Reviews

Left4Dead 2

The story in the game (haha, what story?) has more continuity than it did previously. All the five scenarios you play through tie to each other nicely and it doesn’t feel like you are running the same group of survivors through a different map for no reason. The characters are well voiced and throw up some fantastic one-liners. The humour is very much tongue in cheek and quite often you will find yourself grinning at something one of the survivors (usually Ellis) says. The music is pretty catchy as well and while it won’t win any awards, I have often caught myself humming the main theme.

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Graphically, it’s nothing to write home about. The source engine is starting to show its age and the texture detail level isn’t anything special. What it lacks in visual fidelity though it makes up for in numbers. There can often be a ton of characters on the screen and the gore factor is off the charts. Dismembering a zombie has never felt this good in any game. Another silver lining of the Source engine is that the game doesn’t need a beefy machine to get a playable frame rate at an acceptable level of visual detail. I ran it maxed out on my aging 8800 GTS at a very smooth frame rate. The Xbox 360 version looks on par with the High settings of the PC version. And while there is nothing here that will make your jaw drop, it easily manages to look like a very sharp, competent shooter.

My biggest gripe with the Xbox 360 version is the NAT problem. If your NAT is strict or moderate, you will not find any games online. Bad enough as that may be, worse is that the game will not let you know that it’s a problem with your NAT. So you will sit there scratching your head while the game will gleefully inform you that there are no available games. However, once you do get that sorted out, it all works fine online. The games it will find for you are pretty smooth with minimal lag. Having said that, the pickings are definitely slim. Some times (rarely to the game’s credit), it’s hard to find a game in a particular game type you want to play so you wont have any option but to switch over to another game type and play that instead. It’s not the game’s fault that people aren’t playing a specific part of it online, but it does affect the overall experience negatively.

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Things are better on the PC; much better actually. The matchmaking works as it should and there are a ton of people playing pretty much every game type the game has to offer. You can now even browse for servers and pick the ones with the best ping. No longer will you will end up joining and quitting multiple games before you can find one that’s actually playable. Add all of that with the cheaper price point, more local Indians playing this over Steam, and a good chance that future DLC will be free on the PC makes the PC version the winner by default.

Having said that though, aside from the matchmaking and the online aspect there isn’t much to separate the PC version from the Xbox 360 version. The PC version looks better, but not by a big enough margin to make a difference. The console version on the other hand supports split-screen and that alone makes up for any graphical shortcomings it might have. Load times are slightly faster on the PC, but again, the difference isn’t really noticeable. The controls are smart and tight on both the versions. If you play a lot of split-screen games, the console version is definitely the one you should be looking at. If you prefer playing online, I would recommend the PC version.

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There are some other minor issues that are also worth mentioning. A couple of times I got stuck in the geometry and wasn’t able to move. The only way to proceed further was to have one of my team mates kill me. This happened to my AI controlled team mates as well. For what it’s worth, the problem hasn’t repeated itself since the first patch came out. While we are on the subject of friendly AI, it’s definitely worth mentioning that it is really poor. The biggest problem is they can’t keep up with you, especially at critical times when a horde chewing on your heels and you are trying to turn off an alarm. What makes it worse is that when a special infected pulls you down, you have to sit and watch because your AI team mates are far behind. Even when they are around you, they seem to be in no hurry to help out. You might lie helpless when a charger is pummelling you, and they will run around shooting at straggler zombies. In short, you can’t count on them to do anything. Complaining about the AI in a multiplayer-focused game seems a bit petty, but unless you have a full compliment of 4 players, you will have to deal with the AI niggles.

Conclusion

Right now if I sat down to make a list of things that a sequel should do without fail, Left4Dead 2 would be hitting almost all the bullet points. So as a blueprint for a perfect sequel, it’s up there with the best. The game builds on everything that Left4Dead did right and improves everything that it didn’t. In a nutshell, it’s the kind of sequel where having played it once, you can’t ever imagine going back to the first game. Despite it’s shortcomings in the single player side of things, I would be hard pressed not to recommend Left4Dead 2. Recommend it very highly. So go buy it. Now. The zombie apocalypse ain’t gonna wait.

(+) Lots of gameplay modes
(+) Great level design
(+) Tons of variety in gameplay
(+) The AI director

(-) Average graphics
(-) Poor AI team mates


How we score games

Title: Left4Dead 2
Developer/Publisher: Valve/EA
Genre: First-person shooter/survival
Rating: 18+
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499), PC (Rs 699)

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