by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
Same Old Song and Dance
When Valve released Left 4 Dead last year, fans far and wide praised it for its unique use of co-op and insanely fun versus mode. When Left 4 Dead 2 was announced at E3 2009 however the praise was anything but. Despite the positive message Valve attempted to relay, the game was met with harsh criticisms, attempted boycotts and universal journalistic skepticism. For Valve to meet a pre-set release date is something of a wonder, but to release a full retail title in just a year’s time is simply unheard of. Many argue whether Left 4 Dead 2 is worthy of being released as a full game versus an expansion. Time to find out if it is.
This Used to be a NICE Neighborhood!
With the saga of Bill, Zoe, Louis, and Francis over, four new unwilling survivors have stepped up to the plate to try and escape from the Infected horde. It is soon clear that things have taken a turn for the worst. Whereas the group from the original game was smack-dab in the middle of the horde, the new survivors are at the frontline of the spread of the infection with new mutations appearing and spreading quickly.
Our cast of characters is quite different from the previous four but still manage to take on four stereotypical roles in the zombie genre. Ellis, the youngest of the group, is a mechanic turned “zombie killing machine” from Atlanta with a passion for high-caliber weapons and things that smell. Rochelle used to be a television producer who covered the infections advance into Atlanta before finding herself fleeing like everyone else. Nick, a conman, broke into a clothing store and stole the best looking suit possible to ride out the zombie apocalypse in style. Finally, there’s Coach, the religious high-school football, errrr… coach with a passion for eating and getting into arguments with Nick. Don’t bother asking for his real name; he’ll never tell.
The cast seem more cohesive than the original four ever did. The game’s narrative is much stronger and instills the sense that they are meeting each other for the first time. Despite the ramped up dialogue, the new team did not charm me as much as the original team dead. That’s not to say that the new cast is bland; far from it. Starting each chapter of a campaign often leads to Ellis telling a story about himself and his buddy Keith, a person who goes through far too many acts of stupidity to possibly exist or at least reach a ripe old age. Hearing Nick tease and make cynical comments can be hilarious and Coach’s sermons coinciding with his love for food are wonderfully done. The odd-man-out here unfortunately is Rochelle, as she really doesn’t have much to say past the first campaign.
Goddamn You Jimmy Gibbs Jr!
The story of Left 4 Dead 2 takes place over the course of four to five chapters. Dead Center, the first campaign, takes place in Atlanta as the survivors flee to the local mall to hopefully get rescued. When they get there they find their own way out: a race car on display driven by local racing legend Jimmy Gibbs Jr. The second campaign, Dark Carnival begins as they find a pileup on the highway south of town and are forced to abandon the vehicle, much to Nick’s cursing and Ellis’ sadness. They make their way on foot to an amusement park hoping to find transportation out of there.
The story from there progresses in a logical direction. The chopper pilot who rescues them at the end of Dark Carnival gets infected and they crash to the beginning of the third campaign, The Swamp. The survivors eventually make it out of that jam on a boat and make their way to the fourth campaign, Hard Rain, and eventually to New Orleans for The Parish which is the final campaign of the game. Each campaign is uniquely fun and different from the others. While enjoyable, the game’s story is ultimately just as uninformative as in Left 4 Dead. Sure, you learn more about how the US is dealing with the infection based on the locations that you visit but in the end you’re left with more questions than answers.
Unique and fun campaigns with great characters
Dumb survivor AI