Left 4 Dead 2 expands upon best features from original

With the success of last year’s Left 4 Dead, which changed the way online games were played, it came as a big surprise that fans were outraged when Valve studios announced the sequel. They had a right to be skeptical initially—the sequel was scheduled to be released exactly one year after the original. Sequels that follow that release pattern tend to be rushed out the door, and they usually don’t offer enough new material to warrant paying full price a year later. Skepticism about this game should be put aside; however, Left 4 Dead 2 offers plenty of new twists to the gameplay of the original and outdoes it in every way possible.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Left 4 Dead universe: There has been a mutated rabies epidemic, causing pretty much everyone to become a zombie. But these aren’t your typical bumbling zombies; they are fast, aggressive, and they travel in hoards. You play as one of the few survivors who is somehow immune to the disease, and you must travel to get rescued. That’s pretty much the depth of the story. While the sequel actually makes each campaign coherent—not just a bunch of random scenarios thrown together—there isn’t a lot of story here. However, from the beginning, Left 4 Dead was never about the story; it was about delivering a fast-paced online shooter, and Valve far exceeded expectations this time.

Left 4 Dead 2 will take players from giant shopping malls to amusement parks and all the way to New Orleans. The amount of variety is incredible, mind you; these are locations that have been done in zombie scenarios hundreds of times before, but Valve is able to offer unique twists on each and make the game far more exciting.

Speaking of variety, there are more ways to mow down the legions of infected that you will meet along the way. All of the original weapons have returned, and on top of that, there are new assault rifles, a grenade launcher, a magnum and—the best addition—melee weapons. It is quite satisfying to bash a zombie’s head in with an electric guitar and have blood splatter across the screen. That’s another thing—the gore has been turned up to 11 in Left 4 Dead 2. If you’re squeamish, you will probably want to pass on this one, as dismemberments, among other things, are quite common occurrences.

Not only are there different ways to take zombies down, but the AI also has different ways to take players down. One trait unique to the zombies of Left 4 Dead was the special infected. They have special attributes, such as bile that will instantly attract a hoard of zombies if it comes in contact with a survivor. The mix between the new and old special types will keep players on their toes even after playing through the campaigns multiple times.

Even though this game has an option to play single-player, you will not be getting your full money’s worth playing solo. If you for some reason don’t have an internet connection or are strangely opposed to online gaming, don’t buy this game. Left 4 Dead was meant to be played with four human players. Communication is key, so players will need to strategize and constantly protect each other. If you think that you will be able to run through an entire map solo and leave your allies in the dust, think again­—not only will you be killed off quickly, you will also leave your allies at a disadvantage, as the Director, the AI that oversees and controls the zombie hoards, is always waiting for survivors to get divided before launching a major ambush. Things get even trickier when you are playing against four human-controlled zombies.

There have been so many improvements to Left 4 Dead 2 that I couldn’t possibly address them all here. If you liked the first one, you should undoubtedly buy this one, and those who haven’t played before should seriously consider picking this game up. It will without question be the game with the greatest amount of replayability all year, and it is just a fun game. If you aren’t into co-op gaming, then you should stay clear, because it’s essential here. The game, while much better looking than the original, is still not the most graphically appealing game by a good measure, but what it lacks technically it makes up for in style. Fans of online shooters should not miss this game; it is fast-paced, fun, and addicting and it will have you playing through all hours of the night.