Left 4 Dead 2 Review
By Gaetano Prestia
The following review is broken up into two sections. The first is of the Asian version of Left 4 Dead 2; the uncensored version that is as how the game was intended to be played. The second half is of the Australian and heavily censored version, a game that has been altered (albeit to a level that makes it so bad it’s almost comical) so it could fit within the requirements to receive an MA15+ rating. While one might find it difficult to imagine how excessive gore and blood could make a game less playable, one only has to compare both the overseas and domestic versions of Left 4 Dead 2 to realize that in some circumstances, blood, gore and violence are part of the core gaming experience.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Asian Version
It was difficult to find much wrong with the original Left 4 Dead. Valve made a FPS that was so enjoyable and simple to play that it may very well have knocked off Halo as the most accessible FPS on the market. There are little to no tactics needed to master it and when you factor in the great presentation, fantastic online experience (which is essentially were the core experience lies) and humour, you have one of the best gaming experiences this generation on PC and XBOX 360.
Yet while Left 4 Dead may seem like a perfect FPS, the sequel seems to improve on minor issues (if you can call them that) from the original. Firstly, the weapon list has been increased…dramatically. In the first game, that list was small, yet ammo stockpiles were frequent, meaning you were essentially stuck with the same weapon for a long period of time. While it wasn’t a major downside, when you compare it to the way the weapon system works in Left 4 Dead 2, it’s a noticeable improvement. It makes playing the game that little bit more enjoyable, while also making it slightly more challenging. While the number of weapons has been increase, weapon piles are now mostly restricted to safe houses, forcing you to use your ammo a lot more effectively, as opposed to just pounding bullet after bullet into oncoming hoards of enemies.
There have been quite a few new additions in Left 4 Dead 2, from a whole bunch of new special infected, to some new weapons and special items. Adrenaline shots can replace pain pills and the first aid packs, while the new assortment of melee weapons can replace the infinite ammo pistols that take forever to kill off the more aggressive zombies. With these new additions comes a lot more planning and tactics, as you’re more inclined to take specific weapons based on the area and the other players you’re playing with. While in the first game you would mostly just opt for the same weapons considering the small number available, there’s a lot more to choose from this time round, so it might take you a while to figure out which weapons are best suited to your style of gameplay. You were kind of forced to use specific weapons in Left 4 Dead, but now you’ve got a lot more choice, which is great.
There’s a wider range of rifles, machine guns, explosive weapons and shotguns to help you get through the zombies, as well as the great grenade launcher, which must be used with caution because of its friendly fire. All of the weapon additions help make Left 4 Dead 2 a far more explosive and action-packed game, moving the franchise into FPS-action territory, as opposed to the survival-FPS feeling of the first game.
Left 4 Dead 2 is, like its predecessor, focused on team play. While you can play through it on your own (and the friendly AI does a reasonable job of helping you out), you need the voices and commands of other humans to be able to tackle each area as effectively as possible. The game really forces you to communicate with each other and sometimes it even encourage you to move around as a team as opposed to splitting up and reaching your objective individually. Considering the game changes things up based on how well you’ve traveled up to that point, you can never really know what to expect, even if you’ve played the same level a few times before. If you and your team have breezed through other areas, you’ll notice a lot more zombies being thrown your way. If you’ve struggled, the game will spread things out a little more so you can plan more efficiently. What’s so great about this is that it actually encourages you to play through again. Once you’ve finished the game, you can go through it again and have a completely different experience with a whole new group of people.
There are plenty of improvements right through Left 4 Dead 2 from the original, namely the added weapons, and new and more aggressive zombies, but the game also looks substantially better than its predecessor. It’s also worth mentioning (if you didn’t already know) that Left 4 Dead 2 is gory as hell. Actually, that’s an understatement. Limbs fly all over the place, blood squirts from zombies bombarded with bullets, and guts and organs spill out from large gunshot wounds. Left 4 Dead 2 is undeniably gruesome and gory, yet while the use of such a presentation has caused a stir lately, it really does make the experience more satisfying.
A large portion of the game is played during the daytime, meaning the zombies look and move far more realistically in the great lighting effects. The setting of Louisiana also makes for a world with far more personality than the sometimes dull and generic city from the first game.
The Final Verdict
Just as accessible as the first, with just as much focus on team play as well. More weapons, more blood, more gore and a better overall presentation make Left 4 Dead 2 a better game than the first. While the core experience is still essentially the same, it really does feel like there’s a better flow this time round, with better ammo and weapon placement, as well as more zombies and a better setting.
Easy, fun, quick and aggressive. More weapons and better area settings.
Better looking environments and animations, thanks to more daytime settings.
Really great sound effects, especially from the zombies, and decent voice-acting.
The game changes every time you play considering on your progression, meaning you can be playing this online for months.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Australian Version
The Australian version of Left 4 Dead 2 is, simply put, an abomination. It’s difficult to decide who to point the finger at, because this version of the game is so obviously rushed and graphically inferior to the overseas versions that it’s actually comical. It would be no surprise if Valve intentionally went overboard with the censoring, making a game that is essentially a big “****you!” to the Australian classifications board. It really does look to be one big mockery of the system here, as opposed to a game with a few changes to allow it to be sold here.
The reason why that is so blatantly obvious is because Left 4 Dead 2 has been butchered so heavily that it is actually less bloody, gory and violent than its predecessor, which was released in Australia with blood, gore, and zombies that didn’t magically disappear seconds after you killed them. Surely Valve knew what they got away with the first time, so why butcher it so badly to the point where it’s so obviously below the standard they’ve already met before?
This version of the game just isn’t fun to play. We’ve heard the argument before and it’s a fair point that gore and excessive violence isn’t needed to make a game good. Yet when you have a title that lacks everything that makes the game look as enjoyable as it can be, it defeats the purpose of having it exist in the first place. Because without the gore, blood, limbs, burning zombies and guts flying everywhere, Left 4 Dead 2 is nothing more than a mid-90s-like generic arcade shooter that you use one credit on before you get bored and move onto Daytona USA. It loses all of its intentional humour, charm and enjoyment and most importantly, everything that helped distance itself from other FPS games on the market.
Furthermore, when comparing both the overseas and Australian versions, there’s a distinctive difference in the pacing and suspense when moving through the areas. Because the zombies lack the blood and gore, there isn’t as much of a focus on survival for whatever reason. It just takes away so much of the game’s appeal, because suddenly the zombies are nothing more than pixilated ghosts that disappear after you kill them. There’s no real thrill in killing them, so therefore a lot of the game’s challenge and enjoyment gets thrown right out of the window.
This is all a massive shame, because there is still a fun experience to be had. If you’re not willing to import an overseas and unedited version of Left 4 Dead 2, you may be able to find enjoyment in the Australian version if you can look beyond the insulting presentation.
The Final Verdict
Much of the gameplay is the same as the overseas version, but it’s no surprise how much of a damning effect the heavily censored presentation has on the experience. There’s no sense of horror or suspense when the zombies are attacking, because there’s no realism in their expressions. When you take out everything that is missing, you have a simple FPS and nothing more. When you put all of those things back in, you have a fun game with a comical level of gore and blood that actually make the levels feel more alive and tense.
The heavy censoring really does have an effect on the experience. While much of it is still there, gore and blood are more part of the core gameplay experience than you’d think.
Still has some nice environments and lighting effects, but some horrendous glitches, disappearing zombies and no memorable effects brings the game down.
Really great sound effects, especially from the zombies, and decent voice-acting.
If you look beyond the presentation and the effect it has on the experience, there’s just as much value as the overseas version.