Left 4 Dead 2

For those of you who are new to the left 4 dead series, I’ll keep things simple; the game is based around four survivors struggling to stay alive in a post apocalyptic zombie ridden world. Your mission? To make it from safe house A to safe house B without being, clawed, spat on, burned, crushed, dissolved, strangled… the list goes on. But that’s it, that’s the premise and in so many ways that’s the beauty of the game. It’s basic drive for simple pleasure with a focus on playability.

The first L4D instalment was one of those gems that takes you by surprise. It was a simple fun game, with endless replay value. It delivered what every gamer wants; a fun game that has varied outcomes and never fails to make you laugh. With L4D also came an unbelievable ability to frighten you to your very core. While enjoying the campaign in its full 4 player co-op glory, you feel completely immersed, with the lights off and the sound up, precariously making your way through each level with 3 of your close friends you start to sincerely fear the next frenzied zombie attack. Hoping one of you doesn’t get dragged off by a crazed zombie but hoping even more that if that happens it will be one of your friends and not you. This realism combined with the online versus mode, which allows you to play as ‘survivors’ then ‘zombies’, competing in a 4v4 match up to see which team can make it the furthest through the campaign levels, gives the original title a rightful place on any gamers shelf. This combination of simplistic fun and humorous replay value meant that LFD, a somewhat ‘on the fringes’ release had proved a roaring success and lay safe foundations with pretty high expectations for a sequel. Expectations which were sadly not met…

Now Don’t get me wrong, Left 4 Dead 2 is a fantastic game, even if it lacks the ability to scare you in a way that its predecessor possessed. There’s plenty of things to be excited about, new innovative online modes, new guns, new special zombie types and a longer larger campaign mode. This game is an essential upgrade choice from the original, but fans of the L4D title will find that the new instalment lacks punch. From a play value point of you the structure and mechanics (the foundations) are in place, already laid down by its baby brother, but this I feel is all that saves this release from being a flop. Plagued by online and campaign connection issues, much like a lot of new Xbox releases, it can prove to be more frustrating than anything else at times. The real problems for L4D2 however lie not in the technical issues but the lack of drive and imagination. One of the core triumphs of this series previously had been the emphasis on ambience, total immersion in your task at hand. You become so focused by your surrounding and what is moving in the bushes ahead that when you hear a shrill shriek from a roof top or the distant wailing of a witch, a small droplet of sweat beads down your spine until it rests comfortably in your already soiled undies. Why this immersion was so important is because it for filled a prophecy which so many games claim to, it genuinely offered a fun game to play co-op with your friends and the shared terror made for a shared experience with shared laughs. Putting your own game-life on the line to charge into a pack of zombies in a vain attempt to save your friend becomes more potent when you are both factually quite terrified of what you are playing, this creates memories and fond shared experiences. A glimpse of the joy created by most notably the Halo series but to a lesser extent CoD: Modern Warfare. This experience is not lost in Left 4 Dead 2, but greatly diminished, that for me is where this title stumbles, where it so rightly deserves criticism. Initially it set out as a great model for how to make a fun game and with its new instalment, instead of pursuing that originality and concept there was panic. The regrettable happened a company realised it had to make a sequel and did what every company does, more guns, more levels, more modes.

The developers have managed to lose the scare value and down grade this game from potentially terrifying to tame and mediocre. Like so many games nowadays it just doesn’t do enough, you are left with the notion most regularly felt after burning what was a potentially delicious pizza, ‘That’s a shame, that could have been great’.

William Goodspeed