Zombies are now common place in the world of games as opposed to just movies. Many games are bowing down to the zombie craze, and Left 4 Dead, when released, was the most stand out one of them all. But now with the release of its sequel a year on; the aptly named Left 4 Dead 2, does it still stand out from not just other zombie games, but other shooters too? Well with better graphics, gameplay and every extra in between, not to mention an improved multilayer experience, it is a resounding YES.
Left 4 Dead 2 brings back the classic gameplay of the last game. Each campaign level is set like a motion picture, complete with taglines, production notes and end credits. The major differences between this and the first game is that these ‘films’ now have different actors to be put to the test, as well as the films themselves having major differences from each other. In the original, each and every campaign was pretty much the same thing with different skins and layouts. This is one of the major selling points of the game and one of the best new qualities about it. Now each mission has its own flavour, and will require different tactics and teamwork to overcome. For example, one missions finale takes the form of having to get across a very zombie infested bridge in your own time. And I assure you, that’s a lot more challenging than it sounds. Another finale tasks players with refuelling a display stock-car to drive to safety. But it’s not just the finales that have undergone a makeover, now the missions even have little tasks that need to be done in order to progress throughout the varying intervals. Like shutting off theme park ride alarms, or even making a home delivery of ice-cold cola. It’s a major step forward for the series, and one that hits all the right spots.
Keep your friends close...
As I mentioned, this time you’re given a new set of actors to get to know. Here’s the rundown of this bunch of misfits.
Coach: Coach is a man capable of having a laugh during the apocalypse if there ever was one. He’s a somewhat portly coach, if you haven’t guessed, for a local high-school. Although you never hear his real name, Coach is enough substance to support this man and his ability to knock dead as many infected as he comes into contact with.
Nick: Here we have an unusual fellow to be surviving the zombie apocalypse. An obsessive gambler and conman, Nick is a finely dressed hard-ass capable of overcoming the hordes of zombies with any selection of weapons. Not unlike Francis from the original, Nick is usually the subject of ridicule from the other survivors, mainly Ellis.
Rochelle: The only female in the group is Rochelle. She’s an aspiring reporter working as a lowly assistant for a local news firm, but this apocalypse could just be her big break. Rochelle is here to survive the Armageddon and make sure the world knows just how it all went down.
Ellis: The most talkative and, at times, very annoying survivor of the group. Ellis is a very relaxed and laid-back young man who seems to think nothing of what’s happening around him. He’s just here to have fun and enjoy the apocalypse, albeit survive it too.
Another one of the noticeable difference between this and the first game is that in this sequel, the campaigns all link together and actually form a story, rather than having nothing to do with each other. The survivors meet for the first time atop of a Hotel in Savannah, GA, and make their way cross-states to New Orleans, LA, where the government is apparently taking survivors to safety via boats. Gosh, haven’t they ever seen the Dawn of the Dead remake?
And in a nod to the criticism of the first game, Left 4 Dead 2 now gives players far more weapons to pick and choose from. With multiple types of every gun variation from assault rifles to snipers, and even pistols, there are always new guns to be experienced and new weapons to overcome particular scenarios. And with the addition of finely crafted melee weapons, the experience is truly complete. Each melee weapon is slightly different from the last and all are equally enjoyable. Anyone ever wanted to smash a guitar over an undead monsters head, or simply run around with a samurai sword like a madman? Well here is your chance.
Some 20 Million Xbox gamers have an Xbox LIVE subscription, and if you’re one of the unlucky ones who don’t, you might want to think about missing this one. The game is purely designed with multiplayer in mind, so unless you love to replay the same levels over and over again on your lonesome, or always have some buddies over to have a bit of split-screen co-op fun with, you’re not going to get much enjoyment out of the game. There are only 5 campaigns in the game, each of which lasts around about 1 hour, and after one or two play throughs of each, the single player is pure repetition and boredom. And despite the campaigns being better than those in the last game, it would still have been nice to see a few more.
...and you enemies even closer.
If you have any hope of defeating the zombie hordes and becoming one of the few living survivors, then you had better do your research on the very things that look to stand in your way. Here’s what the new game throws your way that didn’t quite make the originals cut.
Spitter: These babies are one to look out for if you’re in tight spaces. They spit your way a large acid ball which spreads itself over the floor upon impact. This acid is a major health draining hazard, and should be avoided at all costs. Careful when taking these sheilas on with melee weapons too, cause when they die, they spill their guts all over the floor under them, literally.
