“Left 4 Dead 2” Review


Today, the zombie video-game genre is oversaturated, and it takes a lot for a title to stand out. Although, after all these years, however, one has stood the test of time. “Left 4 Dead 2” was a standard-setter, and is still unmatched to this day.

As one of the most influential zombie and FPS titles of all time, its mark can be seen in titles like “Dead Island,” “World War Z,” and most certainly, “Back 4 Blood,” but its success can never be perfectly replicated. 

“Left 4 Dead 2” doesn’t bore you with control-stealing cinematic cut-scenes- you’re always in the action. The game uses environmental storytelling to great effect. During a zombie apocalypse, four survivors miss an EVAC point in Savannah, Georgia, and decide to trek to the last one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As you play the campaigns, it’s clear the virus is hard to contain to the extent where even the military are frightened and loose with who does and doesn’t count as a target. A feeling of hopelessness echoes from messages scribbled on walls, piles of bodies in the bayou that have yet to be burned, and human corpses near military checkpoints.

The game doesn’t disappoint in the “environment” part of “environmental storytelling.” It’s a treat how stunning the game’s settings are, being as they are over a decade old. The dank swamps in Swamp Fever, Dark Carnival’s haunting fair aesthetic, and the jazzy streets of Mardi Gras in The Parish are complemented by the impressive use of daytime lighting and atmospheric sound effects. Different musical themes for each campaign all fit, and the drummer deserves praise. Hard Rain’s is a standout with its hard-hitting acoustic guitar combined with artistic harmonica use every time a horde of zombies charge your way.

If you don’t like this method of storytelling, the characters and their relationships will definitely make up for it. This group of four is an enjoyable troop: Nick, the pessimistic gambler with a shady past, Ellis, a naive redneck mechanic, Coach, the father-figure with a heart-of-gold, and Rochelle, the petite yet bombastic ex-producer with a dry sense of humor. 

Their dynamic dialogue towards what they see and experience with each other is vast and fitting for their traits. If Ellis starts telling a nonsensical story, Nick will be the first to shut him up. When Coach does a prayer before entering a mall, he prays that the EVAC and food court are OK. Rochelle quips that Ellis had a unique foresight when she hears his tattoo means he’s a “zombie-killing machine.” When the gang enters a gun-store, Nick informs everyone that he’s not legally allowed to own a gun, asking if they’re OK with that. Undoubtedly, all players will have a favorite character.

However, it’s the gameplay that “Left 4 Dead 2” truly excels in. Nothing to this day can match what Valve has beautifully constructed here. This isn’t a typical “horror” title, but the zombies are fast, angry, and disturbingly determined while they lifelessly sprint for you. If you love to kill zombies, all the boxes have been checked. There’s many ways to dispose of the dead as they run into your sightline, and without a doubt, your screen will be red.

 “Left 4 Dead 2” has a wide arsenal of firepower, from automatic shotguns to assault rifles. For close encounters, the melee weapons like pitchforks, chainsaws, and katanas are smile-inducing path-clearers. Throw in M60s, grenade launchers, and explosive or incendiary ammo into the mix, and that’s a party.

The game also emphasizes teamwork, and is more enjoyable with three other people. While that is said a lot about most games, it shines here. You’re encouraged to stick together, because there are special infected like the prowling Hunter and the long-tongued Smoker that you can’t escape unless there’s a helping hand. Healing items can be shared, and friendly-fire is possible, showing that your teammates are as valuable as your ammo. Even if you don’t have friends, the bots in single-player are competent thanks to the great A.I. system, “The Director.”

After you play the campaign, you’ll want to try the other game-modes that add more fun to the formula.

Want to make your game harder without tweaking the difficulty? Realism is a way to make the campaign harder by removing a lot of assists, and requiring you to enhance your teamwork reflexes.

Want to most certainly change your campaign experience? Left 4 Dead 2’s different mutations allow modifications like holding a garden gnome to heal, giving you M60s with unlimited ammo, and following in George Romero’s footsteps by making kills headshot-only.

Want to see how long you can last? Survival mode plunges you in slightly edited versions of the game’s chapters. Here, the main challenge is to see how long you last, but the other challenge is deciding whether to hunker down in a corner and hoard supplies, or run for dear life while shooting all the way.

Of course, Versus cannot go unmentioned. Versus pits you in a 4v4 match taking place on any campaign with each team taking place as survivors and one of the special infected types. Even for the infected, you still have to use teamwork to create deadly combinations in order to prevent the survivors from reaching success. 

The most different of the bunch is Scavenge. Scavenge is a competitive mixture of Versus and Survival. The survivors are required to fill up a generator with as many gas cans as possible, meanwhile the infected try to prevent a single ounce from entering it. 

For PC gamers, “Left 4 Dead 2” comes with all four expansions for free: The Passing campaign, The Sacrifice (plus No Mercy), Cold Stream, and The Last Stand Update. All of the original “Left 4 Dead” campaigns have been brought over and modernized with the gore, melee weapons, and new special infected of the sequel. That being said: there’s no need to return when you have everything that improved the series. 

As for those on Xbox, the situation differs. The Passing, The Sacrifice, and Cold Stream are available, but have to be purchased. Despite this, the console version of “Left 4 Dead 2” still stands strong. This is an Xbox 360 disc you will never trade in once you’ve played it, and there’s nothing that matches the feeling of killing zombies with a friend on the couch. For a version that hasn’t been updated since 2012, it’s a surprise for many to know that there are still active users on it slaying the undead.

All in all, “Left 4 Dead 2” is a game for those who like killing zombies, or just having a good time with friends. By the time I had finished “Left 4 Dead 2,” I had killed 14,896 zombies, but even after completion, this game is addictive enough to make me want to raise this number time and time again.

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