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Gaming: Left 4 Dead 2 Demo

L4D201

Wikipedia fact: "Valve was forced to alter their original cover art for the game by the ESRB; the original image showed the little and ring finger of the iconic hand (belonging to Valve artist Andrea Wicklund) torn off in addition to the torn-off thumb, but to appease the ESRB, Valve changed the image so that the fingers were merely bent back instead. The cover was further changed for release in the United Kingdom, as the two-finger sign towards the viewer is considered an insult; the UK cover features the hand facing the opposite direction to avoid this."

Available for: PC on Steam here (the version I played) and Xbox 360 (queue to download here, but it’s exclusive to gold members for a few more days)

Thoughts: I enjoyed the original Left 4 Dead, but it was really quite surprising to find Valve were already working on a sequel for release one year later.  Valve sequels normally take years to even be revealed, let alone released, which raised all sorts of questions about just how much would be recycled from the original and what new features could have been DLC for the first game.  However, L4D2 will release with five campaigns to the original’s four, three new special infected to add to the original six, melee weapons, alternate routes, weather effects controlled by an upgraded Director AI, and several new game modes and extra elements within the campaigns themselves, so it’s easy to see how Valve felt it justified being a full sequel rather than an expansion or DLC.

I went with the PC version because clearing space on my 360 drive is a bit of a pain (Microsoft still stubbornly refuse to send me a transfer cable so I can switch to my 120GB drive), and it actually works fine at low resolutions on my less than spectacular system.  I only ever played the first game on 360 (for the co-op) so playing with keyboard and mouse felt quite different, but in a good way. It felt a bit easier, either because I’m better with a mouse than an analogue stick or because normal difficulty is easier this time around. The 360 version will look better than my PC can manage and have achievements, but that’s not really much of an incentive to pay an extra £10.

Of the new infected the jockey (who rides a survivor and can steer them towards danger) and spitter (who creates pools of acid that do damage) both seem good, able to disrupt the group easily. The charger (who rushes in, grabs a survivor and slams them repeatedly on the ground) was less successful, only managing to grab somebody once despite lots of chargers appearing through the two levels. Roaming witches are interesting but I only met one, and the smokers, hunters and boomers are the same as ever (I didn’t meet a tank). The new melee weapons are lots of fun and really change the close quarters combat, and once I’d picked one up I wasn’t ever tempted to switch pack to the pistol.

Playing the demo made me go from uninterested to actually being quite interested in the game. All the new elements seem to add significantly to what was already great about the first game, with the only major downside so far being that I didn’t warm to the new characters as much as Bill, Zooey, Francis and Louis (though that could change over the full game). It’s still very odd to have Valve making a sequel so quick, but the game seems good enough that I’m okay with it.

Image Source: Eurogamer

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  1. November 9, 2009 at 15:45

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