Xbox 360 Review – Left4Dead 2

Left4Dead 2 Offers More Addictive Multiplayer, and Builds Upon The Successes of Its Predecessor

Left4Dead 2 is a great game. It is dark, frightening, and massively entertaining. Whether you’re playing through a campaign with three other players, wading your way through a mall in Savannah and through the crypts of New Orleans or lurking in the shadows as a hunter, preparing to leap on and claw away at an opponent in Versus mode, Left4Dead 2 provides a vast amount of entertainment.

The beauty of Left4Dead 2 is in the amount of gaming that the package provides. Every single play of a map can be done over and over because the game is never the same a second or tenth or one hundredth time through. This is due to how majestically Valve has managed to craft different scenarios and how frighteningly efficient the AI Director 2.0 is in changing the gameplay scenario every time you venture into the world of Left4Dead 2.

Left4Dead 2 features a huge array of settings, including the French Quarter of New Orleans

Left4Dead 2 features a huge array of settings, including the French Quarter of New Orleans

AI Director 2.0 is one of the major draws to Left4Dead 2. The Director analyzes your gameplay and adjusts it according to your skill, while at the same it also is aware of pace, adjusting the amount of infected and the timing of their arrival to create great horror and tension. There are moments when hundreds of the infected pour from every direction as you run into a dark building, and suddenly, everything becomes quiet. Not a thing stirs and you wait for the inevitable attack. Suddenly, the laughter of a Jockey, a new type of special infected, echoes throughout the building. Where is he? You can’t see a thing beyond the scope of your flashlight. Then, suddenly, a teammate screams and the Jockey is on his head, directing him towards a sudden, surging wave of infected. The Director not only dictates the flow of play, but also now has the ability to create weather effects and move objects to produce a game in which your strategy must change with every play through.

Left4Dead 2 also greatly succeeds in being a much vaster experience. There are now 5 campaigns to play through rather than the original game’s four, and each campaign brings its own unique setting to the game. The settings range from  a burning hotel and an infected-swamped mall to a swamp filled with noxious air and fog to the French Quarter of New Orleans. Greatly increasing the value of Left4Dead 2 is the ability to play every game mode from Campaign to Scavenge, on every map. This marks a major improvement over the original game, in which several game modes including my personal favorite, Versus, were only available on a few maps upon the game’s release.

The AI Director 2.0 deftly directs the action, creating intense, and tension-filled moments

The AI Director 2.0 deftly directs the action, creating intense, and tension-filled moments

The game modes in Left4Dead 2 are extremely varied. Campaign allows you and three friends (or strangers) to make your way across one of the 5 chapters of the story, working as a team. You have to rely on each other for cover and rescue when a special infected attacks you. Without teamwork, your Campaign will quickly end in the death of your group. Versus features eight players, in which four play as survivors and four play as special infected. The job of the survivors is to make it to the end of the level alive, while the goal of the special infected is to attack the survivors strategically in order to prevent the from reaching their goal. Realism is a new mode that requires greater teamwork from the survivors as they play through a campaign – there are no halos showing where your teammates are, dead survivors won’t respawn, and killing infected requires headshots. There is Survival mode, in which survivors must hold out in a small area against hordes of infected, and Scavenge, in which survivors must find and use gas canisters to power generators and other objects while players in the role of special infected try to stop the survivors from getting to the gas canisters.

The game modes are all great fun and offer a wide variety of gameplay opportunities. The most improved mode, though, is Campaign. The storyline no longer occupies the night. Hordes of infected chase after you during the day, at sunset and in the morning. The eerieness of the game is greatly increased by the daylight, as it’s much easier to see the world in all its destroyed glory, and it also provides the horror of the day as being just as unsafe as night. The campaign also benefits from a focus on a connected storyline this time around. The survivors travel from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans. Along the way, they have to gas up a car, fetch Coca Cola for a gunshop owner, and more. These additional goals require developing a strategy to protect the player carrying the item, which greatly helps to improve teamwork. The focused storyline also helps develop the characters, making it worthwhile to play through the entire campaign.

With all this in mind, it would be very difficult to become bored given Left4Dead 2’s endless stream of modes that have been so greatly improved.

The game now has a true storyline, bridging from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans

Left4Dead 2 has a complete storyline, bridging from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans

Finally, the team at Valve worked hard on creating new, useful special infected and weaponry. There are three new special infected types in addition to the four original special infected that players could control. The four originals all act the same, there is the Tank, a gigantic, man-crushing zombie that takes a lot of firepower to kill; The Boomer, who emits a bile that attracts zombies to any survivor he covers in the green goo; The Hunter, who crouches in wait in dark rooms and on rooftops, pouncing on his prey and flaying into them with long claws, and The Smoker, who has a long, snake-like tongue that can ensnare and pull a survivor towards him. The new special infected are just as excellent as the original special infected, and require players to develop new strategies to both the special infected and survivor aspect of the gameplay.

The Spitter has a wide, hanging mouth, and can hurl gobs of acidic spit that can land on and severely hurt a survivor or that can land on the ground and instantly bubble into a huge puddle of viciously deadly acid, splitting apart teams and killing survivors standing in it very quickly. The Charger moves quickly and has one gigantic arm that can swipe at survivors or pick one up and hurl them to the ground. Finally, there is the Jockey, a curious creature that hobbles around and can jump on top of a survivors head. The Jockey then can direct the survivor, moving him towards a crowd of zombies or into a group of special infected.

The new, melee weapons are fantastic fun. Left4Dead 2 implements the ability to swing a cricket bat, a chainsaw, an axe, or, in an overt but greatly welcome reference to Half Life, a crowbar. The weapons are powerful and perfect for pushing off and killing numerous infected when they surround you. But beware, using a chainsaw on your teammate when wildly swinging around during a frantic scare can lead to their death at your hands. Unfortunately, there are also several new guns that don’t add much to the gameplay. As fun as using a sniper rifle is in Modern Warfare or Battlefield: Bad Company, it is not useful in the least due to the huge numbers of infected and the inability to get away from them for a sighted shot. Furthermore, the added assault weapons seem to vary in no meaningful way, though there is a nice addition in the form of a laser sight that makes targeting specific infected much more accurate.

These guys eat infected for breakfast

These guys eat infected for breakfast

Graphically, Left4Dead 2 looks great. It is by no means as advanced as Uncharted 2 or Assassin’s Creed 2, but the Source engine, five years old and running into a sixth, still does an amazing job on facial detail and atmosphere. It serves the game well when creating dark rooms, smoky areas, and horrible, glowing eyes. The sound is fantastic. The haunting cry of the Witch is still certain to drive shivers down your spine, as is the terrifying music accompanying her approach. The characters are well voiced and the game now follows a true story arc, allowing the characters to grow into themselves and providing the voice actors with a great range of situations to work with.


The Final Word

Left4Dead 2 surpasses the original in every way. It offers a huge variety of special infected, locales, and weaponry. The atmosphere of the game is fearful and dark, the AI Director 2.0 is brilliant and can vastly change every single game experience, and the various modes are dangerously addictive. The addition of a true storyline to the campaign, as well as the inclusion of missions that take place during the day makes Left4Dead 2 a more engaging and scary experience. Left4Dead 2 is lovingly crafted, and is an absolute must buy for fans of shooters, multiplayer, and horror/survival.


The Scorecard


9



+ Vast campaign mode with a true storyline and objectives to follow

+ Melee weapons galore

+ AI Director is even more brilliant this time around

+ Sound and atmosphere is fantastic


– Many of the assault and handgun weapons feel exactly the same despite being “different”

– If you don’t have access to Xbox Live, the single player mode isn’t great shakes