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Left 4 Dead 2 (PC) review

The zombie apocalypse has happened, but there are more survivors who’s story need be told then Bill, Zoey, Francis, and Louis. Meet the new team as they travel across Southern America in an attempt to escape the hoards of infected in what can only be described as more zombie goodness, with a few refinements and twists.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a First Person Shooter that will have you and up to three other friends playing the roll of a new set of survivors in the apocalyptic nightmare, where teamwork really is all that matters. Yes, you can play this single player and have the computer help you, but if you are doing that, you are kind of missing the point of this one. Just like the first game, you are supposed to go online and either play with friends, or at the very least open the game so others can join. They will, and you will all have a blast. You’re goal will be to travel through the landscapes between safe-houses and ultimately survive an end challenge and escape or be rescued… that’s right, this time others coming to get you is not the only way you can make it. Sometimes, you need to fuel a vehicle up so you can drive off yourself!

But this minor change is far from the only upgrade. The biggest and most immediate change is a connected story. Every “movie” happens in order, including the new addition, “The Passing” (which comes free with Left 4 Dead 2 on the PC). There is a complete story here told, which is a new thing instead of the individual and fairly unrelated episodes that populated the gameplay of Left 4 Dead. The story isn’t all that deep, but you get to know the characters a lot more this time.

Nor are the survivors the only characters with a change. We now have new zombies. In addition to the old tanks, smokers, boomers, witches, and hunters, we now have spitters (spits acid which stays for a while), jockeys (jumps on a survivor’s back and takes partial control over where they go, hurting them as they go), chargers (ramming SPEED!), and a whole new class called Uncommon Infected. This new class varies depending on the movie you are in, and have a special ability unique to them. For example, the Dark Carnival has clowns, which due to the bells they wear, attract the horde around them. These zombies make the game that much more interesting to play, as well as MUCH more fun to be the zombies in vs mode!

Control-wise, I don’t want to go too deep into it. As I’ve said many times, FPS controls in most PC games are pretty much perfected, and this game is no exception. The default layout puts all the controls easily in your reach, including the chat button so you can use your mic to reach out to your team without even slowing down to type. The ONLY improvement I could think of would be a button free chat, but that’s why Borderlands got special notice on this.

Graphically, this game has moved up, but not a lot. The Source Engine, is once again what the game runs on, and while it looks nice, the engine is starting to show it’s age. Not that this should be a huge marker against it… I mean this engine is over 5 years old and it still looks nice enough that unless you are fanatical about the hottest graphics, you have no reason to complain. Although this is the kind of game that it’s probably for the best anyway…. when the zombies come racing in with the full background effects used (Hard Rain is one of the coolest looking storm-sets I have ever seen in a game), it still runs at liquid smooth!

And of course sound-wise this game is fantastic. The music is perfect and placed exactly right to drum up the tension, and considering this game has NOTHING SCRIPTED, that is beyond an achievement. The zombies themselves make sounds that all sound like grunts, yet different enough to know what kind is making the noised BASED on the noise. A very nice balance, especially with the set of possible zombies you will face now.

When it comes to gameplay, this game screams exactly two words… team and work. Weather you are playing the survivor or zombie (and yes, you can play them in vs like the old game), you have to work together if you want to win. A lone wolf zombie rarely is effective, if at all since a good group of survivors will play like a team, and a lone survivor will die…. period. To drive the point home, the Director has been upgraded since the last game, and now even computer zombies can and will work together. To put it bluntly, this game is amazing, but if you are not a team player, all you will do is piss off yourself, piss off your teammates, and probably get booted from the game. This also means most Halo-style players have already passed this game off, so your odds of finding “that guy” are slim to none.

Overall, as long as people want to hunt zombies, this game should have a home on your hard drive. It’s fun. It’s fast, it’s paced by a sadistic computer program who wants to eat your brains, and Valve uses a mutation mode to give some new spin every weak, keeping the game far more fresh then most FPSs stay. Get it, play it, love it. Just don’t wander off on your own.

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