Maximum PC Staff Nov 17, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2

At A Glance

George Romero

Lots of deformable zombies + scavenge mode + melee weapons = more badass zombie killing.

John Romero

Needs more weapons. Gameplay essentials essentially unchanged. Source engine looks dated.

Does the world really need a Left 4 Dead sequel already?

We love killing zombies. When Left  4 Dead came out, we feared that eventually we’d tire of returning the walking dead back to the hell from which they spawned, but it turns out we didn’t. However, we did quickly tire of the lame “optimal” ways that hardcore gamers developed to beat Left 4 Dead campaigns in the most efficient—yet boring—manner possible.

Enter Left 4 Dead 2. The biggest change to the established formula is the redesigned finales and crescendos—those mid-level events that attract unending hordes of zombies. Instead of simply finding a good closet and holing up for 15 minutes, popping out only to kill the occasional tank, the crescendos now require you to keep moving—either to reach a goal or collect and deliver items. The zombie closet is no more, and we don’t miss it at all.

Additionally, the five campaigns are more connected—one picks up where the last left off—and more dynamic, with multiple paths through key bottlenecks in the levels. The available paths—as well as rain, fog, and other dynamic weather effects—are controlled by the improved AI Director. As before, the Director monitors the overall status of your party—health, weapons, ammo, and progress through the level—and automatically adjusts the challenge to maintain tension while not overwhelming your party. The Director does this by sending zombie hordes, limiting ammo and weapons, and spawning the special infected.

This lovable uncommon is ready to entertain the young ’uns by juggling, riding unicycles, and eating your brains!

And the special infected are back—with friends. In addition to the classic hunter, smoker, boomer, witch, and tank, Left 4 Dead 2 adds three new specials: the charger, the spitter, and the jockey—all designed to force players to keep moving and make it easier for infected to split up even good human players, which is important for both single-player and versus. Additionally, each campaign has a unique type of uncommon common zombie. These undead are not much stronger than garden-variety zombies, but each has a unique power, making the uncommon common more difficult to kill.

In Left 4 Dead 2, the zombie models are much more dynamic—taking damage, losing limbs, and acting much more ragdoll-y.

Naturally, there’s a host of new assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, and pistols; but L4D 2 also adds special ammo types, grenade launchers, and melee weapons. Whether you’re talking about the katana, machete, cricket bat, or chainsaw, we love the melee weapons. While you give up your pistol slot to carry a melee weapon, it’s dead useful for one or two members of your party to go melee to serve as the frontline against big hordes.

With a stomach full of deadly, deadly acid, the Spitter’s job is to put a stop to your forward progress.

Last but not least, there are a couple of new game modes. For aficionados of versus mode, which pits a team of human-controlled humans against a team of human-controlled zombies, there’s Scavenge mode. Scavenge puts the combatants on small maps with tight time limits. Human players must collect fuel and return it to a generator, while the zombies try to prevent that. Because the action is condensed in a relatively small area, it’s much more intense than more traditional versus battles we’re accustomed to. We also really dig the new Realism mode. Realism requires players to headshot zombies, while removing the auras that make it easy to identify friendly players, weapons, ammo caches, and other items from afar. Because you can enable Realism at any difficulty level, it helps bridge the jump from Advanced mode to Expert, although we don’t recommend turning on Realism if you’re not playing with your regular group.

Each campaign has a unique uncommon common zombie, which you’ll find mixed in with the rest of the horde.

Our only real complaint with Left 4 Dead 2 is that the Source engine is beginning to show its age, especially in areas where there’s any kind of ground cover, uneven ground, or foliage. While the new character animation system and ragdolls are amazing, it can’t hide the fact that this engine is approaching its 10th birthday. Despite some graphical shortcomings, the game is a blast to play, and delivers an experience whose only real rival is its predecessor.

The bad news is that finales in Left 4 Dead 2 force you into the open. The good news? Pyrotechnics!


Left 4 Dead 2

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