The challenge level has been increased significantly. Between the new special infected (the acid-spewing, thong-wearing Spitter, the Jockey, who rides survivors off into the sunset, and the Charger, who can shove his target long distances away from the group and bash them savagely) and the upgraded AI Director, things can get unpredictable very fast. The AI is much more evil, often using multiple special infected in tandem to split up your group. Expect to see whoever tries to help a Jockeyed survivor get nabbed by a Smoker, or a Charger come sprinting in while you're dealing with Boomer bile.
Unfortunately, with this challenge comes the realization that any bot players will become a liability. While in the first game, you could reasonably expect to succeed with a few AI partners, that aspect has not been brought into the sequel. More often than not, especially in a certain campaign level, your teammates will trigger the witch. They'll also run off in random directions, or in extreme cases, stare at a wall blankly. Solution? Bring friends! There appear to be a few lingering crash bugs affecting certain players (*glares at Jason*), and there's a rather odd bug that causes your Steam achievements to reset as soon as you exit the game. Whether that's a Steam bug or not is unknown to me.
Meet Ellis, the best character in the L4D series.
I would be remiss to not speak of the new melee weapons and what they add to the game. From your Valve-standard crowbar to frying pans (I hope this is another nod to Dead Rising) and the mighty chainsaw, you can choose to equip yourself however you see fit. When you're backed into a corner, there's nothing finer than revving up the chainsaw and lopping off limbs, heads and torsos in a sea of ropy gore. Did you think the blood splatter over your UI in Modern Warfare 2 was bad? Wait until you see the aftermath of a fire axe rampage.
For those of you who refuse to play on anything but Expert difficulty, Valve has added "Realism" mode, which only makes small changes to the game, but exponentially ramps up the difficulty. You will no longer see your teammates' names over their head, nor will they be highlighted when they go around a corner. You don't get notifications when they are attacked by a special Infected, and no items in the world are highlighted, and you will not see any arrows directing you to them. You buddy just get head-humped by a jockey? Better hope he's using voice chat, or you might not be able to tell he's in trouble. It's incredibly difficult and casual L4D players need not apply.
Scavenge mode adds a new twist to the standard Versus game.
The Versus and Survival modes make a comeback and are just as entertaining as you remember them, and L4D2 adds a new "Scavenge" mode, where the survivors must gather fuel for a generator while the Infected do their best to try and stop them. Support for mods and custom campaigns is included out of the box this time, so hopefully there will be a steady stream of new content.
Nick's Take on the 360 Version:
Left 4 Dead on the 360 did incredibly well, and I think eventually we'll see the sequel do the same, but as of now it's fighting for online time with a myriad of other releases this year. While the 360 version plays decent enough, I think it finally starts to show it's weakness compared to the PC counterpart. The new special infected combined with the Director 2.0 might just give the computer too much of an edge, and the controller might not be enough of a weapon to deal with it. The game's controls are still adequate, as not much as changed with them since Left 4 Dead 1, but there were times our group couldn't help but curse as we got overwhelmed, feeling helpless to overcome the challenge.
The game is a visual step up from it's predecessor, with fancy new effects all around; Hard Rain is particularly impressive during the monsoon. It's amazing how far Valve is able to push the Source Engine on both platforms.
The co-op experience is still second to none, and despite moments of frustration, everyone I played with agreed the moments of awesome outweigh the frustration. I think the best way to describe the difference this year is simple: Left 4 Dead 2 is a PC game on a console, and it's just not as balanced for it as the first one.
General Score: 4 out of 5
With loads of new weapons, items and infected to fight, the massive number of improvements to gameplay that was already great and a core package that contains more content than its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 is not only an easy recommendation for any co-op gamer, it will again be a likely contender for our Co-Op Game of the Year.
The Co-Op Experience: Take the role of a different set of survivors as you use all new blunt force weapons, chainsaws and new guns in the sequel to Left 4 Dead. Teamwork is even more crucial as high intensity moments require greater communication to survive.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.