Even if this guy wasn't a zombie, I'd still shoot him.
Even if this guy wasn't a zombie, I'd still shoot him.

Even if this guy wasn't a zombie, I'd still shoot him.

Popular mythology states that the only way to truly kill a zombie is to either put a bullet in the brain, or to completely sever the head from the body. Half measures simply won't do: even if you lop off an arm or blow a hole in their chest, there's every chance that they'll keep on coming at you. Valve's latest game has displayed a similar level of resilience this year, and neither a vocal online boycott campaign nor the gargantuan release of Modern Warfare 2 has done much to slow its momentum. And now it's finally here, the last big sequel of 2009.

The zombies themselves - or The Infected, to give them their official name - are probably as good a place as any to start this review. As in the first game, the walking dead are a constant threat to your adventures. There are zombified builders, zombified clowns, zombies dressed in hazmat suits and in a million other fashion styles - and they all want to use your colon as a skipping rope. The level of detail on these rampant rotters is superb, and they look even better when you start blowing them to pieces. The original game was gory enough, but here the Ick Factor is turned up to full volume. Smack a zombie in the head with one of the new melee weapons - perhaps Valve's trademark crowbar - and their skull will burst like an overripe melon. Fire a shotgun into someone's legs and you'll blow clean though their knees. Combat is a messy business: blood sprays, flesh tears, and limbs are left scattered on the reddened ground.

In a sense, this sums up Left 4 Dead 2 as a whole: it's more or less the same co-op FPS game that we played last year, but it's bolder, bloodier, and broader in its approach to the action. The concept for the five core campaigns remains the same. Four survivors attempt to battle their way through a zombie apocalypse, blasting through several interconnected stages in a bid to reach safety. Each player is limited to carrying one large firearm, a choice of pistol or melee weapon, and one single-use thrown weapon. Survivors are also able to carry a limited quantity of healing items - one medkit, and either some short-term-fix painkillers, or a new adrenaline shot that boosts your speed. As before, the distribution of health kits is a vital gameplay dynamic: it's important that you look out for yourself, but if you don't patch up your team-mates from time to time, there's a real risk that the group as a whole will fail.

Valve has added a number of new monsters and features and weapons for this sequel - elements that we'll cover in a moment - but arguably the most important changes lie with the designs of the campaigns themselves. As before, each scenario is presented as a B-movie that places the four survivors in a different environment. Dead Center forces the quartet through a ruined shopping mall, while the excellent Dark Carnival mostly takes place at a theme park. However, this time the levels themselves have greater variety and personality. The Hard Rain campaign abandons the game's traditional, linear structure in favour of a there-and-back-again quest to fetch petrol for your getaway boat, while the aforementioned theme park takes every opportunity to shepherd you into its rides - over a dodgem arena, up a rollercoaster track, and into a shady tunnel of love. At times the first game felt a bit samey, as if you were simply doing the same old zombie killing with a different set of wallpapers, but here each scenario carries its own distinct flavours and set pieces.

This welcome diversity is particularly evident during the climactic events that occur at the end of each campaign. In the past you'd invariably end each adventure with a siege-like stand-off against the undead hordes, a desperate struggle to survive until a rescue vehicle arrived. This time you'll find yourself suffering through all sorts of things: a marathon-length running battle across a suspended bridge; a zombie massacre in a rock stadium; a near-blind sprint over the roofs of flooded houses as you're battered by a tropical storm. The latter is a particularly well-crafted slice of level design, limiting the players' vision and battering them with impressive weather effects - and yet it's not quite the pick of the bunch. The best finale of all is to be found at the close of Dead Center: here the four survivors must race around a multi-tiered shopping complex in search of 16 petrol cans, which must then be brought to a stock car on display in the mall's main hall. The quickest way to gather the cans is to split up the group - but as is usually the case in L4D, this is an extremely dangerous tactic. The resulting scramble is always tense yet extremely enjoyable, and it feels genuinely different to the other parts of the game (with one exception, but we'll cover that later).

