Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Get a heaping serving of zombie bashing in "Left 4 Dead 2"

Nice to EAT you!

"Left 4 Dead 2"
Developed by Valve
Published by EA
Available: NOW
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Rated M

NOTE: We welcome your comments on the game and the review. If you want to bash the author of the review, use swear words in your comments or post otherwise racist comments, they will NOT be published.

Open letter to Valve:

I'm sorry.

In one of my blog editorials this summer, I included "Left 4 Dead 2" in my blog, "Racism in video games: The new norm?" I watched the trailer several times and was reminded of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The amount of hate directed my way by that comment was like being one of the survivors in "Left 4 Dead 2" trying to fight off zombies, smokers, boomers and Witches. I am even named in the Wikipedia entry!

Fortunately, a review copy of the game (Thanks, Doug Lombardi at Valve ;-) buried my thoughts and I apologize. I was wrong. The zombies are coming way too fast to notice anything except the blood they splatter on me after I wreck shop.

I still stand by the confederate flag garbage and wanting to set "Fire, fire, fire" to it, though.

"Left 4 Dead 2" is the sequel to Valve's smash hit (literally), "Left 4 Dead." The plot is still the same. You can play in single player as one of the survivors, and in multiplayer, you have your choice of playing as a survivor or one of the infected.

The game is pretty much based in Louisiana. Being from the area, the sights (the carnival level brought back quite a few memories of state fairs and traveling carnivals - oh and funnel cakes and the low-hanging humid morning fog) and the sounds (chirping crickets, FTW!), "Left 4 Dead 2" absolutely nails it.

The single-player campaign dumps players into five "movies." Yeah, it's like you are starring in a movie. You have your primary weapon, secondary weapon (a pistol with unlimited ammo, but you can put a melee weapon in this slot), health pack or defib unit (to revive your teammates), a grenade slot and lastly, and my personal favorite, a slot for pills, adrenaline and other temporary boosters.

You can play as either Nick, Coach, Ellis or Rochelle in single player. Online, if you opt to do Versus, you can play as both.

The story is an interesting one - it will take you from a high-rise hotel, through the bayou to a mad dash across a bridge filled with zombies. Oh, what fun.

Cricket, anyone?

The gameplay can be slow at times, that is, until you or your teammates are spotted by the infected. I definitely enjoyed the pacing of the game. There were times I just wanted to get out of sight and take a shot - hit some pills or get a health pack - and have some kind of breathing room.

Your team knows how to bring it to battle. They aren't that good initially, but after a few bouts with zombies, they can end most infected in a matter of seconds. And here's a very important tip - stay with your teammates. I can not stress this enough. Your team is your life blood in "Left 4 Dead 2." If you get snatched by a Smoker, or pummeled by a Charger or Hunter, and you are away from your team, you could end up dead. Being close to your team, if you get hit, they are there to rescue you or even revive you (the team was rather generous sharing health kits, adrenaline shots and pills). Sometimes, you'll pass teammates a shot or pills and they'll pass it right back.

The safehouses are your ultimate goal and refugee. In single player, you are the main person responsible for closing the door, which ends the level. The next movie starts on the other side of the safehouse, and you unlock the door and start the mayhem with the infected.

The single player campaign has players doing a variety of tasks while defending yourself from zombies. In one level, you have to retrieve gas cans to fill an old-skool stock car. In another level, you have to go through a neighborhood, a sugar mill and through a field - and yes, zombies - to get fuel for a shrimp boat (and yes, the infected etouffee was rather tasty, thank you). And remember where you parked - because the rain gets rather intense on the return journey and the flooding is no joke (just like the southern Louisiana is known for).

To the BRIDGE!

For me, I didn't run through the game, but the levels - it's usually 5 of them per level/movie - it was about an hour to an hour and a half.

Now, online is where "Left 4 Dead 2" is stellar. There are several multiplayer and co-op modes. They include: Versus, Survival, Scavenge and Campaign mode. In Versus, as the name states, you play as the Survivors or the infected. In Survival, you and your teammates hold out as long as possible against wave after wave of infected. In Scavenge, you and your teammates (Survivors) head out to find fuel. Four other gamers play as infected and try to stop you dead in your tracks.

I tried all of the modes, but enjoyed Versus the most. I got the game Friday and was able to find a few players online. I dropped into the Midnight Rider level as Nick - it took the game a couple seconds to realizes I wasn't an NPC anymore - and I immediately started blasting and helping out gamers on LIVE. I just hated coming into a character as-is - Nick was probably hit a few times and my health was nearly depleted. Still, it was fun to help out my fellow players over LIVE.

I also got a chance to play as the infected in Versus. If you play long enough, you'll likely play as all seven infected - the Boomer, the Charger, the Hunter, the Jockey, the Smoker, the Spitter and my favorite, the Tank. You can't play as the Witch. That's fine for me - her moaning got on my nerves throughout the game. I enjoyed killing them just to shut them UP.

Playing as the infected has its advantages. The sheer number of infected is one thing - playing as a team with the infected is to die for. Our team had three LIVE players and one NPC. We stopped two teams from advancing - but our losses were staggering. You have your attacks and all, but can't use weapons. A zombie busting caps would so be full of win.

Overall, the zombie-bashing, Cajun flavored horror flick is one of the best games I've played this year. Online or offline, it's a fantastic ride.

Hopefully, this game will be "the new norm."


M4DSkillz as a Houston Chronicle blogger and resident handsome guy

The verdict: 9.5 (out of 10)
- it's fun, a blast and the characters kept me rolling. The story is somewhat believable (that is, if you believe in zombies) and the graphics and sounds are killer. Online is spectacular. Even as a FPS, the replay value online and offline will be through the roof.

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