Following on from my earlier article on Left4Dead, I want to discuss the sequel. However, there are still mixed views on which is better between the two L4D titles.
The level design and campaign setup was slightly improved, adding in additional activities such as collecting gas cans. This provides a variation in gameplay and led to a new mode, Scavange. Scavange involves significant team work and can be very entertaining, however it is still within the shadow of Versus. The new special infected all introduce a new host of strategies and means to take out opponents. This creates a vast switch from fighting hordes to being all about fighting the specials. Even tanks and witches are relatively harmless nowadays. Personally I found this rather disappointing when playing through the campaigns, although it does lead to more varied Versus gameplay. Of the three new specials (Jockey, Charger and Spitter), the Jockey is without doubt the weakest. It is slow, weak and completely ineffective against reasonably well organised teams. Considering the excellent balance of the first title, this is a real disappointment.
Perhaps the best part of Left4Dead 2 is the additional content and game modes. Scavange is a completely new mode and there is also Team Versus, Realism and Realism Versus. The latter two are much more skill based where you are unable to see where your team mates are in addition to a few other minor tweaks. This creates a great emphasis on team work and can make the standard campaigns more challenging. As well as these modes, there is also a “Mutation”. Through regular updates the Mutation game mode alters the balance, introduces new weapons or limits the selection of items etc. This is an absolutely brilliant idea. The designers can try out new styles of play and release them regularly. If the new mode is disappointing, no worries… there will be a new one very soon. If one is great fun, Valve will look to bring it back. In fact Realism Versus is an official game mode following its success as a mutation! Check out the official blog for the latest news on mutations and changes.
Despite the positives, the game feels a lot more arcadey. It has developed into an action title, rather than a horde killing survival horror title. It does provide excellent gameplay and is great fun as part of a clan but it lacks the solo or small group campaign experience. The actual campaigns themselves fluctuate too much with some highly exhillarating setups followed by rather slow levels. I felt that one of the original’s strengths was the audio and unfortunately L4D2 is somewhat lacking in this department, taking away from the mood of the game. The campaigns Hard Rain and Dark Carnival do provide real excitement and have an intense, dark and scary mood but the remainder of the game unfortunately can’t claim the same. This in large is due to the setting, which is often much more colourful and often set out in the open during day time.
It is still a great game. The mutations idea is absolutely wonderful and I would love to work with something like that down the line. What designer wouldn’t want to be able to tinker on a regular basis, trying out your “what if…?” gameplay ideas!