(PC, Xbox 360)
Zombies! Again! From the shambling corpses of Dead Rising to the sprinting, irradiated terrors in Fallout 3, the undead must be second only to Nazis in terms of sheer number of videogame appearances. But despite their ubiquity, only 2008’s Left 4 Dead has managed to capture the survivors-versus-zombies magic of George Romero’s seminal movie Night of the Living Dead. Whittling it right down to a pure survival horror core, the original game featured four survivors (human or computer controlled) pitted against hordes of fast-running zombies. Only by working together – covering each other’s backs, sharing resources and the like – could they manage to survive.
So what does Left 4 Dead 2 bring to the table? Well, not a great deal. Aside from the new playable characters – a purely cosmetic change – there are melee weapons, some new ‘special infected’ (zombies with abilities, such as the jockey, which ‘rides’ players into swarms of baddies) and five new campaigns spread over four or five individual maps. This is the biggest improvement on the game’s structure: with non-playable survivors to interact with, environmental effects such as rain and fog, and less linear levels, this feels more like a world to explore than a series of corridors to be funnelled down. If you’re still getting your jollies from the original game then there really isn’t enough here to warrant buying the sequel, but if you’re new to it all then this is the perfect point to jump on.
Of course, the quality of the gameplay very much depends on the other players, which is where the genius of the game shines through: play with friends and you can strategise, organise and cover each other’s backs. Play online with strangers and you could find yourself recreating a real zombie movie, right down to panicked victims running into the dark to be picked off and selfish survivors hoarding the medi-kits for themselves. Either way, it’s hilarious.
But here’s the kicker: while PC players should be okay for online gaming, the Xbox 360’s online system is still not fully available in the UAE unless you have a non-UAE credit card or some other way to purchase an account. And while the computer AI is largely excellent, the game loses a lot without that interaction. In the end, undeath is nothing without life.
In stores now.
Why are zombies such compelling beasts? The experts weigh in
‘I have always liked the ‘monster within’ idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.’
George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead
‘They’re like a disease: no rationality, no middle ground, no negotiation, just sheer instinct to consume and multiply.’
Max Brooks, writer of World War Z
‘[Zombies personify] our deepest fear: death. [Nothing] fully insulates us from the creeping dread that something so witless, so elemental may yet catch us unawares: the drunk driver, the cancer sleeping in the double helix, the legless ghoul dragging itself through the darkness towards our ankles.’
Simon Pegg, writer of Shaun of the Dead