Set during the aftermath of an apocalyptic pandemic and a week after the events of Left 4 Dead, this game has you follow the story of another small group of survivors as they try to make their way out of Georgia. The infection has spread to the southern states, and the military is now abandoning their posts; anyone who hasn’t been lifted out is now being left to die. Will you do what others couldn’t and find a way to escape, or will you be…Left 4 Dead 2?
Left 4 Dead 2, much like its predecessor, is a first-person shooter based on the popular zombie scenario that everyone is familiar with. Once again, you (and up to three other players) take control over one of the four new survivors; “Coach” the high school P.E. teacher, Ellis the child-like mechanics, Rochelle the news reporter, and Nick the smart-mouthed gambler. Just like before, your goal is to make it from point A to point B as soon as you can while protecting yourself and the rest of your team from the infected, going through a number of safe-houses as you progress through each campaign and using a handful of weapons along the way, only this time around you have new weapons to find and a few more special infected to see along the way.
Left 4 Dead 2 reprises two of its notable features that were presented in the previous game; the game portrays each campaign with a movie poster to make them seem more like a movie, and it also brings back an improved version of the “director” AI system that was introduced in the previous game, which will be discussed later on in the review. This time around, you also get to play with a few new game mechanics that have been added to the game, as well as some new weapons and infected enemies. There’s also the added bonus that Left 4 Dead 2 also contains the original campaigns from Left 4 Dead, which allows players to experience the campaigns from the first games. Valve has also included full support for custom content this time around; players can now have custom weapon and player skins without having to edit any important files, as well as not worry about their skins breaking with each update. The Steam Workshop for Left 4 Dead 2 also helps to further the availability of custom campaigns and skins. And with the introduction of Mutations mode, you can play with your friends in a co-op or versus match under special circumstances, such as only being allowed to use melee weapons or running away from a team of tanks.
In Left 4 Dead, the game mostly focused on cooperation and teamwork in order to survive and make it through each campaign. Although Left 4 Dead 2 also focuses on cooperation and teamwork, Valve seems to have made it so that players have a bit of breathing room between certain events in order to help players re-gather themselves and ready up for the next. An example of this would be when you set off a car alarm; after fighting off the horde in Left 4 Dead, you still have to deal with large groups of the infected, while the infected seem to spaced out a bit more and not in quite as big of a group after fighting off the horde in Left 4 Dead 2. This helps to allow players to plan ahead for any other instances that will come up later on in the campaign, thus giving them a bit more of an advantage this time around. The newer types of infected also help to add a bit more of a challenge as well.
"Wait, weren't there more of you last week?"
The pick-up and respawn systems that you saw before also make a return in Left 4 Dead 2. Just like before, players can be helped back up by a teammate to give them another chance to finish the campaign with the rest of the group. And just like in Left 4 Dead, this only works a limited amount of times before the downed player dies. The respawn system has been slightly reworked this time around, but essentially works the same as before; players can now be respawned inside of a closet, a shed, or even an outhouse if they die, depending on what campaign the players are in. Of course, another player must let them out before they can rejoin the rest of the group, just as they had to in the previous game. Fortunately, there are more respawn locations this time around, so players can actually afford to stay in one spot and wait for their fallen comrades to respawn.
Like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2’s gameplay is rather straight-forward and easy to pick up, and the aspect of teamwork will help the player get through each campaign. And just like before, the director will determine whether or not to do various different things that will either help or hinder the players, once again being based on the actions the group makes throughout the campaign. This continues to make it so that no single play-through is ever the same as the previous one before it. Plus, with the improved AI system, you’ll notice that the challenge will also vary a bit more than before with each play-through.
The sounds you hear throughout the newer campaigns added in Left 4 Dead 2 aren’t quite the same at setting the mood as you’d expect from Left 4 Dead, but it’s still rather effective at doing so. Although the atmosphere has changed quite a bit, the general atmosphere for each of the newer campaigns still helps to put the mood in place: with cities that have abandoned vehicles and open streets, a small town out in the swamplands, and abandoned carnival grounds will help players with keeping their guard up. Keeping in context with its predecessor, the musical score they made for this game is also looped quite a bit throughout the campaigns, even if it does seem a bit off at times.
Sadly, some of the issues that were present in the previous title seem to have carried over to this game as well, along with some of the newer issues that were introduced. Thankfully, they aren’t quite as bad as they were in Left 4 Dead, but they are still noticeable enough to mark down in this review, namely the AI and the difficulty once again.
The AI system had a few problems in the previous game, which some people took advantage of. One of the most notable bugs that seem to have carried over with the AI system in Left 4 Dead 2 is the common infected not actually noticing the players when they are literally right in front of them. Although it’s not quite as bad, some of the infected you come across tend to not notice you at all; this isn’t too big of an issue in Left 4 Dead 2, but it’s an issue that still ended up being carried over from the previous game. The director AI also seems to have carried over some of its problems from Left 4 Dead with the event triggers, but those seem to have been fixed up quite a bit.
The weaponry and equipment you can use in this game is still rather limited, but the list of available weapons and equipment has been expanded; however, this seems to have sparked quite a bit of controversy over the game’s difficulty. While many people are thankful for the new weapons, an equal amount of people say that Left 4 Dead is a lot easier because of the included weapons. After playing the game for quite some time, I can agree to some extent that the game is significantly easier than Left 4 Dead, but I’m not so sure I can say this is because of the newly included weapons. Although they have definitely helped make getting rid of the infected easier, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by the infected on more occasions than I can count, so I think that’s something that comes down to personal opinion.
The overall length of the game is still rather short in Left 4 Dead 2. Just like in Left 4 Dead, each campaign is roughly an hour’s worth of time. Just as well, custom campaigns also make their return with Valve’s support for creating custom campaigns, so you might end up spending some time trying to find some campaigns that are much longer than the default campaigns. Thankfully, you can find quite a few of them on the Steam Workshop for Left 4 Dead 2, so that at least helps with finding custom campaigns.
Overall, Left 4 Dead 2 is definitely a step up from Left 4 Dead, and it’s even more worth playing than its predecessor. The ambience of the game doesn’t quite fit as well as it originally did, but it still manages to keep the mood that Valve was going for. The game is also just as fun as the title before it, so it’s definitely worth picking up. Plus, the inclusion of the Steam Workshop, the original campaigns from Left 4 Dead, and full customization support adds to the fun that players can have with this game.