There was a time when I didn't realize that the first Left 4 Dead was broken. I know, seems crazy right? But looking back, the mistakes seem so apparent. A small array of special infected that don't team very well together, 4 short chapters to work your way through, no real way to defend yourself properly against a large onslaught, and a climax scenario that was rinse-wash-repeated throughout every campaign. It seems obvious now, because after playing Left 4 Dead 2, you realize what a perfect game really is.
And that perfect game is Left 4 Dead 2.
Having played through a multitude of Left 4 Dead (henceforth referred to as L4D), I believe I can say I knew the genre pretty well. My first time picking up the game, I loved the anxious feeling that walking into every room gave me. The way it forced me to strain my hearing to detect even the slightest hint of a special infected, and the way that I found myself truly cooperating in a cooperative game for the very first time. What a novel idea. L4D2 improves upon this formula in every way, let me tell you how.
First off, the basics. Yes, L4D2 can be broken down into a simple formula; it is indeed a First Person Shooter that pits you and 3 allies against a horde of zombies and "special infected". These special infected zombies all have their own unique abilities. The “Spitter” will spit "noxious goo" in a general area that will either do major damage to you or stop you from moving forward. The “Charger” will push through your group, grabbing one individual and slamming them into a wall. The “Jockey” will jump on your head and move your character away from the group. Returning special infected include the “Boomer” (now in male and female flavours), the “Hunter”, the “Smoker”, the “Tank” and the ever eventful “Witch”. Not only will these special infected do some major damage to your team, but the A.I. associated with these monstrosities also appears to have learned to work together. Many times I'll find myself in a pile of goo after being ridden into it by a Jockey. The newly improved A.I. Director will no longer throw special infected at you one at a time, but will find ways to team them together to really strengthen their abilities.
In all these situations, the best offense and defense is to work together. The name of the game is teamwork and nothing exemplifies that like L4D2. If you decide to break away from your group, you're dead. Backing each other up, taking out special infected together, and beating away horde can only be done successfully together.
One of the most notable additions is the new range of weapons, and most specifically, the addition of melee weapons. Beating back zombies with cricket mallets and baseball bats or chopping them up with a machete or an ax and some of the most brutal acts I've ever performed, and the blood matches it. Full dismemberment of the zombies accompany loads of zombie blood that is spewed all over the screen and rendered in very intricate detail.
In addition to these things, you also have a new cohesive story. Rather than dropping you into a random situation, every campaign flows from one another, and the dialogue is tighter to give it a more integrated feeling. The characters talk to one another on an almost regular basis and the dialogue is incredibly funny. Multiplayer modes are also very impressive this time around, with the addition of the quick access Scavenger mode. Rather than having to play through full campaign missions switching between survivors and the considerably more badass special infected, use4rs can play short matches where the goal is to find gas cans and refill a generator. The map is considerably smaller and the matches take less time, which is great news for the special infected fans among us.
When your finished mastering all those modes, higher difficulty levels and a “realism” mode await the expert zombie killers among us. Realism mode removes the ability to see your partners in crime along with items littering the maps. You'll have to be much closer to items to pick them up, and zombies now require a shot to the head to fully take them out (just like in real life!).
But the name of the game really is co-operative gameplay, and that is exactly what Left 4 Dead 2 personifies. You must constantly work together, and the ones that don't will always fall through the cracks (or have their face pounced on by a hunter). The game is chock full of things to do, and with Valve, you can always assume more campaigns and expansions are coming down the pipe. If you have people to play this with, buy this game. If you don't, buy it anyways and make friends.