Review by Raistlyn

Reviewed: 01/05/10

We're going to need more zombies...

Some say Left 4 Dead 2 is more of the same. Some say it's so much more. It might depend on how you liked the first game. If you disliked the first game, this one probably won't change your mind. But if you liked the first game, this one will really capture your attention.

So if you were pleased with the first Left 4 Dead, then Left 4 Dead 2 will breathe new life into basically the same game. However, if you're new to the Left 4 Dead games...well, you're in for quite a treat.

Released 364 days after the first game, Left 4 Dead 2 in a nutshell improves upon everything the first game did, and adds a whole lot of new variety to the game in terms of weapons, infected, improvements to the graphics, an enhanced AI "Director", and game mechanics.

But is the extra stuff worth the price tag? After it was announced, a lot of the Left 4 Dead community decided to boycott the game! Saying that it should have been released as an expansion pack - or a series of smaller upgrades much like what Valve does for Team Fortress 2. Why should we have to pay for it? HUH!? WHY!?

Is it worth the price tag?


Graphics: 9/10

One time, I saw a zombie torso flying about 15 feet overhead with it's spine dangling behind it like a party streamer. And all around it, dismembered limbs rained down like confetti after a particularly well placed pipe bomb detonated.

Left 4 Dead 2 is significantly more gory than it's predecessor, and it definitely shows. What's great about Left 4 Dead 2 is that you don't really need a super high-end extreme gaming rig to run it at decent settings, though, in spite of it's (relatively) timid system requirements the game looks fantastic. With everything maxed out in the graphics department, the game is very easy on the eyes, even with all that blood on your screen.

The campaigns in Left 4 Dead 2 are brighter than those in the first game. There is more detail to the common infected, and the special infected have new and improved looks as well. But in the graphics department of Left 4 Dead 2, the Hard Rain campaign really takes the cake. Squalls roll through drastically reducing visibility and lightning in the distance provides a fleeting source of illumination. Sometimes you won't be able to see zombies until they're practically on top of you. It's nice because in most games, the graphics are just...well, the graphics. They don't really affect gameplay. Not so in the Hard Rain campaign. The graphics DIRECTLY affect gameplay. The heavy rain will force you to hold out until it passes because it can become entirely too difficult to see what's coming your way. It's a very refreshing experience to be had for sure.

Like the first game, Left 4 Dead 2 uses film grain to make it appear to be a "playable movie" which is what Valve is trying to achieve. It looks very gritty - which is perfect and sets a great atmosphere for the game.

In left 4 Dead 2, you'll travel through burning hotels, a black-lit tunnel of love, murky swamps, and into a post-apocalyptic Big Easy. Needless to say, everything looks fantastic.

Sound: 10/10

Left 4 Dead 2's four characters have well over 1300 voice files that will be used throughout the game for them to have conversations with each other, comment on their surroundings, point out special infected, etc. All of the voice actors in this game did a magnificent job and really bring the characters to life.

The music also works surprisingly well with a southern twang. It's the same song as in the first Left 4 Dead game, but there are a few remixes of it that are used on the title screen, or in the safe rooms. I was surprised at how good it sounded with the banjos tossed in there for good measure. I'm sure you will be too.

Then there's the Dark Carnival finale where the survivors must start up the Midnight Riders' finale which blasts two of their songs. But what I thought was the coolest feature of the concert was that when the Tank shows up, the song seamlessly changes to the Tank Theme, only in the hard rock Midnight Riders style.

The two Midnight Riders songs can be heard on jukeboxes in the game, as well as a "When the Saints Go Marching In" mix, a Jonathan Coulton song called "Your Brains" and as an added bonus, a rare playing of Portal's famous "Still Alive" can also be heard. These little tidbits are great and provide some good entertainment, even though they are pretty much pointless.

On top of all this, the gun sounds are fantastic. The special infected voices are great, too. The Jockey cackles and laughs maniacally, while the Charger grunts and screams. Again...convincing.

Left 4 Dead 2's music and sounds help create a great horror movie style atmosphere that you're sure to love!

Gameplay: 10/10

Valve has a reputation of making good games. Did Half Life disappoint? No. Half Life 2? Hell, Maximum PC gave it an 11 out of 10 - citing it as the "best game ever made." Left 4 Dead 2 follows suit. It's a very high quality game.

