The Chronicles of hXd.
    

Posted on Jun 3rd 2009 at 01:56:18 AM by (hXd)
Posted under site news

Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of Left 4 Dead, and the fact that it was announced on IGN.com today that the sequel will be released November 17th was a great surprise for me:

Quote
E3 2009: Left 4 Dead 2 Hands-On
We've been to Valve to play the sequel, and we've got plenty of details about what's new and what's different.

by Jason Ocampo

June 1, 2009 - By the time you read this, Valve will have announced the existence of Left 4 Dead 2 at Microsoft's E3 press conference. By watching the announcement trailer, you'll discover that there are new characters, special zombies, and even melee weapons like a chain saw. But if you want to learn more, read on, because we were at Valve last week to actually play through one of the sequel's campaigns (the E3 demo only features the first two levels of the campaign that we played), and we got all the bloody details.

Now it might seem unusual for Valve to be rolling out a sequel to Left 4 Dead so quickly; after all, the original game shipped on November 18. The sequel is due out on November 17, almost one full year later. However, Valve's Chet Faliszek (known almost universally in the industry as just Chet) told us that when they finished production of Left 4 Dead last year many of the developers had ideas they wanted to pursue for a sequel. And since Valve employees get to choose their next project, it quickly paved the way for Left 4 Dead 2.

Here's the quick summary: Left 4 Dead 2 will feature five new campaigns, as opposed to the original's four. Each campaign will have support for four-player co-op, as well as Versus mode and Survival mode. There is one new gameplay mode that is not being revealed at this time. There are four new characters, new weapons, entirely new melee weapons, and new items. On the flip side, there are new zombies, new special zombies, and a bunch of new gameplay mechanics designed to disrupt many of the tactics and exploits that players have discovered in the first game.

Left 4 Dead 2 is set in the American South; there's going to be more of a narrative thread that connects the campaigns this time around, as opposed to just the seemingly random campaigns of the first game. The story starts in Savannah and works its way to New Orleans. The Savannah campaign is intriguing because all Chet would say is that it's a city where the zombie infection hasn't hit yet. We played the New Orleans campaign, called The Parish. It represents the final map in the narrative: the goal is to battle your way through the city, including the famed French Quarter, to reach a military helicopter for extraction. In between, it sounds like there may also be a swamp-based campaign, but that's all we know for now.

The first thing that surprised us about The Parish is that it takes place in full daylight. Yes, the zombies may like to come out at night, but they're apparently not indisposed to tearing your guts out in the middle of the day. While it's weird to be battling zombies while the sun is still up, it's certainly pretty; there's something about the friscalating dusklight that makes you want to stop shooting zombies for half a second and just soak it all in. Not every campaign is set during the day, but it does make for a nice change of atmosphere. It also affects the gameplay, as zombies can behave differently during the day. The biggest example of that is the Witch; during the night she likes to sit and cry. However, during the day she likes to wander around like a homeless old woman and cry, and that's a big recipe for trouble. Chet says that the Wandering Witch has a nasty habit of showing up at the worst possible times -- say the middle of a frenzied zombie horde. You might not even notice her until it's too late.

Much of Left 4 Dead 2 is designed to shake the existing gameplay up. The crescendo moments from the first game turned out to be too easy to defeat. These are the times that you have to hit a switch that alerts the zombie horde; most people simple holed up in a corner with their teammates and simply rode out the storm. To eliminate camping as a tactic, the crescendo moments have been rethought. Now you might have to hit a switch that alerts the zombie horde, but then you have to battle your way through a mess of undead in order to hit a second switch that actually stops the zombies from swarming you. In another crescendo moment, there's no switch. Instead, there's a parking lot stuffed with cars, and every one of them has a car alarm. Now imagine that a swarm of zombies hits you while you're in the middle of this lot; you have to be very careful, or else a stray shot could make your predicament a lot worse, and things can cascade from there.

The finale of The Parish campaign is also a change from those found in the original game. There's no last stand while you wait for rescue; instead, you must battle your way across a lengthy highway bridge that's cluttered with cars, trucks, and zombies. It's a ridiculously fun blast to run through, as there are all sorts of hazards, including a lack of railings that could send you dangling off the edge (or, more likely, have a tank or charger send you flying off). There are also different routes that you can try and take, like climbing atop the tractor trailers.

The director will also have spatial control over parts of some levels. Yes, it can and will change the layout of the map to challenge you. The example in The Parish campaign is the cemetery; if you're familiar with New Orleans, you know that they don't bury their dead because the water table is so high; instead, cemeteries are full of crypts. Now the director can alter the layout of the cemetery based on how well you're doing. If you're doing poorly and need help, the route through the cemetery might be as simple as a straight line. If you're doing well, the cemetery is more like a maze and can lead to dead ends. The idea is you can't know the pattern beforehand every time you play.

