L4D2 is an improved version of the original which is both more satisfying and more frustrating.

User Rating: 8.5 | Left 4 Dead 2 PC
The original Left 4 Dead was a great multiplayer shooter, it offered countless hours of enjoyment with only a handful of maps and some simple mechanics of zombies versus humans. Left 4 Dead 2 takes those mechanics and improves them but leaves the core experience the same. The biggest change aside from the maps is the inclusion of 3 new playable infected in the Charger, Jockey and Spitter. But the new survivors also get hold of some new items to help them get through the large and varied maps. New items like defibrillator and melee weapons introduce some variety to the confrontations. The primary mode of online play is Versus, once again putting a team of four survivors against four special infected through maps strung together in a campaign.

There are currently five campaigns in L4D2 to play in Versus, and all have been crafted carefully around ambush points for the infected. Initially the map layout seems rather basic but after you play a few dozen rounds in each campaign things start to become clear. There are more critical spots for infected, whether it's a spot for a smoker or a hunter pounce or for a group to attack together. One part of The Parish campaign includes a series of cars with a random selection having an alarm that alerts hordes if triggered. The new levels also put a lot of emphasis on the Charger who can deal quite a big blow on the survivors if used correctly.

The Charger is a relatively high health infected with a fist that deals good damage if you get close enough. It's most dangerous attack though is the charge, which causes the Charger to run directly ahead and grab a survivor and continue running. In addition if any survivor gets in the way they get knocked back and, depending on the fall, can be injured quite badly. Many spots along the maps feature long tight spaces perfect for a charge although good players will expect them at crucial spots like the top of a roller coaster, through an alley, down an escalator or even out the window of a building for an instant kill.

The Jockey is perhaps the funniest class to feature in the series so far. I don't know who or what created the voice for him but it is truly a masterpiece. The Jockey can jump onto the neck / back of a survivor and steer him in whatever direction he chooses, laughing hysterically as he does. He is really useful at separating or creating an ambush when the action gets heated. Jockey can incapacitate eventually or run a person off the edge of buildings. He is very satisfying to control and can create a huge distance between players if timed well.

Spitter was perhaps introduced directly to counter the corner camping in the first game by creating an area of effect attack. The Spitter launches a projectile of corrosive goo which spreads on impact and damages survivors who walk through it. She can cause a lot of damage if a survivor is stuck by normal infected or by other special infected unable to move from the spit. If survivors are in a tight space then jumping on a table will usually save them from taking too much damage. She is also handy for separating survivors as they won't generally move through spit without good cause.

Survivors get a range of new goodies that help them deal with the extra hard hitting infected. Melee weapons provide the most help for survivors cutting through normal infected although it leaves them open to special attacks at range. Defibrillator lets survivors revive a dead player although carrying it is a point penalty. Bile can now be found in jars to throw creating an area where infected gather and attack, it can also be used to blind special infected or even a Tank and highlight them in purple. New weapons have been added along with different bullet types which just further increases variety.

The new survivors: Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle are actually very likeable even though the old survivors have been abandoned for the sequel. There has been a lot of voice work done that offers something new even after many hours have been played. The comments about special infected are often pretty funny, Coach calls the Spitter "Crazy Legs" and Ellis calls the Jockey "Head Humper", and each character is wonderfully voiced. This work really brings the game to life and makes it enjoyable even in times of frustration.

The game is at times more satisfying than the original due to the combinations and ambush places for infected. As infected you are always searching for the perfect moves to pull off and do more damage or even kill a survivor. Missing the big ambushes however is more dilapidating than the original game, sometimes you have to be really skilful to pull off a manoeuvre. Some of the finales are also somewhat frustrating due to the increased spawn range for infected which doesn't fit well with the rest of the maps. The stadium in Dark Carnival is wide open and has a huge spawn range for infected making it largely unpleasant to play.

Problems remain from the original game, rage quitting and pub stomping. Balanced games are fairly rare and come from behind victories are few and far between. Due to the lopsided nature of many matches people get annoyed and leave mid way through a campaign (rage quit). This leaves AI controlled survivors which although improved are still a massive liability. Some groups of friends join forces against random players – creating a one-sided contest full of constant rage quitting. Nothing has been done to alleviate the problem and in some ways it's probably worse than L4D1. No ranking, no auto balancing and no handicap systems are in place. Removing rage quitting is just not possible but there must be some way to lessen the situation because the close games are by far the best experiences.

Thankfully there is more content over and above the popular versus mode. One good feature is the weekly mutations which can range from matches with no health packs, specific weapons only and even versus survival. There is a Scavenge mode where survivors collect gas cans while infected try to kill them, much like the finale of a few campaigns. Survival returns where you hold off for as long as possible against continuing hordes. There are AI bots for infected in the Versus mode and they are competent enough to be worth it, even gathering around ambush spots.

After all is put together L4D2 is a great improvement over the original, one that still perhaps could have been merged with the first game so the community wasn't split. No Mercy is coming to the sequel though so the signs are good. The game is both more satisfying and more frustrating than the first but offers good variety. The continuing search for great ambush spots or the perfect attack will go on for many hours. Like the original the main mode is still Versus and there isn't much point playing this sequel offline. If you are looking for a multiplayer game then this charger might be right up your alley.