REVIEW: Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 Cover

(out of 5)
Xbox 360 / PC

Some people are going to hate me for this, but I don’t care. Left 4 Dead 1 had that awesome mix that landed it somewhere between casual and hardcore gaming. Left 4 Dead 2 can be just as addictive as the original, but there are some glaring issues when compared to the first. It feels like Valve listened to all the hardcore gamers verbatim and didn’t stop to think if any of the changes would actually be more fun.

First, let’s recount what I found annoying in the first game:

  • One zombie hit and you slow down to the speed of molasses. While the developer’s viewpoint is made and understood as to why, it was still incredibly annoying to get hit by one zombie that came out of nowhere pounding your backside, turn, kill, repeat five times.
  • Difficulty setting for Versus removed.
  • Tanks allowed on rescue vehicles in Versus.
  • Existing boomer bile disappears mid-air when the boomer is killed. That alone has ruined so many of my ambushes because bile is much slower than bullets.
  • The elevator glitch trick that could kill off a survivor. Kinda muted the whole “players can’t shove each other because griefers can use it to grief” mantra until it was fixed.
  • Limited special infected lot made some chapters monotonous. Some players would get stuck with the same special infected for several spawns.
  • No-return points could be unfairly used to kill off the back-most survivor with well-timed attacks from human players. It’s one thing if the team left the person far behind, but completely screwy because it works even with close-knit teams.
  • Computer AI is retarded, yet can snipe special infected out of foliage with a shotgun.
  • Xbox 360 version lacked the positive/negative action call-out sound effects and AI Instructor sound effects, making L4D1 seem more serious than it was meant to be taken.

Not too bad for a first try. So how does Left 4 Dead 2 improve?

  • One zombie hit still slows you to a crawl. The 1-1-1-ad nauseum attack pattern is in greater force.
  • Difficulty setting still gone from Versus.
  • Tanks allowed on rescue vehicles in ALL MODES, which means tanks can kill off up to three survivors because one of them got tied up and fell behind. While you can say it’s a penalty for not working as a team, almost EVERYONE who falls behind tells the rest of the team to go on without them because NO ONE wants to repeat the entire chapter over something like THAT.
  • Existing boomer bile still disappears mid-air when the boomer is killed
  • The glitch de jour this time has to do with the new forced-stumble. Switching between the primary and secondary weapons causes the stumble timer to reset. Players can (and have) used this to stumble across entire levels.
  • The additional three special infected not only round out and compliment the existing special infected’s arsenal, they make play-as-infected rounds much more interesting.
  • No-return points still exist.
  • AI is the same, except they don’t seem to foster the same level of intolerance for entering safe rooms as before.
  • Xbox 360 version has all the sound effects that the PC version has

Ugh, not good news. Only 2 out of 9 points improved upon.

It gets worse.

  • With the addition of melee weapons, the push-back timer available only in L4D1 Versus is now in all modes of play.
  • Developers intentionally starved survivors of ammo caches in favor of actual weapons to force survivors to switch between weapons. Good for forcing individual players out of their comfort zone. Bad for team play for the exact same reason.
  • Some devs got sad in their pants area that players never entered some spots in L4D1, so they use they AI Director to force different paths upon survivors, thus killing the fun for those of us that did explore.
  • The devs made a point to brag about tailoring conversations based on team and individual conditions in L4D1, yet the conversation on the elevator in the last chapter in Dead Center will come to an abrupt stop if Ellis, who comes up with the idea to gas up the show car in the mall, is dead. Same thing happens in Dark Carnival if Coach, the one who get the idea to use the Midnight Rider’s pyrotechnics to attract a rescue vehicle, is dead.
  • Some crescendo events keep spawning zombies long after the goal has been met.
  • Whoever thought the unending horde spawn at the end of chapter 4 of Dark Carnival was a good idea needs to be fired and then shot as he leaves the Valve facility so they can’t execute their retarded ideas for video games ever again.
  • Same goes for the guy who though two tanks would be a good idea for the end of Swamp Fever.
  • And the guy who thinks more blood is always good. Seriosusly, L4D1 might have been a bit short on the blood, but L4D2 goes way overboard with it.

Jeez, is there anything I do like about this game?

  • The more-open nature of the levels and (especially) the crescendo events make the game tenser.
  • Melee weapons are a great alternative to the inifni-push of L4D1. I just wish that the nudge to use melee weapons came from, oh, say, making push do no damage, instead of implementing a push fatigue timer.
  • Graphics are much improved. Due to the recentness of the outbreak in L4D2, we get to see partially unsaturated Caucasian and African-American zombies along with the light-gray and dark-gray zombies. We get to see limbs fly when pipe bombs and grenades hit their marks. We get to see blood detail on zombies before we attack them.
  • The new Scavenge and Realism modes mix things up enough to keep things interesting.
  • The huge increase in witches around the sugar mill was an awesome idea. Makes for some good stress relief on Easy and Normal.

In short, Valve took a game that could be picked up by a casual player and tuned most everything to cater to the hardcore gamer. So instead of having an awesome retake, we get an infuriating sequel with some minor good tweaks but a lot of bad turns.