2009 Reviews

Left 4 Dead 2

  • Review Date: 2014-01
  • Release Date: 2009-11
  • Developer: Valve Corp
  • Rating: 8.0

Left 4 Dead was created by Turtle Rock Studios. Valve Corp brought the I.P. and rights to the game and, controversally, decided to release their own sequel just one year later. The original game needed polish, I felt there was still plenty of issues, most notably the graphics.  Unfortunately Valve haven't improved the graphics, AT ALL. They're basically identical. However, they have created five new campaigns (+ two more DLC's) that are overall much better than the original campaigns.

It's starts with Dead Center as you progress through burning hotels, city streets and a city mall, in what was actually the worst campaign of the bunch. It was too much indoors with dreary, unimpressive levels, but then got difficult far too quickly. Only three levels into the game and I'd already died twice. That third level trying to shut down the alarm with infinitely spawning zombies was my first indication that L4D2 is a bit harder than the first game. If there's one thing I hate, it's infinite spawning. At least give me a chance to make a mad rush to the target, but you can't in this level and when you do die, you lose all progress and start the level from scratch, costing a good 15 minutes of gameplay each time. By my third run-through I was over it and put it down to easy just so I didn't have to play this fucking level over again.

So that's one tickbox left unticked, Valve still didn't incorporate checkpoints so dying will mean long replays. Most of the time when you do die, it's not because your skills weren't up to scratch, it's because one of the special infected caught you off guard and your team-mates fail to rescue you. It feels a bit unfair sometimes. I could have been at full health but just happened to get surprised by a Jockey and the bots are too stupid to notice. I suppose I wouldn't have this complaint if I were playing with humans only.

Dark Carnival follows the style of the original game with a gimmicky (in a good way) darker outdoor setting in a theme park, culminating in a thrilling sprint around a rollercoaster track.

Swamp Fever slogs through the swamps of Mississippi and a shantytown.

Hard Rain is the obvious highlight of the game, a New Orleans town mixed with industrial factories with an unusual amount of Witches. Then once you've reached your target you have to return the way you came. Normally I'd rip this to pieces, but the return trip was quite different as the weather changed to a monsoon with the town now flooded. At times getting so dark and rainy that you can barely see where you're going. It was a very atmospheric campaign. However it does make you wonder if a dynamic weather system should have been used more in L4D2, because overall the campaigns are a little too cheery and sunny.

The Parish is the final chapter, featuring more of New Orleans, a cemetery, collapsed bridge, a bit of everything really, but all in nice sunny conditions. L4D2 lost some of that dark, horror feel to it that the original had.

This wasn't helped by an overuse of the Special Infected. Boomers now seemed a piece of cake, while three new special zombies the Spitter, Jockey and Charger appeared often. They were all nice additions, all three being a challenge. I did complain about L4D not having enough zombie types, so this fixes that little problem as eight special infected is plenty.

The two DLC campaigns are also definitely worth playing. The Passing, with a more standard set of levels and Cold Stream, based in a bright outdoor forest. In fact, I wouldn't recommend buying L4D2 without the two extra campaigns, it's too short otherwise.

With new zombies and campaigns, you also get new weapons. Not that you really notice, I still spent probably 50% of the game playing with the dual-pistols because there's even less ammo caches in L4D2. The rest of the time I spent playing with the SMG and silenced SMG, a nice gun and can hold a lot of ammo. I didn't see much use in the more powerful automatics, because you're only killing zombies most of the time who only need one bullet, and the SMG holds the most ammo. L4D2 is still in strong need of ironsights or weapon upgrades, things that are just about a given in shooters these days.

Another thing I complained about in the original was continuity between campaigns. But this time Valve links the five campaigns properly, and even safe houses don't suddenly teleport elsewhere when you exit and find yourself in a completely different place.

Overall, L4D left me disappointed because I was expecting a classic game based on the reception it got. Possibly the best release of 2008, and Valve isn't expected to do merely "good".  Instead it was a very good Half-Life 2 mod. Valve have taken over but instead of really improving it or making an actual sequel, they've taken the same game, added a few extra bits and pieces and built a fairly short set of campaigns. Of course they did port the original L4D levels over to L4D2, meaning I really shouldn't have wasted my time playing the original at all. This isn't a sequel, it's just a really good Ultimate Edition of L4D. I enjoyed it more than L4D, but only because my expectations were no longer so high. Call of Duty's annual makeover feels more like a sequel than L4D2.

I gave the original L4D an 8, but L4D2, while it is better, also has to be compared with an industry of games that have improved in a year, particularly graphically.

Left 4 Dead 2