Left 4 Dead 2 review
Thanks to a heady mix of zombies and violence, plus an unparalleled sense of camaraderie with your fellow players, Left 4 Dead was a massive multiplayer hit. Valve has wisely opted not to muck around with a winning formula in this sequel: so once again four Survivors battle against the Infected zombie horde.
Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) is set the Southern United States, the levels are bigger, with a more open feel and more split-height areas that send you up ladders and along walkways. Our favourite is Dark Carnival, an isolated theme park, complete with zombie clowns, an undead-infested tunnel of love, and a death-defying run along rollercoaster tracks as the horde rushes to engulf you.
The addition of melee weapons means that not only can you take out a zombie with a well-aimed shotgun blast to the head, but you can also use a chainsaw, fire axe, baseball bat or skillet to achieve the same result. Although it's still best to keep zombies at a distance, they're a great back-up, particularly if you're being rushed by a mob.
Other additions include a more advanced AI, which dynamically changes the spawning locations and weapons caches; a defibrillator to revive dead team mates and a new play mode, where Survivors must collect fuel against the clock. The special Infected from the last game, like the bile-spewing Boomer and hauntingly lethal Witch are still there, along with new additions, capable of spitting acid or riding Survivors into danger.
In single-player mode you control one Survivor while the computer handles the other three. It feels like practice for the real thing, though. The meat of the game is in multi-player, you can opt for Campaign mode with computer-controlled Infected or Versus mode, where a rival team controls four special Infected. The levels work best with real players, and areas that seems tedious in single-player come to life when you've got friends to look out for.
Everyone has the same abilities, so casual gamers can drop in to play a couple of levels without being massively outclassed by the rest of their team. Teamwork is vital – if you don't bother to heal a dying teammate, then don't expect them to watch your back in future.
Valve's Source engine doesn't make great demands of your hardware but is starting to look a bit dated. Fortunately, the unadorned scenery doesn't really register when you're legging it from three dozen zombies. The computer-controlled zombies – even the special Infected - are stupid and don't work together in the way that a human team does, which makes Versus the gameplay mode of choice for most.
L4D2 is hugely fun. It's taken exactly what we loved about the first game – nerve-jangling tension, brutal violence and epic co-op multiplayer – and made it better. It provides near-perfect multiplayer mayhem, but those who like to play alone should still steer well clear.