Entertaining Peery: Left 4 Dead 2

February 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

In anticipation of the return of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I decided to play through Left 4 Dead 2, a game that had been languishing in my PC game pile since its release. I played through Left 4 Dead as a single player and enjoyed it enough to buy the sequel, but had not had the time to get around to playing.

Now most people will be thinking: “Single player? L4D is a multiplayer game!” While true, I never wanted to make the time investment to play it that way and simply enjoyed the game play as a different version of the great Freedom Fighters video game where the player is aided by AI characters in their fight against the alt-reality Soviets.

So this review is not about L4D2′s multiplayer aspects. Sorry.

After some, in my opinion, ridiculous controversy about Valve releasing a sequel “too quickly” after LD4, I think  L4D2 is a great improvement over the first game. The level design and monster populations are much less predictable, the zombie horde attacks seem to be less triggered by player inaction, there is a better weapon selection, more thoughtful item seeding, and the characters and dialogue are much more interesting.

In particular, I played the entire game as Ellis because the guy is a hoot with excellent dialogue and the character channels The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon very nicely. In LD4 I did not have a particular attachment to any of the avatars, but after playing the first mission as Ellis I didn’t even consider playing anyone else throughout the game, even restarting a mission when I accidently forgot to select Ellis.

The “Hard Rain” section of the game is particularly spectacular and I would recommend the game just on one of the sequences featured there. After the players collect fuel, a recurring task, the weather in the game turns nasty with hurricane force winds howling louder than the zombies that stumble in out of the rain and dark. The effect builds an element of dread far beyond the zombies. Though the wind probably had no impact in the game, system-wise, that I detected, I had a real fear of being blown off a roof I had to cross and I always took shelter when the wind began to howl and blow at its hardest. Maybe it is my personal experience with hurricanes and tornados, but I cannot remember a game creating as much tension with a weather environment, except maybe the Silent Hill series use of fog coming as close.

My only complaint about the game was the roller coaster level which was frustrating and felt a bit contrived, forcing the players to follow the coaster’s rails to reach the control area. The rest of the game is not nearly as overt about guiding the player as this section is and really drives home the players’ lack of climbing ability compared to that of the zombies. Luckily, that section of the game is capped by the enormously fun pay off of the Midnight Rider’s concert fight. Using stage pyrotechnics to roast zombies IS good times.

I think it will be fun to try some of the other play types as well as multiplayer. However, the Dead Island box is staring at me from the game pile…


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