I just finished sitting down with the demo for Left 4 Dead 2 and I have to say that I’m not terribly impressed.
Unabashedly, I’m a huge Valve supporter. I have every single game they’ve ever made and enjoyed all of them. I hold Valve and their game franchises in the highest regards. That’s why it’s so hard for me to dog on L4D2, but I almost feel like I have to.
My biggest complaint with L4D1 was that it was too short. Valve has always adhered to the “less is more” and “quality over quantity” theories of design, which is something I can appreciate. However, L4D1 was so short that I hardly felt that it had justified it’s full retail price tag. I played it over and over again with friends and inside of a month we had grown tired of it’s 4 measly campaigns. Yes, technically there are multiple levels per campaign but when the entire campaign can be finished in under 3o minutes, they barely even count as levels.
I have to admit that when I heard they were making L4D2, I wasn’t surprised that people were upset. The first game was so short, people had figured they’d continue it by ending levels down the line. While they’ve promised to do so, I don’t think even if they had one or two more entire campaigns to it, it’ll really be considered a full game even then. L4D2 will apparently follow in a similar fashion, with just a couple campaigns when it ships.
I’m sorry, but there just isn’t enough meat on the bone to get me to bite this time. Four more campaigns would bring the franchise to 9 total (4+1 original and 4 new). With a retail of $60 a piece, that’s 9 levels for $120. I’m sorry Valve, I love ya, but I just don’t see the value.
This compounds when you actual play the demo. The levels seem small, the textures and colors seems washed out, and the gameplay is identical even despite what Valve is trying to spin as large improvements. Yes, the zombies now take localized damage (legs, arms, head, can all be shot separately), but when you’re blasting away with a shotgun, it really doesn’t matter. I’m hitting legs, arms and head all at the same time. The zombie levels in CoD:World at War offered better locational damage. They also added melee weapons. While the sound of hitting a zombie in the head with a frying pan is humorous, it hardly take the place of a pistol with unlimited ammo, so picking one up is hardly a good move offensive power wise. They “added” weapons, sorta. They added models of weapons, but kept the basic selection the same. There’s now a pump-action shot gun, a nice chrome hunting shotgun and an assault shotgun. Guess what? They’re all still shotguns. You still are making a choice between shotgun or uzi, they just have a couple extra flavors.
So, they hardly changed the game mechanic, the outside daylight levels are boring and washed out and it’ll still be a short limited depth game. What exactly is the upside here? Oh, that’s right, it’s made by Valve, so it’s polished and almost perfectly executed, which is true. It’s as solid and as fun a shooter as you’ll ever find. It’s settings are awesome (Savannah, as a level, epic), it’s design is awesome, it’s characters are funny, all that good stuff. It just all comes back around to simple economics. A game with four levels compared to a game with twenty levels, for the same price, is hardly a comparison at all. It’s really a “one steak or a hundred hamburger” type of consumer decision. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’ve certainly had my “I need a good steak” moments, but that’s what this is going to come down to.
As much as a love zombies, and as much as a love Valve, I just can’t make this one make sense. Unless I see some gameplay videos or some sort of mutliplayer aspect that just blows me away, I’m afraid that L4D2 is just going to have to go into the “wait for a sale” category before I bother picking it up. Hell, even Bungie realized with ODST that it couldn’t sell a 2 hour game for $60 so they threw in a new multiplayer mode and a whole second disk of Halo 3 bonus stuff. Come on Valve, prove me wrong. Show me that this is worth $60. Oh, and while you’re at it, where the hell is Half-Life 3? You’re obviously not busy making zombie levels, so let’s get to it fellas. Chop chop.