Left 4 Dead 2 takes what made the original Valve game great and added more to it. What we got is one of the best co-op games of all time.
|Console||PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox 360|
|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror, co-op|
|Release Year||2009 – 2010, 2013|
|Purchase (PC/Mac/Linux)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Xbox 360)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Well, Left 4 Dead series, it’s been a while. Good to see you’re still somehow thriving after all these years.
So back in 2016, I reviewed the original Left 4 Dead as part of my annual horror game marathon. And unfortunately, that particular review ended up being one of my least viewed reviews of all time. It’s probably because I was reviewing a popular first-person shooter (or that people abandoned the game for the sequel), and my review got lost in a sea of probably a hundred other reviews. And I can’t say I brought anything new to the table.
But here we are again, talking about the sequel. I guess second time’s the charm, right? Is that how the saying goes?
Anyways, Left 4 Dead 2 is nearly ten years old at this point. And guess what?
Left 4 Dead 2 still holds up and is still one of the best co-op games ever!
If you have played the original Left 4 Dead, then you already know what to expect. In a nutshell, Left 4 Dead 2 brings only a little bit new to the table while remaining mostly the same as its predecessor. Also, more maps and new characters.
So, let’s see how the zombie apocalypse is holding up.
The Road to New Orleans
Left 4 Dead 2 starts us with a more action-based intro that outright announces its cheesy action movie roots. The original Left 4 Dead had a more suspenseful intro, but this one went all out on the BOOM! ACTION!
KILLING MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIES? BOOM!
CHICKS WITH BFGs? BOOM!
THAT ONE NOOB PLAYER GETTING HIS BALLS ROCKED ON HIS FIRST DAY? UMM… BADA-BOOM!
Someone go help poor Ellis in this intro. Either his luck is immensely shitty or someone isn’t playing right.
The story of Left 4 Dead 2 is fairly similar to its predecessor. The Infection, AKA the Green Flu, turned up mysteriously and overwhelmed the United States in a matter of weeks. Most of humanity in the country had contracted the virus, turning them into the zombie-like Infected. Those immune to the virus are known as Survivors. But because of the highly aggressive nature of the Infected, it’s only a matter of time before the virus spreads to all parts of the world and completely knock humanity off the top of the food chain.
The events of the original Left 4 Dead followed the scenarios of Bill the war veteran, Louis the IT analyst, Zoey the college student and Francis the biker. These four distinctly different personalities formed a ragtag group to fight through the hordes of the Infected as they look for a safe location free of zombies until the apocalypse blows over.
This time, we have a new cast of characters in Left 4 Dead 2. We have Coach the high school teacher, Nick the con artist, Rochelle the TV producer and Ellis the mechanic. The group makes its way to New Orleans, Louisiana to seek protection with the military. But with the Infection throwing the whole country into chaos, they must travel from Georgia and use whatever transportation vehicles they can find to get to Louisiana.
Back and Better Than Ever
Left 4 Dead 2 works like your standard first-person shooter with the main draw being co-op gameplay. Whether you’re playing single player, Campaign Mode or Realism Mode, the gameplay is mostly the same. But the experiences you go through will be unique and dynamic, thanks to The Director script. Through this system, every one of your enemy spawns will vary by crowd size, location and enemy variety in every playthrough. And this is what makes the Left 4 Dead games so addicting to play. Even though the maps will always remain the same, what actually happens on them will be different.
The goal of each map is to travel with your team and reach the safe room at the end. And the best way to accomplish this is to work together with your teammates to defend them and take down Infected hordes.
If your (or your ally’s) health becomes too low, they will enter an incapicitated state. This means that they are unable to move from their spot until a teammate brings them back on their feet. Until then, they can only fight against the Infected using pistols. While incapacitated, you will lose health over time. And if your health bar reaches zero before someone rescues you, you die.
