Left 4 Dead 2 PC Review

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It's not every day you wake up and the world has been infested with infected flesh eating zombies hell bent on having you for breakfast, literally. What happens when these infected hordes meet a group of four survivors from the Deep South? You better believe there's going to be blood, guts, and guns. This and many other clichés will be available to you in Valve's post-apocalyptic zombie shooter Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2).

Almost a year ago, Valve released Left 4 Dead (L4D) with a new A.I. that allowed players to experience a different type of game each time they played. Players never knew when or where the infected horde might show up and force them and their allies into a showdown. All of that has returned with the game’s sequel, L4D2. With new infected creatures, a new melee combat system, and a wider variety of infected models, L4D2 offers all that L4D did plus a little more.

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Valve has never been one to rush a game, so the roughly one year turn around on the release of L4D2 is a bit of a surprise when you compare it to the slow releases of some of their other games like the Half Life 2 episode saga. Many people were concerned Valve couldn’t make a quality game in this timeframe, but L4D2 didn’t disappoint.


L4D2 is rated M for Mature (17+). This time around the game is a bit gorier, including decapitations and other dismemberments. You can even knock the brain out of an infected if you hit them just right. Along with the gore there is also some graphic language.

Rating: Mature (17+)

  • Blood and Gore
  • Intense Violence
  • Language

Gameplay - 87 / 100

The first L4D introduced a fun new A.I., and this was the main attraction of the game, but the new star of L4D2 is undoubtedly the new melee combat system. This system marries melee combat such as that found in Dead Rising to the L4D2 gameplay. Like Dead Rising, the L4D2 melee combat system will allow you to use a number of melee weapons to cleave, brain, and brutalize zombies in a number of creative and sometimes comical ways. The system adds a number of different melee weapons that weren’t in the first game such as a baseball bat, frying pan, a katana sword, the very fun chainsaw, and many others. It can get quite messy at times, but that’s what makes it so fun. Melee combat opens up a whole new way to play and is really the biggest change since the first game as in L4D your melee skills were limited to simply knocking the zombies back.

As I just mentioned, Valve added a lot of other new weapons and items to L4D2, no doubt a result of player displeasure with the small amount in the first game. Let’s take a look at some more options. There are a number of new firearms that can be upgraded with laser sights, as well as various types of ammo. There are also new throwing objects like the Bile Bomb, a bomb made up of the bile from a Boomer, which is a creature who spits bile that attracts infected hordes. This item comes in handy against stronger enemies as you can turn the undead against them. While not a weapon, you can also get your hands on defibrillator paddles, which come in pretty handy for bringing a fallen ally back to life. (WTB Rez?)

This time around the game takes place in the southeast United States and the new bunch of characters are a bit more lively and talkative than their predecessors. The funniest, at least to me, is Ellis, a good ol’ boy who can make some rather comical comments throughout your campaign. But each character has their own personality and will add dialogue at various moments throughout the game.
The new campaign mode offers five new and unique campaign missions with Dead Center, Dark Carnival, Hard Rain, The Parish, and Swamp Fever. Each one features between 4-5 maps ranging from escaping the dark carnival to trying to make your way to safety amidst heavy storms in Hard Rain. Hard Rain is my favorite as the A.I is capable of controlling a new weather system, so not only do you have infected to deal with, but you also have the possibility of fierce wind and driving rain as well as decreased vision.

