Left 4 Dead 2 - 360 - Review
Ok, Ok, it's time for me to wax poetic about how zombies are great and how we are them, minus a fully functioning brain and sense of self preservation (plus there's that whole cannibal thing). And to add to that, the huge debate about fast-moving zombies vs. slow-moving zombies. Purists who believe only if the movie was directed by Romero or Argento is it true to the lore and those new fans of the undead who subscribe to the evolving zombie who runs and is overly aggressive. To me, I say, quit arguing, there isn't enough quality zombie movies being made or enough quality zombie games to satisfy my addiction and I suspect that goes for most of you.
There, now that I have said it, lets get on with this review.
Left 4 Dead was an absolutely fantastic game, a multiplayer masterpiece that required four people to team up in order to escape what seems to be the end of the world. It was a truly team-based game as the obstacles you encountered, as well as the enemies that appeared, literally required you to call for help so you were not killed. It was a frantic, fast-paced shooter that was a real joy to play. Well, not one to rest on its laurels, Valve has upped the ante with the sequel. Taking four completely different characters and showing what happened in other parts of the country during the zombie apocalypse, you once again take up arms to battle your way to safety.
"Darn it, I cut myself shaving again, is it noticable?"
And when I say take up arms, you do in a big way. L4D2 (doesn't that sound like a robot from Star Wars?) has the usual accoutrements of handguns and rifles, but now all of a sudden we have a much wider selection of weapons, AK-47, M-16, shotguns, handguns, sniper rifles, hunting rifles, a flippin' grenade launcher and what's this? Melee weapons! Yes, this go-round really has made up for any complaints you may have had about the first one. Namely, the lack of weapons one would use in the real world. Now you can grab a chainsaw and rip through hordes of the undead as well as swords, bats, clubs, a guitar, heck there are all sorts of things you can use to bash brains in. And this truly does increase the gaming dynamic. While the handgun never runs out of ammo, you do have to pause to reload, and as anyone who is familiar with the series will tell you, that's when the zombies surround and pummel you. Now instead of carrying a handgun and a heavier rifle, you can swap the handgun for a bat and start swinging for the fences.
This is all well and good, especially since the game has a whole new cast of zombies to deal with including three new "special" infected. Since this is a completely different part of the country, it seems to take after the events of L4D1, and I say this because the characters seem to be a lot more at peace with the whole undead invasion thing. Anyway, the locales are decidedly different, what with the battle to get out of the shopping complex, dealing with the worst carnival ever, the whole swamp scenario and two other chapters make this game much more richer than the first. Yes, I realize we aren't into heavy plot devices or even too much character development, and yet it seems with these four characters you get to know them more. There are the canned phrases they all say and even one character, Ellis, who is always rambling on about something or other.
"Boy, eHarmony has really lowered its standards."
One thing I was really happy about is how the game looked. I know its only been a year since the last game, but wow, the level of detail has greatly improved. Damage to the zombies is more detailed and you can see the actual effects your weapons have on them. The look of the zombies is much more sickly and unhealthy (in a good way) and the new design of them can cause some nervousness. I love the zombies in the hazmat suits who clearly were sent down to help clean up the mess and fell victims themselves. The new "special" infected are the Jockey, who jumps on your back and controls your movements. The Spitter, who spews forth deadly green slime that can sit on the ground and cause harm if you walk through it, and the Chargers who have one overly deformed arm that grabs you and hammers your head into the environment. All three of these, along with the regular infected and the other "special," provide an almost desperate feel to the game. You never know when one of these things is going to come and in some cases they come several at a time.
The fact that part of the game takes place in the daylight is also pretty weird. It looks great and it's fun to explore all the new places you go. There is ammo, weapons and other things to find, so it pays to take a look in a dark room. Otherwise, the controls are virtually the same. You can heal yourself or a teammate when necessary, use your flashlight, jump, shoot and activate things all easily. Some sequences involve using parts of the environment to complete your survival task. Communication is key and I don't mean, merely talking things out - the game moves at too fast a pace for that. Rock solid plans must be formed and all parties need to get on task if you expect to survive. This is a game where it pays to be a team player.
"These late night raves are really starting to affect my job performance."
Any game with voice work is subject to scrutiny, and this one is, of course, looked at with apprehension. I mean, this is a "B"-movie lovers' dream and we have all heard about "B" movie acting. Well, this is good stuff here. Like I said, these characters, over time, begin to gel and their conversations are sometimes funny, sometimes sad. But they are much more fleshed out and give the player a deeper connection with them. The sound effects are also great, this is a game where alarms may sound and hordes of zombies come storming in. The ominous music queues up when the Tank is about to attack; it's great, and if you have a killer system to listen to while playing, it's even better.
Now, there are some new modes with this title as well, including a team-based game where four infected take on the four humans for eight-player fun. A mode where the realism is increased and you no longer know where your teammates are or objects no longer highlight, so a keen eye is required. This was where I found most of the people playing online. The realism is much more functional and enjoyable. Yes, you can cause problems for teammates if you shoot or set fire to them and players who hop into games with the specific intention of causing problems will find themselves booted via a voting option.
Still sharp and accurate, this is a FPS after all. Fast paced and adrenaline filled, I think this game is awesome.
Valve has really upped the graphics this time around. The levels are larger and better detailed as are the zombies themselves. Cut scenes are top notch.
Booming music, great voice work, sound effects that make you want to take up arms and storm the streets when the undead rise.
You simply will not make it trying to do it all yourself. The game is designed for you to rely on others to pull your fat out of the fire.
In my book, any game that has you battling the undead in the streets is a winner.
With the introduction of Director 2.0, the game changes automatically to adjust for how well you are doing, and then makes things harder. No two games are the same because the random zombie generator puts them in different places each time.
This is my favorite multiplayer game of all time. If I had another child I would name it Ellis whether it was a boy or girl.