deploy them allowing the whole team to stock up on fire bullets and so on. Thereís even a way to bring back dead survivors as long as you have the defibrillator equipped in your inventory. Molotov cocktails make a welcome return along with pipe bombs and the newly added, boomer bile, contact goo that makes the zombies attack anything it touches. An Adrenaline shot can give you a much needed health boost and it also speeds up your reactions allowing you to avoid zombie attacks and so on, for a small amount of time.
Valve have also added newly expanded level design, daylight environments and they have made sure that balance changes from L4D found their way into 2. There are various game modes and a new Realism Mode that makes things even harder by removing the visual cues like lines around survivors so you canít see them through walls etc. It also ups the ante on the infected making even the normal infected extremely hard to put down, for those people who complained that L4D was too easy even on Expert.
Survival Mode returns from L4D and there are now 5 campaigns to plow through, some of these are much longer than others and they all have a pretty interesting finale.
Crescendo events are back, but tweaked so that you actually have to do something like turn off an alarm before youíre overwhelmed by hordes of undead. These are often not static defence sub-events either; they can be quite long, especially in Dark Carnival. Finale events are much improved and they offer a greater challenge since youíre often given a particular mission to accomplish, gas up a car so that you can make your escape for instance. This means youíll be collecting gas cans to fuel the vehicle up as increasingly harder waves of infected come-a-calliní.
With the upgraded special infected, new weapons, new items and new events, the gameplay stays true to the original but offers a greater and diverse degree of tactics, especially with the addition of melee. The AI Director 2.0 controls so much more now, not just zombie placement and mob events, it controls lighting, atmosphere, effects, music and more. In many areas it can create a random path through something like a graveyard ensuring that youíre never going to play the same kind of map route twice.
You can go it solo with 3 AI buddies, system link it up, play split-screen with a friend or jump onto Xbox-Live for some serious cooperative or adversarial fun.Graphics
With the daylight environments, L4D2 looks pretty decent, it doesnít seem to have the wow-factor of other titles but then again you donít actually spend all the time looking at the graphics, youíre too busy trying to survive against waves of lethal enemies from all directions in this sequel. The use of various spot effects and graphical tricks such as different filters and so on creates the most visceral zombie apocalypse this side of a George.A.Romero movie. L4D2 manages to create a chilling atmosphere of a zombie outbreak using an engine thatís showing a little age now, proving really just how good the Source Engine is in the hands of the developers.
The level of detail on the survivors and the infected is still rather good and it looks nice enough.