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Left for Dead 2 PC Review - -

Gameplay 9.0
Graphics 10
Sound 10
Value 10
Developer: Valve
Review Date:
October 2009
Edwin Millheim
Classification: M15+


Left for Dead 2

PC, Xbox 360

My three companions and I move along at an even pace. The automatic pistol in my hand gives me no comfort. The street is littered with the remainder of the chaos that exploded into our lives. People seemed to go mad, attacking others. The government said it was some virus. The media ran with the story almost non stop....then the news stopped. People died, and those that died got up and attacked those who where left alive....the dead's ranks swelled.

Here we are with the follow up to the spectacular co-op driven game Left 4 Dead. Once again we are introduced to four individuals from different walks of life that have joined together out of necessity to survive. Getting past all the throngs of slobbering, screaming, teeth gnashing hordes...(and that's just some of the fans who got put in a tizzy over Left 4 Dead 2 coming a year after the original.. there is of course more to it than that...but we do not have room to go into here.).... I can say, Left 4 Dead 2 truly kicks up the fun factor. The scare factor, and the team work factor to a new level.

For a time there was fear that the choice of the Classification Board would continue to refuse a classification rating on Left 4 Dead 2. What ever changes Valve may or may not have made to get the Classification, the over all game experience is still solid. This review is based on the gore spattered, zombie decapitating, shooting large holes in zombies, unedited version. While it's true some countries have the castrated (Woops I mean edited version) the basic core experience is there....just not a lot of the visuals that go along with it. ( I think the altered version has one melee weapon, a pillow) Just kidding. Kidding aside Valve had some really difficult choices to make to get the game cleared for classification in the end I would not bash Valve, nor would I Bash another countries ratings board. If the country does not have a high enough rating to merit such a game, then perhaps the gamers should write to their officials for a new classification. Now there's a revelation... At this time for Australia there is no MA 18 + for games as there are for films.

Left 4 Dead brought forth true cooperation team play because, in this game series, cooperation is a must or your just food for the beasts. As with the first game, Left 4 Dead 2 has hints of the spread of what ever this plague is that decimated the world. Taking time to look at some of the environments and bodies laying about, as well as some of the past survivors messages to one another tell the tale, it gives hints and some parts of the puzzle to the over all back story. These bits and pieces leave the survivors and of course the players to take those bits of information and perhaps come up with their own conclusions.

The notes left by other survivors are sometimes chilling, showing the panic and confusion that is running rampant. Apparently not everyone that has the virus actually changes. Some are carriers of the virus and spread the microscopic enemy along. A truly chilling thought indeed, does that mean that any one of the survivors may actually be carriers? Or are they all carriers? Is there any hope what so ever of stopping the spread? Killing off the virus? Will the military get involved and now start hunting survivors and kill them if there is a next game or DLC? After all they are bombing places and they know there are survivors..Is there any place on Earth left that is a safe haven? Will we find out in Left 4 Dead 3? Pardon me for rambling, though while the game is aces all around, it does raise up some really exciting questions. Valve certainly knows how to put it together and keep the public wanting more.

The more they change the more they stay the same, much of the formula that made the original such superb game are all here again. With new twists and turns, and quest elements ala role playing game. “Sure I'll do this for you, if you do that for me.” The game campaign levels are incredibly cool. Some of them seem larger in scale, and the locations are rather unique. Left 4 Dead 2 is set in about the same time frame as the original, the outbreak, throwing together four survivors who maybe would not have a heck of a lot in common, but if they are going to survive at all, they better help each other out.

Each on of the characters again are unique, have their own personalities, other than the obvious visual difference...each character has new dialog. The script is as fun as the first, sprinkling in some humor as well as the terror and panic through out the adventure. There is Nick is a conman and gambler , Ellis is a 23 year old auto mechanic, Coach is a high school football coach and Rochelle is a TV news Reporter.

Location, location...location. This time around we are in the South Eastern United States, fighting through Savannah Georgia, and eventually to New Orleans and the French Quarter. The locations are varied once again, with some mix of tight claustrophobic places such as a multi - leveled hotel and more wide open spaces where the danger can come at you from multiple directions and some times all at once. All the weapons seem much more realistic in Left 4 Dead 2. The weapon modeling is a visual treat. Such guns as the AK-47, pistols and rifles, including at times, special ammo pickups such as incendiary rounds which cause the common infected to light up like a burning Christmas tree with a short circuited lighting system... these special pickups are usually limited and cannot be saved for later blast away! Any player is sure to find their favorite in the mix. Add to this, the new melee weapons and your in for some serious Zombie bashing.

