Valve surprised many at this years E3 with the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2. No one expected it. Only a year after the release of the original Left 4 Dead, the sequel was not only announced but expected to hit this November. NeoGAF had a meltdown and boycotts ensued. The hardcore Left 4 Dead community felt betrayed by the company they once loved. So much passion for a game I found to be, mediocre at best.
Does it hold up? Not quite. Although it is a demo you can easily get a feel for the underlying gameplay which remains untouched from it's predecessor. It still feels like nothing more than a schizophrenic spray fest. While the variety of weapons does indeed put the old game to shame it still boils down to the simple mechanic of aiming and holding down the right trigger (yes I play with a gamepad on PC, enjoy you're carpel tunnel shit hats). The magnum especially feels like it's got some weight behind it and eventhough I get the humor behind using a frying pan or electric guitar for melee weapons it's all pointless since they aren't that fun to play with. Valve has shown off a chainsaw in some trailers but truth be told I don't care. Rocket Launchers may get my attention but when zombies come rushing at you and it along with the sniper rifle are rendered useless, where's the fun. Introducing new throwable objects like the Boomers spit in a vial doesn't do much to break the monotony either. Zombies still rush and do nothing else. Some may find that fun, I call them idiots.
Here's a scenario, imagine being on the roof of a three story building that you and your 3 pals have boarded up and are simply awaiting extraction, typical zombie fare right? Two guys man the first floor, the third guy keeps tabs on the field, while the fourth guy holds position up top as sniper. Word comes down from upstairs that some action's coming in, while the two guys down stairs setup bombs and traps the two guys up above "bring the rain" and hold off the onslaught. Zombies start breaking through the barriers and the survivors begin working out strategies to keep each other alive. What do you do? Well some asshole with a 3rd grade education might say stop imagining, I would respond by telling Valve to make a game like that. There's simply no tension in this game. Valve praises it's AI Director for intelligently spawning zombies as needed to build the suspense and action. Again ALL THEY FUCKING DO IS RUSH. They've added a couple of new zombie classes but one wouldn't know because they all do the same thing. RUSH and are slightly harder to kill. I don't expect a zombie to start solving Trigonometry problems or world peace and shit, but a little variety would be nice.
Hideo Kojima, of Metal Gear badassery, once explained a concept he had about a zombie game he wanted to make. His idea was simple. Everyone pays $1 for their character, and theoretically the game world. You're a survivor and you go around battling zombies finding other survivors to work with towards, well what else surviving. If you died in the game your character would then become a zombie and wander the game world and you were out a buck. From that point you could log in and simply watch the world from the eyes of your zombie or pay another dollar and start a new character. That is fucking genius. What else would you expect from the man?
Back to the demo, Left 4 Dead 2 plays nothing like that and does nothing to keep me interested. It's really a game that's only as fun as the people you play it with and if that fails at least on PC you've got some mods. Mods help keep PC games alive well after their release date, be it simple custom maps to full on campaign mods. It justified my purchase of the original Left 4 Dead on PC and some of the more interesting mods are still in the works. I also applaud Valve's decision to include the oft forgotten quick turn button made popular by Lost Planet. I'm still surprised no other developers mimic this in their control layout. It makes sense people. For the time being, I mean, Modern Warfare 2, I think I'll pass on the sequel until I see something that piques my interest.