Left 4 Dead 2 in the test - fast infusion? Guaranteed fun? Both?

Author: Petra Schmitz
Date: 2009-11-19 16:45:00
The plague! In the test of Left 4 Dead 2 Valve sends us again against zombies or as infected people in the fight for survival. But is part 2 just a mild infusion of the original or is there really something new on the zombie front?

Almost exactly one year to the day after the original, the developer Valve released the multiplayer shooter Left 4 Dead 2. The first part of the playable zombie film impressed us in the test and many buyers afterwards with its high screeching and malicious joy factor. But this time there were plenty of allegations from fans in advance that the same program would be published again. This is basically true, because the successor does everything exactly like the first part. Just one size bigger and more varied.

The framework for action

Again there are four survivors who are to be devoured by countless zombies. Excuse me, from countless infected people. Left 4 Dead 2 takes place in the same time frame as the first part, just in different places with different heroes. The background story, however, remains as thin as ever: some undefined epidemic broke out in the United States and turned almost the entire population into mud-peared brain-eater. Now it is a matter of a troop of four people to make their way through the southern USA to New Orleans; allegedly one of the few places on the map where not everyone wants to gnaw at everyone.

As in Left 4 Dead, the journey is divided into chapters with four to five sections each, separated by a loading sequence in a shelter. If there were four chapters in the first part, there are now five. As usual, you can experience this alone with three AI companions or - much more fun - in a team with three other players in five levels of difficulty. This co-op mode is more recommendable because the game mechanics and presentation of Left 4 Dead 2 quickly become boring after a few sections. Only the panicked screams, the warnings and the general sigh of relief from real people when a particularly crisp zombie attack was fended off make the title a real experience. It was no different with the first Left 4 Dead. So a headset is a must!

The zombies

In the southern United States, the epidemic seems to be a little different from elsewhere, that must be due to the swamp gases or the genetic structure down there: Instead of the five boss zombies known from Left 4 Dead, there are three more boss infected here.

The old acquaintances Hunter, Boomer, Smoker, Tank and Witch are joined by the Spitter, the Charger and the Jockey. The spitter spits, of course. Highly poisonous acid that spreads over a wide area on the floor. The Charger looks like the little brother from the tank, it dashes towards its opponents, lifts them off their feet and then smashes them onto the ground over and over again. And the jockey does exactly what the name suggests: He sits on the back of a survivor and takes almost complete control of him. The victim can only desperately try to counter it, but as a rule he is directed into a zombie horde or the green poison of a spitter - nasty.

The weapons

So if the zombies got reinforcements, what about the four poor sausages on the run? Logically, Valve gave them more defense stuff in Left 4 Dead 2. More ranged weapons (exclusively in the German version including four rifles from Counter-Strike: Source!) Plus, for the first time, close-range beating (frying pans, guitars or axes) and incendiary ammunition.

There is now also a grenade launcher under the lead blows. It happens to be lying around in the levels and cannot be equipped with new ammunition. Once you've fired all the grenades, this thing is useless. That's a good thing, because the launcher is much too strong for our taste. With two well-placed explosive projectiles, you can exterminate a whole wave of zombies on your own. Desolation! The chainsaw, with which you can cut your way through the hordes of infected people for what feels like hours as soft as butter, appears to us to be just as powerful.

Wonderful: In addition to the beeping pipe bombs, which lure tens of zombies and then blow them off effectively, you will now also find boomer bile in bottles from time to time. Boomer bile is known to attract dozens of infected people. Make sure you throw such a bottle at the deformed marble in one of the mighty tanks. The subsequent sight is a real show!

The level design

Speaking of the show: Valve had quite a few nice ideas for the level design. You can shoot, hack and blast yourself in one chapter, for example, about a fairground, including a tour through the love tunnel, which shines in purple and is decorated with plastic swans, and a run on the roller coaster (thank God without looping). Finally there is a rock concert without a rock band, but with fireworks and a lot of hungry and bad-tempered guests. You will experience several of such high points, but the developer has also managed to accommodate shockingly bland sections in the game. The first chapter in particular is bursting with dreary, straight corridors.

On the other hand, we find the small tasks that you pin down at certain points particularly successful. For example, you should fill up the tank of a car in a department store in order to be able to escape with the cart. As you lug canister after canister, wave after wave of the nasty brood of Infected is yours. The stupid thing about such missions is that you have to do them all by yourself in single player mode. The AI colleagues accompany you and keep the zombies off your neck, but you do not take part in the actual task. Therefore: Co-op!

The multiplayer modes

As already said several times: The five chapters are much more fun in co-op than solo. Left 4 Dead 2 only gets really great in the well-known Versus mode, in which players also take on the role of boss zombies. We already know this game variant from the predecessor, but now you can play all five chapters, in Left 4 Dead there were only two at first. The other levels were only unlocked with a patch for Versus.

If you have to take a lot of time for a whole chapter in Versus mode (with page changes), just a few minutes are enough for a round in the new Scavenge game variant. One team refueled either the aforementioned car in the department store or a generator, while the other team tried to prevent this. The game goes over several rounds by changing sides. The team that has filled in the most canisters in the end or is far ahead that cannot be caught wins.

The survival mode joins co-op, versus and scavenge. It was available as a free download package for the first Left 4 Dead. The rule here is very simple: to hold out against more and more dangerous AI monsters as long as possible. Good times are rewarded with medals (bronze, silver, gold).

Graphics and sound

Let's put it like it is: Left 4 Dead 2 isn't a pretty game. The graphics were already slightly out of date for the first part, a year later it doesn't look any better. Muddy textures, a general lack of detail and angular zombies from the clone laboratory - Left 4 Dead 2 works against other current action titles like from the last century. Only the models of the refugees are exceptions, they are again well done both in appearance and in terms of animation.

But the game wins thanks to the atmospheric soundscape. And we don't mean the screeching of the other players. Dynamic horror music accompanies the trip to New Orleans. And when the sound suddenly becomes more dramatic, you know that you can be prepared for something. Then you usually hear the zombie horde or individual boss opponents. The latter are easy to recognize and locate by their typical noises. That should save your life many times. And then there are the requests to speak from the four heroes, which, as in the first part, do not help you understand how and why the whole mess actually started, but are nevertheless extremely entertaining. When the four start off in a small hut at the beginning of the third chapter and pester each other as to why the pilot of a rescue helicopter had to be shot, it just seems like pure, ironic comedy and puts a big grin on our faces. As wide as what happens when we have done the four in a round versus shortly before the shelter.

»Start the test video in the big player

German version and Steam

The German version is cut like in Left 4 Dead. Body parts cannot be separated, the ragdoll physics is deactivated. However, the blood splatters red even in the local variant.

Like all Valve games, Left 4 Dead 2 must be activated via their online distribution platform Steam. This binds your game irrevocably to your Steam account, reselling is not possible.

More about Left 4 Dead 2:
»View scoring box for the game
»Open the technical check for Left 4 Dead 2
»Test video in the video area