The focus of that event was the game's new "Scavenge" versus mode. In it, the survivors look for 16 gasoline cans spread around a small level. (It's the zombie apocalypse, man. Gas is life.) You need to gather these cans and bring them back to a generator, and then successfully dump them in (via a progress bar that gets cut short if you take a hit) to extend an extremely short timer. Scavenge rounds start with around one minute on the clock, and every can of gas you deliver adds an additional 20 seconds.
Scavenge is an incredibly fast-paced and potentially short mode. If your team is disorganized and you don't manage to get any gas back in time, well, it lasts about a minute. And since the gas cans are scattered all over the place and you need to split your team up to find them, getting yourself and the gas back to the middle in one piece is a dicey proposition. Seasoned Left 4 Dead players know that splitting your team up often means certain death. Scavenge is going to take some teamwork.
Before we got into the Scavenge mode, I had a fine time playing some regular old L4D versus, trying out the three new infected character types that have been added in this sequel.
- Spitter. Attacks with projectile acidic vomit that covers the ground and creates an area-of-effect damage radius. The spitter seems especially fragile and doesn't have an enormous range, so it seems best suited for sneaking around and coming up right behind a party. The spitter is especially useful in Scavenge, since it can spit all over the generator and prevent the survivors from delivering any gas for a few seconds. It can also spit on dropped gas cans and blow them up.
- Charger. This big brute is sort of like the tank's little brother. Its attack consists of, well, charging in a straight line. If you connect with a survivor during that charge, you'll grab them and start slamming them into the ground until they die or the other survivors kill you. This ground slam does massive damage and can kill a healthy survivor in a matter of seconds. The trade-off is that you can't interrupt the charge if you miss, so you may go careening off away from the action and get destroyed from behind.
- Jockey. What a weird zombie type with a good chance to totally subvert the survivors' efforts. If you can successfully jump onto one of them, you get to steer them around against their will. They can struggle against your directive efforts a little bit, but it's not hard to make them wander straight into a pack of slavering zombies and really mess up the humans' gameplan. Plus, in Scavenge, you can keep them from getting near the gas for the few seconds you need to run out the clock. On the downside, if you jump on a guy and then get knocked off, your leap move has a lengthy cooldown before you can try again--and you'll probably get smoked in the meantime.
Valve has clearly put a lot of effort into beefing up Left 4 Dead 2's visuals; the Dark Carnival level I was playing on that was first seen at PAX has some great little touches here and there, from detailed carnival signage to horrible, horrible zombie clowns. In addition to the new infected (and, of course, the new survivors; special shout-out to my main man Coach), the artists have gone back and remodeled all of the special infected types to make them look more detailed and more disgusting. There are even male and female boomers now. Figure that one out!
To be fair, I was playing the game on an extremely capable PC and an absolutely enormous monitor, but Left 4 Dead 2 does look markedly better than its predecessor on high settings. With all the new infected types--which add a good bit of variety to the versus mode when mixed in with the old ones--several new campaigns, a bunch of goofy new melee weapons (Chainsaw, anyone? Perhaps I can interest you in a guitar?) there really is a lot to sink your teeth into here. Of course, we'll really find out if Left 4 Dead 2 is worth a new boxed release next month when the game ships to the 360 and PC.
Here's a look at how Scavenge plays, courtesy of 1UP.
Does any of this convince you to feel good about buying another Left 4 Dead game a year after the first one?