Over the course of the Holiday season, here at Ready Player Gone we will be bringing you a feature article each day – with a break on every 6th day – in the lead-up to Christmas. Our posts will be split into one of five themes throughout the event and there may even be a competition or two. Today the theme is, All-time favourite Christmas Releases. That means that this post will highlight a game that released in the Christmas window (November-December) and why we love it! Today, on Day 19 we are taking a look at Left 4 Dead 2. For the full RPG Christmas line-up, click here!
Is that snow, or the remains of a thousand cremated zombies blowing in the wind? I don’t think you’d get very far attempting to build a snowman with the ashes, maybe if you used spit to clump it together.
Left 4 Dead 2 released November 17th 2009 but being the pauper kid at school with only pennies to my name, like other kids I had to wait ’til Christmas to fix my zombie killing cravings. It took some convincing, as my mum wouldn’t usually buy me video games as presents, with the argument that I would trade it in eventually so what’s the point. Luckily for me though she caved, and I got to spend a few hours on Christmas – and a lot more after that – commiting zombie genocide.
What says merry Christmas more than ditching the festivities downstairs to bash some zombie’s skulls in with a frying pan that your mum could have quite possibly used for the Chrimbo dinner. Only now it’s brains flying about not gravy and sprouts.
I spent an extensive amount of time with the original Left 4 Dead, it was probably my favourite game for a good year. That’s where, to my friends’ dismay, I learned how to sprint through the whole level leaving them scrambling around in the dust. I was quite good at knocking back leaping hunters, cutting off tongue tied smokers and cr0wning sobbing witches. ‘Accidentally’ shooting cars so the alarms would go off attracting more hordes for them to deal with, all while I’m sat snug in the safe room, swinging the door back and forth so they can’t get in. Aaaah, memories.
That leads me to Left 4 Dead 2, it changed the game. No longer could I tackle levels by myself, I had to add a whole new word to my vocabulary. ‘Help’. With the addition of all new special infected like chargers and jockeys, and the possibility of two specials knocking about at any given time, it was nigh impossible to fend them off all alone. Dealing with one hunter in L4D1? Easy. Dealing with two hunters and a jockey in L4D2? Not so easy.
I think the first campaign I went on may have been Swamp Fever for some reason. I was playing with a friend that I haven’t spoken too in a very long time – I should get on that. The start is terrifying, nervously sludging through an expansive wooded marshy area armed only with a shoddy uzi and now limited melee. Surrounded by murky trees shrouding infected, they would pop out at any time from every direction, rabid screams being the only clue to their whereabouts.
That brings me on to the audio in the Left 4 Dead series, it’s genius. Each special infected has their own audio cue to let you know they’re skulking about, from the creepy tinkle of a Hunter lurking in the shadows, to the sweat inducing booming cascade of impending doom otherwise known as a Tank. I wouldn’t recommend playing the game with the volume all the way down or with the music turned off, unless you’re some kind of masochist that loves the pain.
Left 4 Dead 2 brought new features like melee weapons, defibrillators and extra guns. Running around lopping zombies heads off with a katana made me feel like Michonne before I even knew what a Michonne was. I mentioned a frying pan earlier, which brought a comedically satisfying dong every time you bonked someones head. Defibrillators were essentially a revival kit which took up your med-kit slot, which one would you prefer, being able to revive someone or heal them? You can get them out of a closet at some point anyway!
Ramping up the difficulty is where the game gets interesting, if you’re playing on the easier modes you’re not playing it right. I’m sorry if that sounds elitist but it’s true, it’s way too easy. The campaigns are a walk in the park, you can probably finish them in 20-30 minutes, but try to play through on Expert and you’re looking at a couple of hours at the least. Having to restart missions from the start if you all die, getting to the end felt like a real achievement. Friendly fire downing teammates almost instantly, zombies downing you in a matter of seconds, you really had to be on your toes and work together as a team.
I think if I had to choose Dark Carnival was my favourite campaign, from climbing over the cars on the motor-locked highway at the start, to running around a fairground playing whack-a-mole with zombies heads, to the grand finale on stage at a rock concert all whilst holding a grinning garden gnome. It just had character that the others didn’t. I loved all of the campaigns from the first game, and I think this is where the second iteration fell short. No Mercy is iconic, making your way to a hospital through streets, subways and sewers brought a lot of variety in a single campaign. It actually made you feel like you were traversing an expansive city. Making your way through the hospital in the penultimate mission, fighting onslaughts of buttocks bared zombies is something I’ll never forget (they were t h i c c).
Valve even brought the original characters and campaigns from the original game back to Left 4 Dead 2, so everything is in one place which was nice. Fans are also still supporting the game to this day, 11 years later can you believe that? Just two months ago a massive ‘Last Stand’ update was released, bringing a whole new campaign, 26 survival maps and new animations. Maybe that’s a reason to hop back on, with lockdowns flying around left right and centre.
One thing I know for sure is, if Valve do end up making a third game for any series I want it to be Left 4 Dead. Come at me Half Life fans!
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