I've just finished playing two rounds of the brand-new Left4Dead 2
demo (out a week early for pre-order customers), and can I just say this: Heckler & Koch G3SG/1 EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
[has major nerdgasm]
Sorry. It's just that this new game is awesome on so many levels, it's hard to keep one's enthusiasm in check. Particularly since we were kept fidgeting in our seats as the demo release got delayed for a day.THE ATMOSPHEREAfter all those night campaigns in L4D1, isn't it great to finally soak up the sunlight?
First impressions matter a great deal, and this one certainly does it for me. God, this game is pretty. The demo, which lets you play two chapters of The Parish, is set in New Orleans. Think, beautiful golden sunlight, parks, swinging potted plants, Southern architecture, patio furniture - and an awesome soundtrack (and a jukebox that plays five different songs, including the infamous Still Alive
, and a hilarious zombie-oriented song called Re Your Brains
, just in case you want a change!). A game that's set in broad daylight can't possibly be scary? Oh yes, when there's a walking timebomb-on-legs loose in town. By which I mean the damn Wandering Witch. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
STILL FOUR AGAINST
The four-survivor formula still holds: there's Rochelle, the diminutive news reporter; Ellis, the mechanic (the TF2
Scout's redneck cousin, no doubt), Coach, the high school football coach with a weakness for candy,1
and Nick, the well-dressed gambler/conman who's probably less than happy to have fallen in with this menagerie.
As for the infected... Holy Moses, there's now twice as many of them. In addition to the original Hunter/Smoker/Boomer/Tank Special Infected from L4D
, there's now also the Smoker's vicious girlfriend, the Spitter - a vile pig-tailed female Special who spews highly damaging green bile (capable of downing any Survivor stupid enough to stand around in it in seconds, the Spitter is the AI director's new weapon against Survivor Camping) -, the Jockey ( a hideous, Hunchback of Notre Dam little son of a bitch with oversized hands), which mounts and rides you into the nearest hazard (be it off the edge or into a Tank) until you shake it off or somebody shoots it off you, and the Tank's little brother: the Charger, a dungarees-wearing hunk-a-muscle with one oversized arm, who can easily run you over before you realise it, or grab hold of you and repeatedly pound you into the dirt until somebody else kills it.2
(The one blessing is that they don't have much health - on Normal). No sign of the Mudmen yet, but since they're native to The Swamp, that's hardly surprising. Oh, and I don't know what's creepier: a Witch that wanders around, crying, or the female Boomer-in-a-bikini. Brr.You do NOT want to shoot the Spitter lady up close.
Oh, and there are now also Normal Infected zombies (once riot police officers) in bulletproof armour. Shoot 'em in the back!1 In an early scene in the introductory trailer, the Coach is snacking on a bar of chocolate as he reads the advisory notice; later, as they're struggling to run 30 stories up to the evacuation centre, Nick (himself breathing hard) tells the heavily panting Coach, "Maybe the helicopter... maybe it's made of chocolate!" ROFL.
2I can already imagine TankMagnet screaming.THE WEAPONS
[second nerdgasm commences]
I cannot believe how many new weapons and equipment they've endowed this game with. You still can carry only the one primary weapon and secondary, a tossable explosive/incendiary, a pack on your back and a medical power-up, but oh, the array. The pistol and Mossberg pump-action shotgun are still there (and there's a Magnum!), but in addition to the Uzi, there's now also a sound-suppressed Mac-11 submachine gun (that goes phut-phut-phut, amusingly), and new second-tier weapons include an AK-47 (a staple in action games, yes?), a FN SCAR and ohgodtheHeckler & KochG3SG/1sharpshooterrifleEEEEEEEEEEE.3 My new baby. Eat this, zombies!
Melee weapons and tossables are another treasure trove. Objects that you can use to dispatch of zombies (which range from "hilarious" to "very messy") now include nightsticks, baseball bats, katanas, machetes, electric guitars (I'm not kidding about this one) and - my favourite - frying pans. (Which you can find at every other corner). The trailer shows a chainsaw and axe in action, but I haven't found any; whether it's because this is only a demo, or they've just never spawned, I don't know. Of course, the only downside to melee weapons is, it's either them or your (unlimited ammo) pistols, but when you have a skillet that is not only deadly but goes whoooOOOoonnnnnng
, who cares?Major pwnage with a machete!Say hello to my frying pan.Ooh, that's gotta hurt.
