Sorry if I haven't reviewed enough lately, last week was a really shitty week for me. Regardless, I'm back to write up my Left 4 Dead 2 review, as well as The Passing DLC! Like the first game, though, it's still a matter of taste. <div align="center"><img src="http://bi8b.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/left_4_dead_2_survivors.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></div> When making a second Left 4 Dead, one that was made in under a year, it takes a lot of effort to distinguish it as a sequel other than just an expansion with some more maps and characters. The game pretty much has a simple theme: kill zombies and stick together, and there's not much elaboration you can do on that. But low and behold, Valve has been able to truly make a sequel, not a pricey expansion. Still, it is "kill zombies and stick together", so haters of the first game won't find much here to change your mind. Left 4 Dead 2 takes place in Louisiana, which is rather different compared to the first game's setting (which is at an unknown location, but is speculated to be in Pennsylvania, due to its variety of urban, suburban, and rural sectors). You'll meet up with 4 different survivors, each unique in themselves. From left to right in the picture above, there's the smart talking Nick, the proud Rochelle, the chocolate loving Coach, and the good ol' boy Ellis. Each character will bicker and praise with each other in their own way. Whether I enjoy this cast more than the first one is a little debatable, but regardless it's a good cast with enough personality. Another difference here though is the story, which instead of just having different survival scenarios, actually interlinks with each other. You'll escape from one campaign, but find yourself stuck in the next. For example, in Dead Center, you escape through a car, which eventually you have to abandon in Dark Carnival. While the story isn't, you know, anything epic (nor was it expected to be), it's nice to have one that flows from place to place. I literally wrote the Great Wall of Text explaining the game mechanics in my first Left 4 Dead review, so instead of rewriting them all, you can just read up the gameplay section right <a href="http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=220380" target="_blank">here</a>. Regardless, the main theme of Left 4 Dead is power in numbers. When you're 4 guys against thousands of zombies, you need to stick together. It's co-op in its finest. Well, in this game, the mechanics and engine are the same, but there are some differences. The first big ones are variety in objects. In the first game, you got a pistol (which you could eventually have 2 of), a shotgun, a submachine gun, the "power weapon" versions of those, and a sniper rifle. This game has a variety of different pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, and sniper rifles, all with their pros and cons. You also get melee weapons, a brand new addition. Instead of taking up a pistol, you can carry a melee weapon, which is very powerful, but of course can only hit at point-blank range. These melee weapons vary from crowbars (FREEEEEEMAN) to machetes to frying pans, and like the other weapons, have pros and cons. There's also more other items. Instead of having your standard med kit, pills, and pipe bomb/Molotov combo, you get more choices. You can carry either a med kit (which still heals people) or a defibrillator (which can revive a dead teammate). Instead of pills, you can carry adrenaline, which gives a smaller temporary health boost than pills but makes your actions faster (such as running, reloading, picking up downed teammates, etc). And as for the explosive, you get the new addition of Boomer bile, which, when thrown, will have the same attractive effect that regular Boomer barf does, but instead they'll swarm to the location (or even zombies) that you threw it on/at. One of the other big changes you may also notice is the difference in campaigns. In the first game, it was basically a rhythm of move, kill horde of zombies, move, kill horde of zombies, etc, until you reach the safe room. It's not the case here. A few campaigns feature what I consider "mad dash" sequences, where you've activated a horde and have to just flat out run to the next area, whether it be a safe room or a switch or whatever. And the zombies won't stop coming until you do. You can't just squat in a corner, shoot all the zombies, and frolic to the the next place. You've gotta run. There's also a new "scavenge" sequence which you'll see in the Dead Center campaign (it's also a multiplayer mode and is featured in The Passing DLC, which I'll get into later), which requires survivors collecting gas tanks while zombies are swarming them. For a game that can get repetitive in nature, all these additions make for a great amount of diversity. The last big addition is three new zombie classes: the Spitter, the Charger, and the Jockey. Spitters will spit acid that covers a large area and damages any survivors who step on it. Chargers will charge in a straight path, grabbing one survivor whose then pummeled into the ground continuously, and knocking back the rest. Jockeys will jump on and "mount" one survivor and then be able to steer them away from the group and into danger. I found most of them pretty balanced, outside of maybe the Jockey. Chargers can easily be dodged and killed, and Spitters give you a few seconds of leeway to run out of the goo. Jockeys can be annoying, as they're the smallest of the zombies, making them harder to hit, and you can easily shoot your teammate in trying to knock it off them. And it can be easy at times to just run them off an edge or just play hide and seek with the survivors. But really, it's not too bad. As for the core campaigns and gameplay itself, it's still