‘Left 4 Dead 2’
Everything’s better with friends, and the zombie apocalypse is no exception. After the runaway hit that was last fall’s “Left 4 Dead,” a sequel was an obvious choice, even for developer Valve, a company known for spending years refining existing games rather than releasing slightly updated versions.
In “Left 4 Dead 2,” you play as one of four survivors of a disease outbreak that leaves the rest of the population with a hankering for tasty brains. You and your teammates, controlled by other online players, your friends or computer AIs, must work together to survive long enough to escape whatever locale you’ve been dumped into—be it a crowded city, a swamp in the bayous of Louisiana, or even an undead clown-infested, rundown carnival.
“Left 4 Dead 2” features five new campaigns, each of which takes about two hours to play through (the original game shipped with only four campaigns at about an hour each). While five two-hour campaigns might not sound like much content, the game randomizes the locations of weapons, power-ups and enemies each time you play, so you and your friends will have a unique experience every time.
The game also includes a multitude of new guns, items and breeds of zombie, as well as melee weapons, such as the frying pan, electric guitar and chainsaw. Attacking zombies with a katana is just as fun as you would expect, though I had some glitches in which monsters would animate as if they’d been hit with a blunt object, rather than cut apart.
“Left 4 Dead 2” is significantly more difficult than its predecessor, a game that was already fairly challenging on the harder difficulty levels. Unfortunately, rather than being a fun challenge, it simply frustrated me instead of drawing me in. Since each campaign includes only four or five checkpoints, dying will often result in your team having to replay upwards of 20 minutes of zombie fighting.
While the game is designed to react to the players’ skill level (by spawning more health packs and fewer monsters when they’re not doing well, for example), Valve apparently tweaked the algorithm since the original game, upsetting the fine balance between fun and frustration.
All in all, “Left 4 Dead 2” is definitely worth playing, especially if you or your friends were fans of the original. While it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, it’s still an enjoyable experience. Chances are, Valve will release new campaigns via downloadable content, and knowing their penchant for refining games via updates, it’s likely that the difficulty issues will be fixed in the future. If you’re looking for a new game for your PC or Xbox 360 this holiday season, “Left 4 Dead 2” is a no-brainer.
Note: This review was based on the PC version of “Left 4 Dead 2.”