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Left 4 Dead 2 First Preview From E3 2009

G4Sterling
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Posted June 3, 2009 - By G4Sterling



  

'Left 4 Dead 2' Trailer from Microsoft's E3 2009 Press Con »


It hasn't even been a year, but Valve is already mapping out a sequel to last year's multiplayer smash hit, Left 4 Dead. The developer's keen sense for online play made the game one of 2008's biggest hits. With Left 4 Dead 2, we're getting what looks like a well-honed sequel. I dove into a 10-minute session with "The Parish," a stage set in what appears to be an undead-infested New Orleans. Given the city's recent history, there's an eerie ambience to the setting. During Microsoft's press conference this week, we were introduced to Coach, one of the four survivors you'll play as. For today's 10-minute demo, I stepped into the role of Ellis, a mechanic armed with a gun and the will to survive.

I asked Valve the question that many gamers likely want to discover: why so soon? It seems that the developer has plenty of big ideas for this new game and wanted to iterate them quickly. I noticed some of them were new enemies such as the Charger, an XL zombie that knocks you and your teammates flat on your backs, then attempts to bury you in the ground with its fists. Could it have been DLC? It’s hard to tell. Considering that the first game was in development well before the developer acquired Turtle Rock, one has to wonder just how different the sequel can be under the watchful eye of Valve.

I’d like to think that each segment of Left 4 Dead 2 will seem less like an episode and more like a full-length horror film, but for now, I’ll settle for the tidbit that I saw during the show. There are four characters, including Coach, Ellis, Rochelle (a young news intern), and Nick, the white-suited gentleman you see at the end of the game’s debut trailer. Producer Chet Faliszek mentioned that the action will move across the South from New Orleans to Savannah, Georgia. Hopefully, there will be some cohesiveness to these characters’ journeys.

After all, they’ll need to stick together to survive. That’s what I tried to do during today’s hands-on session in “The Parish.” The two big updates that I noticed most were the addition of stronger melee weapons (I picked up a fire axe to replace my trusty shotgun), and an even wilier Director. Although I didn’t see it at work, it seems that the Director can now toy with new elements, such as weather and paths, in order to throw you and your mates off your game. I certainly noticed the numbers, though. Left 4 Dead threw hordes of undead at you. Left 4 Dead 2 seems to throw legions of them.

Perhaps the greatest testament to Valve’s intricate design came during my demise. Amidst the beautiful foliage and unique architecture of New Orleans lay a well-designed deathtrap. We stumbled into a public park with a labyrinthian garden. You can probably see where this story is going. At the center of this evergreen maze lay a gazebo. And 15 zombies. And a Boomer. And…my teammate’s aim was off, so I got puked on. Again, you can probably see where this is going. Yet, during this moment of despair and four-letter words, I still took the time to scribble a design of the garden. It’s a trademark Valve technique. This is a publisher who crafts games designed around bottlenecks and idealized combat zones. Don’t believe me? Think about your average Team Fortress 2 map. If the other four maps play as well as this one, we're really in for a treat later this year. If you consider zombie vomit a treat.

Even if I didn’t actually complete “The Parish” during my E3 demo, I’m quite sold on Left 4 Dead 2. It’s easy (almost too easy) to cynically dismiss the game as a cash grab, especially considering Valve’s record for releasing games on its own cycle, not an annual one. That said, the first game’s plot mostly seemed driven by the people playing it, not by anything coming from the game itself. Hopefully, this new sequel will give us the sort of plot that we’ve come to expect from the likes of the Half-Life series. Fingers (minus a thumb) crossed.

 

Left 4 Dead 2 First Preview From E3 2009
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