Left 4 Dead 2 allows you to carry a primary weapon and a secondary weapon. The primary weapons usually consist of SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles, and machine guns. In the original Left 4 Dead, glock pistols were the only secondary weapons. But in this game, you have a greater selection with these new additions: magnum pistols and a shit ton of melee weapons.
Yeah, melee weapons. Did you know Left 4 Dead didn’t have melee weapons? Well, now they do. You can now pick up fire axes, katanas, machetes, baseball bats, crowbars (Half-Life reference), cricket bats and more. While most of them kill Infected with one strike, they all have different attack speeds, reach, motions, etc. And pretty much the best way to find the ones you’re most comfortable with is to experiment.
But be careful. Melee weapons mean less protection when you’re incapacitated and lying on the ground, with only a single glock pistol to defend yourself with.
Left 4 Dead 2 also introduced special weapons, which are extremely powerful but only have limited fuel/ammo. The chainsaw is the only melee weapon that falls in this category, but can easily shred a horde of Infected in seconds (even the Special Infected). For guns, there are the grenade launcher and the M60, which are rare to come across but can easily destroy hordes.
In addition to your normal weapons, you call also find explosives including molotov cocktails, pipe bombs and boomer bile. Molotovs and pipe bombs were previously featured in Left 4 Dead for burning zombies or luring them into a specific location to kill them with one explosion. Boomer bile is a new addition and its function is more about distraction more than killing. Similar to the pipe bomb, it attracts a horde of Infected to a specific spot. However, throwing the bile at zombies will cause the other zombies to attack them, which can be very useful at times (especially against Tanks).
The game introduced new ammunition types in the form of incendiary ammo and explosive/frag rounds., which you can find in limited quantities and share with your teammates. Incendiary ammo sets Infected on fire, killing common Infected with one bullet and damaging Special Infected. Explosive rounds add a stronger impact to your bullets, making it easier to kill any Infected without the need to aim for the sweet spots like the head or chest area.
Healing items include first aid kits, pain pills, adrenaline shots and defibrillators. First aid kits and pain pills were staples in Left 4 Dead, but adrenaline introduces a new (and interesting) type of healing. It gives a smaller boost of HP than pain pills, but it will increase your character’s speed while decreasing their vision and hearing. This item can be very useful in dealing with active hordes and Tanks.
Defibrillators revive dead teammates, but are not super useful in game modes like Single Player and Campaign Mode since your teammates will respawn in closets in a short time after death. But in Realism Mode, it’s one of the most invaluable tools at your disposal.
Overall, a lot of new shit you can use and the game is much better for it.
Through Hellfire and Torrents
With the obvious graphical updates, the character models generally look better than they did in, being more grotesquely detailed than before. The original Left 4 Dead had mostly nighttime scenarios where you’d have to pass by urban slums and small towns. In Left 4 Dead 2, more scenarios take place during daytime as you pass through urban areas and bayou towns.
The music and ambiance are mostly recycled from the original Left 4 Dead, though there are some new compositions for the new maps. But for the most part, they’re about the same.
The voice acting is very well done. Our main characters have distinctive personalities that not only show through their character designs, but simply just from the way they talk. Nick comes across as this crooked used car salesman (which is made even funnier when you realize he looks like a mobster Nicolas Cage). And in my opinion, he’s the best character of the new cast just from his hilariously cynical interactions with the other characters.
Left 4 Dead 2 also attempts to play around with different scenarios with new venues and hazards, generally putting you through more intense and stressful situations. In Dead Center, you’d have to enter a grocery store that sets off an alarm after you open it, just to bring back a six-pack of cola. In Dark Carnival, you’d have to activate a rollercoaster track and run through a long and dangerous path filled with Infected. In Hard Rain, you’d have to survive a hurricane as hordes use the limited visibility to attack you and your teammates.
