Okay, time to be superhonest. This is not the article I had planned to write today. Originally, I had planned to talk about Xbox Kinect, the wonderful new toy that many people are snagging up these days to play Wii-typical, flail-your-arms-around-like-an-idiot style games. Turns out some developer is making a pornography game for Kinect, and i was planning of writing a sweet “okay what the hell people?” article.
But then I remembered that it’s still the Christmas season for a few more days at least, and nothing puts me in that holly jolly mood like a good, old-fashioned zombie apocalypse that messily devours two-thirds of the population on the planet. But then again I’m the nostalgic type. I might still write the “kinect sexytime” article sometime in the future, but today we’re going to focus on how to avoid getting chomped during the end of the world.
I know this article is hot on the tails of Enosh’s review of the classic movie Zombieland, but if there’s anything you should know about zombies is that there’s never just one. Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t exactly groundbreaking, and there’s not much in the ways of character development, plot or point, but there’s something undeniably fantastic about it.
The game begins with four new survivors standing on top of a skyscraper, watching futilely as the army abandons them to their fate. There’s really not much in the ways of a prologue to the game. No deep, thought out plot about WHY there are zombies in your town, and why they want to eat your head, and there’s no good reason why the army has left you behind. It’s assumed that they just don’t have time for your shit, and you quickly forget to care why the dead have risen from their graves.
The first time around, I played through the game along with Elrood and Enosh. I picked Ellis, the somewhat dim redneck character with poor decision-making capabilities, Elrood picked Nick, the wisecracking, street smart drifter, and Enosh picked coach, the big-hearted, big-boned high school teacher. Rochelle, the game’s sassy, token female character, we left to the game’s AI.
There was some debate about this. Originally, I was going to go with coach instead of Ellis, but once it became apparent that anytime I did anything in the game, I’d start screeching “JOIN THE NINTENDO FAN CLUB LITTLE MAC” into the Xbox headset, due to the fact that coach looks exactly like the coach in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! for Nintendo, it was quickly agreed on that this setup was the way to go. We weren’t so happy at having an AI running around with us, but at that point in time we didn’t have too many options.
The first thing I did upon getting into the game was to bash Enosh upside the head with a baseball bat to see if I could hurt him. This probably would have went over a lot better with him if I had actually told him I was going to be experimenting before I split Coach’s skull open, but it yielded results nonetheless. Yes. Team damage is indeed a problem.
So into the building the three of us went, accompanied by a robotically controlled Rochelle, and amused ourselves by listening to the four survivors banter back and forth in an attempt to get to know each other better. We never find out too much in-game about each character, though (aside from Ellis, who jabbers constantly about life before the zombie outbreak and about horribly stupid things he has done with his friends) and honestly, there’s more information in the instruction manual about them than anywhere else. (I didn’t know Coach was a school teacher! Whoa! A knee injury ended his collegiate defensive lineman career? Cool!)
We picked off the first couple of zombies, but I don’t think any of us were really prepared for the swarm. We encountered our first special zombie, a large, hulking, bloated corpse man called a boomer, who can, y’know, explode on people. Zombies love boomer bile. I have no idea why.
Within moments we were swamped, all shouting into our headsets pleading for assistance (I was shouting “Join the Nintendo Fan Club,” anyway, over the sounds of zombies eating my face). After the last zombie fell, I was half dead, Enosh was dangling out of a window, and Elrood was in a different room entirely asking us what the eff just happened.
Here’s the first thing you should know about L4D2. The game is dynamic. Items, weapons, and the kinds of zombies you encounter will change every time you play through the game, or even if you, say, die 104 bajillion times and have to start the level over. Combine this with the fact that Valve added in some new, devious kinds of special infected, and each play through becomes excessively stressful.
Teamwork is key! Do not stray too far from your allies. There are way too many special infected this time around that can pin you to the ground and eat your face, tie you up with their tongues and choke you to death, or jump on your shoulders and hump your head until you die. I’m serious about the last one, too. Beware the jockey! BEWARE.
