In Left 4 Dead, you were pretty much assured that when being attacked by multiple Special Infected, you would get a unique one. Not in Left 4 Dead 2 as I've experienced two hunters and chargers coming at us at the same time. It didn't happen too much but being attacked by multiple of the same Specials can be pretty tough depending on the combination. Two chargers really gave us a fit as they kept pushing the group and grabbing one of us. Now, you're a little more on your toes when you kill one Special Infected as another same one could be right around the corner if you're not expecting it. It also adds some variety to these sequences when the Specials attacks as you don't know what to expect now that there are any number of combinations of the six along with the witch and tank. Having to deal with multiple witches in the Hard Rain campaign does make for a nice challenge and seeing two witches chasing you at the same time is pretty intense.
The regular zombies also get some needed help from what's being billed as uncommon infected, which is pretty cool to see. For example, those in riot gear can't be shot from the front as you have to push them and turn them around to where you can shoot them in the back which is vulnerable. A couple of these in a pack of zombies can prove troublesome. Another group wears flame resistant clothing so tossing a Molotov or shooting them with incendiary bullets won't bring them down. Well, enough bullets would but it won't set these guys on fire. Clowns can bring about a small horde with them when they honk their noses, same as a Boomer would when it vomits on your but with lesser amount of zombies. Mud men attack and can obscure your vision with swamp mud while doing so. It adds a little bit more variety to the horde when one or a few of them show up to torment you.
Speaking of the regular zombies, they are now a little bit tougher in the second game. Before a shot taking off an arm would level one to the ground. Now, they have a chance of coming at you even with a lost arm. Legs being shot off still constitute a downed zombie though. One of the fun things to do is run up to a climbing zombie and slice both legs off with a katana or machete. The locational damage adds a little more variety to the kill and there's even an achievement for beheading a number of zombies with your melee weapon.
Two new game modes have been added offering up more ways to play in the sequel. Realism mode makes it so nothing is highlighted and no respawning is available as you can only bring your friends back to life with the defibrillator. Also, head shots do more damage and limb shots do a little less making aiming a little more important. You can play on any difficulty and it's a nice challenge for Left 4 Dead veterans to tackle. Just make sure you have a good team that talks a lot when you play this mode. Scavenge mode takes the end game of Dead Center, for example, and turns it into a three round affair. Like Versus mode, the teams are split into Survivors and Special Infected with the Survivors having to put 16 gas cans in the car. A timer is visible and should it run out the round is over. Adding gas to the car increases the time so you're racing against the clock and against the zombies. Another map for Scavenge forces you to keep a generator on with gas cans as well. It's a pretty fun game mode and one that you can quickly jump in for a few rounds, unlike Versus where it can take anywhere from a half hour to two hours to finish a full game. Speaking of Versus mode, it's nice that we get all the maps to play this mode out of the gate, unless the initial release of Left 4 Dead.
Even though the Source engine is starting to show a little bit of age, Valve made some tweaks to Left 4 Dead 2 to give it a little more visual flair. For starters, you can now shoot out zombies to expose their innards which is a cool effect. A nice shotgun blast to the chest and you'll see the muscle, ribcage, and intestines in plain sight. Once in a while, you'll see a zombie's intestine drag behind it as it walks towards you dying. I have to say it's pretty sweet to see a trail emanating from a dying zombie as it loses its insides along the way. In the first game, a group of zombies exploding from a pipe bomb produced a flash of blood sprouting from the middle. In Left 4 Dead 2, bodies fly now making it a much better effect when blowing up a group of the undead. In the dark, the zombies now have glowing eyes which make for a more eerie sight when they chase after you. The fire effects have also been improved as well making it more realistic. You can really see it in action on the first level of Dead Center where you run through a burning apartment building and fire burns all around you as you progress through a part of the building. Little improvements here and there make for a familiar looking game but with some added details that make Left 4 Dead II look better but not that much better than the original.
What wasn't improved in the engine was the Survivor AI as they are even dumber in this game than the first. If you played by yourself, you'll at least be able to finish a campaign on normal difficulty with three computer AI in tow. Not here as the more complex sequences and tougher enemies seem too much for the computer allies. It's definitely a game that's meant to be played with at least one other person if you want to succeed on normal and a full squad on higher difficulty. I, personally, rarely play without a few humans on the team but those that want to play through in single player mode be prepared to get frustrated at your teammates and don't look to get through to the rescue much.
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