While we're busy pouring on all the "good" news, let's mention the new zombies. There are going to be at least several new special zombies, though Valve is only talking about one for now: the Charger. The Charger is designed to defeat the tactic of the human players getting into a small room or other tight space and camping from there. Do that against the Charger, and you're in trouble, because he's a bull. He will get a good head of steam running and just slam into you; anyone he hits is knocked to the ground and vulnerable for a few seconds.

If the Charger also grabs hold of a survivor, he pile drives them into the ground repeatedly; the only way for the survivor to escape is for someone to help him. The Charger is not as tough as a tank, but he can take some damage. And while he's fast, he's not as maneuverable, so you can dodge him like a bullfighter dodging a bull. On a personal note, I can't tell you how many times the Charger caught me unaware from behind; one moment I was standing my ground and mowing down zombies and the next I was flying through the air. When a teammate yells out a Charger warning your head needs to be on a swivel. Then there are the hazmat zombies. These aren't special zombies; they're just guys who were in hazmat suits when they were infected. The thing is, though, they're immune to fire and incendiary weapons (more on that in a bit).

So you get the idea: Left 4 Dead 2 is going to be tougher. To make things fair, you're going to get new toys to play with. There are going to be new firearms to go along with the old ones; we played with a silenced submachine gun (the silencer has no gameplay affect; it just looks and sounds cool), a new assault rifle that we really liked because it felt tighter and more accurate than the existing one, a new scoped assault rifle that acts like a semiautomatic sniper rifle, and more. These weapons have slightly different characteristics, so it's not just a cosmetic change from the current arsenal.

Next, Valve is introducing melee weapons. We played with an axe and a frying pan, but there's going to be a chainsaw and a baseball bat as well. The idea behind melee weapons is that they can one-hit kill most of the special zombie types, but not the Tank or the Witch. This makes them useful if you're low on ammo or you're in a spot where lots of gunfire spraying around is a bad thing (like that aforementioned parking lot). Finally, there are going to be special items that can give you a temporary boost; in our case we got incendiary rounds that sets zombies aflame when you hit them. The thing is that you only get about 50 incendiary rounds before you run out, and you can't save them for later use. Once you get them, you have to use them.

You'll also play as four new characters. While Chet says that they still have great affection for the original Left 4 Dead four (Zoey, Francis, Louis, and Bill) and that they view them as the series' Gordon and Alyx (the central characters of Valve's Half-Life series), the new setting and campaigns demanded a new set of faces. So there's Nick, the guy in a flashy suit; Ellis, the mechanic; Rochelle, the girl; and Coach, the big guy. Rest assured that their dialogue and commentary is shaping up to be as fun and witty as before, and fans of HBO's The Wire might recognize one of the voices.

When you consider the amount of development time, Left 4 Dead 2 is a pretty impressive achievement. Valve is making a lot of tweaks and changes in such a short amount of time. The fact that there will be five campaigns rather than four is also a big plus, since the one thing almost every Left 4 Dead fan can agree on is that there could always be more campaigns. On a similar note, Chet noted that they were discussing including the original four Left 4 Dead campaigns with Left 4 Dead 2. The thinking is that this would make things easier for consumers. After all, if you and your buddies are playing Left 4 Dead 2 and you all want to play a campaign from the original game, it's an incredibly annoying and disruptive hassle to have everyone quit Left 4 Dead 2 and start Left 4 Dead if you're on a PC, or swap out the Left 4 Dead 2 disc for the Left 4 Dead disc if you're on an Xbox 360. User feedback would probably help sway Valve, so make sure to let the company know what you think. And despite the fact that Left 4 Dead 2 is a reality, Chet said that the company isn't abandoning the first game and that it has plans to support it in the future with new updates, like four-versus-four matchmaking.

We had a lot of fun playing through The Parish campaign; let's just say that there was a lot of screaming and yelling going on as something new hit us. Yet despite all the details we came away with, there are a lot more left to be unearthed. What are the other campaigns? What did Chet mean about Savannah being a city where the infection hasn't hit yet? What are the other special zombies? What are the other weapons and items? What's the new gameplay mode that Valve isn't talking about? Answers are sure to come in the coming months, but until then, we'll wait in eager anticipation for Left 4 Dead 2 on November 17.

Original source: http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/988/988416p1.html

All that good stuff having been laid out, I am left scratching my head- why release all this stuff as an entirely new game when they could have just as easily made it into additional content you can download? While the Survival mode that was recently released was a good addition, I felt as though the 360 owners got gypped. PC gamers have access to custom maps and such, provided you are a great programmer and/or know where to look for maps, but for 360 owners, we just have the basics.

Could you say that I'm cheap? Maybe. I just don't feel that paying another $59.99 for this stuff is necessary when it could have been a $15-$20 download. Just my opinion though.


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