first impressions on left 4 dead 2 (demo!)

I got into the office yesterday and sent my Xbox 360 a “please download the L4D2 demo” message. Gloria was kind enough to switch it on, and when I got home it was waiting for me. Also waiting for me was a new set of cheap Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 headphones. I won’t get into the details on those right now, other than to say: so far, they’re great!

Left 4 Dead 2 it a whole lot like Left 4 Dead. That’s not surprising, and it’s good. There are some significant differences, and so far I think they’re all good.

There are a few new Special Infected. I encountered all of them. The Jockey attacked me, and it was annoying. I think it wasn’t a great place to see how effectively hateful the Jockey could be. Most of the time, we just wasted him. The same thing happened with the Charger: we saw him once or twice and wasted him before I could realize exactly what the point was. We saw a lot of Spitters, though, and they were pretty effective. We kept seeing them at choke points, where they’d force us to halt our progress for a little while waiting for the acid to evaporate. I don’t think any of the new infected was obviously a big mistake.

I saw one of the “wandering daytime Witches” but she was on the other side of a fence from us and avoiding her was easy.

The only Uncommon Infected I saw was a riot cop. They were a really good addition. A small horde appeared now and then with one or two riot cops in it. They were not a huge threat, but they forced you to pay attention and deal with them in some way other than just shooting.

The weapons felt different, which I really liked. Maybe it’s all in my head, but the timing on the pump shotgun felt different. The combat shotgun was also definitely different than the auto shotgun from L4D. I’m not sure whether the pistol had any differences apart from appearance. (The L4D Wiki suggests it didn’t.)

One of the big L4D2 additions is melee weapons. I knew these would be useful, because otherwise they would not have made such a big deal about them. Still, it was hard to imagine them as being really useful. In short, unsurprisingly, they were useful. It felt like I could probably get away with using a melee weapon most of the time, switching over to a shotgun or other heavy weapon only to deal with Special Infected or maybe for hordes. I used a nightstick, frying pan, and machete. I did see an electric guitar, but it seemed like madness to ditch a machete so I could swing around a guitar.

There’s also a new kind of grenade: boomer bile, in a bottle. Gross! I used this during one panic event to cause the huge horde of common infected to just go someplace else. It was bizarre to run through a big area full of zombies who were all running away. I understand that you can throw it at a Tank and watch a huge mass of common infected rush him. That seems like it will be a lot of fun.

Finally, you can choose to swap out your pain pills for a shot of adrenaline. When you do it, you start to move faster, the sound and video go all crazy, and I get the impression that you become pretty deadly. Unfortunately, I used it at a lousy time to test it out. Mostly I ran around looking for the next open alley really quickly.

The setting was really good. It definitely felt like New Orleans, and it was weird to walk around during the day. Also, I’m a sucker for the graffiti and government signage in the L4D games – even if I doubt they could’ve gotten so much decided, printed, and distributed in under 14 days. What really sold me on the New Orleans experience, though, was the music. It was clearly Left 4 Dead music, but it was also clearly jazz. I had noticed differences in instrumentation, but it wasn’t until a huge panic event that it sunk in: as all the music picked up in intensity, there was this huge jazz trumpet line going on. It was clever and made me smile.

I saw some complaints that the new Survivors are not distinct enough characters. I don’t even know how to address that. I mean… who cares? This game has nearly no plot, and doesn’t need any more than it has. It’s cool that we have new characters with new voices for dialog. That’s enough for me.

So, in short, L4D2 was a lot of fun. It did not change anything essential, but added more cool stuff. I am glad I pre-ordered it, and I look forward to working through all the campaigns and trying the new gameplay modes.

Written on November 4, 2009
game   videogame   xbox   zombie