To those who’ve read my last blog post, this next review should come as no surprise to you. Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2, the very worthy sequel to its 2008 zombie shooter, which was released in 2009. Such was the success of both games, fans have been screaming for a third instalment for ages, which sadly, seems not to be. But as long as we still have these two amazing games to enjoy, let’s rejoice in them!
Left 4 Dead 2 follows the same basic gameplay mechanics as the first game. You have four playable, human characters, The Survivors, and you need to fight your way across a map from safe room to safe room and ultimately to safety. The sequel introduces us to four new characters, with our old favourites from the original appearing in a special campaign, which ties the stories of the two games together.
But enough about the similarities, let’s talk about what’s different. Firstly, the weapons. Not only do firearms get a major upgrade in this game, with a pimped Sniper rifle (my personal favourite), AK47 and two versions of combat shotgun, Left 4 Dead 2 introduces us to melee weapons. Golf clubs, cricket bats, police batons, katanas, baseball bats (again, my personal favourite) and even frying pans and guitars can be used to beat zombies into oblivion as you fight your way through hordes. The ultimate melee weapon, the chainsaw, is a glorious piece of destruction, cutting through the undead like a knife through hot butter. The only drawback to the chainsaw is that it is dependent on fuel, which cannot be replenished via drops, unless you find a whole new chainsaw. The fuel may be limited, but the fun, is priceless.
Left 4 Dead 2 brought us Uncommon Infected, kind of an in-between of Common and Specials. These guys generally behave like Common but have certain attributes that will cause you to need to rethink your strategy. Just a few examples; armoured zombies need to be shot in the back, hazmat wearing undead are immune to fire and Fallen Survivor zombies (who can drop loot, yay!), will run away from you if you attack them.
The next big difference is the new Special Infected you’ll meet. And by meet, I mean run from, shoot and scream at they make every attempt they can to ruin your day. All the original Specials from the first game are back with a vengeance, albeit, slightly changed graphic-wise to indicate how they’ve further mutated since the events of the first game. All their abilities and therefore, tactics you’ll need to defeat them, remain identical, however.
The first new Special is the Jockey. Almost resembling a miniature tank, this tiny pest will giggle and shake as it runs around, before leaping onto a Survivor’s head and literally riding them, like a jockey. Not only does this alone cause damage to Survivors, and not only does its maniacal laughter in your ear the whole time its riding you drive you insane, the Jockey will make very attempt it can to steer you into further danger. Fire, cliffs, pools of acid (which we’ll get to next), and of course, more zombies and Specials. Just like the Hunter and Smoker we remember from the original Left 4 Dead, once he has you, you cannot break free and need to be saved. Best to try and shoot him before he jumps onto someone, but failing that, get him off your teammate quick with gunfire, your melee weapon or a punch.
Next up is the Spitter. A lovely lady (possibly before she became infected anyway), tall and slender, with a protruding belly and bright green, acidic spit dropping from her mouth and neck. And, yep, you guessed it, she spits this acid. Mercifully not into anyone’s faces, rather, on the ground. This pool will grow and spread, and the longer you stand in it, the more it hurts. Best to take her down before she spits, but if she’s too quick for you, get the hell outta that spit pile and fast. Oh and, she collapses into a second pile of spit when she dies, so careful, yeah?
The Charger, is a hulking, noisy monster, although smaller than the tank, with one enormous arm. His other arm is so small and shrivelled, its almost laughable. But one he charges and grabs you, you cannot break free and a teammate will need to come to your rescue. Most of the time you can sidestep him, because once he starts charging, he cannot stop until he hits something and cannot change direction. But if he catches you even on his periphery, he will send you flying, allowing him to do far more damage to your teammate while you recover.
Last, but by no means least, The Wandering Witch. Yeah, remember the Witch from the first Left 4 Dead? She’s back and she’s brought friends. Versions of her that don’t just sit still and offer you the chance to crown them, or avoid them. No… witches that walk around. The good news? They’re slow until aggroed, so in some ways they are easier to avoid than the static Witch. And you can technically shoot them a couple of times before they will aggro, they aren’t as temperamental as their stationery sister. The bad news? They still do the same damage the original Witch does and have the same hit points when triggered, so, best to avoid. And, they cannot be crowned with a shotgun.
The Director-controlled gameplay is the same as the first game, and the maps are fun and inventive. It’s still all about teamwork, and yes, as with the first game, The Director will absolutely punish you if you break the rules. My personal favourite map is Dark Carnival, which feels like a more expanded version of those final scenes from Zombieland, only, even more fun if you can believe it. Overall, Left 4 Dead 2 is a strong sequel and fabulous game in its own right. It took the Left 4 Dead concept and improved upon it, without losing any of the uniqueness that makes these games far more than just zombie first person shooters. Highly recommended.