The complaints against Left 4 Dead 2 have been many, with fans claiming that the content on offer is nothing more than you might find in an expansion to the original Left 4 Dead – Valve’s co-op zombie shooter which sees four survivors trying to fend off the infected hordes. That Valve has packaged it into a full game and turned it around so quick should hint that it’s not going to be very good, say sceptics.
“Laser sights and incendiary ammo?” boycotters have cried, “This isn’t the type of thing we want to pay another £30 for!”
Until now that’s been an understandable sentiment as Left 4 Dead 2 had seemed to be a game which was built primarily on tweaks and adjustments, rather than the introduction of anything meaningful. Now the game has arrived though and it’s our job to tell you that those worries and quibbles are unfounded, and that Left 4 Dead 2 is bigger and better than it ever seemed to be.
Oh, my hero!
How so? Well, because you’re not paying £30 for just laser sights and incendiary ammo for starters; that’s not the limit of what the game delivers. It offers the experience of wading through a Tunnel of Love ride in the middle of the night while zombies are swarming you and a bunch of your friends. It offers the chance to run turn a rock show into a blood bath by the careful placement of fireworks and the judicious application of lead.
What L4D2 offers is the adrenaline and frustration that comes from sprinting across a suspension bridge littered with abandoned cars, desperate to reach the far end before the helicopter leaves, while trying to weigh whether or not you have time to backtrack for your downed ally. You’ve never met him and don’t even know his real name – boiled down he’s just some random internet noob to you - but in that moment he means more to you than most of your real friends. In the last 30 minutes you’ve been through a lot, the two of you, and you’re certain that if your roles were reversed, he’d do the same for you. Will you gamble your success against his failure?
Man, this town is dead!
That bond is what Left 4 Dead 2 crafts so beautifully and while the departures from the grim and more classically zombie-film-influenced original may not have been well received in our previews, that’s probably because we weren’t seeing the full picture. Now we are and we’re fully behind the change of pace and the way Valve has upped the tempo of Left 4 Dead to something really explosive.
The original Left 4 Dead was like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead; an undeniable classic which derives enduring appeal from its grim presentation and slower, more down to earth approach. Left 4 Dead 2 is more like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 in that it’s equally rewatchable and holds a similar cult classic status - but it’s also not afraid to give the heroes chainsaws and let them go completely batshit crazy.
Nowhere is this wicked sense of humour explored more fully than in Dark Carnival, Left 4 Dead 2’s campaign set throughout a fairground. Not only do the locations naturally lend themselves to humour, with the Tunnel of Love and the rollercoasters making some excellent climax events, but the area is ripe for exploration and dialogue too.
“Quick,” cries professional gambler and survivor Nick, “get into the Swan Maintenance Room of Love”, while earlier in the campaign there’s plenty of time to stop and have a go on the whac-a-mole and shooting gallery events in a bid to win the gnome from Half-Life 2: Episode 2.