I’ve had time to play the entire game in Campaign mode, and now it’s time for me to offer my thoughts in a two part article. And now, The Best of Left 4 Dead 2.
Clowns are creepy. And in this game, they are creepier. The ominous squeaks of the clowns in the darkness of the carnival grounds only get creepier. And not only that, they actually serve a game play purpose. The squeaking attracts lingering infected, bringing more to your location. This fun mechanic, combined with the populations distrust of clowns are what help make this UCC fun.
Runner Up: Mudmen
The Mudmen of Swamp Fever are the runners up here. The knee high water in many areas are perfect for concealing Mudmen, and scared Brad and I several times while we played through the campaign. The too have a game play purpose, similar to a boomer. When they hit you, mud blocks your vision and takes a few seconds to fade. While this won’t bother most players, it gets a bit intense when you’re surrounded by a horde with several of these guys attacking you, making the mud appear constantly, and almost never fade. Combined with the fact that they run fast and down low, you are at higher chances of missing them, which makes them all the more fun and atmospheric.
Disappointment: Worker Infected
Hard Rain’s UCC were a bit disappointing. Hell, if I hadn’t followed the game, I would have never have realized they were special at all. In fact, they blend in with the infected population quiet well, making them just seem skinned for the chapter. They aren’t to deadly either. If you throw a pipe, these guys will ignore it, but at the most, 2 or 3 will come running at you after you do. It’s not a big deal, so it doesn’t play into the atmosphere much.
Best: Swamp Fever
Swamp Fever holds a special place in my heart. While the campaign itself suffers from Blood Harvest Syndrome (to many of the levels feel similar and not unique, same as the Parish), the atmosphere in the level is great. From the improved water effects, fog and trees, and even the sun in the Finale map, this whole campaign feels very real. Valve really outdid themselves with the creepiness the atmosphere gives, and boy does it help game play. I often turned around several times while playing just to make sure nothing was coming up behind me, because I was so paranoid.
Runner Up: Hard Rain
Hard Rain would have easily come in first place except for the fact it doesn’t start raining hard enough to make it atmospheric until the later maps. And when it does, boy you’re in for a ride. The water that slows you down forces you to stay up high, and makes you dread the smokers or jockeys that will try to pull you down into it. Just wished the first few levels would have had a bit more visual pow, if you know what I’m saying.
Disappointment: Dead Center
Dead Center wins the prize of most disappointing atmosphere. The first level sets a great tone, as does the finale, but the middle maps are so lacking in atmosphere, it feels like you’re playing through a custom campaign. The outside of the mall has tents…that’s about it. And the inside is worse. Perhaps Valve could have placed a bit more back story of the retreat of CEDA into this campaign, but without it, it simply falls on its atmosphere-less face.
Best: Dark Carnival’s “The Fairgrounds”
The Fairgrounds is marked as the best Level simply because it’s a blast to play through. With all the eye candy, zombies, kiddie land, fun slide, and even Merry Go Round, what’s not to love? The immersivness is brought to a whole new level here, only rivaled by a few Swamp Fever sections and the later part of Hard Rain. Overall, the level is fun without being to long (or at least playing that way), with enough eye candy to satisfy and immerse you.
Runner Up: Hard Rain’s “Mill Escape”
The Mill Escape came in as a close second for a few reasons. We all love the rain effects in Hard Rain, but the layout of this map can become confusing, especially when you get a random panic event storm. 3 of the team died on this map because of us being in red health an not being able to jump up over certain tankers to continue our unhindered route over the water. However, the brilliant level design and the fact that Hard Rain is such an awesome campaign save it from becoming a tedious chapter. We all made it to the saferoom (thanks to 3 defib units we carried) in red, and with one of us black and white. It was a close call, but it was still a very fun experience.
Disappointment: Dead Center’s “The Mall”
Time to bring out the hate once more for Dead Center. This map was supposed to be the epitome of awesome. We already had Dead Before Dawn, but that turned out a bit to puzzle-searchy for some. What I wanted was a no holds bar, clean zombie killing fun in a Mall level with typical Valve polish. We got that, sort-off. If you consider a mall to be boarded up and full of escalator mazes and back maintenance hallways fun, then you’re in for a treat. As for me, I found the level boring and repetitive with no landmarks or way of being remembered.
Best: Swamp Fever’s “Plane”
The Plane crescendo was one of the most fun times I had playing this game. Located half-way through the Swamp Fever level aptly named “The Swamp”, it looked great and played even more brilliantly. Being a standard L4D crescendo, it looked un-imposing at first. After the visual shock of seeing a plane crash in the middle of a swamp wore off, we realized we had to open the emergency door to continue. Which of course would alert the horde. Normally, stand and destroy the horde turns out to be a pretty boring tactic, but with the addition of the Spitter and Charger, plus the fact that the wing you can stand on is elevated, made this a tough challenge. We could hole up inside the wrecked airplane, but risk Boomers, friendly fire, and Spitter acid, or we could be outside on the wing, which would then expose us to Chargers, Smokers, and the occasional Jockey. This event plays amazingly with a grenade launcher, and through the whole event, the entire group had a great time. I’m not so sure what made it so enjoyable, but the way it was designed made it play out extremely well.
Runner Up: Swamp Fever’s “Ferry”
The Ferry crescendo, also in Swamp Fever, was pretty close to being number one. First of all, the atmosphere of the situation was perfect. We are on dry land, on the edge of a small holed up village, and have to activate a cable toed ferry from the opposite side a deep river. Perhaps it was the fact that the house was to easy to camp, or maybe that with Chargers and Jockeys you could easily fall into the river causing a cheep death, that made this second place. While the concept was fun and inventive, it didn’t play or look as great as the Plane crescendo.
Disappointment: Swamp Fever’s “Plank”
Once AGAIN taking place in Swamp Fever, the Plank in the map “The Shanty Town” was a bit boring. Lower a plank felt a bit to uncreative, considering all the awesome events and crescendos in this game. After starting the event, Brad even made a comment along the lines of “Why does this plank take so long to fall down? GRAVITY IS ON YOUR SIDE PLANK!”. While it was funny, he did make a good point. It was just made to extend an easy crescendo, especially since the saferoom is within reach on the other side.
What do you think is the best Level? Worst? Let us know your opinions on the article and your picks for the Best Of in the comments.
Posted by Contributor Dan.