November Was Awesome Part 3: Left 4 Dead 2

5 Dec

Despite a few, sometime toilet-related glitches, it’s better than free DLC for the original L4D could have ever been. L4D2 forgoes major upheavals in favour of a smogasboard of little innovations. Here are just a few that I love:

Weapons – better and more of them

In the first game, you had either a fully automatic gun, a shotgun, a sniper rifle or pistols. Sometimes, you could even have two identical pistols. Fun. L4D2 more than doubles the gun count – my favourite new ones are the super-nimble silenced SMG and the combat shotgun, a chunkier, fast-firing but more ammo-conservative to the classic auto shotgun. There’s even a grenade launcher, which in my hands is the most satisfying (accidental) friendly fire catastrophe I’ve ever played with. The game’s also got clever with where you can pick them up – rather than dropping in one of each kind on a table and dotting ammo supplies around the map, you’ll come across stashes of randomised guns, encouraging you to experiment.

Melee weapons are hilarious on lower difficulties – especially the guitar, which dismembers zombies with a comical electric twang – but on Expert, the slow swings mean you’ll be quickly downed by the opportunistic undead taking swipes between attacks. The special ammo pickups are fun, but the laser sight is the coolest addition by far. It tightens up the spread of your chosen gun – though is a bit useless on shotguns – allowing you to do preposterous but fun things like snipe with an M16, or taking the AK-47’s one-hit-kill power and removing its poor accuracy, making it perfect for crowd control and shooting on the move.

The Lolz

L4D2 is almost the Shaun of the Dead of survival horror games – and not just because you can pick up a cricket bat. It’s not a comedy game but it never takes itself more seriously than it should, and is more exciting because of it. Chatterbox mechanic Ellis, one of the four new Survivors, will occasionally tell a genuinely funny story about his perpetually unlucky friend Keith (tear-gassed, bombed by the army, left to drown by his girlfriend in a Tunnel of Love etc.), a great touch that avoids us missing the ‘Nam references or “I hate…” banter from the original. One campaign ends with a rock concert, and features fairground games you can win a gnome in.

Ah, the gnome. Had me some adventures with this guy. Expect an update dedicated especially to him in the near future.

The Dismemberment

Besides the magnificent sight of a pipe bomb flinging zombie spines into the air, plopping to the ground in front of an amusingly oblivious teammate, the new exaggerated limb-removing mechanic plays a very important role. Although the weapons are still slightly hollow-sounding, they beef up considerably when fighting the horde. Any size of bullet or shell shred legs, shear entire backs right off and can even – no joke – blow out an Infected’s manhood.

Ouch.

Of course the effect is that the standard zombies feel less like angry tissue paper to shoot and the guns feel mightier to use. This includes the new melee weapons, with special mention going to the chainsaw. It fucking rips them apart, leaving whatever’s left looking more like a raw beef joint than the remains of what used to be a functioning member of society. Or, more likely, members.

The Saferoom Graffiti

It’s back, more passive-agressive than ever.

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