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User Comments

PussyCat's Avatar

PussyCat

the graphics are amazing! i hate the witch zombies. scary! fantastic game tho
Posted 18:39 on 27 December 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

This game is good fun just with Jean Claude RanDammers online. Though some of them can be infuriating at times. Stuck it on to play for 20 minutes there before lunch and ended up playing for over an hour.
Posted 12:44 on 07 December 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

I bought a 360 for the original and I was left a little disappointed. If I can convince a few friends to get this then I will also purchase. Hopefuly in the January sales, if it drops in price which the original didn't do.
Posted 19:22 on 19 November 2009
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ RecoN

It's a brilliant suggestion, RecoN. Sure, the game would have to be quite massively gimped from a graphics perspective, but waggle-happy zombie horde fighting has the potential to be absolutely hilarious! Especially with the new melee weapons...

I actually felt the review lacked a little personality, Neon. It seemed more 'functional' than 'fun', which is definitely not what I think of when hearing you on the podcast. That being said, it does the trick, and made me absolutely determined to get hold of this one.
Posted 18:17 on 19 November 2009
Rickitis's Avatar

Rickitis

Valve doesnt like the PS3 though as they always complain that its too hard to make games for so they always stick to the PC and 360 which sucks for PS3 owners.
Posted 18:17 on 19 November 2009
RecoN's Avatar

RecoN

Agreed L4D has been around for a while now and i think Valve would make money releasing it on the Playstation formatt, possibly on the wii? LOL How fun would that be! Fling your wiimote to throw a grenade ;)
Posted 17:35 on 19 November 2009
Mr_Ninjutsu's Avatar

Mr_Ninjutsu@ Ghost_Dog

But not EA or Sega maybe Sony themselves? I'm pretty sure they would shoot down anybody else who got in their way to get this on the PS3 because The Orange Box was poor in comparison IMHO.

I'm confused why they don't do it to be honest. More money for them I suppose. After all money is king at the end of the day.
Posted 17:16 on 19 November 2009
Ghost_Dog's Avatar

Ghost_Dog

Oh how I wish this would come to the PS3.

If you don't want to do it Valve, farm it out to another developer.
Posted 17:08 on 19 November 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

I'd say that's a pretty easy call - just decide whether you want a single-player experience, or something to play with others online.

I'd also bear in mind how many other people you know who'll be getting L4D2. As I said in the review, it's best played with friends.
Posted 17:03 on 19 November 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer@ GeNeCyDe1993

i am in same position as you, dude. but i would go for l4d 2 personally
Posted 16:27 on 19 November 2009
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993

Awsome now this or AC2? Im only getting one.
good reveiw Neon :)
Posted 16:06 on 19 November 2009
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Got the first on PC through Steam and it's brilliant but might get the second on 360 so I have one on each.
Posted 14:51 on 19 November 2009
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

Another great review. This site's reviews keep getting better!
Posted 14:40 on 19 November 2009
Rickitis's Avatar

Rickitis@ mydeaddog

Yeah I meant the match-making more than anything and the fact you can play it on the sofa :) I might pick it up on PC then or hope some very kind person buys me a 360 for Christmas but I don’t fancy my chances of that happening :D
Posted 14:36 on 19 November 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

I played the 360 and the PC versions for the review, and they both work really well.

Personally I'd say that the PC has the edge, as the graphics are a bit sharper - plus you get the benefit of a keyboard and mouse. On the other hand, the 36 version is probably easier with regards to match-making. And naturally, you don't have to worry about specs, optimisation etc.

The bottom line is that it's a great game, whichever platform you're on.
Posted 14:24 on 19 November 2009

Game Stats

Technical Specs
9
Out of 10
Left 4 Dead 2
  • Scavenger mode is hugely fun
  • Still a great concept
  • Excellent level design
  • Not a massive evolution from the last game
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 17/11/2009
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PC
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: First Person Shooter
No. Players: 1-8
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 1,465 116
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