Jockey: Probably the least dangerous of the new enemies, these little guys will do just as their name suggests. Ride out. Not in a sexual way though, more of an “I’ll jump on your back and make you run into the zombie swarms and into traps and die, ahahah!” relationship. Dispatch quickly and stay together to best these dudes.
Charger: Ah, potentially the most dangerous of the new infected. As big as a tank, but nowhere near as strong. These fellas will charge though your team and send you flying in all manner of directions. Avoid at all costs and when you see them coming, don’t stand too close to your friends. Try to avoid trying to take them on with melee weapons too – pop them from a distance if possible.
Multiple Players means multiple fun.
The games centre point is multiplayer. The original was a smash hit over Xbox LIVE and to the surprise of all, played strongly until the day this new beauty was released. With more modes and more options, coupled with a better matchmaking system and party access, Left 4 Dead 2 has one of the finest multiplayer experiences on the 360. Whether it’s the games classic Versus mode, which has players trying to complete one of the 5 campaigns, while the other team takes hold of the games special infected and tries to put a stop to the madness, or the new Scavenger mode, which is similar to the games first campaigns finale; one team must try to fuel an objective while the other team must put a stop to it before it’s too late. Team work here is absolutely essential. So, if you’re after a bit of fun and addictive multiplayer that isn’t, say, Call of Duty, then look no further, because you’ve found your prize.
One of the downfalls of the original Left 4 Dead was its less than spectacular graphics. Well this time around we get graphics which can be called near perfect. By that, I don’t mean they are better than anything you’ve ever seen, but they fit the game so perfectly that it’s almost comical. The characters look amazing, both their textures and their flawless models. And the lip-synching is spot on.
The zombies also look fantastic. There haven’t been such good looking zombies in a video game since, well, ever. They honestly look frighteningly realistic (well, of course they can’t be realistic considering they are zombies, but they look REAL), and with the limb cutting and head-chopping goodness of great weapon ballistics and melee weapons, look (and fall apart) just as you imagine they would as you smash an axe into ones neck or get up close and personal with a pump action shotgun. That is of course, considering you’re not stuck with a censored copy that is so edited down it almost takes all the fun out of it.
The zombies themselves sound great! Just had to mention that. It’s actually scary to not see but hear hordes of zombies approaching through a decent surround sound system, as well as one of the most intimidating growls and screams of one of the massive tanks before he comes raging out from behind a wall only to attack relentlessly.
But undead creatures’ aside, the game has an improved script over the last. This time, as you progress through the campaigns, you will learn the back stories of each survivor, as they talk and converse between themselves. The stories they tell (especially Ellis) are somewhat hilarious and add a little light to the surrounding apocalypse. The back story factor also adds to the story arc and makes the game seem overall more enjoyable and immersive.
A lot of the time in the game you won’t hear any kind of background sound like a musical score, or even the environment doing its thing. And it’s not because Valve forgot to add them in, it’s because they wanted to set the mood. Which I assure you, it does. The silence of nothing is more frightening than a hundred raging zombies running full pelt toward you, especially when the nothing is overtaken by the sounds of an army of undead. And slight piano notes are intertwined into the silence to create yet more traumatizing moments. Fantastic and frightening are one in the same here.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, if you are not lucky enough to have LIVE access, this probably isn’t for you. The only people who will get enough fun out of single-player for a full price tag are huge zombie fans. However, if you do have LIVE access, this is a must-have. The game will provide countless hours of zombie killing enjoyment, and have you frightened, satisfied and more with its varying levels and great multiplayer. You are sure to make many new friends within the games large community.
After that mammoth review, the only thing I could add would be another assurance that this is the game for any shooting fan and zombie fan alike. Even if you’re not into zombies, if you enjoy shooting games you'll love this game, and that’s the beauty of it. Countless hours of online capabilities, and an improvement on the original in every single aspect ensures that this is the ultimate zombie game. Don’t wait for a price drop, this is a wonderful game. However, think twice if you’re not subscribed to Xbox LIVE, as you may not get your moneys worth.
AAG SCORE: 9.7/10
- Loads of new weapons
- Great diversity in campaigns
- Wonderful multiplayer
- Looks wonderful and is beautifully gory
- Genuinely frightening at times due to realistic atmosphere
- Not much single player value
- Few more campaigns would have been nice
Reviewed & Written By John Elliott