So yesterday the Left 4 Dead 2 demo came out and I played it. Then I played it again. Then once more. Then today I played it twice.
When Left 4 Dead 2 was first announced, and the slow trickle of media caught my attention four things came to my mind straight away:
Q1) The Locations... sunny? It's during the day? How's that going to work with the classic "B-Movie Darkness and Rain" perfected within the first one? Where as a player, you never truly knew what really was lurking in the shadows...
Q2) The Characters are boring.... The original charm of the original four has gone! Bill, Zoey, Francis and Louis were so well rounded, so perfect in their design that they were possibly one of the most defining features of the game!
Q3) The new special infected are stupid, over the top and just plain dumb. A "Jockey"? A "Spitter"? A.... Wandering Witch?
Q4) The music! The original had music so thrilling, so chilling, so inspired that you really can't imagine how the game would function without it! But this new one... the music seemed as cold and as dead as the flesh eating creatures it set out to make terrifying. If the music was so dramatically different, then how is it going to alert the player of an incoming horde or a special infected?
There is one simple answer to all these questions. Left 4 Dead 2 is a clever little bitch. Now for the long answers.
A1) The locations are sunny and perhaps too different for some, but something becomes clear once you start playing. It's disorientating, it's cramped, it's claustrophobic... then it's wide open spaces, they're everywhere and there's no where to corner camp. It's actually very clever in it's design, and personally? Well it was the right direction to take. The two are so different, there's no denying that each one has it's own strengths to terrify you.
A2) Like the original four, these plucky survivers match they're surroundings. From what I've played, the light hearted banter returns, the INTENSE level of characterisation is also present, with every character oozing with personality. I may not love them as much as I did with the original four, and I know I never will, but they have enough pluck to keep them interesting.
A3) I hate the Jockey. I imagine in versus mode he's brilliant, but not in Single Player. He runs along giggling... it's silly. The Spitters good though, and the wandering witch is brilliant adding a brand new dynamic to the gameplay. Some nice little touches on the original special infected are the female boomer and the bald tank.
A4) The music on Left 4 Dead 2 is amazing. Valve have very cleverly kept it identical to the first but added a southern flair to all of the tracks, whether it be the banjo theme tune, the electric guitar finale music or the quite frankly brilliant safe house tune. It's a very interesting technique, because veteran players not only get a kick out of hearing the same music with a southern twist but they also still recognise what special infected are coming or what section they're on etc. Same for new players who will go back to Left 4 Dead 1. They'll instantly be able to go "Oh, ok then, so there's defiantly a boomer coming now...." without ever having seen it before.
Final note? I like it. A lot. Not as much as the original but I already have a special little spot for it. Valve? Well done. I'm sorry for ever doubting you.
However answer this. HOW COME YOU CAN MAKE THIS IN A YEAR, BUT WE'RE STILL WAITING FOR HALF LIFE 2 - EPISODE THREE? HUH? HUH?