Valve is a company renowned for its high-quality games, polished almost to perfection with solid gameplay and rarely a bug to be found. Left 4 Dead 2 is more than proof of Valve’s ability to develop masterfully-crafted games but a few flaws unfortunately hold it back from being one of their best.
In Left 4 Dead 2, you play as one of four main characters(a separate four in certain campaigns) as you work together with the rest of your team to survive the latest zombie apocalypse that has afflicted the world. Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-operative, multiplayer game at heart that doesn’t just encourage teamwork, but forces even the most solitary lone wolves to stick together with their teammates. What makes L4D2 different from all the one-thousand other zombie games on the market is mainly it’s special infected. These are gruesome, brutal zombies that possess special abilities that could kill you in seconds should you wander away from your party. Most of these have the ability to ‘pin’ a survivor preventing them for moving, shooting, using a medkit, pretty much everything. There are eight in total, each with their own terrifying abilities to bring to the table. Hunters pounce and can rip apart a survivor in seconds, smokers can strangle a survivor with their tongue from far away but are weak and tanks… tank your fire, punch you with the strength of a elephant on steroids and are overall, very frustrating to kill. Each of these mutated zombies’ designs and unique abilities freshen up the typical zombie gameplay formula and make you a lot more wary of where you’re going and whether your teammates are near enough to help should one attack you. Because if not, it’s game over for you!
Although the game can still be played offline in the singleplayer gamemode with acceptable but somewhat(very) stupid AI, Left 4 Dead is best enjoyed online whether it’s with your friends or complete strangers. Covering each others backs as you mow down hordes of the undead, scanning the mob for a special infected trying to sneak up on you is incredibly cool and makes you feel like you’re part of some epic action movie(which fits considering the loading screen presents the campaigns as movie posters). Getting your first “thanks” from shoving a hunter off its victim and saving your teammates life is greatly satisfying. Even better, you can also play as the special infected, working together with your fellow infected to ensure the survivors aren’t survivors much longer, hiding behind corners, waiting to jump them as a group and hopefully cut their escape to the next safe room short. I especially enjoyed playing as the charger and bowling through the survivors in tight corridors, knocking them up like bowling pins before smashing the first survivor I grabbed into the wall taking out a significant chunk of their health. Even those who usually only find themselves fans of singleplayer games will find fun to be had here.
Unfortunately, the great gameplay and theme of teamwork is somewhat ruined by the fact that L4D2 is another unfortunate sufferer of the common multiplayer game disease: ‘toxicus communitus'(toxic community). A lot of the community seem to be fond of the ability to vote to kick players. You make a single mistake or heck, just don’t play the game absolutely perfectly and how they tell you to play it, you will likely be kicked from the server. Even if the other players on the server know not to take the game too seriously the toxic player(s) will probably continue to harass and insult you until you finally leave the server out of annoyance. Although Valve aren’t really responsible for the actions of their players, I can’t ignore this as a negative.
Anyway, back to the positive stuff! The solid and intuitive gameplay that I mentioned earlier as one of the finer points of Valve is also a finer point of Left 4 Dead 2. Despite the gameplay is simple, it never gets boring, for me at least. As well as being able to shoot the zombies, you can pick up gas cans and propane tanks, throw them into the crowds on undead and shoot them to speed up the process of making the undead deader. Throwing a molotov or pipe bomb works too and failing that you can use “boomer bile”. Once the canisters containing the bile have been broken, any zombies hit are attacked by other zombies as well as being blinded and the zombies start gathering in the area where you threw it effectively making the living dead sitting ducks. There are a limited variety of weapons to pick up including machine guns, shotguns and grenade launchers. One important slot in your minuscule inventory is saved for a med kit, defibrillator or ammo pack that give you a clip of special explosive or incendiary ammo. Your final slot can be used for either pain pills that give you a temporary health boost or adrenaline which makes you faster as well as harder to be boxed in by the zombies. This makes you think carefully about what you pick up as you can’t carry much at all and also gives you multiple ways to play.
Panic events, brief moments of chaos when a wave of zombies begin to attack, are tense and can provide attack opportunities for the special infected or a nightmare for the survivors. Each of the thirteen playable campaigns end in an epic finale where you barely hold off the infected while waiting for rescue to arrive before making a frantic rush to whichever vehicle has thankfully come to pick you up, sometimes inevitable leaving a few teammates behind. One of my favourites see’s you start playing a “Midnight Riders” song to attract the attention of a helicopter, activating firework effects to burn infected and smashing through the hordes with guitars. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had in a co-operative game.
Despite having a large total of thirteen campaigns, the game is lacking content in almost every other area. There are very few weapons to pick from and most of them are quite similar, heck, you can pick up a sniper rifle and use it like a goddamn shotgun. On the bright side, L4D2 utilises the Steam Workshop feature to allow the community to make their own content for the game though most of it isn’t too major and mostly involves replacing the survivors and infected with some kind of meme such as the mod that turns the tank into Shrek. Finally, although a small point, I liked the writing for the survivors and the subtle interactions between them. I grew especially fond of Ellis and his mad yet hilarious stories about him and his buddy Keith. One or two lines even got a chuckle out of me.
Left 4 Dead 2 is definitely an enjoyable game when it is not marred by the horrible community or woeful lack of content and I’d recommend it to those who enjoy working as a team to achieve goals and fans of the zombie genre. Those who don’t generally enjoy games in either of those area’s should still definitely give it a look however. You may even get addicted like me and end up playing dozens of hours.
- Lot’s of campaigns and maps
- Several gamemodes and difficulty levels
- Solid gameplay
- Witty writing
- Special Infected make it stand out compared to other zombie games
- Relatively cheap
- Steam Workshop
- Lack of content in area’s other than the campaign
- Toxic community
- Very little singleplayer content
Get it here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/550/