These may be credit-crunched times for most of us, but at least business is booming for zombies. With a veritable infestation of zombie-flicks in the cinemas, you can go a step further than watching your zombies getting splattered by doing the evisceration yourself – thanks to Left4Dead 2, the second iteration of the zombie-connoisseur’s favourite videogame.
It is, of course, only a year since the first Left4Dead, with the swiftness of the sequel’s arrival causing consternation in the game’s vocal online fan base. However, allegations of a cynical rush to market prove to be utterly unfounded. With a focus on online and co-operative play above storyline, the original was more of an online zombie-lovers’ playground compared to a balanced conventional game, and as such lent itself well to a swiftly conceived sequel from legendary developer Valve.
The first improvement you notice is that the graphics are much more detailed and considerably crisper – attention to detail which instantly makes Left4Dead 2 even more involving than its predecessor. A new dismemberment engine ups the level of detail: an assault rifle, for example, will gouge chunks of gore and entire limbs from advancing zombies, and you instantly feel more inclined to use whatever explosives come to hand once you’ve seen the limb-scattering mayhem they cause. Dovetailing with the dismemberment system are new melee weapons, including an axe and, that old zombie staple, chainsaw – although our favourite has to be the humble frying-pan, which not only makes an exaggerated clang straight out of Tom & Jerry, but also has the power to rearrange zombies’ facial features in a deeply satisfying manner.
This time around, Valve has worked more on the storyline although, fear not, you won’t have to sit through anything so tawdry as long cut-scenes, and the characters still don’t talk much except to warn each other that specific types of special zombies are incoming. The game has four new characters: Nick (who is a gambler), Ellis, Coach (a reassuringly grizzled type) and Rochelle (a TV producer). Set in the Deep South, the action starts in Savannah and ends in New Orleans. The game has five campaigns, playable co-operatively by up to four people, as well as in Versus and Survival modes; we’ve been told there’s a new game mode, too, but you’ll have to play it to find what it is.
Valve has made a number of gameplay tweaks, which may not be obvious the moment you sit down to play Left4Dead 2 but which make eminently good sense. For example, the days when you could ride out the campaigns’ finales by holing up in a bunker and firing through the windows are gone: the game encourages you to keep moving, especially when beset by seemingly endless zombie hordes. One finale involves crossing a long bridge; in another, you must make your way to a switch to kill a zombie-attracting alarm.
There are, of course, new forms of “boss” zombie, along with all the old favourites like Boomers, Witches, Tanks, Hunters and Smokers. Chargers have been added, which are designed to break up close-knit groups – they have giant arms for knocking people down, yet still move speedily. Jockeys will jump on your back and cause damage until a mate dispatches them. We’ll leave you to discover the other new additions.
Another unique feature which contributed massively to Left4Dead’s success is the AI Director, which made sure that weapon and ammo-drops were placed dynamically in different places every time you attempted a campaign. AI Director 2 will even rearrange the levels, shutting off and opening areas dynamically to shunt you around, according to how well you are doing.
The end result is that in Left4Dead 2 – even more so than in the first game – you feel like you are living through a zombie film with three mates, no idea of what is going to happen next and nothing but your wits and a host of found objects (admittedly primarily consisting of serious firepower) to get you through. It’s sure to create an online sensation. Be very afraid.
As if New Orleans hadn't had enough problems lately, now it's got to deal with a zombie invasion as well. Set entirely in the Deep South of the U.S., your team of four players must once again fight for survival against a never-ending wave of mutant monsters.
The dead walk and they're feeling kind of hungry
| Fireproof zombies are just one of the new horrors |
| New melee weapons make combat even more intense |
| Falling off a bridge is the least of your concerns |
Co-operation is the name of this game, as you struggle to reach a series of safe houses and eventual rescue, while all the time being assaulted by hundreds of zombies and other creatures. The five new campaigns (one more than the original) feature a more detailed story and finally explain how the outbreak occurred.
If all you're interested in is the action though then there are new melee weapons - including a chainsaw - and lots of new firearms. With new mutant types as well this is the perfect mix of survival horror and all out first person shooter action. Fearing for your life has never been so much fun. Key Features
About the Developer: Valve
- Co-operation of the Dead: The fan favourite co-op shooter returns with five brand new campaigns and a more detailed story.
- Survival equipment: Wield new melee weapons, including axes, baseball bats and a chainsaw -or make use of the new assault rifle or silenced machine gun.
- Mutant evolution: Face off against new mutant types, including the fast moving Charger, the new Wandering Witch and fire resistant zombies.
- Virtual Spielberg: Revamped AI director watches how you play and increases or decreases the challenge accordingly, even altering the layout of the levels as it sees fit.
- Team works: Four new characters to play as: TV reporter Rochelle, mechanic Ellis, conman Nick and an American football school coach known simply as… Coach.
One of the most influential PC developers in America today, Valve changed the first person shooter forever with 1998's Half-Life. Know for their long development times (and delays) almost every game has been a classic, from Counter-Strike to Portal, Team Fortress and Left 4 Dead.