Besides adding a slew of new weapons, characters, and zombies, one of the most appealing parts about Left 4 Dead 2 is the way it's expanding upon the multiplayer offerings of the original by leaps and bounds. Since this sequel was first announced earlier this year, we've known that Survival mode would be included in the game right off the bat (unlike arriving in the form of downloadable content with the original) and that Versus mode would be expanded to support all five campaigns. Well, Valve isn't quite done yet. It seems Valve has gone and added an entirely new competitive multiplayer mode called Scavenge, which, as best we can describe it, is a fast-paced combination of those other two modes.
Scavenge mode is a four-versus-four affair that pits a team of survivors against a team of the infected just like Versus mode does. But unlike Versus, the survivors aren't trying to get from point A to point B. Instead, they're confined to one area with the goal of staying alive for as long as possible--just like Survival mode. But here's the twist: The survivors aren't staying alive by killing zombies. Sure, you can still do that. In fact, you still very much have to do that--but it's not the primary goal. Instead, the survivors are trying to find gas cans scattered throughout the map in order to bring them back to the power generator in the middle.
Each round starts with a set time limit, and every time a survivor can go out to bring back one of the 16 gas cans spread throughout the map, more time is added to the clock. When time finally does expire, the teams switch sides to see who lasts longer as the survivors. Some of the gas cans are within plain view, but some of them are hidden. We got to experience the game on a map called Motel, which is taken from the Dark Carnival campaign we've previously covered. The map is basically just a motel parking lot, with the power generator situated at the bottom of an empty swimming pool. Some gas cans were found as easily as running to the other end of the parking lot and picking one up, but others were hidden in motel room closets. Some were even perched atop a billboard and could only be found after climbing a tall ladder.
As we mentioned, Scavenge is four versus four, so it's not all about survivors. Half of those playing will take on the form of the boss-infected characters just like Versus mode, alternating to a different character every time they die. Some of the boss infected were carryovers from the first Left 4 Dead, like the boomer (obese vomiting zombie) and smoker (long-tongued zombie). But the match also featured three new boss characters. There was the spitter, who spews acidlike green pools of spit; the jockey who leaps atop survivors and steer them around; and the charger, who's a giant brute capable of quickly dashing into survivors and smashing them into the ground with a single, humongous fist.
The spitter is especially important in Scavenge for a number of reasons. For one, he can spew out his deadly toxin right onto the power generator and keep any survivors with gas cans from being able to pour their sweet, sweet fossil fuel until the green goo clears up. But the other important quality about the spitter's toxic bile is that it can actually cause the gas cans to burst into flames when he makes a direct hit onto them with his spit. It's a great way to sabotage a poor hapless survivor. Simply wait on a motel balcony and snipe a gas can with your acidic spit right as the poor fool is about to pick it up. Just like the old saying goes: If there's one thing worse than fighting zombies, it's fighting zombies while you're on fire.
The jockey is also capable of being a supreme jerk. He's a great character to hide out with and try to take down a lone survivor. Say you've got someone looking to find a gas can that is hidden in a motel room. Just wait in the dark, pounce on him, and guide him into a dark closet while draining his health the entire time. The charger is also great for dispersing a group of survivors sticking close together because he can smash into an entire crowd of people like a wrecking ball.
With its close-quarters environments, large number of players, and immediate goals, Scavenge mode makes for a hectic experience. But like everything else in Left 4 Dead 2, it's an enjoyable brand of stress. The matches are fast and chaotic but certainly a lot of fun. Expect to see the game released on November 17.