[There's a nice touch of realism to using the frying pan: because you have to draw the weapon back before you can slam it into an oncoming zombie, there's a fraction of a second when you're vulnerable to attack, meaning that, if you let the zombie come too close before unleashing the Skillet of Doom, you're liable to take damage before wasting the zombie. A little disadvantageous to the player, but hey, it's little details like these that really do it for me.]
There are still pipe bombs and molotovs, but on my second playthrough, I came across the most peculiar object: Boomer bile in a tube. Seriously, amid all the chaos, who on earth
managed to trap a live Boomer *and* bottle up bile for future use? Oh hell, I won't ask questions, since they proved to be excellent for luring out zombies for me to snipe at leisure. Medpacks and pills are to be found all over the map, along with the new adrenaline pens (which temporarily restore some health and/or speed you up) and - I foresee this will come in very handy when we graduate to Expert - what looked strangely like a Bioshock journal that turned out to be a defibrillator pack to revive dead teammates. Nice.3 With 30 rounds per magazine instead of the hunting rifle's 15, and a Zeiss telescopic sight. I am in deep smit. Mine! mine! all mine. GAMEPLAY
There are two things I've been hearing about for months: the new AI director, and "running the gauntlet". When you put the two together, it's a marriage made in hell.
On my first playthrough, things coast pretty smoothly (although I find myself wading through two vile patches of Spitter acid) - until the gauntlet event in Chapter 2, where, in opening the trailer door, we set off an alarm that has to be deactivated - and the button for it is on a platform All The Way Over There, through a maze of wire fencing. Somehow, I never quite soaked it in, from all the articles, that HOLY SHIT WE'RE GOING TO BE RUNNING LIKE HELL THROUGH AN OCEAN OF ZOMBIES. ("Shoot or run?" asks Louis in the first game. Well, Louis, it's both in this one). Complicating this theoretically simple exercise were (1) simple technical ineptitude (somehow I managed to not spot the ladder leading up to the platform, and spent forever running around in circles), and (2) the evil AI director at work, which chose That Particular Moment to place a Wandering Witch right in our path. Seriously, there was just no way to run past her, with all the zombies surging in the opposite direction. In the end, I decided, in the good name of altruism, to shoot her - and wound up on my back for my effort. Good thing I wasn't playing on Expert...Do not, I repeat, do NOT piss the Witch off!
Oh, and the first time around, we got No Tanks, which was pretty remarkable. Lest I get my hopes up, though, the AI director rewarded me with Two Tanks4
on my second playthrough.
[I've heard of the AI director's ability to manipulate the weather, lighting, and even events (splitting up teams by sending FA-18 jets to destroy sections of a bridge is only one nightmare story I've come across); it'll be interesting to see these in action. Well, theoretically.]
The hordes are more numerous in this second game than the first, although in broad sunlight, there's no problem picking them off. The Smoker's getting sneaky: instead of catching you off-guard from the rooftops, he now gets you through bushes as well. And the female Boomers... oh god, the imagery alone is unsettling.
I wish I could say that the gaming experience was a wholly pleasant one, but the truth is that the endless game freezes made me want to put a fist through my monitor - particularly when a Special Infected is bearing down upon me. (And I have a pretty sweet gaming computer with 2GB RAM - I need to buy another 2GB to replace the old block - and a NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT card). I'll chalk it up to the fact that it's only a demo, and that they'll lick the bugs before game comes out.4 One whose crushing embrace I ran straight into, in the Chapter 1 kitchen.
The demo gives you a delicious taste of what is to come. What with the 20 new weapons, double the number of Special Infected, and 50 new Achievements (w00t!), the full L4D2
game is something I'm looking forward to with relish.
While poking around the L4D2
folders, I came across the subfolder "Expressions", which contained, in addition to the survivor_(producer/gambler/coach/
mechanic) folders, the following:
Does this mean that the original four Survivors from the first game are unlockable characters