Left 4 Dead 2 Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Even though Left 4 Dead is one of the most cherished multiplayer games ever, the announcement of its sequel less than a year after its release was met with furore from many of Valve’s most devoted fans. Their fears being that the development team would no longer support the original game to the extent that was promised. Once you play this superior sequel however, whether that’s true or not will hardly matter.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a much sunnier game than the original, which gives it a different feel, but not to the level that it no longer feels like the Left 4 Dead that we know and love. So rest assured, Left 4 Dead 2 is still a fast paced multiplayer focussed game set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, where you and a possible three other players must survive against an onslaught of undead creatures. It’s still got an emphasis on working closely as a team and always being aware of your team-mates situations. Audio and visual cues will also inform you when they’re in trouble, and thanks to this, and provided your team stick closely together, the game can quite easily be played even without a headset plugged in. Left 4 Dead 2 even supports local split-screen play which is quickly becoming a precious commodity in this age.

The AI Director that granted the original game such replayability has also returned in improved form. So the amount and type of enemies are determined by your performance, as is item placement and such, but this time around even the level layout can be tweaked by the director, allowing the placement of walls to be changed, which is excellent.

There are five new campaigns, all of which have plenty of scope for memorable moments and more than enough variety to keep proceedings interesting. The Parish Bridge set piece is one unforgettable moment, which sees you running across a lengthy bridge, whilst contending with hordes of enemies, to divulge much further into the game would be a disservice to you, but I will say that levels are largely much less claustrophobic and far more wide open than those featured in the original game. This will polarise opinion, but again it gives the game a separate identity from that of the first game; Left 4 Dead 2 is not simply a retread of what has come before.

Like the original, the game is designed to be played as a multiplayer game, but it’s still possible to play it alone. Much is lost when played in such a way though. AI team-mates are able to hold their own against enemies and are efficient at saving you or your team-mates from desperate situations, but rarely ever make use of pipe bombs and molotov’s; they’re just never going to be a substitute for proficient human players.

Story was never really a portion of the Left 4 Dead ingredients, which in this case was a good thing, as it could have got in the way of the developers clear intentions of offering an endlessly replayable game. The same largely applies to Left 4 Dead 2, though each campaign is more closely interconnected to each other and the four new survivors have more to say for themselves, commenting more often on their situations and motivations, often with entertaining but clichéd banter. It’s an improvement, but still all rather weak, though irrelevant, as here it’s the chaotic action that tells the real story.

More radically new are melee weapons, which open up further options for spilling undead blood with. There’s axes, swords, crowbars, cricket bats, a guitar and a chainsaw. Maybe not quite the assortment that Dead Rising offers then, but certainly a welcome change from incessantly blasting zombies to shreds. Different ammo types give the game further variety and, of course, there are also some new firearms to make good use of, the destructive grenade launcher is certainly a favourite.

Maybe even without the addition of melee weaponry, things would always have remained interesting as zombies can now incur far more horrific (or lovely, if you enjoy a lot of virtual gore) wounds, with the chance to blow holes in them, as well as remove appendages. Their bodies will crumple and blood will seep from their mouths, all of which results in them being even more satisfying to kill, exactly just as zombies should be and a great asset to a game that primarily involves shooting and bashing things.

Just like the first game, along with the common zombies are the more unique and deadlier special infected. The Boomer, Smoker, Hunter and Witch varieties from the original game have returned for this sequel but have been joined by three new monstrosities: Spitters will spit toxic goo of which if they’re not careful can easily wipe out an entire team in an instant. Chargers will charge towards you and if they manage to grab you, their grip is something to be feared, with only rescue by a teammate or death being a way out. Finally there’s Jockeys, which are able to ride around on you, not only damaging you, but also making you lose control in the process.

You once again get the chance to control the special infected, though this time it’s not only in the Versus mode but also in the new Scavenge mode, which is a less time consuming version of the enjoyable versus mode which pits survivors, who must do their usual task of escaping, against the special infected who must prevent them from doing so by wiping them out, using all the familiar and terrifying skills that the AI utilises. There’s also a new harder difficulty, realism, which removes all onscreen assistance and makes vocal chatter a must. Finally there’s a Survival mode, which essentially functions in much the same way as Horde from Gears of War 2, with the objective being for you and your team to defend a location from a mass of undead creatures for as long as you can possibly hold out.

The pieces set in place by Valve for the original Left 4 Dead already gelled together to make a great game, but Left 4 Dead 2 retains all such goodness and builds on it, making for a bigger, better and more satisfying game, to the extent that, at this point in time, I quite honestly find it hard to see how any future games will substantially improve on this thoroughly impressive formula.