The zombies are back, and you are tasked once again with eradicating the undead from the face of the earth as you try to escape to safety. But is Left 4 Dead 2 just more of the same, or has it changed for the second outing? We grabbed a shotgun to find out.
Left 4 Dead 2's key strength, like the first, is clearly in the multiplayer element with a four player co-op mode both available on and offline to let you bludgeon your way through an almost endless supply of zombies. The multiplayer offerings see you play a series of different types of games to suit your mood. Game options include things like Horde, Co-Op, Survivor, and Real, however the favourite has to be Co-Op where you work your way through the levels covering each others' back, killing as you go.
Those backs are played by a whole new set of "Survivors" who you can play as. There's Rochelle, a news reporter for a TV station, Coach, a high-school football coach who bears something of a resemblance to Uncle Phil from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Ellis, a white-trash mechanic, and Nick, a professional gambler and con-man who mistrusts the other survivors totally.
Go too far away from the pack and you'll be picked off sooner than you can say "Oh my god when will the zombie horde stop".
The zombies are dumb (they are the undead after all) and they just keep on coming, with some levels (and gameplay modes) simply being about shooting. If you're not packing plenty of heat you'd better hope that you can find an axe, cricket bat or something to do some damage. We are talking hundreds, not just tens, here. As you can imagine a game based around teamwork is great fun with you having to pick off the zombies as they hurtle towards you as you talk about the usual random things in your life.
But while that's its strength on the multiplayer side, the single player mode will give you very little in terms of entertainment. In fact you'll probably end up just getting bored like we did. The zombies have no intelligence. They won't work out how to out flank you or how to corner you either. They'll just spot that you are in the room killing one of their friends and charge. If you don't hack them down effectively - i.e., you only shoot one of their legs off rather than both - then they'll still come until you've taken them out - a shot to the head normally does the trick.
There are a range of new zombies to give the fans something slightly different and a reason to repurchase. In addition to the original game's cast of Hunter, Boomer, Smoker, Witch and Tank, there's now the Spitter, the Jockey and the Charger. The Spitter is a long-range attacker who shoots acidic phlegm that splatters over an area and hurts anyone standing in it. Not good when half your team are lying incapacitated on the floor.
The Jockey is a tiny creature that skitters around emitting a horrible giggle. If it manages to leap on you, then you lose all control of your character - it takes over and steers you around - into traps and hordes of common infected. Lastly, the Charger is a mini-tank that moves very quickly, knocking you down, and can grab a survivor and slam them into the ground.
On their own, they're relatively trivial to deal with. But the problem is that they come in groups. A Hunter might pounce on one survivor, while a Charger grabs another, before a Spitter then covers the ground with acid so that the other team members can't reach their buddies.
This keeping-your-team-alive mentally really works, as it means that you can keep going for far longer than you would otherwise have been able to. Difficulty levels are based on the amount of health and ammo dotted around the place and the game also works out how you are doing and whether it needs to throw another wave at you.
Thankfully, the survivors get a few new tricks. There's different ammunition types: incendiary rounds can set zombies on fire and explosive rounds deal more damage. You can also pick up Boomer bile to throw on enemies and resurrect fallen survivors with the defibrillator.
There's also a much wider range of weapons. AK47s, scoped assault rifles, Uzis, silenced submachine guns and Desert Eagle pistols are available on the ranged front, and a whole pile of melee weapons can replace your pistol. Those deal considerable damage up close and include saucepans, baseball bats, machetes and a guitar.
Left 4 Dead 2 is more or less the same as the first iteration, and for those who loved the original that probably isn't a problem. For those who want some mindless zombie slaying then this game services that need.
However, if you like a little bit of thought to your first person shooter, unless you fancy taking this online with friends while you cut through some zombie flesh, you'll likely tire quickly.