We haven’t unlocked a hidden, Thriller-inspired dance mini-game, but this screenshot gives us hope.
Few movies of 1970’s have had an enduring effect on popular culture like George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. While John Travolta may have stirred a fleeting interest in disco, the 1978 horror film’s inspired mix of uneasy alliances, zombies, and nihilism has influenced a generation of comics, films, and games. The films premise, which pitted a quartet of protagonists against an unrelenting legion of the undead, clearly impacted the developers of 2008’s Left 4 Dead.
Upon the title’s release, Valve’s game immediately struck a chord with gamers, as groups confronted an insurmountable throng of flesh-hungry foes. Players were forced into cooperation, since the game’s artificial intelligence, named “The Director”, took punitive actions against wayward team members. Bands of explorers learned to stick together and cover their fire sectors, lest a team of tanks or smokers would obliterate the entire squad. Yet, despite all the game’s visceral strengths, a few setbacks impeded Left 4 Dead from reaching its dazzling potential.
“You take out that Tai-Chi dude at 11 o’clock, I’ll take care of the rest”
Players accustomed to the treasure trove of infected-annihilating weaponry of Dead Rising, soon grew fatigued with Left 4 Dead’s abbreviated arsenal. Others became frustrated by the ineffectiveness of pushing encroaching enemies away; while the maneuver was required when the player was mobbed, the time required to execute allowed even more foes to surround survivors. The recently released Left 4 Dead 2 consummately resolve these concerns.
First, the game’s collection of armaments and ballistics has been appreciatively augmented; from the SCAR-L influenced combat rifle to the ‘blooper’ grenade launcher, L4D2’s exteneded weapon set offers a much needed range of diversity. A careful amount of balancing is evident, giving players with heavy-hitting weapons, a reduced amount of ammo, and varying reload times. As such, teams will need to offer extra protection for players that choose the grenadier role. Players can also locate reserves of incendiary or explosive rounds, which deal supplementary damage to foes. Carrying these types of ammo means players will gave to forgo their medpacks, creating a captivating risk/reward dynamic.
Left 4 Dead 2’s incorporation of melee weapons- fire axes, bats, swords, and frying pans now deal damage to the infected, while saving precious ammunition. One of the highlights of the game is locating a chainsaw, which allows survivors to spring through crowds of enemies, turning the infected into a bloody pulp. The title’s new loadouts are instrumental in eliminating the three new enemy types. Spitters lob pools of toxic goo at gamers, sending tight-knit group scattering for cover. Jockeys recall Half-Life’s head crab, as they wrap around player’s heads, taking control over their movement, and often sending them into peril. Chargers behave like smokers, pulling survivors away from teammates, as they beat them into lifelessness.
“I bet there’s no infected in the Tunnel of Love over there, Nick.” “Yeah…nice try, Ellis”
Although the challenge level of Left 4 Dead 2 has been elevated, masochists may enjoy the title’s realism mode, which makes the inflected harder to kill, and removes the HUD-like assistance of glowing aura’s around teammates and weaponry. The title’s new multiplayer mode, Scavenge, tasks players with recovering gas canisters against a countdown timer. It’s back and forth momentum is wonderfully heated, as the fuel cans seem to get ignited or fumbled at the most inopportune moments.
While the title is incredibly enjoyable with a party of three like-minded participants, gamers who prefer a more solitary experience will find little reason to play through Left 4 Dead 2. Although the game’s singe player campaign allows gamers to trek through the game’s environments with capable A.I. partners, without an extended narrative or sense of community the game can seem quite shallow.
“Hey hotpants, I hope those are Kool-Aide stains on your hands!“
Left 4 Dead 2 is to be commended for its stable framerate, which retains its fluidity even when a flock of enemies is hurtling toward the player. Antagonist animations are consistently eerie- from lone corpses that sway ominously in corners, to the undead’s swift scampers along fences. Gunshots now splatter enemies targeted appendages instead of L4D’s broad damage model. Yet for all game’s graphical competency, the game can look a bit flat at times. While the drab colors and lack of consistently detailed texturing is subtle, players will likely notice the Source engine beginning to show its age.
Many worried that Left 4 Dead’s journey to market a year after the release of original title signaled only a trivial deviation in the game’s mechanics. Fortunately, a number of small, but significant enhancements elevate the title to must-play status. Left 4 Dead 2 will satisfy action-oriented gamers who prefer a collective, online shooter that is unswervingly intense.