Left 4 Dead 2 – First (late) impressions

By: Craig Lager

Published: April 12, 2010 Posted in: PC Gaming Nonsense

I finally got around to picking up Left 4 Dead 2; initially being put off by the demo long delayed the buy, but a recent 50% discount on steam tipped me over. So far I’ve played 3 of the 5 campaigns, and I’ve been having a mega-fun-time with it, though some of those initial demo reservations still reside.

left 4 dead 2 - So. Much. Blood.

What I originally said about the demo was that in the sequel the Survivors were being portrayed much more as aggressors rather than survivors. They are depicted in both the intro cutscene and the demo level as bringing the fight to the hordes and revelling in it, rather than purely looking for an escape which was definitely the tone of the original. It was a big put-off, the draw for L4D being actual survival horror rather than the current trend of comedy zombie maiming in the tone of Dead Rising. Actually playing the proper thing though, it’s emerged as an unfounded criticism; the survival aspect is still there and it still gives that same tenseness that the original encouraged. The Survivors are maybe more cockey, sure, but it comes across much more as bravado while they are terrified on the inside – a key difference that those first experiences didn’t reflect.

The new boss zombies, though, I’m not convinced with still. They are functional I can say that for sure, but I don’t know if I find any par the The Charger is particularly fitting (and the wandering witches but they are just a modification on what was already there). The Charger fits the aesthetics, a demi-tank and he has a clear function – he splits people up from the pack to great effect. Fine. The Spitter and Jockey though, I’m not sold. The Jokey is perhaps most functional out of the two – able to lead players it takes over straight into witches/fire/some other bad shit, but he looks and sounds ridiculous. It’s just this annoying fucking thing. And the spitter throws cartoon bile onto the floor that hurts a bit. She not only seems a little redundant, but breaks the aesthetics when there is this bright green stuff on the floor and doing that in something like left 4 dead 2 can easily lead to breaking the atmosphere.

left 4 dead 2 - Nothing to see here

I suppose my biggest reservation is whether this will have lasting value – something the original distinctly lacked. It will have more, I think – there is an extra campaign right off the bat for a start, though I’m not sure if the campaigns seem as interesting as that initial, varied four. Each of the originals were vastly different, rarely descending into generics. No Mercy saw you fight through New York before breaking into a hospital. Dead Air was a complete Airport, even with a crashing plane. And while Dark Carnival is certainly standing out as something special here, the other two have more slipped into functional rather that impressive. Sure, the added mechanic of having to go back through suburbs after flooding is interesting but I cant help feel they are still bland suburbs. Like I say though, it’s still fun, I’m just not sure how long it will last. Realism Mode is still something I need to try, however, which sounds great; as does the scavenger mode.

So far then I’m enjoying the sequel. It’s undeniably Left 4 Dead for both the good parts and the bad. Whether it’s something I’m going to persist with over any significant amount of time – only time its self will tell. I am told though that there is new DLC out this month too, so I would suggest I’m at least not going to be done with it for a while yet. And any game where me, Tom and Thom can leave Ed on the shore, screaming for his life while we majestically sail away has to be worth more time. Right?

Craig Lager
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