Review: Get your copy of Zombies Gone Wild: Mardi Gras today!
I'm always up for a good zombie-killing game. There is something satisfying about plowing through wave upon wave of grotesquely-stupid, nearly-human, fodder. Do you know what I'm talking about? There is a type of cathartic release that comes along with slaughtering zombies by the dozens and hundreds, one that Left 4 Dead perfectly captured when it was released last year. A little bit unexpectedly, Valve just released the sequel to last year's multiplayer game of the year. What's amazing is that, even with only a year of development, Left 4 Dead 2 does everything that the original does and then some.
The original Left 4 Dead did an excellent job of creating a new type of game; where the experience improves when enjoyed with a group of friends. It did this by eschewing a traditional narrative, instead thrusting you and three friends into a zombie movie. It let your party create its own story using voice-chat after setting the tone with hundreds upon hundreds of the undead. The B-grade movie feeling was compounded with great atmosphere and level design. The best thing about the sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, is that it recaptures all of those sentiments about the original while improving the variety and depth of the gameplay.
The new features in Left 4 Dead 2 make some significant improvements to how your own personal zombie apocalypse plays out. The biggest update to the gameplay is the addition of melee weapons. Where the original game allowed you to push zombies back when you were overwhelmed, a process that bought you precious few moments to catch your breath, you can now replace your pistols with one of eight handheld weapons. Ranging from chainsaw to cricket bat, some of these weapons allow you to actually cleave through a massed horde of zombies quickly. These melee attacks are accompanied by a bloody mess being splashed across your screen and a very visceral splorshing
sound. It is a level of enjoyment that can be best appreciated after a long stressful day?
Beyond the melee weapons, Left 4 Dead 2 also expands on the relatively limited arsenal of firearms from the original game. With the exception of the Grenade Launcher, a boom-stick if ever I saw one, many of the new weapons are slight variations on those you already know and love. While they don't break a lot of new ground, each of the different weapons has its own strengths and you will inevitably find your firearm of choice. To compliment these new guns, there are also incendiary and explosive rounds that you can find throughout the five different campaigns. These new types of ammo are a huge boon when exercised at the right time, such as against a tank or when calling the horde down upon your position.
There is more packed into this sequel, too. You can pick up and throw boomer bile, drawing the undead into a zombie-on-zombie deathmatch, grab an adrenaline shot that, when administered, speeds up healing actions and helps you to run through a zombie mob, and pick up a portable defibrillator, allowing you to revive a dead comrade. The trick is that all of these new goodies fit into the existing inventory template, meaning you can't hoard all of the good stuff. Instead, you have to plan ahead and coordinate with your teammates so that you have a solid mix of items between the four of you.
The New Orleans bayou, the setting for Left 4 Dead 2, brings new zombies into the fray, too. There are three new special infected to join the ranks of Boomers, Smokers, Hunters, and Tanks that we already learned to fear in the original game. This time around we are introduced to Spitters, Jockeys, and Chargers. Each one has their own special way of bringing pain to the players. There are also several new uncommon infected that inhabit the new levels. Basically, there are a huge variety of different zombies to help keep the action feeling fresh.
I still haven't mentioned the new multiplayer modes, have I? L4D2 expands the multiplayer beyond the cooperative and versus modes that accompanied the release of the original game. This time around survival mode, a mode available to the original L4D via free download, is included with the retail release. Best compared to Gears of War 2's Horde mode or ODST's Firefight mode, Survival is basically a fight against the clock. Brand new to L4D2 is Scavenge mode. This is a new type of versus mode that pits teams against each other as they take turns collecting gas cans and securing them by dumping them into a generator. It changes up the versus formula and gives it more of a finite goal.