Each campaign offers a unique experience and setting. In Dead Center, the first campaign, you will find yourself escaping a hospital and eventually the old cliché of classic zombie movies, a mall, but with other campaign settings you’ll find yourself in a carnival fighting zombies on a roller coaster and you’ll even eventually find your way down to New Orleans.
There is a bigger emphasis on teamwork in L4D2 as you’ll need to communicate and work with your team if you want to survive. The crescendo events (certain events in-game that you must complete to advance) work a bit differently than they did in the first game. In the original L4D, these events usually played out with a couple of hordes rushing the players and once they were dead (barring the end of campaign events), the players were free to move on, but in L4D2, these events may require you to complete a task, or shut off an alarm, all while the infected are coming at you virtually non-stop. In one instance I had to get a barricaded man some Cola to move on, but to do so I had to trigger an alarm that kept me under constant siege from the undead while I tried to get it back to him. Moments like these are pretty tense and require good team work to make it through quickly.
While L4D2 comes with the option to play the campaign solo, it’s best done with a group; L4D2 was made for group play and that’s how it’s best enjoyed. You can gather players in a game room lobby before you set out on your adventure, much like putting a party together for an MMOG dungeon run. However, if you’re set on doing the campaign alone, the A.I. is good to play with and they do a decent job at following your lead, but like the last L4D, the A.I. doesn’t care too much for picking up and using pipe bombs, Molotov’s, or other useful items you need against the infected hordes. They’ll still use melee weapons and guns, but their inability to use the aforementioned items is one huge disadvantage they have that playing with a real team doesn’t. While the new A.I. allies do a decent job following you around, they can still get tripped up at times and this can be problematic if one or more of your party get into trouble.
New infected creatures make an appearance to add to the challenge of both single and multiplayer mode. The Spitter spews a toxic fluid on the ground dealing area of affect damage and can incapacitate a survivor pretty quickly if they are foolish enough to keep standing in the green goo. The Jockey can pounce on the head of a survivor and steer them away from their group and into all kinds of trouble. These guys are pretty weak, but if they catch a survivor alone, that’s where they shine. Lastly, the Charger (my personal favorite) is a larger creature, almost like a mini-tank, with a huge arm. He’s capable of charging into a survivor and carrying him away from the group. The captured survivor is then pounded into the ground by the creature’s huge arm. These new infected offer a lot of challenge and are really fun to play in versus mode. The classic infected return as well with the Hunter, Boomer, Tank, and Smoker.

My biggest disappointment with the original L4D was the fact that there was no real storyline and the gameplay was set up to follow a straight setting which played out almost like a B-movie. While L4D2 has a bit more story connecting the campaigns and building more personality for its characters, it still plays out much like the original. There is no real story arc and each campaign plays out the same as its predecessor where you make your way through each map until your eventual escape. For what it is, a cooperative action zombie shooter, L4D2 is pretty good, just don’t expect any intricate story arcs.
The only other major issue I have is the fact that there are a couple of bugs in the game at the moment that can cause it to crash without warning. Valve is aware of this problem according to their forums, but it still can be quite a nuisance. I have experienced this in the game, but it only seems to occur when I play solo and slay a witch. I never ran into this in multiplayer mode, so with any luck this will be patched soon. How this one snuck past QA is anyone's guess.

Graphics - 90 / 100

The graphics got a bit of an improvement this time around and even the infected models got a few updates. While Valve’s Source engine is aging a bit, it still provides great looking visuals. There are several new basic infected types such as regular civilians, those wearing hazmat suits, construction workers, clowns, and more. The environments are impressively designed, especially the Hard Rain campaign which essentially throws you into a vicious storm halfway through it.

While the regular infected do have varying designs and the super infected each have an individual look, most still suffer from the same shade of gray look the last game had. There’s little variety in the color of each infected, so you won’t see bits of flesh or blood hanging off their faces. You can, however, spill their innards on the sidewalk, so that has to count for something.

Sound - 95 / 100

The sound from the game has a fair variety and each weapon sounds distinctive. During certain events in the game, the music adds to the already tense atmosphere. Voice work for the four survivors provide a nice layer of back-story at times and, in some cases, present rather comical moments in less tense situations.

Multiplayer - 87 / 100

L4D2 comes with several online play options. You have the option of choosing from five different multiplayer game types. The options include the multiplayer campaign, realism, versus, survival, and scavenge. Each mode is designed for multiple players and some are designed for a PvP-style experience. You can also choose to play from local or dedicated servers. The online play can be laggy at times and I experienced a noticeable lag problem in some of my games. Fortunately, most of my games were fairly stable aside from these few experiences, but it was enough to notice a few performance tweaks might be in order.

Campaign mode is the standard L4D campaign, but with multiple players. You can choose which campaign you wish to play through and work together to make it through alive. Unlike the Xbox 360 version, the PC version includes not only voice chat, but the option to converse through text as well. However, text is a bit slower and can be hard to manage when hordes of infected are trying to kill you.

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Realism mode is like the campaign, but made a lot more difficult by removing the small comforts such as the halo glow of your allies. This makes communication and sticking together essential as you can’t tell where a team member is if they wonder too far from the group. It becomes even more problematic if one of your allies is dragged off by a Smoker or yanked by a Jockey. You also lose the item identifier that points out where items and weapons are when you get close to them, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open. This mode is best suited to a team that functions well together. If you don’t have such a team, you may want to avoid realism mode as it can become frustrating and will usually end in disaster.

