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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Valve Software / EA

 

Developer

Valve Software

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

November 17, 2009

 

 

- Heightened teamwork

- Constantly evolving strategies

- Six modes of play

- Story design

- Melee weapons and other new tools

 

 

- A lot harder than the original

 

 

Review: Left 4 Dead (360)

Review: Plants vs. Zombies (PC)

Review: Trine (PC)

 

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Left 4 Dead 2

Score: 10 / 10

 

left 4 dead 2          left 4 dead 2

 

I can't count the number of hours I spent enjoying the original Left 4 Dead and after having fun with many hours of Left 4 Dead 2, I can tell that it's going to be my standby game in the coming months for when I don't know what I really want to play.
 

Nearly everything about Left 4 Dead has been improved, so by typical Internet logic I should be slapping Left 4 Dead 2 with an 11 out of 10. (A revisionist review of the original is best left for another time.) From the changes in weather and time of day to the character banter; from the new Special Infected to the improved graphics; from the way the lengthy levels change slightly to the heightened level of teamwork

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necessary for success. And the fragments of story, pieced together by the government warning posters and scrawled messages on safe room walls, is icing on the cake. I'm sure Valve will find a way, but I'm not sure how they can top this effort.

 

I lauded praise on the original for the way it forced players to stay together; there was no going it alone.  The

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sequel makes this aspect even stronger with the inclusion of two new special infected -- the Jockey and the Charger -- which specialize in breaking up groups. The Charger can temporarily stun an entire team, grab one of the Survivors on the way through, then pound them into the ground repeatedly. In the resulting confusion, having a Jockey grab one of the other Survivors and riding him off into the sunset fragments the group even further.

 

However, sticking together does not mean huddling in one spot and slowly working across the map. This camping (or "slugging" across a map, as I like to call it) does not work thanks to the last of the new Special Infected: The Spitter. The Spitter's special attack is horking a glob of acid so if there's any camping going on, a single well-placed spit will get the campers moving.

 

left 4 dead 2          left 4 dead 2

 

Players still have to contend with the leaping Hunter, blob-like Boomer (male and female), the long-tongued Smoker, and the endless stream of zombies (which makes a lot of sense considering the setting of a once heavily populated area).

 

While I tend to play the Campaign and Versus modes almost exclusively, I've dabbled with Survivor and Scavenge mode, which are much more contained and very arena-like. The competition is extremely fierce and if you're not pulling your weight, your teammates will let you you know. Loudly and with profanity.

 

I would describe Scavenge Mode as a kind of roving capture the flag. In these arenas, playing as the Survivors, you have to grab gas cans and return them to a central point to refuel a generator or car. As usual, the objective of the Infected is to take down the Survivors.

 

But Left 4 Dead 2's pièce de résistance for the hardest of the hardcore is Realism mode. Honestly, I haven't been brave enough to try it and might never be brave enough to give it a go. Realism removes the helpful silhouettes of the Survivors, makes zombie headshots a necessity, and dead Survivors don't respawn and they can't be revived with the new defibrillator unit. To me, this is a kind of crazy that would only frustrate me, though it does shove teamwork in your face, which is something Left 4 Dead 2 excels at. I've read some pretty "horrible" stories online about players tackling Realism so I'm not sure I want to join that particular group of broken people.

 

left 4 dead 2          left 4 dead 2

 

One of the things I keep thinking about is just how much harder Left 4 Dead 2 is compared to the original, even on Normal setting.  The five "movie" Campaigns, hung loosely together, are much more varied in setting and tone than the original, but it is consistently more difficult. There's one setup close to the end of Dark Carnival ("You must be this tall to DIE!") that continually downed my entire group four or five times before we "figured it out." It basically amounted to running down a narrow pathway with the chainsaw held out in front and hoping for the best. The flow of regular zombies is unending, nevermind Special Infected.  For example, a Charger appeared further up the pathway. It promptly ran over the entire team and grabbed hick Ellis. The distraction was just long enough for a Hunter to land on Rochelle. Pretty much game over at that point.

 

The AI Director handling it all this is a devious son of a bitch. Just when you think, "Hey we might make it!" the music swells and you're facing a Tank. Or two. Never think that you can let your guard down, even on normal. And for crying out loud, play with other people!  While playing offline with only the AI-controlled Survivors to back you up is absolutely possible, Left 4 Dead 2 needs to be played with live people.

 

In only a couple of weeks, I've had many of the best gaming moments of 2009. When the storms kick up on Hard Rain making it really easy to startle a wandering Witch, escaping the mall in Dead Center, running around a rollercoaster track in Dark Carnival, running a gauntlet of abandoned vehicles across the bridge in The Parish, reviving a dead Survivor in Swamp Fever as a Tank could be heard somewhere behind me and managing to down the Tank with the guy I just saved. Even just writing about it makes me want to jump in and play some more.

 

- Aaron Simmer

(December 4, 2009)

 

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