jjrage's Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360) review

All you L4D2 boycotters out there, feel free to begin eating crow


Melee weapons like frying pans, crowbars, and ninja swords will replace your default pistol

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Left 4 Dead 2. It has everything it’s predecessor had, just more of it. More guns, more campaigns, more multiplayer, and of course, more zombies. Rest assured, this is no expansion. So all you L4D2 boycotters out there, feel free to begin eating crow, because in many ways, Left 4 Dead 2 is a more complete game than the original.

Valve hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel here, leaving the groundwork from the first L4D mostly intact. You’re still thrust into the shoes of one of four everyday citizens working together to survive a wide-spread zombie attack of apocalyptic proportions. The new cast of characters are just as interesting and endearing as the original four survivors, with plenty of witty and hilarious dialogue to keep you entertained during those brief zombie-less moments inside the safe room. Moving away from the first game’s setting (which was assumed to be Pennsylvania), the game’s five campaigns will take you on a zombiefied tour of the South, starting in Georgia, working your way through a theme park and the swamps of the Bayou, and concluding in a New Orleans under attack by both the undead and the United States military. Each of these campaigns are made up of five chapters each, tasking you to travel from safe house to safe house to reach an eventual (if not temporary) escape. Even with the familiar format, there are quite a few curveballs along the way that will keep even the most experienced of L4D veterans on their toes. Perhaps the best example of this is during the campaign “Hard Rain”, in which a rainstorm grows to near-hurricane proportions with each passing chapter. The wind and rain greatly impair your visibility, and lightning flashes with the accompanying thunder will oftentimes alert the horde. Oh and there are Witches. Lots and lots of Witches.

Three new types of special infected have joined the returning Boomer, Hunter, Smoker and Tank to create a slightly different dynamic to the game. First you have the Charger, a large, almost Tank-like zombie that makes up for its tiny left arm with a gigantic right one. The Charger can barrel towards a Survivor at high speed and grasp them in the clutches of their huge right arm, knocking over other survivors and zombies alike in the process. The Charger will then repeatedly slam the Survivor into the ground. Also new to the zombie ranks is the Jockey, a smaller infected that bears a striking resemblance to Quasimodo. Much like the Hunter, players can use the Jockey to leap onto Survivors. However, instead of pinning them the ground, the Jockey takes partial control of the Survivor and can steer them away from the group and towards danger. The Jockey works very well in conjunction with the final addition to the infected cast, the Spitter. As her name implies, the Spitter has acidic projectile saliva that rapidly spreads across the ground upon impact.

To combat these new infected types, the Survivors have been granted several new tools and weapons to stay alive. In addition to new types of rifles and shotguns, players can now find a variety of melee weapons scattered around each level. These range from fairly basic fire axes and machetes, to less conventional objects like frying pans, ninja swords, and the old Valve standby, the crowbar. The addition of a defibrillator allows the survivors to revive dead teammates, and adrenaline shots grant you the ability to move and melee faster than usual, making it easier to escape from a horde rush. Oh yeah, there’s also chainsaws.

The Campaign, Versus and Survival modes from the original Left 4 Dead return here, but it’s the new Scavenge versus mode that really shines. Players who enjoy Versus but don’t have the patience to essentially play through an entire campaign twice will find a lot to love with Scavenge’s frantic action. Starting with 90 seconds on the clock, survivors in Scavenge are tasked with locating and transporting gas canisters to a central generator to add more time to the clock. Conversely, of course, the Infected must stop them. With quicker and oftentimes more intense gameplay, Scavenge could easily become more popular than the standard versus mode with many L4D fans. Of course, if you’re not fond of the versus gameplay, and you feel like you’ve conquered all the campaign has to offer, you can try your hand at the new Realism mode, which offers tougher enemies and disables many of the helpful HUD features usually found in the game. Quite honestly, while Realism is a nice touch, I can’t imagine anyone but sadists and the most hardcore of L4D fans attempting to take on the campaign with Realism enabled.

Visually, the game has received some minor touch-ups here and there. Many of the game’s campaigns take place during the day, showing off the highly detailed environments far better than what was seen in the first Left 4 Dead. Zombies also take damage much more dynamically. Aim for their arm, and you’ll take off the arm. Take off their leg, and the zombie will begin to lose balance before ultimately toppling over. Distorted banjos sounds litter the score, putting a southern-fried take on the music from the original game.

If you weren’t a fan of the first Left 4 Dead, the changes made in this sequel aren’t going to change your mind. That said, if you enjoyed the original, there’s really no reason I can think of that you wouldn’t enjoy this one. I can’t stress enough how much of a complete game Left 4 Dead 2 is. If you’re looking for a reprieve from all the level-grinding and civilian-murdering action of Modern Warfare 2, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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