Valve. Must I say more? It’s a company that revolutionized the way games are sold, made, and played. Valve is also known for its quality control, and how much passion and dedication are shown in each of its products. The Left 4 Dead series has been a testament to their passion. When Left 4 Dead 2 was announced, however, fans were less than pleased. This would be a first for Valve, releasing a sequel in such a time frame. Would all the new features, modes and weapons justify the price tag, or would it be just an expensive expansion?
Spoiler alert: This review may contain spoilers on plot, sequences, and missions. Note: This review uses Corsair Obsidian 700d, Corsair 750w Psu, Intel i7 930 @ 3.2 w/ cooler master v8, GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R, Gskill 6gigs, EVGA gtx 275 superclocked edition, system.
As soon as you boot up your first campaign with your fellow friends, you get this eerie feeling of false security. Here you are pitted against endless hordes of zombies with three of your comrades fully loaded. Everything should be fine, shouldn’t it?
The area is silent, faint screams echo in the distance. Morale low, ammo even lower, you begin your journey to safety. You feel secure knowing you have your comrades right behind you as you enter the motel parking lot. Suddenly screams shock you out of fatigue, eyes open, flashlight on, fresh mag in. Your aim focuses into the dark voids of the empty rooms. Music erupts, you scan the motel for any possible movement. Your back against the wall, you’re ready for anything. The once silent night has become restless. Doors are pounding, feet stomping, and the screams become unbearable. The unthinkable happens, the wall behind you breaks down and you’re suddenly surrounded. You’re face to face with dozens of zombies and your only reaction is to fire. Limbs flail around you, blood covers your screen and that’s when you hear the dreadful click… You signal for help, but your teammates are struggling to stay alive, scrambling to save your friend being pummeled to the ground. Then that’s when you hear it… the ground rumbles, the screams fade. All that you can hear is the low roar of something headed your way. You hit your voice chat key, and yell TAAANKK.
L4d2 is the story of four survivors that against all odds managed to survive, and are desperately trying to find safety. In each mission you learn a little bit more about each other and become closer to the other players; laughing at each character’s little monologue.
The Left 4 Dead series not only perfects the co-op experience, but makes it better by adding the element of surprise. Where Left 4 Dead adjusted when you would fight, Left 4 Dead 2 adds where you fight into the mix. The “AI director” changes level layouts based on the group’s skill, so each play-through becomes an unique experience. Left 4 Dead 2 took all the positives from L4d and expanded them to their own unique trait. By learning from previously implemented strategies, they invented new “special infected” to combat room camping and grouping. Talk about a company who listens to criticism and pays attention.
In L4d2 they add a plethora of weapons from a m60 to grenade launchers – they fill the void of what L4d should of had. Not only did they double the amount of rifles and pistols, they added melee weapons. Nothing puts a giant smirk on your face faster than when there’s a pack of zombies running towards you and your chainsaw’s revved up. It is then that you must decide whether you want to equip a pistol or melee weapon. Both have their pros and cons, but you always find yourself saying “dammit, I should have taken the pistol,” or “Why did I pass up that frying pan”? The balance and diversity of all the weapons is perfectly done, which gives all weapons their own unique trait that adds to the overall experience. A couple of examples of this are that the m16 inflicts light damage but has a high rate of fire, whereas the Scar’s burst does massive amounts of damage but is only ideal for mid to far range.
Another big change is the newly added special infected. This not only changes the dynamic of the game, but also changes how each situation is handled. The Charger is able to charge directly at a survivor and repeatedly bash them into the ground. The Jockey is able to jump on a survivor and direct where the survivor moves, while removing their health. Last but not least is The Spitter. She is able to shoot acid which inflicts massive amounts of damage if a survivor lingers too long in the “goo”. Some minor changes are new special uncommon infected such as mud men, bio hazard suit zombies and zombies with bullet proof vests.
I hate to say this, but there is no “single-player” experience per se. The game itself was made to have companions at your side. Yes there are AIs that control unused characters, but they are more of hindrance than anything else. The intensity of the game only increases as the difficulty increases, and at a certain difficulty the AIs become useless. I find my team either team killing the AI for ammo, or just killing them out of spite. However if you do prefer playing by yourself, you’re able to create a private game and just go at it. Lower difficulties are recommended because you will end up doing most of the work, if not all.
L4d2 uses the Source engine, which in my opinion is one of the best of its kind. It may not compare to Crytechs engine, but it is easy
enough for where people are allowed to make 3rd party modifications. L4d2 utilizes the best of what the source engine offers and pushes it to the max. Major changes are noticed when one throws a pipe bomb, and you can see the explosion unleash gore in all directions. It also allows there to be more than 30-50 zombies on screen at a time. L4d2 is a very polished game; the maps utilize the source engine to its fullest potential. To have completed this game within a year is a real testament to the Valve team as there are many changes to the game’s core and aesthetics.
The audio of L4d2 is just shy of phenomenal. The whole game revolves around sound and communication which plays into the overall mood in the game. Before you’re about to get rushed by a swarm of zombies, the music starts pumping and matches the exact emotions that are flowing through you. Valve utilizes sound to give player a false sense of control by alerting you that danger is imminent. Distant screams usually means there’s a hunter nearby, coughing indicates there’s a smoker. You hear a sinister laugh from the jockey, or the loud roar of a tank. What l4d2 does with sound is near a perfect experience, so be sure to raise up the volume and immerse yourself in “zombie land”.
The multiplayer experience is next to never ending. There are tons of modes that you’re able to play. With new Mutation modes being released monthly, the support that L4d2 offers is very high. One of the main multiplayer modes is Versus. In this mode both teams of four will switch off from being the infected and the survivors. The survivors go through the mission as if they were playing a campaign, however the other team controls the special infected. Games can end rather quickly if you happen to be against a well organized team, or can last up to 2+ hours. If you don’t happen to have 3 friends with the game you are able to make a public game where 3 randoms can join in, so you’re able to enjoy the more challenging difficulties or have fun pubbing. Same goes with all the other modes.
At the end of the day, L4d2 expanded greatly on the original and not only brings new content, but makes the old better. By adding new multiplayer modes, weapons, and special infected L4D2 is worth the full sticker price. There’s a lot of re-playability in just the campaign on its own, with five different campaigns with 5 levels each plus the bonus content. The multiplayer overall doubles the re-playability of the game with Mutation modes, Realism, Versus and Scavenge modes. L4d2 will keep your attention as long as you enjoy smashing a guitar over a zombies head.
- Very high re-playability with or without friends
- Has both a lobby system and dedicated servers
- More campaigns
- More weapons (guns,items,melee)
- Added Special and Uncommon infected
- Added effects (gore, explosions)
- Requires a a good graphics card to run optimally and enjoyably (NVidia 7600 /ATI X1600)
- In multiplayer players can vote to kick newer players for a better team