Review: Left 4 Dead 2

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: First Person Shooter
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2009
Review Published On: December 22nd, 2015
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:


Save System:

While there's no way to save a game in progress, you can start your adventure from any chapter in a campaign, which is almost just as good.

During a single player game, you can pause by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Left 4 Dead 2 is bloodier than its predecessor, as the zombies can now be dismembered and there is some gore found around the levels. The various survivors aren't shy about using foul language, either.


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Witches now walk around in the daytime

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Dispatching zombies with extreme prejudice

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Bad weather makes it hard to see nearby zombies

Game Overview

Left 4 Dead was an instant hit. Instead of taking things too seriously, it pulled back the curtain and had the players take on the roles of actors performing in a zombie apocalypse movie. The AI director pulled the strings from the background, and ensured that every playthough of the adventure would be fresh and geared towards having a good time.

But Valve wanted to improve on this design, and in order to do that, they needed to make some serious changes to the game's engine. This resulted in a sequel rather than a simple upgrade or DLC package, and now we have Left 4 Dead 2. Perhaps the most obvious changes include new Special Infected (ie, "boss" enemies) and new weapons for the survivors.

Personally, I feel that this game is a marked improvement over the first game, but some fans still prefer the original. Both are very high quality games, so there's no shame in going between them. They also frequently go on sale during the holiday season, so keep an eye out for them!

If you're really interested in this game, I would also suggest you read my review of Left 4 Dead, as just about everything that I wrote about it also applies to Left 4 Dead 2.

Points of Interest

Expanded weapon and tool selection
Left 4 Dead had a fairly straightforward selection of weapons and items. You had three types of guns with two tiers each, two different throwable items, first aid kits, and pills. The sequel makes things more interesting by adding a larger range of possible weapons, defibrillators now supplement the first aid kits, melee weapons can be used instead of pistols, and there are other items that may help the survivors deal with the zombie menace.

The weapons are especially worth mentioning, as each model behaves differently. For example, just look at the machine guns: some fire in bursts, others are fully automatic, and some are just powerful pistols. If there's a weapon you really like, it may be more worthwhile to grab from an ammo dump than pickup a new gun.
New Special Infected
The Special Infected are basically the boss monsters in this series, and this time around there's some more variety to them. Spitters hurl blobs of highly acidic goo at the survivors, Chargers ram the party and Jockeys force the players to move around uncontrollably. Together, these enemies ensure that the survivors have to keep moving, as they'll quickly wipe any party that tries to stay in one place too long.
The old is new again
The Special Infected from the first game are back, and they've all been tweaked in some way. Witches now wander around during the day, making it harder to avoid them. Boomers are now equal-opportunity zombies, as they can be either male or female. Smokers and Hunters try harder to stay out of the survivors' sights, and the Tank seems to have been nerfed somewhat. Or at least, they don't seem to be as threatening as the much faster Chargers.

Additionally, all of the campaigns from the first game have been transferred over, allowing you to try your hand at the older levels while dealing with the new items and zombies. There's even a campaign that has the new survivors team up with the original group!
New modes to play
Can't get enough zombie action in the normal campaigns? There are now a number of new ways to play. Realism and Mutation modes alter the game's mechanics, either to make things more difficult or just more interesting. For fans of Versus, there's now a Scavenge mode where the survivors attempt to gather fuel instead of reach the next safe house.
Better support for the Steam community
Like the original game, there are achievements to earn. Unlike the original, you can now collect Steam trading cards and the steam workshop provides the ability to make and share new content with other fans.
Survivor bots took a level in stupid
When nobody is playing as a specific survivor, the character will be controlled by an AI. These were fairly decent replacements for players in the original game, but they ended up becoming pretty dim-witted here. For example, they can be quite slow to respond to a player in distress, and they've also been known to get themselves killed by blundering into acid or fire. Perhaps their most annoying habit involves shooting through the players. While this doesn't harm the player, it does cause them to be nudged around enough to throw off their aim.
Very, very loud in sections
Zombies are attracted to loud noises. To nobody's surprise, this means that there are places where the survivors end up making a huge racket by triggering everything from carnival rides to a rock concert. It can easily be loud enough to cause a headache or two, so watch the volume. Considering the Special Infected use audio cues to alert players to their presence, turning off the sound completely isn't the best idea either.

Concerns and Issues

Bloodier and gorier than the original
In the first game, the blood and gore was largely limited, only appearing as decorations on the level or as the result of a powerful weapon hitting a zombie. Here, powerful weapons are fairly common, and the result is that is the zombies tend to be killed more graphically than before. Dismemberment is common, and disemboweling is quite possible. Things get particularly messy when you kill zombies using melee weapons: blood splatters on your screen, the zombie is torn apart, and your weapon is covered in blood for the rest of the level.

Fortunately, there's a little known way around this. If you tweak the Steam client to use -lv as a Launch Option, most of the blood and gore will be removed. Note that a lot of players view tweaking the game like this as a form of cheating because it has the side effect of making the game run slightly faster and the reduced detail makes it easier for the player to see what's going on in a large brawl.
Body horror
Once again, the Special Infected are twisted, misshapen people. The new Special Infected tend to be more bizarre than the original ones, with the Spitter being the most grotesque and the Jockeys being the creepiest. Chargers are asymmetrical freaks, with one arm swollen far out of proportion to the rest of their body while the other arm is withered and dangling.
Humans were killed
In some of the campaigns, the survivors will come across "rescue" sites that had killed the civilians who were fleeing the zombies. This is likely the result of an attempt to stop the spread of the zombie virus -- instead of rescuing people who might carry the virus to new locations, the military simply lined them up an executed them. It's interesting to note that while the survivors think nothing of mowing down hundreds of zombies, they're disturbed by thought of people killing humans.
Impolite language and remarks
Just like before, the survivors and the graffiti found in the levels use coarse and foul language at points. This time around, we also have Nick and Ellis. The former treats cheap wisecracks and insults as a source of humor, while the latter is a redneck who occasionally introduces some potty humor. Admittedly, the banter from these two is often pretty funny, but parents might not appreciate hearing these comments.
Mild sexual references
One of Nick's lines comes close to crossing a line. If Roshelle dies, there's a chance that he'll say "So much for repopulating the Earth", as if that was the only quality Roshelle had.

The other potential reference comes from the way the survivors respond to Jockeys. Jockeys attack by jumping on a survivor's back and then thrust about to steer the survivor into danger. The survivors (and many players) think this looks like the Jockey is humping the victim.