Versus mode allows you to compete against another team of players (4 vs 4) in alternating rounds. This is where a lot of the fun lies once you’ve worn out the standard campaign. Unlike the first L4D, you can choose from any of the campaigns to compete in right from the get go. Once you have chosen a campaign, you’ll take turns playing as the survivors and then the infected. As the survivors, your goal is to make it through the campaign missions further than your opponents. As the infected, your goal is to eliminate the survivors with extreme prejudice.

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With the new infected there are many possibilities for coordinated attacks. One of my favorite involved having the Boomer spray the survivors and then the jockey pounce on one of their heads, steering that survivor away from the group, followed by the Spitter laying her toxic goo at the feet of the blinded foes. Now, that’s some fun team work. At the end of each session, a point tally will be entered to show which team is in the lead. The closest game I have had was decided by a mere 1 point. If it’s fast paced PvP action you’re looking for, this is the mode you want.

Survival mode is a feature that was an add-on to the original L4D, but it is included with L4D2. This is basically a last stand type of game where you and three friends try to last as long as you can against a relentless assault of infected. This mode has plenty of weapons throughout the map and you’ll need all that you can find to deal with the onslaught that ensues. This is actually my favorite mode next to versus. The only disappointing thing about this mode is that it’s limited to certain maps in the campaign, but if you’re looking for some fast paced cooperative action this is the mode you want.

Scavenge mode is another version of the versus mode, but in this scenario when you play as the survivors, your goal is to gather fuel for something and try to fill it up while the infected on the opposing team do everything they can to stop you. At the end of the round you’ll switch roles and then you’re the one trying to kill the survivors. Out of all the modes, I found this one the least satisfying. If you want PvP, the versus mode is the way to go and you’ll understand why after you play this one a couple of times. To be frank, this mode just wasn’t that fun.

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The multiplayer experience is hands down what makes this game. It was designed with the groups in mind and that’s where you will find the most enjoyment. While the developers tried to add additional flavor to the multiplayer game with new modes, the thing I think will keep it fun are the versus and survival modes once the campaign is completed. Realism mode will offer hard core players a great challenge as it requires efficient team work, but the versus mode is what will keep competitive players playing.

Value - 90 / 100

If you enjoyed L4D you will find a game you like in L4D2. The new elements combine aspects of other zombie games like Dead Rising into the L4D2 gameplay. The new melee system is very much like the melee in Dead Rising and is every bit as enjoyable.

The multiplayer experience is a lot of fun and will keep fans of the genre coming back with competitive play in a number of different ways. Despite the well programmed A.I. that was introduced with the first game, the new campaign modes will eventually grow old, but the multiplayer options provided will give players plenty of ways to amuse themselves for some time to come.

Lasting Appeal - 87 / 100

If you enjoy multiplayer games and zombies, L4D2 will keep you entertained for quite some time. Though the game isn’t really aimed at providing a lasting solo player experience, the multiplayer modes offer plenty of ways to keep you entertained. With the A.I. system you never really know how a game will play out and this keeps things interesting in both the PvE and PvP modes.

Pros and Cons


  • Creative campaign maps.
  • All maps are available for versus mode from the beginning.
  • New melee system is fun and creative.
  • A.I. still provides a lot of fun and challenges.
  • Many more weapons this time around.
  • Graphics and models look much better.


  • Aside from the melee system and additional special infected there’s not a lot new in the game.
  • There are still a couple of crash bugs that need to be squashed.
  • Online performance can be choppy at times.
  • The game is primarily built for group play without a solid single player story mode.


Whether or not Valve’s latest creation is for you or not depends on how well you enjoy multiplayer gaming. If you expect a solid single player experience you will be sorely disappointed, but if you enjoy working with others to achieve a goal and survive a zombie apocalypse, L4D2 may be right up your alley. If you were a big fan of L4D, the sequel will not disappoint. L4D2 is everything L4D was, but with a bit more polish, a few more options, and a fun new melee system. That said, the game isn't without its issues as it still has a couple of crash bugs that need to be squashed and it doesn’t offer much that its predecessor didn’t, so if you found the last game was not for you, chances are you won’t enjoy this one. But if you like the tense action provided by L4D and the inspired team work setting, this game may be just what you’re looking for.

Overall 88/100 - Great


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About The Author

Stacy "Martuk" Jones was a long-time news editor and community manager for many of our previous game sites, such as Age of Conan. Stacy has since moved on to become a masked super hero, battling demons in another dimension.

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