Monday, June 1, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 game review

10 things we'd like to see in Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead has proven to be a very popular game and one that has generally been well received across the board by reviewers and gamers alike. The game offers a very strong online component, where it's arguable that this is its biggest strength. For those looking for a more solitary experience away from Xbox Live, will find that playing offline with bots, or via split-screen with a friend offers a compelling yet limited experience. Valve have done a great job with the game, but for many it seems, the lack of features suggests a title that has plenty of room for improvement.

For a lot of gamers, the simplicity of Left 4 Dead is all part of the game's charm, but in this day and age of games getting shorter, and a focus on multiplayer gaming to increase the longevity, in terms of being a totally inclusive title (in a similar manner to Valve's Orange Box) Left 4 Dead has room for much more and it's surprising that Valve didn't flesh out the game further.

We've made a list of ideas that we'd like to see added to the series. Some of you may not agree with the additions we'd like, but we feel the additions would make for a far more rounded package.

1. More characters. Given the game's tilt towards multiplayer gaming, having a mere fours characters seems like offering small change, especially when compared to other multiplayer titles. If you've played the underrated Resident Evil: Outbreak on PS2, then you would be familiar with the many characters on offer. Whilst Zoey, Louis, Bill and Francis and very distinguishable characters in their own right; covering social reject, the aged, females and token black guy; a few more would have certainly offered a little variety to proceedings. Character costumes in line with more characters, would have also been a neat inclusion as well. Being able to choose a starting costume, sure it's cosmetic, but would have helped to spice up variety. We hope Left 4 Dead 2 offers a lot more in this department.

2. More levels. The quirkiness of being able to drop in and drop out of a quick game works well, yet for the more hardcore amongst us, the four levels on offer, whilst very good is quite paltry for a full game. Sure you can replay them and have a slightly different experience each time, but at the end of the day, the levels remain the same. There's plenty of other places the Infected could inhabit for our survivors to escape from. The game nods at dead rising, so why not have a level set in a shopping mall? We'd like to see far more levels in a sequel that ships with the game, rather than added as premium downloadable content - which we suspect we'll see for Left 4 Dead.

3. Survival Mode. Whilst the whole premise of the game revolves round survival, what would be an excellent addition is a additional mode where the survivors have to fight off wave after wave of zombies in a confined area (similar to Gears of War 2 Horde mode). The aim being to kill as many zombies etc as possible with the limited supplies available. This would work very well online, and if leader boards were included, could mean teams vying for supremacy of the top slots. You would still keep the whole team element together in this mode.

4. Character upgrades. It might seem the norm these days, but given the brevity of the game, a system where you could upgrade your character's stats would have worked as a separate mode. naturally you'd keep the standard mode where everyone is equal, but an additional mode that features bonuses for those who continually keep playing could have added more depth to the game. Imagine being able to carry more health packs, pipe bombs etc, better running accuracy, slightly more health, you get the drift.

5. A time limit. Yes, it has been done in RE: Outbreak, but really could have added more pressure to the game, if you would slowly become infected over time. Take too long and you become the enemy, and of course a threat to the other survivors. The team spirit would have been increased if there were also limited pills you could take to slow down the infection. Imagine being so close to rescue just as you're nearing "turning". It would have added a very dramatic ending to the levels as you balance getting rescued with suddenly turning and preventing your team mates from getting away.

6. More guns. - The game is rather lacking in this area, and although they have pretty much all bases covered, a few more weapons would have been handy, Imagine a flame-thrower for example or an RPG for the more intense moments. You could have had negative effects to balance out their power, for example the flame-thrower might startle a witch regardless of any flashlights being switched on, or an RPG might slow your running speed down and only have 1 or 2 rockets, leaving you to use a side arm for the most part. We hope Valve get a little more imaginative with the weapons selection in Left 4 Dead 2. It's nice to be able to have some choice.

7. Score mode. It would have been nice to be able to compete yet still work together as a team. Gaining points for killing enemies, reviving others and healing teammates. As a separate mode, this would work well, because the nature of the game forces team-work, but with an added element of competitiveness would really test the resolve of many players. Call of Duty 4 has an excellent score mode attached, and with added co-op element would certainly spice things up. This is also something extra that single players could mess around with vs the AI.

8. A story. You might think the game does fine without, but a lack of background info on the characters, the outbreak itself and some closure, really hurts the game for those who want to know a little more. It wouldn't have been hard for Valve to include some character bios in game, and a small back story for the zombie infestation. Sure, no nonsense works, but seems a bit empty for some players. We're sure many of you would have liked to see what happened to the survivors after they escaped. Let's hope Valve address this in any future game, and offer a bit more cohesion in this department.

9. Solo mode. Although you can recreate this to a degree by killing your team mates, it doesn't lend itself to solo play, due to moments where you have rely on a team mate to rescue you. An additional solo mode, that features beefed up zombies, boomers and tanks to balance out the hunters and smokers would have added a more creepy and solitary experience, especially for those players not connected to Xbox Live. That said the smoker and hunter attacks could be changed where lone players have to hammer the buttons to escape. We think this is big area for improvement, especially for those weaned on survival horror games, which rely on the suspense of being alone.

10. Time Attack mode This seems like an obvious mode considering the time is logged at the end of the game during the credits. This could have been more fleshed out and made in accordance with leader-boards. The Director throws random stuff at players, but this could be tweaked to ensure that each time it's played a certain level of enemies are going to be placed in the map to ensure fairness. Which team can survive and get rescued in the quickest time would be a neat distraction to the main game.

So there you have it. We're sure there are lots of other ideas which could be added to the basic game, and Valve are no doubt conceptualizing new ideas as we speak. As it stands, Left 4 Dead is an excellent game that just leaves the door open for much more zombie killing madness that accommodates single and multiplayer gaming.


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