A playable pre-release demo of Left 4 Dead 2 was available at the Xbox 360 Gaming Showdown, and I was fortunate enough to get a full hands-on playthrough of the game. The demo consists of two maps from the first campaign, called “The Parish”.
Immediately at the initial starting point, one of the new melee-exclusive weapons, a crowbar, was available. However, the stupid AI Coach picked it up. It didn’t take long for me to come across another melee weapon — the police baton, dropped by the new SWAT zombie.
The SWAT guy was one tough bastard to kill, being completely impervious to bullets, including headshots. It took me about one dozen melee punches before he finally went down. Later, I would discover that his body armor was vulnerable from the rear — you could still kill him with guns, but you need to run around and shoot him from the back.
Here is a quick summary of the other new weapons and items available in the demo:
- Frying pan – swings slower than the police baton, but appears to have a much wider horizontal arc for hitting zombies near the side of the screen.
- Machete/parang – almost similar to the police baton in terms of attack speed, but with the added effect of chopping off your victim’s limbs.
- Guitar – unleash your inner Brutal Legend! Quite possibly the most entertaining melee weapon, every successful hit you land results in a satisfying “twang”.
- Adrenaline – an alternative to pain pills, adrenaline increases your running speed and also increases your attack speed while using melee weapons.
- Desert Eagle – an alternative variant to the 15-clip Beretta pistol, the Desert Eagle holds eight bullets and deals significantly higher damage. There wasn’t a second Desert Eagle available in the demo, but I can imagine the potential destruction a skilled player could dish out with dual Desert Eagles.
- Silenced Uzi – a variant of the normal Uzi, appears to be slightly more accurate than the standard Uzi at longer ranges.
- H&K PSG Sniper Rifle – the new PSG replaces the Hunting Rifle, and comes with a doubled clip size — 30 bullets.
- Boomer Bile Bomb – a very interesting grenade. Functions in a similar manner to the pipebomb, attracting zombies to the area where the bomb detonated. The bile effect lasts much longer than the pipebomb’s timer. Additionally, the attracted zombies will start attacking each other for the duration of the bile effect, mistaking their fellow undead as human targets.
The Boomer Bile Bomb could possibly be the grenade of choice for clearing out hordes of zombies, with the pipebomb now being used exclusively to counter Boomer panic rushes.
One thing I learned from the demo, is that your AI teammates are still as stupid as hell. I encountered the new Wandering Witch, and decided to toss a molotov at her. Incredibly, none of AI Survivors opened fire at the Witch while she was startling towards me. They decided to start shooting only after I was incapacitated by the Witch. Gee, thanks.
Similarly, I was incapacitated by a Tank later in the second map. Coach somehow decided it was the right time to rescue me when Nick was also lying on the ground — with the Tank still alive and chasing Ellis who was one more hit away from going down. Luckily, this was Normal difficulty and the Tank was already dying by then.
While rescuing Nick, a Spitter suddenly appeared and hurled her acidic spit at the area where Nick was lying. Nick’s incapacitation hitpoints dropped from 250 to 150 after about five seconds of exposure to the spit. Oh my gosh. This could have interesting ramifications for Versus play, with the Spitter playing a crucial role in stopping rescues.
The demo concluded with a gauntlet, Valve’s new term to describe moving Crescendo events. Upon entering a constuction site area, the Crescendo’s horde rush was triggered. The only way to end the rush was to climb up a scaffolding and deactivate an alarm. The importance of the new melee weapons was made quite clear to me — with so little time to reload in a gauntlet, and with melee fatigue (for the right-click punch attack) now present in the campaign mode, having a melee weapon with you could be a potential lifesaver.
Overall, a very short but sweet preview. It’s hard to judge the full quality of the game from only two maps. But I could detect the same level of polish, refinement, and carefully constructed gameplay by Valve in L4D2, just like in L4D1.
Is L4D2 a justified sequel? Only time will tell, but I am liking what I’ve seen and played so far.
The two maps I played at XGS ’09 will most likely the same maps that are available in the L4D2 Steam demo.