You would think that with the success of Left 4 Dead, a sequel would come with many cheers from the gamer population. Well, not so when Left 4 Dead 2 was announced on June 1, 2009. What came was a huge backlash from many gamers upset that Valve supposedly ignored providing content for the original game, and instead, looked to make more money with the sequel.
Thousands of gamers began the drive to stop the sequel from coming out, showing their disgust over Valve's sequel. Petitions, websites, and message board threads showing the outrage of these gamers coming to a boiling point all across the internet. On November 17, 2009, Left 4 Dead 2 hit store shelves in the U.S., and what were the L4D2 protesters doing? They were playing the game. It's nice to see that the first big protest by gamers ended up failing because the game was actually pretty good. I'm sure Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi would be proud.
Taking place a week after the original, L4D2 follows four survivors of a pandemic resulting in most of the population becoming zombies. Included in this group is Ellis, a mechanic who reminds you of an example of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a Redneck" joke; Coach, a high-school football coach; Rochelle, a production assistant for a TV station that was reporting on the outbreak; and Nick, a smooth gambler/conman who just as concerned about his suit as he is about surviving.
These four survivors start off on the rooftop of a hotel in Savannah, Georgia, just as a rescue helicopter has abandoned them. They will make their way to New Orleans, Louisiana looking to be rescued whenever possible. Unlike the original, each character offers more insight to their background to give them more depth. Also, the scenarios have more substance to them creating a better experience of progressing through a post-apocalyptic world that is filled with zombies.
L4D2 follows the same formula of L4D1. You select one of the four survivors, or selected for you randomly, and proceed through one of the scenarios. Each scenario is split into five parts that consists of traversing through the area to the next safe house with the exception of the final part where there is an event that culminates in a wave upon wave of zombies. Weapons can found throughout, and these weapons will be various versions of the shotgun, sniper rifles, assault rifles, SMG, and pistol.
Additions to the arsenal include Boomer Bile, to have zombies focus on one spot or on another enemy, incendiary ammo to set the enemies ablaze, and a defibrillator to review dead comrades right away rather than waiting for them to respawn later in the level.
Possibly the biggest change of the game comes in the form of melee weapons. Spread out along with the firearms, melee weapons vary from crowbars and baseball bats to ninja swords and the ever popular zombie killer, the chainsaw. It's up to the player on whether to pick up a melee weapon or use a pistol.
Advantages of picking melee weapons over pistols are the increase power over pistols and ability to attack multiple enemies at once, but players will lose out on range since melee weapons are only for close range combat. Being that this is the big change and is a focal point of the marketing for the game, in the end, it's kind of meh. Yeah the fun is there using the melee weapons, but that quickly wears off then becoming just a matter of figuring out the best weapon setup for your character.
Other changes include new special infected enemies. In L4D1, the special infected included the Tank, Boomer, Hunter, Smoker, and the Witch. These special infected return including the new batch that consist of the Spitter, as expected a zombie that spits out acid on the ground causing damage to the survivors; the Jockey, a very small yet annoying enemy that will jump on the backs of players causing them to be lead to more zombies or traps; and the most frustrating of the new infected, the Charger who will charge into players out of nowhere then proceeds to slam players into the ground. Another addition to the enemy roster the uncommon infected which are zombies that can take and deal more damage than regular zombies. You can tell these zombies apart from the common infected as they are usually wearing some uniform varying on what scenario you're on. Finally, the "Director" returns. The "Director" is the A.I. implemented to switch up the game to make it more difficult or less difficult changing the amount of enemies, health items, and even the route you take.
Gameplay modes are a big deal for the Left 4 Dead series. There's the standard single player (boring), co-op that can be done online or offline, Versus mode for a player vs. player with one team being the infected and the other being the survivors, and Survival mode where you have try and survive the longest of an onslaught of enemies.
Added to the sequel is Scavenge, a mode where players can control the survivors as they try to gather gas tanks or the infected that try to stop the survivors; and Realism mode where teamwork is essential as the game is changed to be more "realistic". Such changes include the damage dealt reduced to parts of the body except for the head where it was increased, indicators showing other players are no longer visible, and players can only be revived by the defibrillator thus making communication with teammates a necessity.
I'd like to say that L4D2 looks a lot better graphically, but it really doesn't. There's a subtle improvement to character models, especially the zombies where there are more variations. However, everything else is pretty lackluster especially with the environments. They just look very bland with no substance to them.
Now the audio I hate but for a not so obvious reason. The music is great and the voice acting works well. Sound effects are good and everything really sets the mood. Everything, except for the damn beeping. Ugh, the Tivo beep that goes off constantly is absolutely horrendous and pointless. There were moments that I didn't do anything, but the beeps were constantly going off. Granted this maybe me, but it really bothered me real fast.
After all the controversy, did Left 4 Dead 2 redeem Valve in the eyes of gamers? The answer is yes being that gamers are enjoying it, but it came at a price. While there are improvements over the original, L4D2 simply does not feel like a full sequel. Granted, it's more than an expansion pack but I would think that with another year, Valve could have really made this game more special and make it one of the best games of the year. Instead, L4D2 is a good game, but not as amazing as the first one was.