Now, what is the best way to describe Left 4 Dead 2?

Left 4 Dead 2 basically puts you and three other people in a zombie apocalypse movie, only the script hasn't been written, and everyone does their own stunts.

The game consists of 5 campaigns, which all have static layouts - meaning they're always shaped the same way, so players who have been through a campaign can find a set route through it their next time around. However, there's a catch. The twist here is the AI Director.

The Director controls where, if, and how many zombies spawn in a certain area. It controls weapon and ammo locations. It controls the placement of special infected, first aid kits, throwing weapons, the weather, the music, and in some scenarios, the path the survivors must take through an area. This helps to ensure that no two playthroughs of a campaign are ever quite the same. One time through an area there may be swarms of zombies and no ammo in sight. The next, no zombies and an ammo cache for you to use...oh, and a Grenade Launcher. That'll come in handy. Too bad you didn't find one last time!

Because the Director has such a direct impact on how the game plays, it becomes impossible for survivor players to know exactly what's coming up. This will keep you on your toes and can keep you in suspense if you hear something around the next corner and you don't know exactly what to do to take care of the threat. Should you rush in guns blazing? Or try to sit back and snipe? It's up to you, but either way, the Director is going to adjust accordingly to the way you're playing and try to throw you a few curveballs. For example, if you hear a Tank nearby, the survivor players may slow down or even stop entirely to try and formulate a plan. But...because the director sees that the survivors have slowed their progress down, in order to spice things up, it sends in a horde to distract the players.

Left 4 Dead 2, like it's predecessor is a multiplayer co-operative first person shooter. You are not a superhuman in Left 4 Dead 2, so running off on your own, or lagging behind the group is widely frowned upon, and against the special infected, especially in the game's VS mode, you make yourself a prime target for big damage. The entire game revolves around teamwork to get through the various environments, so going solo is just a deathwish.

Left 4 Dead 2 offers a variety of gameplay modes. Single Player pretty much describes itself, but you can also play through online campaigns with friends or complete strangers. There's a tweak to the campaign through Realism mode, which removes silhouettes on item pickups and players and makes the zombies tougher against body shots, meaning you'll need to aim for the head. Even on easy mode, enabling Realism significantly increases the difficulty. And on expert difficulty with Realism enabled, your team will need military-esque co-ordination and communication to get through a campaign.

The widely popular VS mode makes a return and allows you to play as the game's special infected characters (minus the Witch) in a turn based round against an opposing team. There is also a new VS game mode called Scavenge where the survivor team must try to fill a car or generator with gas from gas cans littered throughout the level and the special infected's job is to stop them in any way possible. And the Survival game mode from the first Left 4 Dead game makes a return so you can try holding out for as long as you can against endless waves of zombies.

There's also 50 new achievements to unlock, and if you're one of those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (such as myself) and you feel you NEED to do everything in the game that can possibly be done, you have plenty of things to try to accomplish. Good luck with "The Real Deal."

There's plenty for you to spend lots of hours on in Left 4 Dead 2. It's highly addicting, and extremely fun.

Replayability: 10/10

Because of the Director, the game can play differently every time you go through an area. This helps to ensure that no two passes through a campaign are exactly the same. With five different campaigns from the start and eventual download content on it's way, Left 4 Dead 2 is sure to give you a unique experience every time you start it up. Versus and Scavenge mode are arguably the two most fun game modes and you can keep going back for more again...and again...and again.

What's nice about Left 4 Dead 2 is that it's a very low commitment game. Going through a campaign will take you - at the most - 90 minutes. You don't have to worry about finding save points. It's not one of those "30+ hour storyline" games where you might forget what you have to do in the next area. Start it up, go through a campaign, and exit if you want. But as I said before, the game will play differently the next time.

Overall: 10/10

Another amazing game from Valve. If you liked the first Left 4 Dead game, you'll love this one. It has everything and more than the first game and it does it all better. Definitely worth the money. The characters have great personalities, the atmosphere in each of the campaigns is perfect, it's eye candy, and it keeps you coming back for more.

If you weren't a fan of the original Left 4 Dead, this game probably won't change your mind - but then again, with all of the new content it just might if you were one of those who wished the first game had more to offer.

Buy this game. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Left 4 Dead 2 (US, 11/17/09)

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