Review by CyberStryke
Wait, why did I buy this game?
Purchase Left 4 Dead 2 and get 2 free items in Team Fortress 2. That was the sole reason I bought this game during the sale for $7. As a Left 4 Dead 1 veteran, I really had no particular interest in the sequel, released just one year after the original. No, I was not one of those people who joined the Steam group to boycott the game, but rather I had quit Left 4 Dead before the sequel was even released. The problem with Left 4 Dead was not in its gameplay, as I felt that was nearly perfect. The biggest problem revolved around players, as that is not a game that you can play by yourself. So it's now almost been a year since the sequel was released, and I was naively hoping that the community would be different since I last quit. Nope.
Gameplay: Near Perfection
Basically, the game has 8 players, 4 players on the survivor side and 4 on the infected side. After a team plays survivor, they will switch to infected and vice-versa. Do this for all 4-5 maps in the level and the team with the highest score wins. In short, building on the gameplay of Left 4 Dead, the gameplay for the sequel is very well done. The biggest improvement in the sequel is the new Special Infected (Common infected are A.I controlled, whereas Special Infected are player-controlled). In addition to the Special Infected from the first game, the sequel employs 3 more in the Jockey, Charger, and Spitter, each with their own special abilities. The 4 survivors start from point A, and finish at point B. Together, they are nearly unstoppable (assuming the players are competent). Thus, the name of the game is to divide and conquer. This is where the new Special Infected comes in. The first game essentially had one Special Infected to separate a survivor from the group (the Smoker), but what I really enjoy in the sequel is the abilities of the 3 new Special Infected to separate a survivor (or survivors) in their own distinct way. Again, assuming both teams are of equal skills, separation is the key to winning the infected side.
Another huge improvement in the gameplay is the way score is calculated. So we've already established we must get from Point A to Point B, but exactly how is the score calculated? In the original, it emphasized health. The team with more health by the time they reach Point B would get more points. If at any time you (or your team) die before making it to point B, the entire team's score will suffer greatly. It was good in that each team had to be much more careful in journeying their way to the end, but at the end of the day, it was much harder for an underdog team to win. The sequel fixes this as it isn't about health anymore, but rather distance. The farther you go, the more points you get. So if all 4 players from the opposing team make it to Point B with 100 HP each, the team will earn the full possible amount of points (the number of points depends on the stage, with the last stage earning more points). But, if my team makes it to point B with only 1 HP each, we will still earn the full possible amount of points (there is a tie-breaker of only 25 points, which is given to the team that does the most damage). This way, as bad as my team did on that one map, we were only 25 points behind. So unlike the original, it is much easier for one team to keep up with the other. There will be numerous times where one team will be leading for 4 maps only to mess up in the last map, costing them the entire game.
The Problem: People
So I've already established that the gameplay as improved in nearly every way possible from the original, but why such a (relatively) low score? As mentioned in the opening paragraph, it is the people that play the game. Like every single game that you can play online, there will always be people you can't stand, but very few games emphasize teamwork like this game does. There will always be newbs in every game, that's not what I'm here to criticize. But after a week of this game, you would realize how essential every player is to the overall team. Your team is only as strong as your weakest player. I don't mind playing with new people, but the biggest issue revolves around the people who go off to do their own thing. The players who don't stick with the team, the ones who run off on their own will always be your team's downfall. And there are many of them.
But that's not even the biggest problem with the game. In order to enjoy the game, you actually need 8 people. This is not your average FPS where you can enjoy the game playing with anywhere between 12-32 players. This game requires 8 people. 7 people will not do. Nobody likes playing with an A.I. You don't even need to spend a week on this game to realize the ridiculously high amount of players that decide to quit during the game. I'm not criticizing players that "g2g"; I'm criticizing the players that leave just because their team is losing. They are known as "ragequitters", and all it takes is 1 of them to ruin an entire game. There will be numerous occasions where one person leaving will cause another to leave, and 10 seconds later, you'll realize there will be no one to play against. It seems to me people hate losing in this game more than any other game I've played online. There will be many occasions where players will leave because they're down a measly 50-100 point. Replacing ragequitters isn't a viable alternative, as the replacement will likely be another "ragequitter" anyways. Rage quits have been part of the game ever since Left 4 Dead and you will even see servers with a "Rage Counter" mod, something that keeps track on the number of people that leave during the game. It happens so frequently, I can't even remember the last time I've started and finished one game with the same 8 people (that is, in a pub). Sometimes I can't blame them, and I would even sympathize with them. Heck, someone will be lying to you if they told you they haven't "ragequit" before. Every one of us has done it. It's a problem with only 1 possible solution (which will be talked about later).
Another (smaller) problem is the amount of grievers in this game. These are the people who will ruin the game for everyone else because they're either losing or because they get a kick out of it (trolls). They will open fire on teammates, jump off a cliff, or do just about anything else that will ruin your experience. To be fair, it doesn't happen that often, but when it does, you will get annoyed.
The Solution: Friends
The solution to all these problems can be solved by not playing with strangers. Do you have 3 friends who you can play with any time you want? I don't. And I'm sure if you're new to the game, you probably won't have too many friends to play with (It seems people won't want to be your friend if you're bad). If you do, that's great. All the problems I mentioned above mostly happen in pubs. If you start your own team and play in scrims rather than pubs, then this game will be great! But having 3 friends to readily play with you shouldn't be a requirement to enjoy the game, and sadly it is. Sure, playing with friends is always going to be more fun than playing with strangers, but I should be the one to make that choice. This game doesn't provide me with that choice. It feels like I have to play with friends to enjoy the game. Of course, every now and then, I would find a game with a bunch of strangers that I end up enjoying a lot, but every time I join a pub, I would pray during the loading screen for teammates that are actually willing to work together. Again, bad players aren't an issue for me (although many people will rage quit if their team is bad), but players who decide to run off to do their own thing is (whether they're good or bad).
I'm Trying To Enjoy It
I really tried to give this game an 8, but the problems associated with the game are too overwhelming. What really sucks is the fact Valve can do absolutely nothing about it. They can tweak the gameplay to perfection, and I believe they nearly have, but it still doesn't change the fact this game relies largely on people to have fun. I know this review hasn't gone into much depth on other aspects of the gameplay (items, uncommon infected, the maps, the atmosphere, the characters), but there's ten other reviews on this site (and many reviews on other sites) that do go into more detail on all that stuff. What I don't see is a review that talks about the problem I mentioned and just how much it affects the overall enjoyment of the game. I feel like I should let everyone know the problems associated with the game before making the purchase. At its current price ($19.99), I will definitely not buy the game unless I knew I have friends I can readily play with. If you do, then you will realize how highly addicting the game is.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/05/10
Game Release: Left 4 Dead 2 (US, 11/17/09)
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