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E3 2009: Left 4 Dead 2 hands-on impressions

You are running. Running for your life as a horde of zombies are charging at you trying to kill you. You are faced with dozens of undead and flesh eating folks ready to make you their next meal. So naturally you do what you would normally do in this situation; you hit them with a . . . frying pan?

Yep, that's one of the new melee weapons in Left 4 Dead 2, the surprisingly quick-to-announce release sequel to Valve's hit shooter that is still on the top 10 best selling PC game list several months after its November 2008 release. E3 2009 gave us a chance to go hands on with one of the campaigns in the game which is coming on Nov. 17.

Valve is known to take its time in releasing a game to stores. As their marketing director Doug Lombardi told us, "We wanted to do something different" with Left 4 Dead and get a sequel out there in a relatively short period of time. And what about the original game? Is that no longer going to be supported? Lombardi told us not to worry as he said that Valve will have new content updates for the original game as well. Naturally he declined to say exactly what they had planned for Left 4 Dead 1.

So what is Left 4 Dead 2 like? It's actually much like the original. The basic premise is the same; four new survivors have to stick together to go through the campaigns and face off against both "normal" zombies and the more powerful bosses like the Tank, the Hunter, the Smoker and others. This new game is set in the American South (the original, in case you didn't know, was set in the American Northeast) and our E3 2009 mission was set in the Big Easy, New Orleans.

Gameplay is still the same; stick with your three teammates (either AI driven or with real people behind them) and shoot anything that isn't your three teammates. This time we got to play around with the new melee weapons including the frying pan and the very satisfying ax which can chop off multiple zombies with just one "swoosh" of the blade. The New Orleans mission was also set in daylight which is something that wasn't found in the original game. Visually the sequel looks as good as the original, as it also uses Valve's in-house Source engine.

Our basic impressions of Left 4 Dead 2 are the same as the original; it's a ton of fun to shoot zombies with your buddies. We are a little worried that the game feels more like an expansion pack than a true sequel but Valve is promising that this game will actually be bigger than the original in terms of content at launch. There will be more campaign levels, more Versus levels and Survival mode will be out of the box this time. Oh, and there will also be a demo released before the game comes out.

So there you have it. A game that seemed like it took forever to come out will have a sequel that will be done in a year. Can Valve pull this off and avoid splitting the Left 4 Dead audience down the middle? We will soon see for ourselves.

Download HD Left 4 Dead 2 Teaser Trailer

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