These are all great set pieces that help make the game more memorable. And during these moments of pure chaos, that’s when you would face the toughest challenges that the game throws at you. And for those unprepared against these hellish situations…
GIT GUD PLZ
Oh yeah, and remember the Special Infected? Left 4 Dead 2 introduced three new strains, all of them being assholes: the Jockey, the Charger and the Spitter.
- Smoker – a tall, thin Infected who uses his tongue as a sticky appendage. When he catches you, he reels you in while other Infected attack you like a piñata. Notable for his loud wheezing.
- Boomer – an obese Infected who attempts to move closer to you so that he make puke on you, which will immediately summon a horde of Infected. When killed, he explodes like a bomb, spreading out more bile. Notable for his constant belching and groaning.
- Hunter – a small Infected in a hoodie. When you’re in his sights, he will lunge at you and quickly claw at your face. Notable for his animalistic snarls and screeches.
- Jockey – a small Infected with a hunched back and apelike features. He jumps onto your back and steers you away from your teammates while clawing at your face.
- Charger – a muscular Infected with an oversized arm designed to charge straight into you. He can knock down a whole group of survivors and pin one to the ground.
- Spitter – a tall, lanky Infected with a gaping mouth. She can spit a powerful acid that forms a puddle that spreads quickly. The longer you stand in it, the faster the acid damages you.
- Witch – an infamous female Infected best known for her crying and one of the boss Infected. At least one Witch spawns in each map in a random location. By shining a flashlight on her, getting too close to her, or shooting her, she will become upset and attack the player who startled her. Her attacks will immediately incapacitate you, then she will proceed to finish you off quickly.
- Tank – a powerful and horribly mutated Infected with superhuman strength and endurance. The Tank is the main boss monster of the Left 4 Dead games, and killing him is usually mandatory to proceed through the campaigns. His main attack is throwing debris at you, smashing obstacles out of his way, and delivering a punch that sends you flying.
So with this many Special Infected, there are also more tips and tricks in dealing with specific ones. The Jockey is vulnerable if it jumps (but doesn’t hop onto your back), giving you time to use a quick melee shove on it. The Spitter is incredibly frail like the Boomer and will die to just about any gunshot. The Charger’s bulky frame absorbs a lot of damage, so it’s best to keep your distance from it after its initial charge.
That’s all well and good, until you realize the game’s biggest threat of all…
Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t it be in a multiplayer game?
People who find odd pleasure in harassing other players either through chat or gameplay or both. Possibly ill-tempered and have little self-control. Those who think racist insults and obscene descriptions IN ALL CAPS are the works of a genius.
Or how about those Versus players who expect you to follow their invisible unspoken strategies for playing the Special Infected, then get mad at you for not following them? It’s like two star football players discussing the next play between themselves (but not to others), then getting mad at their teammates for not following their plan.
For the most part, I don’t encounter this too often in Left 4 Dead 2’s Campaign Mode or Realism Mode, as most players tend to be helpful. But Versus Mode? Holy shit, man…
It’s a Pandora’s box of Trump-sized egos and 4chan levels of trolling. It’s like these players are suffering from a combination of Microdick Syndrome, Freudian Excuses, elitism, sociopathic behaviors and narcissism in an extremely volatile mixture. And the result is one of the most toxic multiplayer experiences I ever had. While Versus Mode can be fun at times, the skill gaps are wide and “experts” are often hateful and pompous jackasses who look for any petty reason to kick off teammates for the smallest mistakes. Those people are the equivalent of school bullies who never pick certain kids to be on their football team and always pass the ball to the same 2-3 people for the whole game.
But for real, over 80% of the Versus Mode games I joined are filled with trash-talking teens or man-children with serious anger issues. I don’t know if this has always been the case for the Left 4 Dead series (as I first got the games years after their initial releases). But from my experience, I encounter this most often in Versus Mode than in Campaign/Realism Mode.