great, with the campaigns shifting more towards a suburban and rural setting than big cities. Dead Center and The Parish are the two mainly urban areas, with more cramped areas, while Dark Carnival is mainly "suburban". Swamp Fever is pretty much rural, while Hard Rain is rather rural but with parts of suburban areas too. Graphics and audio wise, the game is about on-par with the first. The audio here, I find, isn't as good as the first game's more dramatic soundtrack. The music can usually go to being more upbeat and funky compared to the darker tunes of the first game. Still, I will always give it credit for the audio. It still plays a big part in the gameplay, as listening to the groans and moans of zombies can help you avoid danger. Hearing and distinguishing the different zombie sounds, from the Witch's crying to the the Hunter's howling, will help you stay aware of how close or far zombies are from you and give you a heads up on how to proceed. If you're in a tight hallway with all the survivors clumped together and you hear a Charger, you may want to start spacing out a bit. The voice acting and lines are nice and humorous as well. As for graphics, it's not the best looking game for the system, but it still looks good. It does have nice physics and splatter effects, which I loved in the first game (and which I've always enjoyed in Source engine games), and there's practically no slowdown. The only slowdown I've ever encountered is when you amass a huge amount of zombies around a pipe bomb and it goes off. Then it'll dip for a second or two, as it is doing the physics and stuff for a huge amount of zombies. The game is still a fine looking game though. Overall, Left 4 Dead 2 isn't an expansion but truly is a sequel. Fans of the first game will be eager to play this, with all the new weapons, zombies, maps, and scenarios. Still, the game is in itself Left 4 Dead, so those who aren't too keen on a co-op heavy and teamwork heavy game will probably steer clear of this one. <b>Presentation</b>: A flowing story, a great cast, and new setting all work great together, providing personality to a game that's story-light. Menus are easy to navigate and the button mapping works great for switching items on-the-fly. <b>9/10</b> <b>Graphics</b>: It's not the best looking 360 game, but it still looks great. Blood splatter, animations, and physics are great as usual, and a new crop of weather and lighting effects help too. Slowdown is nonexistent 99% of the time. <b>9/10</b> <b>Audio</b>: While the first game does have a superior soundtrack, it still does a great job of incorporating sounds into the core gameplay. Zombie growls, voice acting, and the soundtrack are overall fantastic. <b>9.5/10</b> <b>Gameplay</b>: More scenarios, more zombies, and more items bring Left 4 Dead 2 above the original. All the new additions work great, and the themes of teamwork and cooperation are still as important and as key as they were in the first game. It's not for everyone, but fans of the first game or fans of co-op games in general will love this. <b>9.5/10</b> <b>Lasting Appeal</b>: Most of the online community from the first game migrated here, and it's pretty active. Not as much as maybe Halo or Call of Duty, but finding games is still easy. It ranks in the Top 20 most active Xbox Live titles (according to Major Nelson), so don't worry. More diversity in objectives as well as new Scavenge and Realism modes make a game that could be repetitive in nature a fresh experience each time. <b>9.5/10</b> Overall: <b>9.4/10</b> Now, for The Passing DLC. I won't give a score breakdown like the full game, just a score out of 10. The Passing is the first big expansion pack for Left 4 Dead 2, costing 560 MS Points ($7 for US), or free for PC users, packing a brand new campaign as well as a new Mutation mode. Is it worth your $7? Well, yeah, easily. The new campaign features Left 4 Dead 2's cast of survivors meeting up with the first game's cast... except for one member. I won't spoil it for you, but this spoiler will: Warning: Spoilers inside! Bill is dead! You can find his corpse in the finale! And no, chest paddles won't bring him back, I've tried it. Anyway, in this new campaign, you're in between the Dead Center and Dark Carnival campaigns, as you need to lower a bridge to get your car past. While it's only 3 parts, it's still a lengthy enough campaign and is also the second campaign to feature a Scavenge finale. The first part is pretty urban, with the second part doing a lot of room-to-room combat, and the third part being a very large scavenge area. It's challenging, it's satisfying, and it's pretty damn fun. The last part, though, can be a little bitchy. On Versus you'll have to get 16 gas cans, all scattered around the map. And there's a LOT of "boss" infected (Smokers, Hunters, etc), not to mention tons of Tanks (some of them at the same time). It's still very fun for either campaign or versus. There's also a new melee weapon (the golf club), a new ranged weapon (the M60 heavy machine gun), and an awesome Frank West reference (in I think the second campaign, when you're in the bar, go to room with one pool table. You'll see a message written on the wall to Otis, signed by Frank West). The new Mutation mode is an exclusive, changing mode. Valve will update it from time to time with a new mode. Right now, it's first mode is Realism Versus, which puts all the Realism features (such as no outlines or pointers on weapons or teammates and tougher zombies) on in a Versus match. There's also polls you can vote in. It really helps bring even more variety and some constant change to game, and is a great deal with the DLC. There's also a wealth of new achievements to unlock and a lot of fun to be had. And for $7, it's a lot of bang for your buck. Overall: <b>9/10</b> Discuss!