We didn't come this far to die now...

If you're a regular at my blog, or know me in person, you know that I love zombies. If not, you'll soon find out. I love them. A lot.

I've read the literature, seen the movies. I know where to go when the zombies attack. I know what foods will last the test of time. I know what things I can take with me, and what things will need to stay behind. I have a zombie survival kit and a ZPEP.

I've even written a 10 Step "make your own ZPEP" Guide for the zombielliterate.

I think it's safe to say, I'm ready for the zombiepocalypse.

However, even the most prepared zombie slayer needs a little practice.

I know what you're thinking. How on Earth would someone practice for something that hasn't happened yet?

To which I say: the government is really good at covering things up... but you needn't worry about that now. No, if you're looking for an everyday way to practice for the impending Zombiepocalypse, then I have one word for you: VIDEOGAMES*.

On August 1st, 2009, I introduced my readers to Left4Dead**, Valve's first epically successful attempt at a zombie video game. Succeeding where others had failed, Left4Dead provided gamers (and aspiring zombie slayers alike) 4 playable characters, 4 challenging campaigns, and horde after horde of zombies.

It was amazing. It was not, however, the end of the line for epic zombie games. On the same day, I gave my readers a sneak peek at Valve's next installment of the Left4Dead series, cleverly titled "Left4Dead2". Due out just a few days shy of its predecessor's 1 year anniversary, Left4Dead2 seemed to be nothing more than a glorified expansion pack, and many gamers claimed Valve was trying to pull a fast one by charging full price for it.

Well, as an experienced zombieslayer AND gamer, I'm here to tell you that is not the case. I may not get paid to review video games and movies***, but that doesn't mean I'm not qualified to make such a claim. I played the first game to death, taking part in everything it offered, be it online play, campaign co-op, single play, versus, or survival, and I picked up my copy of Left4Dead2 the day it came out.

I have only completed 2 campaigns in the whole thing, and I can already tell each and every one of you: it is so much more than an expansion pack.

Normally for these sorts of things, I'll approach it from the "things I like/things I didn't like" angle, but I have to be honest with you. There is not a single thing I don't like about this game.

The concept is easily my favorite since the Halo games. Set in a post apocalyptic Georgia, Left4Dead2 takes place right after the zombie infection has hit critical mass. Your 4 main characters just barely missed their evac choppers, and are now forced to fight their way to safety, with only each other to depend on. Official instructions: shoot all sunsab****es.

Love it.

Left4Dead2 takes everything the first game was good at, and makes it better. The movie-like campaign play is expanded on, supplying the gamer with 5 new, continuity-based film campaigns. Each one is reminiscent of things you went through in the first game, but not so much that it feels like you're playing the same game. There are more puzzles, more zombies, and they are far more challenging. And your director is on his game this time around. In the preview, I mentioned that the director throws new twists at you every time you play a campaign, but after playing, I found that it's more like every time you die.

Nothing is ever the same. This guy prepares you for everything, so be on your guard. Did you check that bathroom last time? Well, check it again. There very well could be a horde hiding in there. I kid you not. A horde. By the time you finish a campaign, there probably isn't a single zombiefied scenario you haven't dealt with.

How awesome is that?

Left4Dead2 also excells in the playable character area. While the 4 characters in the first game were likeable and easy to control, the 4 new ones are far more interactive. Even during solo campaign mode, you feel like you're interacting with the members of your team, and they tend to respond more to the decisions you make. Team building skills FTW.

