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Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview

Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview

Publisher: Valve & Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360
Release Date: November 17th

Left 4 Dead 2 hasn’t been as popular as its older brother and the reason for that is fairly simple – the original game is only barely older and still has oodles of unfulfilled potential. A lot was promised for the first game, but now there are a lot of gamers out there who’ve come to conclusion that Valve is abandoning the original in favour of the younger, brighter model. Keeping with the family-based metaphor, there’s a lot of people feeling as if Daddy has divorced Mommy in favour of a younger, brighter and potentially more lucrative model.

That specific controversy is well-explored and obvious though, with perfectly justified arguments on both sides and a discussion that goes precisely nowhere. It’s always the same – someone points out Valve has pledged on-going support, someone else whines that the community will be divided, someone else says that if you bought a game based on a non-contractual promise of later support then you’re a fool...on it goes.

*Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview
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If you want to talk about that further though then you’d best head to the forums, because we’re not really going to talk about it here. We’re going to be too busy telling you how awesome Left 4 Dead 2 is, m’kay?

And it is awesome, make no mistake. The flotilla of changes that’s drifted in since the first game may have been met with scepticism from fans, but in practice they nearly all work perfectly even at this stage. The one thing that seems to be getting overlooked in all the hoo-ha and hub-bub is that Valve knows what it is doing, or seems to. The company has a clear plan for the series and nowhere in it does it say “wait two years and then make exactly the same thing as you did before” or “penny-grab gamers to death with DLC”.

The biggest and most controversial change is the way that the entire Left 4 Dead world is being shown, with the introduction of daylight in the sequel being a radical departure from Left 4 Dead 1’s blue-black nights and claustrophobic subways, grotty apartments and dingy suburbs.

Instead, Left 4 Dead 2 allows things to get lighter and brighter – and why wouldn’t it? It would stand to reason that at least some survivors would want to travel during the day, when they can see better and are more visible to potential rescuers.

*Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview
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Hell, if we’re going to assume that the world is as fully fleshed out as we’d like it to be then the survivors may not even know that daylight makes the Infected more active too. They aren’t zombies, remember? They don’t need a headshot to kill them and they don’t eat the corpses – they’re just diseased monsters, who can see better during the day. It’s for exactly these reasons that you’ll see the Witch getting up and about, rather than whimpering in the corner like a kitten with needles in its feet.

That said, not all the game is set during daylight and, contrary to what a lot of people were claiming early on, there are some entire campaigns (there are five of them this time, not just four) that are set during the night. Contrariwise, there’s one which is set entirely during the day (the one we played, called The Parish), though most of the campaigns mix and match lighting and setting as required to tell the story.

Story is a much larger focus in Left 4 Dead 2, with the campaigns themselves running clearly on from one to the other, just like the levels. The entire game can be played as a single adventure, with the survivors starting off in the early stages of the infection when New Orleans is still being evacuated by the military and going forwards from there. That’s why The Parish is done entirely in the daylight – the plot dictates that the fearful foursome have to get out of the city as fast as possible, even if it means travelling during the day rather than at night.