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Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Left 4 Dead 2 pack shot
Developer:Valve Software
Publisher:Valve / EA
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.l4d.com/
Release Date:November 20th, 2009 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

"Shoot the Jockey, shoot it, shoot it, it's on my head, SHOOT IT, SHOOT IT! HELP!" This is the standard conversation you'll find yourself having when you play Left 4 Dead 2 online, shortly followed by cries of "I'm down, just leave me and run", as your four-strong team of apocalypse survivors flee over rooftops to escape the zombie hordes chasing you down. In short, it's fun - never has the end of the world been so enjoyable.

While the first Left 4 Dead was a great game, its successor ups the play in every single way. There's more campaigns, more enemies, more weapons, more climax events and more of the frenzied teamwork Valve does so well, it's the complete package, eclipsing the success of its predecessor in every way.

First off, there are five campaigns, all of which are longer and more exciting than the first game's four.

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Dead Centre is a blast through the remains of shopping mall. Swamp Fever is a battle with mutated mudmen in the swamps of the south. The Parish is a slog through the suburbs, as jazz music plays in the background amid the zombies' moans. Hard Rain is a battle through a storm to collect fuel, with rain drenching your survivors in torrents of muddy water, and finally Dark Carnival is a brilliant campaign set in an amusement park, which provides some odd contrasts between the zombies and the cheery merry-go-round music.

The zombie roster has also been updated. As well at the Smoker, Hunter, Boomer, Tank (who is still tough to kill) and Witch, there's now the Spitter- whose acidic spit is deadly, the Charger- who can send survivors flying and pummel one survivor into the ground, and the Jockey- who clambers on to survivors and can steer them off high ledges and into flames, all while cackling like a madman.

The Witches also now wander around during the daylight campaigns- and much hilarity ensues.

Gameplay-wise the game is largely unchanged from left 4 Dead. The characters have to work together to reach safe room after safe room, before fighting off wave after wave of enemies and escaping on a vehicle of some kind.

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The survivors can still only carry two weapons- one main weapon and one sidearm or, as a new inclusion to the series, a melee weapon.

The melee weapons themselves range from a fire axe to a machete, baseball bat, Shawn of the Dead-style cricket bat, frying pan (with satisfying 'donnnnng' sound effect) and even a chainsaw, which is brilliant for the climax moment when the horde of zombies is closing in.

Throwable weapons are also more varied. While pipe bombs and Molotov's are still in abundance, a jar of Boomer bile has been added to the mix - useful for distracting zombies, especially if it's thrown on a tank.

There are also boxes of fragmentation and fire ammo, which can be shared amongst the four, but they are sparse and so should be used carefully.

More rifles and shotguns have also been added, ranging from the powerful AK-47 to an automatic sniper rifle and a combat shotgun with surprising power but a small magazine - a fact I discovered when facing off against one of the 'uncommon common' infected- a hideous clown in Dark Carnival.

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The 'uncommon common' is a new breed of zombie which appears in certain campaigns. In Dark Carnival the clown (obviously having a bad day at work) attracts zombies to it with its squeaky shoes and giggles.

In Swamp Fever the 'mudmen' - bearing a surprising resemblance to a bad 60's B movie monster - rise from the swamp to grab at your ankles, and in The Parish armoured riot cops shrug off bullets fired at them, but are not immune to a katana thrust to the back of the head. Though these specials are unplayable, they add a brilliant variety to each campaign, forcing the survivors to work together to counter each enemy with a new strategy.

The previous game's versus and survival mode also make a welcome return, but the true star of the show is the newly-added 'scavenge' mode, which pits survivors against human-controlled specials and NPC zombies in a race to acquire as much petrol from cans spread across the map as possible, before the timer runs out, or all the survivors are dead.

It's a brilliant addition, and especially useful for those who tire of playing versus mode, only to have to restart thanks to 'rage quitters' unable to accept defeat.

Scavenge mode has a much faster pace, with players swapping sides every five minutes or so, rather than every 20.

Graphically the game is not a huge improvement on Left 4 Dead, but the texturing is sharper, there is more detail in the campaign's many streets and bloated bodies and the hit-detection on the zombies is much more accurate- shoot a zombie in the arm and it will go flipping off into the distance (and don't get me started on the blood spray from the chainsaw).

The Survivors themselves also seem a little more three-dimensional. While there is very little backstory, the four all have good voice actors and their Southern American drawl doesn't become as annoying as you would think. I can't deny, however, that I preferred the old group, if just for crotchety old Bill and the ever-useless bullet magnet Francis.

Summary

Left 4 Dead 2 is more than a worthy successor to Left 4 Dead, improving the game in just about every way. With more missions, modes, weapons, zombies and climax events (including one on the stage of a massive rock concert), there's a lot to like here, and the multiplayer gameplay is as sharp and as fun as ever. Get four friends together, boot up Dark Carnival and dive in, you will not be disappointed - especially as the revamped AI Director now changes the route you have to travel every time, so it never plays the same way twice.

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • More missions, weapons, zombies et al
  • Great new 'scavenge' mode
  • More multiplayer brilliance

Not so good stuff

  • Rage quitting still an issue in versus
  • Multiplayer can be very, very laggy


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