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Memory Leaks: Left 4 Dead 2

🧟 In your head, in your head...

Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-op 4-player first-person-shooter released for PC and consoles by Valve in 2009, a sequel to their 2008 game Left 4 Dead, and further proof that Valve can release timely sequels so long as they don't have the number "3" in them.

How I Remember It...

My friend group played a lot of Left 4 Dead. This was in the halcyon days of the late aughts when grim-and-gritty shooters were king and we as a culture weren't completely burned out on zombies yet. In that game you are one of four survivors of a zombie apocalypse fighting your way through the dynamically-populated city to try to get to safety. The aesthetic is "cheesy horror movie" as evidenced by the movie posters on the load screens and the ending credits after a campaign. There are always four protagonists in play--any not covered by players will be played by bots--and you have to work together to prevent being overrun.

Left 4 Dead 2 is, honestly, not that much different from its predecessor, apart from across-the-board incremental improvements. The game engine runs better, the level design is more interesting, the story is a little bit deeper, the characters are better written. The biggest addition is melee weapons. Whereas before you were just cutting through zombies with guns and bombs, now you can bash them in the head with a guitar, slice them up with a katana, or plow through them with a chainsaw. The setting has been transposed from New England to the America South, and the ridiculousness factor has been scaled way the hell up. Whereas the first game had you in a hospital, a farm, and an airport, the sequel puts you in a a shopping mall, the bayou, the streets of New Orleans, and a theme park. Dark Carnival, the theme park campaign, is hands-down the best. You're being pursued by zombie clowns through a park, through a tunnel of love ("Ninja sword of love here" is Ellard's best line of dialog), over a rollercoaster, and eventually to a showdown at a concert stage where you fight off zombies with pyrotechnics.

There've been a number of post-release upgrades, including new levels and a general overhaul of the in-game weapons. All of the levels from the original game have been ported over into the sequel, so you can play the whole shebang there. There's also a robust modding community if that's a thing you're into. Surprising literally no one, a third game has been in the works for a while and never come out. Several people subsequently left Valve and published Back 4 Blood, an unofficial sequel that's a bit grimmer-and-grittier and not quite as "arcadey". Weirdly enough, it's not the only 4-player co-op game to have been made by former Valve employees, as The Anacrusis is currently in early access. And while L4D didn't pioneer the four-player co-op game, it did breathe new life into the format for shooters, shifting the emphasis from murdering your friends with guns to hoards of strangers while trying to keep your friends alive.

So, that's something, I guess.

In MEMORY LEAKS, Kurt is going through his favorite video games. See more posts.