It's the Zombie Apocalypse. Bring Friends.

About a month ago, I wrote a blog that mentioned a game called "Left4Dead 2". In said blog, I failed to describe L4D2 and it's already released predecessor - Left4Dead - in any great detail.

Scratch that. I failed to describe them AT ALL. My mention of the games were merely the ramblings of a young woman that loves 1. playing video games and 2. killing zombies. Unless you've played L4D, the small paragraph at the bottom of an otherwise lengthy post probably didn't make any sense what so ever. Even now, rereading it, I feel like it was written by an ADD afflicted child stuck in a shop that specializes in shiny things.

Seeing as I love L4D almost as much as I love Halo, I feel that this vast injustice is unforgivable. Still, I'm not one to give up, so I'm writing this in a feeble attempt to gain the forgiveness I know my fellow readers will refuse to give me...

  • Left4Dead

Left4Dead is, in a word, EPIC. I've met a few people who disagree with me, but for the most part, it's a beautiful game full of gorgeous backdrops, chilling music, and literally thousands upon thousands of undead corpses, complete with rotting flesh and animal like grunts and growls.

Set directly after the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse, Left4Dead sports 4 playable "movie" campaigns - No Mercy, Death Toll, Dead Air, and Blood Harvest - as well as multiple difficulty levels and various types of multiplayer action (in one version of the game, you can play as the infected).

The single player/multiplayer campaign mode has some nice little goodies in and of itself. The game not only has your traditional "I just crawled out of the grave" bed-head zombies, but also introduces you to some VERY interesting specialty zombies, like the Smoker (a zombie with a constricting tongue and hideous hacking cough that bursts into a smoke screen upon death), the Tank (the largest, most terrifying zombie in the game... don't take on a Tank on your own, even on the easiest level, it's difficult to take down), the Hunter, the Boomer, and the Witch (and easily startled zombie that will make even the best day a nightmare). The game itself is pretty interesting... a number of in-game choices can effect how your game is played. Choose to sneak through the game as quietly as possible, and you can encounter very few zombies. However, get careless with your ammo and set off a car alarm, and be prepared to take on the zombie horde.

The horde is one of my favorite parts of the game. Alerted by any loud noise - or by the fact that you're about to complete a campaign - the horde is made up of thousands of undead that come out of every nook and cranny, and seem unstoppable... let me reiterate. Seem unstoppable. The game doesn't leave you wanting. At the beginning of each campaign, and in each safe house, is an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. You begin with a pistol, which is your go-to if you ammo runs dry, but as you make it through the level, you are given the option to take another weapon as well... everything from uzis, to automatic shotguns to assault rifles are ripe for the picking. The game also scatters helpful flammable items, like gas cans, propane tanks, and molotov cocktails, as well as a helpful little item known as the pipe bomb. Pipe bombs aren't as flammable as molotovs, but when thrown, flash a light and make a noise... a quality especially helpful when confronting a horde, because the flashing light and noise attracts the undead... if thrown at the right time, one can gleefully watch as a horde of the undead swarms around the pipe bomb, completely unaware of the fact that they are about to explode into fiery death.

The only downfall of the game is... drumroll... playing by yourself isn't nearly as enthralling as playing with friends. Still, the game is amazing, and a great way to practice for the ever approaching zombie apocalypse...

  • Left4Dead 2

Up until today, I had only ever seen the trailer for L4D2... and it seemed to threaten being even more epic than it's post-apocalyptic predecessor. Though not much, the trailer did reveal a few things about the game.

Opening on the deserted, desolate streets of New Orleans, the narrator begins to talk about the last conversation he had with his grandmother. As he continues, we see more and more shots of the destroyed NO. As the narrator finishes talking about his convo with his grandmother, he ends with the phrase, "Pray harder, cuz it ain't working." Coupled with this, we see a shot of two people watching as jet planes fly over head and, as the last bit is uttered, they suddenly look at the camera, and you see that they're zombies, right before it cuts to black. The video comes back with the narrator again, talking about how he isn't going to sit around and wait for redemption. As he speaks, we see zombie after zombie running through the streets as things are blown up, and and we get a short glimpse of a Tank-like zombie, flinging cars and knocking any infected out of his way. The narrator goes on to say "as long as we have guns, we'll fight." There are blurred shots of the new team as they fight the zombies, and the trailer cuts to black again, as the narrator continues. "And if we run out of ammo," he says, and as he does, the glorious, beautiful roar of a chainsaw is heard. The video then comes back to show the new group, surrounded by a horde and equipped with chainsaws, axes, frying pans, and baseball bats. As the horde closes in, you hear the narrator one last time: "they gonna wish we hadn't." There are a few more shots of melee battle, the Left4Dead 2 logo, and one last shot of one of the characters finishing off a zombie with a frying pan.

