If there’s anything immediately familiar about Left 4 Dead 2, it’s this: If you separate from your group of zombie apocalypse survivors, you’re not going to be a survivor much longer. In our initial run-through of Swamp Fever--the dank and dark third area of the game--our group of survivors started like any other. We grabbed our preferred weapons (playing as Coach, we grabbed the shotgun) and first-aid packs and headed out from an abandoned boxcar to a nearby gas station. Unfortunately, things got off to a bad start. One person went on beyond the gas station while another stayed in the boxcar, seemingly attempting to figure out what exactly they were supposed to do or how to play the game. To make matters worse, there happened to be a witch sitting around the corner from the player who ran off to the gas station, and as anyone who has played the original game knows, if you disturb the witch, she'll go completely bonkers and probably kill whoever startled her. And that she did, since that player chose to run off, and the two people actually playing as a team couldn't make the save. The third player was still sitting in the boxcar, possibly admiring the scenery.
The two active survivors headed beyond the gas station and the corpse of our fallen comrade, but things only got worse. One of Left 4 Dead 2's new enemies, the charger, decided to pay us a visit. Being completely caught off guard by its speed, we couldn't do much in the way of evasion. Eventually, it zeroed in on our character and subsequently started going to town, doing plenty of damage with every punch before grabbing our character and slamming him into the ground repeatedly. Unfortunately, our only remaining (and useful) teammate was overwhelmed with the witch and a group of her zombie buddies and had no opportunity to save us from our predicament. And with that, we both died, leaving our single surviving member still in the boxcar--undoubtedly ecstatic with the designation of being the lone survivor.
Thankfully, a new group of three players joined us in our renewed attempt at surviving the zombie-infested Louisiana swamps, and from the start, we worked together. This newfound team spirit enabled us to plow through the hordes surrounding the gas station (by the grace of the new AI Director system, there was no witch waiting for us), and to make our way to the swamp and outlying areas. All was going well until we reached the third or fourth abandoned shack where a small plank led into the murky water below. Unfortunately, the player who took the lead (and who happened to be also carrying the ax for a melee weapon) was unprepared for another new enemy, the spitter, lurking just beyond the plank and out of view. Of course, if you're in an elevated position, the spitter's not much of a problem. You'll see the spit and watch it burst into flames (and then watch it burn out) before moving on, but in this particular situation, our designated leader was in a confined space and essentially ambushed, making it difficult to find the right way out of the immediate area--much less navigate out of the fire. But our team pressed on and continued to encounter more spitters, chargers, and the usual assortment of infected before finding the safe house and moving into the next area.
What makes the second part of Swamp Fever a little different from the first is that there seem to be more choke points that mostly force the infected zombies to come out in single file, which, as luck would have it, saved our team more than once. In fact, there was one section of the level where our team came across some airplane wreckage. Getting up and through the wreckage wasn't so much of a problem as it was to simply exit and jump down off the wings, because at that point, we were greeted with what seemed like an almost endless stream of enemies coming from just about every direction. Since one of our teammates fell off the wing and to the ground (where he was met with an additional swarm), we jumped down to help out while the other two survivors stayed on the wing and took aim from above. Just as we thought we had cleared one wave, another came, but this time we were in such a position that we could pick them off as they were coming through the airplane door and out onto the wing. One member of the squad in particular did the most damage by using exploding rounds--another new feature introduced in Left 4 Dead 2.
A similar scenario occurred minutes later with infected coming down a dirt path (somewhat obstructed by a fallen tree), and we were able to mow them down as they reached the top of the path. Whether or not this was by design or simply, once again, the AI Director having mercy on our team wasn't completely clear, but we gladly took the strategic advantage and made our way to the end of the demo.
Of course, what we played of Left 4 Dead 2 felt much like its predecessor, which is great for anyone wanting more of what made the original so fun. And we're anxious to see how Valve has used the Louisiana theme for other levels in the game. Look for Left 4 Dead 2 on the Xbox 360 and PC on November 17.