his past week, the fallís most anticipated Zombie Apocalypse title, Left 4 Dead 2, unleashed its demo to mass audiences. With the actual title coming to knock its rotting fingers on door steps in less than two weeks, the short demo should have people salivating and blood thirsty for the full gameís November 17th release date.
The Left 4 Dead franchise for those of you that have barricaded themselves away from the gaming world as if an actually apocalypse was going down, is a four person FPS that allows four live player to take on the role of survivors trying to shoot, burn, denote and beat their way through hordes of zombies and specially mutated infected. The title also has varied modes that allow live players to assume the role of special infected trying to take down the survivors.
Left 4 Dead 2 focuses on the infection of the deep south, Savannah and New Orleans, where four new survivors: a high school football coach, a young woman, a good old boy, and a con-artist that looks way too much like John Cusack, fight their way through hordes of their former southerners with a new arsenal of weaponry and power-ups.
While the new weaponry is visually stimulating everything about it tends to be a cheap firework display. Despite the fact thatís its amusing to hit a zombie with a frying pan, a machete, or a police baton each melee weapon feels exactly the same and at the end of the day is just a re-skinned rifle butt swing, which was what was available in the original. Most importantly you have to give up your side arm to use them. Iíll keep my 9mm with infinite ammo instead of trying to beat a charging witch to death with an acoustic guitar. How about we leave the beating of zombies with instruments to the Dead Rising folks at Capcom?
Another half-assed power up is the boomer puke vials. Remember the pipe bombs that attracted all the zombies to one area then unpacked a bone storm explosion? Well the boomer puke only delivers the first half of that equation. Thanks, for adding another step to my zombie exterminating process. On the other hand, there is a new adrenalin shot that speeds up your perception of the world around you. Itís pretty cool during horde attack. Give it a shot.
The bestiary grew to include a rotting woman that spit pools of acids, zombies of slain cops in bulletproof riot gear, little midget zombies that ride the survivors into bad situations, and overgrown freaks that grab you and pound you until you stop moving. While the first two are kind of clever and vary the game play, the second two are more just like hybrids of existing infected. The riding zombie, ďJockeyĒ combines the dangers of the smoker and the hunter while the big guy, ďthe chargerĒ, is just an altered ďTank.Ē Valve didnít really lose much sleep staying up designing these guys did they?
Overall, the game play does have a more varied feel than the original. Most special scenarios in Left 4 Dead involved hitting a switch, getting some bombs together, dousing the place in gasoline, and digging in somewhere that you could blast and burn back the tide of hungry faces. Left 4 Dead 2 turns that scenario upside down by making the survivors hit a button in point A and then have to run through a maze of post-apocalyptical barricades, which the infected are flooding over at every turn, to get hit another switch at point B. Much more intense to have to think on your feet then getting to crouch behind a bar and mow down the infected from the comfort of your preplanned barricade
At the end of the day. I still feel this game relies too heavily on multi-player features to sell it. The single player experience of having three AI bots march along with you falls miles short of actually playing through with buddies or strangers, and even dialing up a quick match with random people puts the player at risking of having to deal with a party of three immature players that just want to yell through their headsets and shoot at each other. With this type of title the replay value only holds up if other people and the right type of people are playing it, but what will ten years bring? Gamers still play the original Resident Evil, but will people return to a gaming experience that put all its eggs in a multi-player basket?
While the demo proves that November 17th will bring out some amusing zombie blasting and burning, Left 4 Dead still uses its AI and atmosphere in a manner thatís too in your face, never building tension and never being creepy. (Well maybe in the case of the witch that can walk around in L4D2) Intense gameplay is a good thing, but when itís overdone and no other mood rises to break up the tension the gameplay becomes two dimensional.
Fans of the Zombie Genre have waited for a good atmospheric living dead single player FPS since Doom, but I donít think L4D2 will do the job. Itís a step in the right direction, but falls a couple fingers short.
Left 4 Dead 2 will be available for XBOX 360 and PC on November 17th.
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