***Author's Note:My summary of the trailer was done completely from memory. Upon reviewing the trailer after this was written, I realized some of my bits were wrong. However, to avoid the facade of being perfect, I decided to keep my review as is. I apologize for the inconsistencies. ~Lauren

Not a lot, but enough to make our zombie-slaying mouths water. After that, I didn't hear much about the game, but have been silently waiting to hear more... a glimpse at the new team, a list of the new campaigns, ANYTHING... and finally! All my waiting paid off as I recieved the new Game Informer, complete with Left4Dead 2 demo review. I was little-kid-on-Christmas-morning impatient to read it, and when I finally did, it didn't disappoint (as the boys from Game Informer rarely do).

Like we learned from the trailer, the game is set in Georgia... but what we didn't learn is that it's actually set to be a prequel to the first game, taking place before the infection has hit critical mass. You'll be playing through a world full of warning signs, telling you to wash your hands and be extra careful, so as to keep the virus from spreading. Like the first game, you assume the role of one of 4 characters: Coach, Nick, Ellis, and Rochelle. But the characters aren't the only thing that's new... along with the traditional, good ole faithful weapons from the first game, gamers can also look forward to such wonderful companions as the silenced uzi and various new versions of the assault rifle, among many other new weapons. The review didn't talk much about whether molotovs and pipe bombs would be back, but it did briefly mention something called "incendiary ammo." If you're like me, you probably have no idea what incendiary means, but context clues led me to believe it means exploding or flammable ammo. Sure enough, the definition of incendiary (used or adapted for setting property on fire) proved I was correct.

I actually have to pause the blog for a second as I run around the room screaming like that Nintendo 64 kid on youtube. They're giving me ammo that will set a zombie on fire... if the zombie apocalypse led you to believe God doesn't exist, then hopefully the implimenting of this lovely type of ammo has reinstated your faith. Unpaused.

Melee weapons also make an appearance in the second game. The fact that we already knew that in no way lessens the glee factor upon hearing it confirmed (GLEE!). L4D2 supplies it's survivors with baseball bats, frying pans, axes, and chainsaws... all items that are fairly straightforward in their use. If you're in the path clearing business, frying pans and baseball bats are for you. However, if you're not like Sgt. Johnson and enjoy doing "pieces," then the axe and chainsaw are probably a better fit. Don't let the simplicity fool you, though... even though each melee weapon is straight forward in it's use, some of them also come with special uses... for instance, sneak up behind a witch and plant the axe in the back of her head, and you'll take her down in one hit. (Blog is momentarily paused so I can sit back and revel in the epic... okay. unpause) Where was this during my many "crown achievement" attempts in the first game? Oh to have back the hair ripped out in frustration...

The weapons aren't the only thing the game's creators saw fit to upgrade. Each campaign also comes with it's own - new - unique specialty zombie unit. The zombie unit spotlighted in this review? The specialty Hazmat zombies.

Now don't freak out... it's no big deal. As the city started to turn, some of the "help" showed up in hazmat suits, to keep from being infected... didn't work. The virus had no problem seeping through the hazmat suits and infecting it's inhabitants (proving the only way to survive the infection is to 1. be immune to the virus and 2. fight like hell). Oh, one more thing. The hazmat suits also make the hazmat zombies impervious to flame. Yeah, that's right. No more alerting a horde and igniting a propane tank, only to sit back and gleefully watch your victims turn to ash. These suckers will charge right for you, through the flames, unscathed. How's that for an upgrade?

GI also spotlighted "The Charger" which, if I'm understanding correctly, is a Tank on steroids. The review describes him as

" overall-wearing fat zombie who barrels into the fray and knocks over everyone in your party. Once the whole group has been brought to its knees, he jumps on the nearest survivor and continues pounding them against the pavement until he's eaten enough bullets to kill an elephant and finally keels over."
~ Game Informer
August '09
Page 57

If I hadn't already seen this guy in action, I'd say he's a Tank wearing overalls... but something about seeing him tear through the zombie horde leads me to believe he's slightly more vicious... and, seeing as Electronic Arts has deemed it necessary to upgrade everything else, there's no reason for me to believe there isn't more to this Charger.

As if all that didn't seem challenging enough, L4D2 also throws in one more twist: your new "director" (L4D and L4D2 utilize "movie campaigns", remember?) is a sadistic jerk. In the last game, players found refuge in final campaigns in the "Salvation" areas (Jesus Room, Jesus Rock, and Jesus Barn are all places a player can set up during the last "scene" of a campaign that are virtually inaccessible to zombies). L4D2 offers no such comfort, and your sadistic director takes it a step further, changing up the levels every time you play. Find a strategy that works for you? That's okay, the director will throw a zombie at you to mess it up. Finding yourself safe behind a wall of fire? No worries, the director will merely change the weather effects. Finally figure out how to make it through a level? Chin up, the director has now changed the pathing... the next time you play, you'll have to take a different route to get out. (As irritated with this director as I am... that's still pretty epic)

Left4Dead 2 will be released November 17, sporting 5 new campaign maps, 4 new characters, more than 3 new enemy types, and a whole new multiplayer mode the developer isn't willing to talk about!

All things considered, Left4Dead 2 promises to be more than a long overdue expansion pack to the first installment.

I wonder if they've made any changes to the Witch? Hmm...

Game Informer (August 2009)

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