Left 4 Dead 2 Review
Originally released November 17, 2009, Left 4 Dead 2 was the game that finally convinced me to get an X-Box 360. Traveling home for Thanksgiving, I spent some time on my brother’s system battling through hordes of the Infected. The sheer amount of zombies surrounding my character, the blood splattered screen from dismembering zombie after zombie had me hooked and wanting more. Traveling through the sewers, the glowing eyes were creepy and after being brought down by the horde, being forced to lay helplessly prone with only a pistol forced me to seriously question surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Opening on a hotel roof, our four survivors watch as their beacon of safety, a helicopter, flying out of the city leaving them for dead. Your goal is simple, survive from chapter to chapter reaching various safe houses. Each safe house contains ammo, med kits, and various splashes of graffiti detailing other’s attempts to escape. While the storyline is virtually non-existent, the character development derives from conversations and the random stories that Ellis so loves to tell. Sadly, for Ellis, now is never the time for his amusing stories, at least according to the three other characters. The lack of story does not hurt the game; as the premise is simple- Survive at all costs!
Locations vary to keep the game fresh and some of the levels are absolutely beautiful and creepy at the same time. You will find yourself fighting through a burning hotel, a fun house in an amusement park, though nothing is fun about zombie clowns. Other locations include a swamp, a race across a bridge with abandoned vehicles and hordes of the undead to thwart your escape. My personal favorite was escaping back through a town as a monsoon blows in, reducing visibility to a few feet with flood water rapidly rising. Valve does an incredible job with weather effects and it clearly shows here. This is a small sampling of the chapters within each level. Each level ends with some sort of climatic showdown, for instance, in “Dead Center,” players must collect gas cans, fill a stock car for escape while the game throws waves of enemies at you.
The Infected are the new zombie, they are not slow, they run, they surround, and yet inexplicably, when you go down, they curb stomp your character rather than try to eat you. While many diehard zombie fans may balk at this, never fear, there are plenty of decapitations to be had and plenty of ammo at your disposal. If these are not enough to contend with, L4D2 also throws in some special infected to further impede your chances of survival. The Boomer projectile vomits on a player, attracting the Infected to attack. The Spitter spits a poisonous acid that inflicts damage. The Jockey will ride on top a player’s head like some Kentucky Derby in hell, steering the player into the horde and away from help. The Smoker has a nasty cough, and a tongue that will drag the player away from everyone. The Charger will plow through your foursome, picking up a seven-ten split then carry a player away, pummeling them into the ground for some massive damage. Hunters will lurk in the distance, gauging the right time to pounce and claw the player into bite sized chunks. Tanks are exactly that, big, slow, difficult to kill, and have a tendency to throw slabs of concrete to stun a player. Last is the witch, please don’t disturb the witch, leave her alone, let her cry, just don’t shine a light one her, smack her with a crowbar, or take a shot at her. Follow that advice and you may just keep your intestines inside you.
The friendly AI is probably the only low point in the game, while all three are superior marksman, and will spot Special Infected through trees, walls, and any other obstacle, they are just plain stupid at times. Friendly fire is turned off for a good reason, if you are in front of them you will be shot repeatedly, this will throw off your aim. AI also has habit of healing you at the worst possible moment, freezing your character in place, usually while about to escape on a helicopter or when the Tank is hungry for some human hamburger. They also will never pickup or use a pipe bomb, Molotov cocktail, or Boomer Bile, which, I am undecided as to whether or not that is a negative. It is likely that they would hit you with the Boomer Bile, causing the Infected to swarm, while they laughingly escaped on a helicopter eating chocolate. These flaws in the AI are not enough to detract from the fun factor, occasionally funny and annoying most of the time; it could in fact depict how random people thrown together in a zombie apocalypse would not work flawlessly together. Perhaps I am reading to deep into it, but it is always possible.
This review would not be complete without delving into multiplayer, where you get the chance to play as the Special Infected with the only non-playable character being the witch. 360 multiplayer has its benefits, as well as its wonderful surprises. My brother, who introduced me to this great game, was my first friend on X-Box Live. Being a relative noob to this system, I hadn’t realized you could directly connect to a friend’s game. My brother spawned in on the Special Infected team as a Charger, grabbed my character, and beat me into a bloody pulp. It was childhood all over again without the groundings and broken bones, just a re-spawn and chance for revenge. Multiplayer must be experienced in this game, as the survivors, your goal remains the same, reach the safe house. As the Special Infected, stop the survivors. A team of Special Infected working together can destroy the survivors almost as soon as they leave the safe house, a team of survivors working together can fend off any assault the Specials can throw at them. Left 4 dead 2 shines in multiplayer, nothing I write can accurately describe it, you must experience for yourself.
Left 4 Dead 2 is an all around great gaming experience, held all the more fondly in my memory because it was my gateway to the X-Box 360. Downloadable Content allows access to extra campaigns, including The Sacrifice, a harrowing battle to escape while being attacked by not only swarms of the Undead, but three Tanks coming at once. Who will give their life so the other three may live? The current pre-owned price at Game Stop is $26.99. For the EmptyWalletGamer looking for a bargain, you will get more than your money’s worth with this title.
Happy Zombie Day everyone, may every bullet you fire be a headshot!