Summary: Valve says Left 4 Dead 2 contains so much new content, it's worthy of a sequel rather than DLC. Is this true or false? Judge for yourself in today's review!
Just a year after the huge success of L4D, Valve has come up with the sequel in the face of outcries, attempted boycotts, and other controversies. Some fans of the original believed it to be too soon, and that a second game in the series would cause a rift in the community or even detract from post-release support of the first. Others felt they shouldnít have to pay for the new content and wanted to see it released as free DLC. Is it really a worthy sequel? Keep reading and find out!
The basics of gameplay are virtually unchanged from Left 4 Dead, but there is a whole ton of extra stuff thrown in to breathe new life into the formula. Fresh items, weapons, and infected add a lot of variety, while Valve took many steps to ensure the same old camp-in-the-corner strategy isnít used all the time. For instance, the large majority of crescendo events now require you move from point A to point B while fighting the horde, rather than holding out until they stop coming. On top of that, you can only perform a melee-shove a few times in a row before a cool-down timer comes into effect, preventing you from pushing infected away indefinitely.
There are 5 game types including the original Campaign and Versus, the add-on mode Survival, as well as the two new ones, Realism and Scavenger. Realism mode is for people who think expert campaign is too easy; infected take a lot more damage to the body, halos around allies and items are gone, survivors donít respawn between safehouses, witches can kill with one hit, and so on. Scavenger mode is a more action-packed version of versus, involving the collection of gas cans as in the Dead Center finale. Each team takes turns playing as survivors or infected, and whoever collects the most gasoline in the tank before the time runs out wins the round.
Each of the weapons from last year made a return, but they are joined by several variations on the different types. Pistols are largely the same aside from superficial upgrades that make them look like a Glock and a SIG P220, as well as produce much more of a boom when fired. If you really want to make some noise, though, you can use the Desert Eagle .50. In addition to the Uzi, thereís now a MAC-10 that is mostly identical except for a silencer. There are three assault rifles to choose from, and on a spectrum of power to accuracy they are: AK-47, M-16, and SCAR.
The pump-action shotgun now has a chrome-plated cousin and the SPAS-12 serves as an aesthetic alternative to the classic combat shotgun. The hunting rifle remains the same, but there is another semi-auto sniper rifle that has a larger clip but is less accurate when not zoomed in. The single-shot grenade launcher is in a firepower class of its own Ė it comes with 31 rounds that you cannot replenish when you run out. Also, you may come across special ammo to enhance one clip of any weapon to deal incendiary or explosive damage, as well as laser sights that will increase accuracy.
With all those new ways to blast holes in your enemies, you might forget about the other major offensive feature of L4D2: melee weapons. Ah, who am I kidding? Theyíre actually the most fun youíll have dispatching the infected, slicing off body parts or knocking off heads like youíre playing tee-ball. There are a total of 9, including an axe, frying pan, crowbar, katana, and guitar, each with their own satisfying thunks, clangs, and twangs. Additionally, thereís a chainsaw that allows you to tear through the horde like youíre a marine on Phobos, but it is automatically dropped when you run out of fuel. They occupy the secondary weapon slot, which prevents you from using pistols, but they are invaluable when youíre surrounded.
New items are also in the mix, including a defibrillator used to revive dead allies, a shot of adrenaline that gives you an extra boost of speed, and a canister of Boomer bile that can attract the horde like a pipe bomb or even cause them to attack other infected. Each of these is sure to be useful in the fight against the several new infected. The Spitter projects a blob of acid that forms a festering pool underfoot, dealing more damage the longer you stand in it. The Charger is a lighter, faster version of the tank that charges toward you like a rhino, capable of knocking down multiple survivors and pummeling one indefinitely. The Jockey will jump on your back and steer you away from the group or otherwise toward danger.
The new AI director 2.0 has more control over the gameplay, dynamically switching up things like item placement and path branches. For the latter, youíll see random alleys and the like end up open or closed, or one of several paths through a graveyard being chosen so that it differs from game-to-game. Valve claims that it will monitor how well the survivors are doing and change difficulty accordingly, but Iíve not yet seen evidence that it does. They also touted the dynamic weather changes, but this was relegated to being exclusive to sudden downpours in the Hard Rain campaign based on play-testers not liking it. Similar feedback led to downscaling of random path generation and more obvious cues to warn of lurking special infected.
Bot AI seems to have gotten even worse than it was in the first L4D, which is as astounding as it is frustrating. They almost never pick up medkits except for one in the safehouse, which leads to wasting them. If they have a melee weapon, theyíll stand still and wait for infected to attack them rather than switching to a gun to shoot them at a distance. Even when they do shoot, theyíre notorious for prioritizing common infected over special infected and hardly ever fire on the move. They tend to hang back too far, as well, which results in having to wait inside the safe room and inevitably having to go back out to save them from ambush. Donít expect them to help you with collecting gas cans, either, which makes the Dead Center finale pretty tough to do in single-player. There are far too many issues to list, but check out the official forum and youíll be able to read about plenty more.
The controls are identical to those in the original, so they are not at fault, but that isnít to say there isnít a slight console tinge. Unfortunately, Iíve noticed a few minor things that could be attributed to a lazy lack of optimization for the PC gaming experience:
These donít seem like much of an issue Ė and really, they arenít Ė but one canít help but be wary of any minor symptoms of consolitis turning into a full-blown, debilitating condition later on.
Valveís Source engine has been around for a while, and though it is still very presentable, itís no spring chicken. It does have it where it counts most, though, as the characters, weapons, and items look fantastic, even life-like at times. I wish the same could be said about the infected, since you end up staring at them the mostÖ Underneath the fancy gore effects, they are decidedly bland, and thatís not just referring to their generally dull grey skin tone.
The environments are adequate, but the textures and models donít hold up well under scrutiny. It makes me wonder why they didnít just make the whole game take place at night, since daylight isnít very kind to its appearance. The lighting and other special effects have always been a strong point of the engine, but even they donít wow me so much anymore. The bright side of all this is that the game is sure to run very well on modest hardware, and will even scale to be enjoyable on the lowest of low-end rigs.
L4D2 is a lot gorier than its predecessor. Not only can you decapitate or otherwise dismember the infected, you can actually disembowel them. Powerful weapons will blow large chunks off of their bodies or, more commonly, tear a hole in the skin to reveal the organs inside and possibly lead to intestines falling out! Melee bashing or slashing can have the same effect, while the chainsaw simply eviscerates most baddies. Close-combat will result in your view being obscured by blood, as well as your character model being covered in red.
The sound effects are really good. I mentioned the melee weapon sounds already, but they really add that extra dimension of fun to beating up infected. Guns sound beefier overall, and the effect they have on things you shoot is as palpable aurally as it is visually. The commentary from fellow survivors is well done, though they seem to have moved away from the Hollywood character stereotypes a bit when compared to L4D. Still, youíll end up talking to your teammates in Ellisí southern drawl and/or poking fun at Coachís gluttony just as much as they do.
Tons of new stuff enhance the same great L4D gameplay.
A lot of the added weapons are little more than new skins and sounds. They had the right idea with the assault rifle variations, but every gun should be unique. All melee weapons do the same damage.
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