Melee weapons come in a couple forms, with new twists on old themes. There are the impact weapons such as Frying pans and baseball bat, and then of course the cutting weapons such as my favorite the machete, and a chainsaw. There are some old favorites back as well, such as the pipe bomb... a different twist on this theme is the Boomer Bile Bomb...hmmm say that three times really fast! This nasty weapon can really get you into trouble, case in point, I threw the damned thing and it hit something and bounced back at me and went off...of course there I stood in this cloud of Boomer regurgitation and all the infected in the area came my way...oh joy. So do be careful on where you throw those things. Yes indeed, new twist and new toys abound. Now here's the rub on the melee weapons... they take up your secondary weapon slot when you pick them be sure that's what you want.

The game play is along the same lines as the original, of course with all kinds of new areas and new visuals, the infected also got a few gore intensified upgrades. After all, why bother placing the player in the middle of a horror survival film if your not going to show the horrific visuals? Zombie damage is more like some of your favorite Zombie movies now. With limbs getting blown off and the Zombies are still coming at you. A well placed shot gun blast puts a good sized hole in a zombie now, showing innards and some bone and muscle structure. Not for the squeamish nor children that's for sure. But for those of us old enough to enjoy some fantasy violence against creatures that you know do not exist except in movies, books and games... have at it folks!

Some of the favorite or not so favorite infected are back again, and they are joined by new ghastly creatures to cause you no end of trouble and challenges. The Jockey is annoying little gimp that, as it's nick name implies...jumps onto the shoulders of a survivor and causes them to loose control. The survivor cannot fight, nor move in the direction they want to. The Jockey steers the survivor away from the others and often times into the jaws of death. As the other infected jump right in and put the beat down on the survivor. The Spitter is a particularly nasty one, this horrific creature spits some kind of bile that is stomach acid on steroids. This green goop causes damage when it strikes and also while your standing in it.

Then it seems the Tank has a little brother now... The Charger! No it's not a creature that steals your credit card and runs it past the limits. These big brute is like a charging Rhino, bashing into a survivor grabbing them along for the ride.... and it's momentum carries it off till it runs into something, where it proceeds to pound the survivor into the ground over and over causing all sorts of damage. The Jockey and Charger are much like the Smoker and the Hunter in that once a survivor is in their grip, they need help to escape.

Once again, yes, all the old beasties from the original are back as well. Some of them like the common infected have some odd new reactions to the time of what the hell s a Witch doing walking around? Well it does stand to reason really...after all how did the Witch get to certain locations in the first place? Other surprises abound, such as a carnival complete with clown zombies! One other worthy uncommon infected to make note of are the characters in the Hazmat suites. Telling a story unto itself that even the Hazmat workers and or the scientific community is not immune to this outbreak. Worse, these zombies in the Hazmat suits seem to be immune to fire based attacks. The poor police officers in the riot gear pose an interesting challenge, as they are armored and resistant to gun fire, so pushing them back and then attacking their less armored backs is the way to go with them.

Two enemies that the survivors cannot fight are the environment/physical locations and weather.... in some missions it seems that the very weather or environment is looking to get you killed too. A torrential downpour not only blinds you and you cant see the danger till it's on top of you, but walking through flood waters or swamps causes a slower pace. Rain and flooding bring a new fresh twist on things, when going through an area and it's raining visual perception is down, causing a new anxiety on whats coming? You just don't know because it could just pop out of the down pour... then surprise, after finding what is needed, walking back the way you came is now different because of the flood waters. New pathways have opened up and are usable, or the player can take the chance and slog through the water.

As with the original Valve includes multi-player in Left 4 Dead 2...after all whats the use of being in a Horror survival movie if you can't share? Once again there are several multi-player features that include multi-player either on or offline (Using a system link) the modes for Left 4 Dead 2 are Campaign, Versus, and Survival and the new Scavenge mode. This new mode makes the players have to SCAVENGE for hidden fuel cans, which are hidden through out the level. Why? Well to keep a generator running of course. Playing as infected during one of these matches, your job is to stop that team from getting the fuel to the generator.

The master of it all that changes things for the game as it progresses is the AI Director 2.0. It's what makes Left 4 Dead 2 have such dynamic reactions to what the player is or isn't doing. The AI Director changes weather effects, world objects, lighting effects , and even pathways! Imagine if you will, (And I tried it and was very surprised!) going through a level and you find a short cut to another part of the map...but the next time you play, that short cut is blocked off by debris or is bricked in! Wicked cool! The AI Director also customizes the creature population, either causing a huge horde or sprinkling them through out the map. Sound effects and other audio cues are also controlled and cue up depending on the players performance. It makes it a different challenge and slight different experience every time.

While this review is based on the PC version, there is an Xbox 360 version complete with different achievement points and Xbox Live stats, rankings and the usual for Xbox live game play.

Even with the clipping here and there and a zombie getting stuck in walls or other graphics, a few nasty bugs are still present, including a few crash to desk top bugs... without these annoying instances the game pretty much rocks. For those that get the black screen, try a graphics driver update...that cleared mine up. We should be seeing some fixes soon from Valve, though at this time they could not be reached for comment....
Have fun, play games!
Edwin Millheim
United States Editor
Impulse Gamer


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