Also, fighting a special infected known as a tank is always a horrible time. The music changes, cars go flying, and it takes a bucket load of ammo to take it down. You’ll usually survive, but be ill-equipped to fight anything else after the encounter is over.
There is a surprising level of strategy to the game too. Zombies love loud sounds, and will automatically swarm if they hear just about anything. Knowing when to throw a beeping pipe bomb can really help or hurt your chances of making it to the next safe room.
About a level and a half into the game, Enosh, Elrood and I were plowing along at a good clip. I traded my baseball bat for a sweet guitar, and had taken to shouting “weedly wah! weedly wah!” in tribute to Carl, the greatest air guitar soloist ever to grace our eyes on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It was becoming apparent, however, that robo-rochelle was going to be a problem. She would use an entire health kit on us when we were barely hurt, stand in front of us while we were mowing down zombies and soaking up bullets that should have ended up into the walking dead, and generally make a nuisance of herself. I don’t remember when exactly it happened, but slowly, ever so slowly, the three of us decided Rochelle was expendable.
I can remember a particularly intense encounter in a swamp, just as a charger had snatched up Rochelle and dragged her off into the woods, where it proceeded to beat the living snot out of her. The three of us were standing on a ledge, looking in that general direction, and Enosh asked the question. “What do we do?”
There was silence. “Man, she’s really far out there,” Elrood said. At this point, Rochelle had been getting mauled for a full fifteen seconds.
We thought about it a little more. “Eh, she’s probably fine,” I said. That cinched it, and onwards we went, minus one Rochelle.
That doesn’t last for long, mind you. Death will happen to you in this game. Somewhere along the line, you’ll lose Ellis, Coach, Nick, and Rochelle, but it’s not lasting. You’ll eventually come across the survivors later in the level, trapped in very tiny rooms and asking to be let out. I was always curious about this. I did, after all, just watch Elrood get blown up by a boomer, and then guided into a spitter’s acid by a head-humping jockey. I watched as the game told me he was dead, and then played the sad music to let me know just how dead he was. But then hey! He’s okay after all! The zombies just tied him up and locked him in this room, presumably to eat him later. High fives all around.
Eventually we did get a fourth person for our zombie killing shenanigans, and it really does make a difference. The game is much better when you don’t have a robo-rochelle getting in your way. Though, it did take us a while to get used to actually having someone controlling Rochelle. We may have accidentally abandoned her to her fate a few seconds longer than we should have before we realized that there was an honest to god PERSON behind the fourth survivor now.
Now, those of you who played L4D1 and were hoping to find out what ever became of the original group of survivors? Ehhh, you might want to keep looking. There are two volumes of downloadable content for this game, called The Sacrifice and The Passing that deal with the original cast. In the Passing, you play as the second set of survivors, who cross paths with group number 1 briefly. I’m told you actually get to play as the original survivors in The Sacrifice, but I’ve never picked that up. That’s about it though. Don’t expect to see the original survivors without dropping additional ducats on the DLC.
Also, there’s a fairly decent competitive mode this time around. Four players will get the honor of being a survivor in an attempt to run to the safe room. Everyone else gets to play as a special infected, with all the fun and grossness that entails. It’s pretty fun.
Realistic mode is hardcore, though. That’s… all I’m saying about that.
Anyway, if you have a solid group of friends who you have always talked about how great they would be in the event of the zombie apocalypse (everyone has friends like that, right? Right?!) you could do a lot worse than picking up L4D2. Also, the achievements are hysterical. Make sure you’re prepared before you try to save the gnome from the circus. It’s… an undertaking. A horrifying, highly stressful undertaking.
God I hate that gnome.
Filed under: Games | Tagged: boomer, charger, co-op, Coach, cooperative games, Ellis, gnomes, I hate gnomes, jockey, join the nintendo fan club, L4D2, Left 4 Dead, Mike Tyson's Punch Out! Little Mac, Nick, realistic mode, Rochelle, smoker, special infected, survivors, tank, The Parish, The Sacrifice, Valve, zombies |