Left 4 Dead 2 Review
Zombies are big business these days. Woody Harrelson is fighting with them, everyone seems to be convinced that they are the just-over-the-horizon harbingers of the end of the world, even Mel Brooks' son is making a career out of explaining how to survive the coming onslaught of shuffling, mindless, brain-hungry animated corpses. But gamers have been battling zombies for far longer, much before the mainstream picked them up as the villain du jour. When the Resident Evil series turned its focus from the undead to foreign lands and infected villages, it took a few years before a new zombie game benchmark came along. 2008's Left 4 Dead filled the hole rather nicely, but with a totally different style of gameplay from the tank controls and mind-deficient zombies of yore. Valve's multiplayer-only (yes, you could – and can – play the game single player, but few actually do), frantic FPS plopped you and three buddies into a world overflowing with "fast" zombies, the undead who have traded their trademark stumble for top speed sprints at anything that looks delicious. The Xbox 360 exclusive was a huge hit and built an insane online community of dedicated zombie hunters. Its no surprise that a sequel followed, and Left 4 Dead 2 repeats all the first game's successes with the same sense of style and humor, while also fixing the first game's major faults. Left 4 Dead 2 isn't the game of the year, but it is what fans of the first will love and what it does, it does very well.
If you are new to the series, there is thankfully very little to explain. Going in to the first game or this sequel, all you really need to know is this is a team-based FPS where four players must utilize their character's strengths – and a ton of weaponry – to get the group from Point A to Point B in one piece. The series can't however, be played as you would a normal FPS, multiplayer or otherwise. In games like Modern Warfare 2, Halo or the PS3's Resistance series, you clear an area before moving on to face the next wave of bad guys. Not in Left 4 Dead; you must constantly be on the move and on guard from all sides – these zombies never stop coming at you and will attack constantly from every angle. This makes the gameplay much more hectic than your average FPS, and sometimes running is your last and best option. It can be difficult to get used to if you're a standard style FPS fan, but it is easy to learn and tough to discredit once you get the hang of things.
This sequel follows and entirely new foursome as they battle across the Deep South in search of a safe haven. The largely forgettable cast of the first Left 4 Dead has been replaced with four new, much more fleshed out characters, and when added to a clearer story than found in the first game, it makes for an experience that is memorable for more than just intense gameplay. Valve also took a cue from the Call of Duty games by adding in more setpiece moments, which makes the campaign, rather than some of the other non-story modes, a must play. And yes, the online co-op is available for all modes right off the bat, unlike the first game's mysterious limits on out-of-the-box multiplayer.