For those who have not played Left 4 Dead , the beauty of the game is the way it encourages people’s personality in multiplayer, there’s the one who tries to organise everyone into staying in a tight zombie killing unit, the slightly over excited one with the twitchy trigger finger who is an equal danger to friend and foe (*ahem* Jim *ahem*), the cowardly one who hangs back under the pretence of covering people and getting distracted by furniture/coffee cups/magazines and the heroic one who runs bravely ahead - so the team can get to the next level… there are great moments when the survivors are swarmed someone goes down and starts screaming ‘I’m down!... Leave me!... Go on ahead!.... ARGGGHHH!’
Underneath that mask he is saying 'cheese'.
So as you can tell, I’m a bit of a fan – so imagine my joy when Jim told me he couldn’t go to Training Day the preview of Left 4 Dead 2 - as he’s moved out of town – and asked little old me to go in his place - I just knew something good would come out of my ‘do nothing strategy’…
Me and my intrepid photographer, Martin, on hearing of the chance to improve our zombie survival skills, quickly packed our bags and high tail it to a secret central London location. The venue, a once plush gallery, is now boarded up, they’re ready for the outbreak, we’re greeted by military types, they check we’re not infected, they rush us in, take our coats and give us a beer – hey there might be an outbreak going on, but that’s no excuse for a drop in standards – eh?
We’re taken up stairs to be instructed by special ops guys in the finer art of anti-infected close combat techniques – the reason for this – well in L4D2 you now get the chance of using frying pans, guitars and cricket bats (ala Shaun of the Dead) to take down infected in a comedic style. Martin, secure in the knowledge that a fashion beard is weapon enough to take down a hoard of infected, declines the offer, as for me? Well being a true English gent I select my weapon of choice, the International Cricket Council would be proud, and the training begins.
Taujin my trainer is impressed with my styles – as I explain, I am from South of the River, we’re born with improvised weapons in hand – then my first mistake of the evening… whilst trying to explain the benefits of the forward defensive block and the leg sweep in a crawling infected situation, the discussion gets heated, Taujin starts an abrasive demonstration of the finer points of frying pan melee…
After taking the discussion to a physical level, we agree that such shots are too risky, even against the likes of Murali Kartik, let alone a bunch of angry infected. If there’s a lesson here, the lesson is – even if you have a ‘friend’ with a killer fashion beard, don’t argue with a man in a balaclava, body armour, who is holding a frying pan…
No we’re fully trained in the art of close combat (at the giving and receiving end), we beat a path downstairs to actually get a go on L4D2…
The game is still set in the USA, this time rather than gloomy cities and grubby farms, Valve (the developer) has changed the locale, it’s now in the sun kissed southern States, not only that they’ve added with a day and night cycle, weather effects, new infected types (riot police/clowns/swamp thingies to name just three) and improved the AI director – what’s the AI director – well it’s a bit of code that changes how the game plays out, it creates new routes, paces the action (if you’re taking your time it’ll throw baddies at you), effectively it ensures that every play through will be different, keeping players on their toes and making sure you never get bored of killing zombies (and hey if you get bored of that, then you are one).
My first impressions were quite simple. Wow! Valve have just made something great into something better… immediately the sensation of the in game physical world seems more solid, at the very start, when I did my usual run to the weapons and grab what I can, I slammed into Martin’s character (he was doing the same) and staggered a bit, in the previous game it was typical that you could run through your fellow players, which was a bit of a pet peeve at times – now I had a new pet peeve, it meant that Martin was now wielding a electric guitar and I wasn’t, but I’d rather have that than the sensation of being inside my mate (games nights we’re never about that…).
This pic reminds me of Escape From New York, except the frying pan...
We barrel up the walk way – the level we’re playing is on some sort of quay – to be confronted by the infected – Martin charges off as a new version of guitar hero, spreading the infected left right and centre, I try to cover him, only occasionally shooting him in the back (well my disappointment of not getting my hands on a melee weapon has to manifest itself somehow…). The action is again thick and fast, having played the original everything was familiar, yet somehow vastly fresh and improved.
We bundle along some streets, making light of the common infected (you know those regular guys who are only dangerous in numbers), to then be assailed by a bunch of balaclava and body armoured infected special ops guys – still sore from my training discussion, I aim my shotgun (hey it’s all classic weapons here!) to level these guys – they go flying, I turn around to see what Martin is up too – he’s still being heavy metal rock star, waving his guitar – I turn back and see the riot guys get back up… oh yeah, body armour… time to get behind the Hendrix of hate (Martin) so he can deal with it…
Hard to tell the difference between the game journalists and the zombies.
In our brief play through we’re also treated to a couple of the new special infected the jockey, who ‘rides’ players steers them into dangers and their doom – I particularly enjoyed watching another player (some nerdy unfashionable beardy games journo type) being ridden away from us – I followed him at a discreet distance to watch him being taken to a top of a building to be thrown off – well the new order doesn’t have time for bad beards… Also the spitter – no not a premiership footballer – a nasty piece of work that leaves horrible damaging residue wherever they go – oh, okay… exactly like a premiership footballer… And the charger, an infected with one over developed muscular arm (a homage to 13 year old gamers?) that can smack through a crowed of survivors like nobody’s business.
We only got to play one level, all in all, I was thoroughly pleased with L4D2 preview, it would be great to see the final product, some people may say it’s just a rehash, but they’re wrong, it promises so much more. What Valve has done is that they’ve taken a successful formula and added multiple new dimensions, its better, improved, its bloody marvellous. If you’re a gamer or just like massacring infected, my impressions is that this is a must have. Personally I can’t wait for November and the full release.
Left 4 Dead 2 is released on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on 20/11/2009 by Valve. If you like games and zombies, get it.
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