As far as zombies go, they went all out. Fan favorites from the first game have all returned, but that wasn't quite enough for Valve. So far, I have encountered 5 new breeds of specialty zombies:

  • Jockeys - think Hunters were bad in the first game? Wait till you get a load of this undead pain in the neck... literally. Jockey's are fast and small. They do not snarl or growl or roar. They sound like normal crazy zombies... but they are far from it. A normal zombie is content with flailing their undead arms around and slapping you, hoping to incapacitate you so they can stomp on you until you die. Jockeys like to break up teams. They crawl through hordes, out of bushes, behind buildings, and sneak up on you. Once close enough, they jump onto your shoulders and force you away from your teammates, all the while pounding on your head. Yeah. I know what you're thinking, and I agree. I suddenly like Hunters a lot more now.
  • Spitters - These things are annoying as hell. They look a lot like normal zombies, so you don't really realize you're in the presence of a spitter until she's covered you - and the ground around you - with green acid spit. Yes, Dane Cook fans, you heard me right. Acid spit. and once these things spit, you had better get moving, because their burning green saliva covers quite the surface area.
  • The Charger - also known as the "FML" because, well, if you get caught by one of these, that's all you'll be able to say. Chargers are rather lopsided zombies that are easier to take down than Tanks, but just as powerful. They use their one huge arm as a type of plow as they run at you, carrying you as far as they can before stopping, gripping you, and pounding your dead ass into the ground. I say dead because, well... that's what you'll be if you let one of them get you.
  • Hazmat Zombies - I spotlighted these in the preview, but just a recap. When the zombie infection first hit, the government sent in a ton of people in hazmat suits, thinking it would keep them safe from the infection. They were wrong. What it ended up doing was creating zombies that were impervious to fire. These guys will charge right through any blaze, and typically need to be bashed in the face, then pumped full of lead before they decide to leave you alone.
  • SWAT Zombies - similar to the Hazmat zombies, these zombies must be melee'd to death. Their uniforms render most ammunition useless.
In addition to all of these, there are also clown zombies. I know. I cried, too. They aren't specialty zombies but... they should be. I mean... they're clowns.

But do not fear, for along with these new zombies, they also threw in some new weapons! There are now a plethora of guns to choose from, as well as special incendiary ammo sprinkled throughout the campaigns, which is most helpful and quite fun to use. There are also some cool upgrades for your guns, like lazer sites so you can be even more accurate with your headshots.

Along with the new gun selection is the option to carry around Melee Weapons. At the time I wrote my preview, there were only 4 melee weapons available: the bat, the axe, the frying pan, and the chainsaw.

Honestly, who needs more than that? But apparently, the kind folks over at Valve felt that someone might want more, so they gave it to us. Now, along with those 4, you are supplied with electric guitars, nightsticks, crowbars, flat paddles, and katanas, each of which deals quite a bit of damage to any zombie unlucky enough to step within your swing zone. Really helpful for the moments when you're covered in Boomer Bile.

Speaking of Boomer Bile, there are also a number of throwable and explosive items that help you in your endeavor to survive. Gas cans, propane tanks, molotovs and - my personal favorite - pipe bombs have all made a triumphant return, but the kind people at Valve have also supplied us with viles of boomer bile that, when thrown, will either A. create a puddle and attract the zombie horder, pulling them out in the open for you to shoot at your leisure, or B. cover a zombie and cause all the other zombies to attack said zombie, while still pulling them out into the open for you to shoot at your leisure. This is extremely helpful when used on a Tank.

Now, these are all things that I've found out within the first 2 campaigns of the game. There are still three more campaigns I have yet to venture into so I ask you naysayers... does it still look like a glorified expansion pack?

Because, from where I'm standing, it seems like the last word in zombie games. I have nothing bad to say about it. The biggest problem you may have is if you prefer inverted controls over conventional. It is just a very well rounded game, and a great way to practice for the fateful day when our loved ones decide that six feet is too deep, and they'd rather walk the earth in search of brains.

8 out of 10. Bravo, Valve...

I only wonder how you plan to outdo yourselves next year...

*there is no space. Technically, one word. So there.

This doesn't necessarily mean my readers had never heard of the game, or that it was the first time I played it. It was just the date that I introduced it to my blog.

***Though, let's be honest. I think we all know I SHOULD get paid. Haha. I'M KIDDING.

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