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The Road Ahead
So one of the interesting things I found about Left 4 Dead 2 is that it has a lot of downloadable campaigns post-release. The game originally came with fives campaigns with two new DLC ones later on. Furthermore, it would later include ALL SIX main campaigns from the original Left 4 Dead (not including The Last Stand).
This means that there is almost no reason to go back to the original Left 4 Dead, unless you want to play those maps again without the Left 4 Dead 2 additions (especially melee weapons). So while Left 4 Dead 2 is technically a sequel plot-wise, the game really feels more like an expansion than anything.
Seriously, you can play all of the Left 4 Dead campaigns in their entirety. Aside from the new gameplay elements and minor changes to the maps, there’s very little difference.
But I’m not going to complain too much since I got the original game on sale a long time ago.
And if you’re in the neighborhood for more campaigns, there are actually many good custom campaigns you can download and install.
As far as the ideal experience goes, you can experience the main story of Left 4 Dead 2 with Single Player Mode. But you probably wouldn’t want to do this since your ally AI is limited on what it can do and rigid. For most players (casual and experienced), Campaign Mode with other players is the way to go—especially with friends.
Realism Mode is a great way to test your skills using limited visual and audio cues, or making the game less “gamey.” It’s a way to increase the game’s challenge without directly raising the difficulty level. In this mode, you won’t be able to see highlights around your allies, meaning it’s harder for you to see them in any situation. So you won’t be able to spot them through walls. And if your allies are crying for help, you’d have to use the audio to find out where they are. Your allies also won’t respawn after death, meaning the Defibrillator item is very effective here.
If you’re willing to brave the cesspool that is Versus Mode, it can actually be a fun time with some practice. The best part about Versus Mode is being able to play as the Special Infected, though playing as them effectively is much harder than playing as the Survivors. Just like with the Survivors, your best bet is to coordinate strategies with your teammates and strike together as a team. If you’re trying to act alone in this mode at all… then you’re just asking for it.
There are other game modes like Survival Mode (hold out as long as possible) and Scavenge Mode (collect as many gasoline tanks as possible), though I never really cared for them. Left 4 Dead 2 also introduced a new Mutations Mode, which is basically a long list of modified gameplay modes with some quirky changes. Some are alright, some are… very boring. But at least the option is there if you want to get more bang from your buck.
When it comes down to it, Left 4 Dead 2 is still a very solid co-op game to this day. I cannot emphasize any more that teamwork is paramount here, meaning you must give and receive something in return regularly. There’s not much else to say, but go get some friends and play a campaign together and you’ll see how quickly you’ll sink a lot of time into this one game.
From this point on, it’s unknown if Valve Corporation will continue the Left 4 Dead series. Or hell, any of their intellectual properties at all. It’s pretty much a well-known joke among gamers at this point, considering it’s been years since they developed a new title. But if you want to be optimistic, there is some online speculation that a Left 4 Dead 3 could be in the works by developer Turtle Rock due to job postings. But again, it’s just speculation and no solid evidence at this point.
But hey, we’re willing to wait. We waited over ten years for a Half-Life 3 and we’re used to it by now. What’s another ten more years?
Left 4 Dead 2$9.99
- Standard FPS action with dynamic enemy encounters and many new items and maps.
- The gameplay requires a mix of action and tactics, especially as you get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the Infected.
- With the addition of three new Special Infected, there's more of a variety on which enemies you encounter.
- Nice, moody sound design with well placed audio cues for when certain mobs spawn on the map.
- Realism Mode is a fantastic co-op challenge for those seeking to test their skill and knowledge in the game.
- Mutations Mode gives even more options on how you can play the game, though the quality of each mod is variable.
- The game is easily subjected to trolls and griefers due to the easily abusable voting system for actions such as kicking players. Versus Mode is the worst culprit for this level of toxic behavior.
- This game renders the original Left 4 Dead nearly pointless to buy since it contains all of the main campaigns it had. In this regard, it's like an expansion of the original game rather than its own sequel.