Friday, June 26, 2009

Whose Side Are You On? A Left 4 Dead 2 Preview

Left 4 Dead 2 could have possibily been one of the biggest announcements at E3 this year. With the original still a few months away from being a year old, no one was really expecting it, especially given Valve's long history of making us constantly wait. It was quite a surprise. Whether or not it was a pleasant surprise, is left up to the gamer.

It seems as though the gaming world is a bit torn on the issue of Left 4 Dead 2. Players are upset at the prospect of having to dish out an additional $60 ($50 for PC gamers) for what they perceive could easily be achieved in DLC. Players are also upset at the prospect of Left 4 Dead being well, left for dead due to the addition of the sequel. On the other hand, it’s a sequel to Left 4 Dead and it’s unheard of for Valve to release new content this soon. Plus, Valve has a long standing history of releasing excellent games, so can anyone truly be let down? The real question is, will the sequel pack a big enough punch to get players excited and justify the hefty price? Personally, I say yes.

A week or so ago I received the August issue of PC Gamer Magazine. Right smack dab on the cover was Left 4 Dead 2. I got very little new information about the game from small blogs across the web post E3, but the PC Gamer review gave me the entire spectrum and I must say that I am very much excited. I’m honestly a little bit late to the game in regards to L4D. I bought the game on release day for my PC, but never really played due to my lack of friends who are fellow PC gamers. It was until I recently purchase an Xbox 360, that I discovered the true glory of the game.

After reading the PC Gamer article, it seems that the developers of the Left 4 Dead series sat down and actually listened to the complaints about the game given by the players. One of these complaints is predictability. While L4D’s AI eliminates predictability and strategy better then any game made previous, there are still some predictable aspects. Strategies such as crouching in the corners are common among L4D players. The Tank in L4D2 will eliminate this strategy by being able to hit multiple survivors if they are hiding in a corner. One of the best features of L4D is the AI and the fact that every single time you play, you get a different experience. That isn’t common among a lot of games today and that definitely drew players in. They are also updated the types of infected in the game. They are adding a new Charger that seems almost like a combination of all the infected in L4D. There will be variations of infected from the previous game; however, this time they will have mutations that work to your disadvantage. No longer will the witch be easily avoidable as she huddles on the floor sobbing. This time she’s going to wander and it’s most likely that she will wander directly into you. So have fun getting that achievement for not disturbing the witch in L4D2.

One of the bigger changes that has been known about since E3 is the additional of melee weapons. There will be an addition of a frying pan, an axe, a chainsaw and some others. This was added in an effort to prevent friendly fire in closer quarters. I’m quite confident in saying the chainsaw will most likely become everyone’s new best friends. The only downside to the addition of these melee weapons is that you will not be able to hold a melee weapon as well as a gun at the same time. That means, you can use the chainsaw for a bit, but you’re going to have to drop it if you want to use that shotgun. There will also be additions to the types of throwables you get and the types of guns available. Special ammo clips such as incendiary rounds will be provided. You’ll be capable of dual welding different types of handguns instead of the set standard that was provided in L4D.

Another large addition to L4D2 will be a storyline. With L4D you were dropped into the game without much knowledge of the characters or what is really going on, minus the cinematic in the very beginning of the game. L4D2 will begin with the characters meeting outside a mall (hello Mr. Romano!). There will be more interaction with the characters and more storyline. You’ll learn more about what is going on, the help that is being provided (or not provided) and you’ll also get more interaction with the world around you such as FEMA, the military, etc. Not only is the storyline new, but the setting will be different. This time the carnage takes places in the south with most of the maps taking place during the day. It’s expected for zombies to be wandering the streets and woods at night, but it gives a completely different feel when you’re encountering zombies while the sun breaches the horizon. The campaigns will also be larger then what we saw in Left 4 Dead. Valve has stated that these will be the biggest maps they have ever made distance-wise.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is what has been termed “enhanced dismemberment.” This time around when you riddle a zombie with bullets, it will actually show. You’ll be able to shoot off limbs and tear bodies apart. Instead of trying to guess how much HP the Tank has left, it will come quite obvious as his body is slowly torn apart by your bullets (or your chainsaw!). I’m imagining the fun that will be had when I can shoot off the legs of a zombie and watch it try and slowly drag itself to me. I mean, they’re zombies right? They’re best served with pieces of their body hanging from their side.

So all in all, where do I stand on the L4D2 debate? I’m excited and I will definitely be picking it up on release day. I trust Valve as a gaming company to create a magnificent product. They have never let me down before and I don’t expect them to ever do so in the future. However, Valve, I do have one request. Before you spring a L4D3 on us, could you please oh please release Half Life 2: Episode 3?

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