One of the biggest surprises this E3 was the announcement of the second Left 4 Dead game. Considering the first one has not even celebrated its first birthday, this came as quite a surprise to the gaming community and even gathered a large applause at Microsoft's keynote address. While some people hate the idea of the second game in the four player co-operative shooter so soon, it certainly is a lot of fun to play and adds a lot to the first game that was missing.
The first thing that's noticeably different about L4D2 is the colour. We are all familiar with the dark and dreary L4D, but the second game is taking place in New Orleans and in ... daylight (at least in the demo). Everything is very vibrant and doesn't really hold the same feel as the first game, which is why some people are up in a huff. While I can agree that some of the greatness of L4D was how dreary and desolate everything was, it's actually more unnerving to be fighting colourful and sunlit zombies. The detail of the environments remains top-notch as well as with the characters and zombies. Playing through two maps of L4D2 felt much more open than the first game which is a great way to a) find new routes to the safe house and b) get horribly separated from your team if you are not paying attention.
Four new characters are introduced in L4D2; Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle. I know we have all come to know and love Bill, Francis, Louis and Zoey, but I think we really need to give these four folks a chance. The voice acting is great once again and they still hate it when you accidentally shoot them in the back (oops). There also appears to be more variety in the looks of zombies, including my new favourite, the hazmat zombie. This isn't a special infected; it is a regular zombie in a hazmat suit, which I find hilarious.
There is a new Special known as the Charger. The Charger is a massively mutated zombie with a giant arm that will charge into the fray at full tilt and slam into your team, knocking you over. If it gets a hold of you, it will slam you into the ground repeatedly until a teammate can come to your rescue. I like to think of the Charger as a combination of the Hunter and Tank as it immobilizes you as the hunter does and takes more damage like the Tank (but definitely not as much). A terrifying new addition is a change to the Witch's behaviour. The Witch apparently likes to wander around while there is daylight and it's easy to not see her in a crowd and get you and your team into a lot of trouble.
Left 4 Dead 2 also comes with new ammunition and weapons. The incendiary ammunition can be used to thin crowds of zombies much like a Molotov cocktail can. Burning zombies will knock into others and set them on fire as well. Load up your weapon with some of these bullets and watch the zombies burn! Next are new guns. The best update is the new sniper rifle, which is actually a scoped semi-automatic rifle. This allows for faster sniping as there is no longer single-bolt action. The weapons also handle slightly different than in the first game and I feel for the better.
Finally, there are the melee weapons. These weapons can be found throughout the game and included frying pans and axes in the demo. From the trailer we know there will also be chainsaws in the final game. These melee weapons can be picked up and held onto until you switch to a different weapon, much like in the first game with carrying a propane tank, for example. These weapons are designed to be able to take out special infected with a single hit with the exception of the Witch and Tank.
The game will be shipping with five campaigns instead of four, which is great as more campaigns are definitely a good thing. Unlike the first game where the campaigns were separate from each other, these five will be part of a larger narrative with a solid beginning and end of your trek. What is also a nice change from Left 4 Dead is a change in the events of zombies piling in to attack you. There's no more holing up in a corner until it's all over; now once you trigger an alarm, you must fight your way through the hordes to reach another point where the alarm can be turned off and the zombies will then stop filing in to devour you.
There are still a lot of features of the game left unannounced and more details can be expected to be released from Valve as the game moves closer to its release date of November 17th. Fans of the first game, while currently a little shell-shocked, will not be disappointed with Left 4 Dead 2 as it feels as though a much more polished game and promises to be a lot of fun.