'Left 4 Dead 2' - Xbox 360
Gus Mastrapa, Crispy Gamer
'Left 4 Dead 2' - Xbox 360
What's Hot: The South as setting; The Jockey in versus; The entire "Hard Rain" campaign
What's Not: Ignoring the story; Playing with strangers; Having your head humped
Crispy Gamer Says: Buy
http://www.l4d.com/ I remember
being cool on "Left 4 Dead." Before the game came out, my buddy Jeremy
linked me some early footage. "Looks like a lot of back up and shoot," I
shrugged. That was, of course, before I got my hands on the game at E3.
Actually playing "Left 4 Dead" changed everything. I felt palpable fear
as hordes of zombies booked down the hallway of
For me the big triumph of "Left 4 Dead" wasn't simply the fact that
it was a fun cooperative experience with a surprising amount of replay
value. No, the best thing about "Left 4 Dead" was the way I came to fall
in love with Zoe, Bill, Francis and Louis. "Left 4 Dead" marked a huge
turn for Valve -- a developer that long adhered to the silent
protagonist rule. Games like "Half-Life 2" and "Portal" were chatty, but
all that talk came from sidekicks, enemies and companions.
Not so with the four player-controlled protagonists in "Left 4 Dead." Those guys can't shut up to save their lives.
"Left 4 Dead 2
" kicks the convos into overdrive. The gab starts in
the game's opening cinematic. Remember the opening for "Left 4 Dead"?
The point of that clip was to familiarize you with the rules of the
game. It introduced you to the special Infected and gave you tips on how
to deal with each one. "Left 4 Dead 2's" intro has greater ambition --
it begins the business of character building from square one. Notice how
Nick, the con man, checks the cash register for dough -- even though
money is mostly worthless during a zombie apocalypse. Watch mischievous
Ellis' playful grin as he opens the gun rack. See how Rochelle, the
reporter, pores over maps while Coach chews on a chocolate bar. All of
these moments pay off as you play and replay "Left 4 Dead 2."
gags, run. Bits of character bear out as the four new Survivors fight
their way from Savannah to
And the brilliant thing about "Left 4 Dead 2" is that the story isn't segregated from gameplay by long cut scenes or being tucked into books or audio files or other cheap videogame gimmicks. The plot of "Left 4 Dead 2" actually happens. And in this game it isn't all just about getting from point "A" to point "B." I'm usually not the type to fret about spoilers. But I'm of the mind that what goes down in more than a couple of the campaigns in "Left 4 Dead 2" are the kind of thing you don't want to know about until you're in the thick of things. We can talk about these things next week or in the comments in the days to come. Just know that there are many game-changing moments in "Left 4 Dead 2."
Thanks to the new special Infected (especially the Spitter, bane of all campers) and ingenious level design, no two campaign climaxes feel entirely the same. Much of this hinges on the game's approach to finales: Rather than task the Survivors with simply surviving a wave or seven of zombies, Tanks and other nasties, Valve gives them something to do. Sometimes that means camping; sometimes that means running fuel back and forth. And other times you just gotta run like hell.
A fifth character, the game's Southern setting, picks up storytelling duties as well. Not willing to rely only on the writing on the safehouse wall, the night-and-day changes in locale make the arc of the game feel more like an adventure. "Left 4 Dead's" Northern setting was sober in comparison. "Left 4 Dead 2's" campaigns, when played end-to-end, feel like a true odyssey. The final airlift is a hard-won prize as cathartic and thrilling as the climax to any movie.
And there's where "Left 4 Dead 2" makes the greatest improvement over
"Left 4 Dead." The first game was indebted to the zombie film --
borrowing heavily in tone and setting from America's undead originator
Sure, "Left 4 Dead 2" kicks off in a mall -- one of the most familiar
zombie-horror settings out there. But soon the flavor of the South takes
hold, taking the terror to swamps, the streets of
There's a lot of game in "Left 4 Dead 2." The new multiplayer stuff is killer. Scavenge, which is all about pumping gas into a generator, provides a quick, tense and dramatic twist on Versus play. The Jockey -- a new zombie mutation that clamps onto a Survivor's skull -- is a blast to play. Do yourself a favor and play your first Versus match against friends. Because when you spawn as a Jockey and finally nab the Qualified Ride Achievement, you're going to want to be able to brag that it was a friend's head you were humping when you made the reward pop.
But multiplayer innovations and tweaks like new guns, nutty barf grenades, explosive ammo and adrenaline-spiked heals aren't what make "Left 4 Dead 2" such a fabulous success. "Left 4 Dead 2" feels so good because it isn't just a riff on the horror genre, but an imaginative expansion of the genre. The game doesn't try to replicate other awesome zombie stories, but tells a ripping yarn of its own. "Left 4 Dead 2" is a great game. Unlike most games, it would make a hell of a movie, too.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 game provided by the publisher.
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Video Games: 'Left 4 Dead 2' - Xbox 360
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