Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview

Written by Joe Martin

July 14, 2009 | 09:43

Tags: #charger #hands-on-preview #l4d2 #left-4-dead-2 #left-4-dead-2-hands-on #left-4-dead-2-preview #sequel

Companies: #electronic-arts #valve

Left 4 Dead 2: The Parish

The switch to daylight isn’t the only change in Left 4 Dead 2 though, obviously. If it was then this hands-on preview wouldn’t of started off on such a positive note and it certainly wouldn’t be as over-wordy and lengthy as this. It probably would maintain the same brilliant sense of humour and egotism though...

Sitting down to play the game, which we did on both the Xbox 360 and PC (with Valve still offering no word of a PlayStation 3 release at the moment) one of the first things we noticed in the game was the selection of new weapons and characters.

The characters themselves, we have to admit we were largely indifferent too. The original quartet of combatants was a group that resonated strongly with us on both an identifiable and fantastic level. It was easy to see Louis and Zoey and see a link to ourselves there because of the obvious college-kid and office-worker vibes that they both give out. At the same time, we liked Francis and Bill because...well, everyone wants to be a bad-boy-biker or a hard-as-nails army dude.

*Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview Left 4 Dead 2 Preview - The Parish
Click to enlarge

In Left 4 Dead 2 though...well, we’ve never really wanted to be a hillbilly mechanic who looks like he was made mostly out of elbows, nor an overweight high school football handegg coach or Louisiana slickster. Rochelle, the only female of the group and a local reporter, was the only one who stood out to us as being at all personable, but she was also pretty dull in our eyes.

In other words the entire troupe was a bit of a let down, especially considering that Valve’s history of character design, from Gordon to GlaDOS, has been impossibly flawless. In Left 4 Dead 2 the characters are a group of uninteresting stereotypes – we can only hope that Valve is just using placeholders again and is going to unveil new characters in the future, though we doubt it.

The weapons on the other hand were an entirely different affair. Unlike in Left 4 Dead 1 where there were just a small selection of weapons divided across two tiers, there’s now a much, much wider selection of firearms. No longer is there just one basic SMG, which eventually gets superseded by an assault rifle – there’s now a number of different fast-firers that each offer a slightly different balance of power, speed, noise and reload speed.

Some weapons stay the same though, such as the pistols and the ability to shove the zombies – though the shove system has been somewhat overshadowed by the introduction of a new melee system in Left 4 Dead 2.

*Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-on Preview Left 4 Dead 2 Preview - The Parish
Click to enlarge

Well, calling it a new melee system is probably a bit grandiose of Valve, to be completely honest. In reality, it’s not so much a ‘system’ as it is just ‘stuff you pick up wot kills baddies’. There’s an axe, frying pan, baseball bat, chainsaw and a bunch of others, but they all work pretty much the same; you pick them up and use ‘em to kill things. Kill ‘em dead, usually in one hit thanks to the new dismemberment system that lets you send arms, legs and heads flying with a well-placed shot or chop.

There are downsides to the system though and, in our experience anyway, the downsides are enough to completely turn us off the melee weapons. For one, you can’t carry a melee weapon and use another weapon – like the gas can in the original game, it’s either in your hands or on the floor. If you want to heal, down some painkillers or whip out a rifle to pick off a far-away smoker then you’ll need to toss that fire axe on the ground.

It’s worth pointing out that some melee weapons are infeasibly slow compared to the damage they do too – the fire axe for example swings a large, fatal arc, but it does it too slowly to be useful compared to, say, any of the shotguns. It isn’t at all difficult to knock down two or three Infected with a single shotgun blast at medium range, let alone at point blank, so we couldn’t really see the appeal of most of the melee weapons.
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