Left 4 Dead 2 - Cheat Happens Game Review
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Left 4 Dead 2
PC, XBox 360

Reviewed on: PC

Developer:
Valve Software
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Rated: "M" for Mature



CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

   
   
   
Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
   
CHEATfactor: 6
   
     

Zombies are in right now. It seems like everywhere you turn in the video game industry, you’ll find the undead. Hell, even the Call of Duty series took the leap and featured zombies. Can it be long before the industry grows weary of offing these grave dwellers?

Hopefully not if it means missing out on games like Left 4 Dead 2. Sure, it makes no real monumental leaps forward in gameplay but what it does provide is an improved shooter package that specializes in just what the series is known for - -frantic co-operative gameplay and enough “oh crap” moments to keep you coming back for quite some time.

Thankfully, Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t a “oh no, they’re attacking again” story; the game follows a new set of survivors, this time through the southern half of America as they attempt to find safety from the zombie apocalypse. This new group of survivors; featuring Nick the drifter, country boy Ellis, Rochelle the nurse and Coach (bet you can’t guess what he does). This cast is instantly more likeable and relatable than the previous group. They’re a vocal bunch, and in between spraying the maps with bullets, you can’t help yourself but laugh at the conversations between Nick and Ellis (listen in particular for the conversations where Ellis talks about the fun him and his buddies have had).

"...some of the imagery is quite haunting."

 
   

In fact, Left 4 Dead 2 is miles ahead of its predecessor in terms of presentation. Thanks to  some nice artistic touches, the world feels incredibly believable. The manic messages scribbled on the walls are back, but this time they’re coupled with Governmental posters taking about health warnings and what to do if someone starts experiencing symptoms of the so called flu. In a time when the world had consumed itself with worries about swine-flu, it kind of hits home and some of the imagery is quite haunting.

While the music has always been an integral part of the Left 4 Dead experience, the sequel takes the game’s audio to a new plateau. Areas like New Orleans and Savannah definitely have a distinct sound – and Valve uses it perfectly here. Walking through the streets of the Big Easy, you’ll begin to hear songs like “When the Saints go marching in,” which slowly gives way to eerie piano cords. The way Left 4 Dead 2 utilizes the marching band music of New Orleans is similar to how Bioshock used big band, and if you’ve ever played 2K’s legendary shooter (and if you haven’t , I don’t like you) you’ll know just how much of a compliment that really is.

But hey, this is Left 4 Dead we’re talking about here isn’t it? Aesthetics and production values aside – you want to blast through some zombies! And you will. There’s no shortage of blood thirsty maniacs trying to stop you from reaching each level’s safe house. Save for a few key innovations – Left 4 Dead 2 plays almost exactly like the original.  If that’s a good thing or not depends on just how much you liked the original – fans will feel right at home while the game does nothing to convince naysayers

The fabled Director system makes its return in Left 4 Dead 2, but with a few sinister tricks. Yes, the director will still evaluate your performance and adjust the game speed, item placement and difficulty in accordance, but the director now has control over the game’s weather system as well as a few other key gameplay elements that are best left as surprises. The director remains one of the industry’s most fascinating engines and ensures that no two playthroughs are the same.

The biggest addition to Left 4 Dead 2’s core gameplay is the addition of melee weapons. While the first game limited you to explosives and guns, you now have access to items like crowbars, axes, guitars and even chainsaws. I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t get the appeal of using these weapons, but as I progressed through the game, I couldn’t stop myself from using them. Take for instance the Dead Center campaign (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD), set in a shopping mall that’s been set on fire, one of the game’s coolest moments was having to off a seemingly endless amount of zombies running at me from the flames. It’s here I fell in love with Left 4 Dead 2’s chainsaw.

"...it’s not likely you’ll be bored anytime soon."

 
   

In essence, this is what the game excels at. Even more than the original, Left 4 Dead 2 is great at creating those “Oh crap” moments where your back is to the wall and you’re incredibly outnumbered. Your only option is to work together, or ... you know … die. When you blast through a large wave of the undead, take the time to heal and move on to your next task – it’s incredibly rewarding. Combine that with the fact that you’ll have more objectives this go-round, including doing favors for other survivors in exchange for safe-passage or extra health and it’s not likely you’ll be bored anytime soon.

One of the coolest parts of the original Left 4 Dead was the specialized infected, like the Witch, Boomer, Hunter and Smoker. They all make the return trip, but apparently the south has a few breeds of zombies that the survivors from the first game didn’t have to deal with. There’s the jockey, who jumps on your head and controls your movement, the Spitter who sprays a toxic acid throughout the map and the Charger who … well … he … charges (think a stronger Tank). There are also a number of area specific infected including “the mud-men” and zombies in riot gear and Hazmat suits.

Of course, online is a major part of the Left 4 Dead series and for the most part, the suite hasn’t changed. You’ll still control either humans or one of the special infected but the key here is that the game now includes an option called “realism mode.” It’s best to think of this new mode as Left 4 Dead without the training wheels. Gone are the on screen cues to guide you to items, and important items are no longer highlighted by a glowing aura – you’re going to have to search every room if you want to survive in realism mode.

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for zombie games, but who can blame me when developers like Valve keep churning out games like Left 4 Dead 2. With the sequel, Valve has built upon an incredibly fun franchise, and tweaked it enough to make it seem new. There’s nothing incredibly revolutionary here, but dear lord is it fun. Those who weren’t fans of the original are warned to stay away, there’s nothing here to convince you otherwise, but fans will love the new additions. 

 

CHEATfactor

CHEATS USED: Team Health, Unlimited Ammo, No Reload

There aren’t many cheats in the trainer for Left 4 Dead 2, but the ones in there are incredibly helpful. Tired of Ellis needing your health pack? Turn on the unlimited team health option and off the horde to your heart’s content.

Perhaps the most helpful cheat in the game is the no reload option. Sure, it only really works when unlimited ammo is turned on, but you’re going to swear by it once you use it. The horde comes at you pretty fast in this game and you’ll take most of your damage when  you have to switch clips – a problem no more with the no reload cheat.

 

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