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Left 4 Dead 2 Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Left 4 Dead 2 Review (X360)
EA / Valve
On the surface, Left 4 Dead 2 seems like the same game as the original L4D. The gameplay and setup and everything are awfully familiar. When you dig a little deeper, however, you find a game that is improved in just about every way. The presentation is better, the campaigns are better, there are more modes, and the new weapons make the gameplay quite a it deeper than it was before. Left 4 Dead 2 is a better game than the original and definitely worth a look.
Game Details
  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: Valve
  • ESRB Rating: "M" For Mature
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Pros: 5 great campaigns; solid gameplay; presentation; lots of modes
  • Cons: More of the same; A.I. allies are idiots; not worth it to play by yourself

It has to be said that while Left 4 Dead 2 does offer a single-player campaign (and you can make a custom online lobby by yourself to play the other modes with A.I. partners), it is definitely best played with other people in co-op. A lot of the fun of the game comes from you and your friends fighting off the zombie apocalypse, and without friends, or at least other humans playing with you, the experience is pretty hollow. It is just a shooter at that point instead of a crazy, satisfying, survival experience.

What all can you do? Lots of stuff. There are 5 campaigns to play through where you try to reach a rescue point. There is also a survival mode where there is no rescue and you just have to try and fight off the horde as long as possible. Scavenge mode has you collecting gas cans scattered around the map to try and fuel a generator. Realism mode takes away the glowing "weapons over here" outlines and makes the zombies harder to kill. There is also a Versus mode where one team plays as survivors and one team plays as infected. There is a lot to do in L4D2, and it is a bigger and better game overall than the original.

For this review we're just going to cover what makes Left 4 Dead 2 new and different. For a general Left 4 Dead overview, please see our review of the first game.

Gameplay

EA / Valve
Some gameplay specifics. The new campaigns are generally better than the ones in L4D. The best thing is that you aren’t always just going from point A to point B and then waiting for rescue . There are a couple of stages like that, but in Dead Center, for example, you have to collect gas to fill a race car (in a mall, yay for Dawn of the Dead references) so you can drive away to safety. In Hard Rain you have to walk a couple of miles inland from the river to collect diesel for a boat, then you have to retrace your steps back, but a wicked rainstorm has flooded the way and drastically changes the return trip. Even Dark Carnival, which ends with simply waiting for rescue, is made more interesting because you’re waiting for a helicopter to come while you’re standing onstage at an abandoned rock concert (complete with lots of guitars to use, pyrotechnics, and more). The campaigns are just plain better and more interesting this time around.

The gameplay has also been greatly enhanced thanks to a few small changes. There is a lot more weapon variety now with multiple types of shotguns, rifles, pistols, assault rifles, and SMGs. Even better, there are now melee weapons like axes, swords, and chainsaws. The weapon variety makes a huge, huge difference in keeping the game fresh.

The other things that made the first game unpredictable and great – the A.I. Director and special, more powerful infected – return with their own improvements. The director always keeps you on your toes by randomly generating every zombie encounter. And a handful of new infected join the ranks.

The only other comments I really have are little things. I have seen some criticism of the four new survivors and how everyone prefers the original cast, but I just don’t see it. The new cast is a lot more talkative and have a lot more personality. And, frankly, who you choose to play as doesn’t matter one bit anyway, so I don’t see why everyone is still in love with Zoey. The game isn’t really about the characters’ story (there is a overarching story in Left 4 Dead 1 & 2, but you have to look pretty hard to find it) it is more about you and your friends’ story and trying to escape, so having such loyalty to the original cast seems odd.

One additional thing that needs to be said is that it seems like the friendly A.I. has gotten dumber. They are a lot slower to save you this time around and they’ll run around and past you and will help other survivors (A.I.) before they help you. They also don’t keep up with you nearly as well, so you have to move at a slower pace to make sure you don’t get too far away where they can’t help you if you need it. This kind of spoils the pace of the game and is another reason why playing co-op with real people is the preferred way to play.

Graphics

Graphically, Left 4 Dead 2 is quite a bit better looking than the original. The levels take place both in the day and at night, and the lighting is pretty good all around. The environments are nicely detailed and feel much more “lived in”. There is also a new dismemberment system, which makes for some pretty spectacular zombie deaths.

EA / Valve
Sound

The sound is good all around. The sound effects for the infected are great, and the telltale moans, groans, and sound effects when a special infected are around are pretty chilling. The creepy music when a witch is nearby is (still) awesome. The voice acting is decent as well, and like I said, the characters are a lot more talkative than before.

Bottom Line

Left 4 Dead 2 is a bigger, better, deeper, more polished game than the original was. It is a great value as it offers tons of modes and stuff to do and is just plain excellent overall. It isn't as highly recommended if you plan on playing alone, but if you have friends either sitting next to you or on Xbox Live, there are few games as fun and satisfying as Left 4 Dead 2. Buy it.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy

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