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Why Left 4 Dead 2 is one of the greatest games ever made

It’s a massive understatement to say the game is difficult. Each level starts off relatively easy, but by the time you’re facing the final showdown as you wait for your means of escape (be it a boat, helicopter, or whatever), the game turns into a nightmarish flurry of clawing zombie limbs and snarling undead faces. And when your ammo’s run out and your melee attacks are starting to move more slowly thanks to the brilliantly-weighted stamina system, you really feel like you’re there. Slowing down with exhaustion, trying not to succumb to the inevitable.

Then there are the limited slots in your inventory for special items like Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs. Using up your pipe bomb is like using a ‘get out of jail free’ card in Monopoly. Sure, it’s invaluable for getting you out of a sticky situation, but you’re always left wondering whether you could (or should) have held onto it a bit longer. Playing without a safety net is much less comfortable.

Likewise, you only get to carry one health item. It restores you to full health, but it can only be used once. As a result, every safehouse becomes a frantic race to pick up a medipack, use it to heal up, and then grab another one to put in reserve before your mates (or the idiot computer) get there first. Are you kind enough to use your only medipack to heal a friend? Let’s find out…

But enough talk about the psychology of survival situations. You mainly just want to shoot some bad guys, right? Fortunately, L4D2 has some of the most enjoyably brutal core FPS action anywhere. The gore has been turned up compared to the already wince-inducing original, and zombies can now have individual limbs blown off. Sick though it is to find an arm lying around, there’s no denying it’s a lot of fun.

It’s also a technical marvel. With only a couple of zombies on the screen, you could be forgiven for thinking that the game isn’t particularly good-looking, but the slight visual sparseness makes sense once things get more hectic, allowing literally hundreds of zombies to come running towards you in frightening detail. The frame-rate usually holds up too, even in split-screen two-player mode, which isn’t to be sniffed at these days.

Left 4 Dead 2 is one of those games that never really gets put on our shelf to collect dust. Sooner or later it’s downloading on Steam or being popped into the Xbox 360, putting grins on our faces and gnomes into zombies’ skulls. There aren’t many current-gen games that come back out so regularly, but this one is always dependable when there’s a need for some concentrated multiplayer fun. It’s not just one of the best games of the generation, it’s one of the best games ever made. One of the top 100 best games of all time, to be precise.

"Why _____ is one of the greatest game ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

23 comments

  • MariaWilson22 - October 21, 2012 6:17 p.m.

    I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I've been doing, http://Max14.com
  • Pwnz0r3d - October 18, 2012 7:01 p.m.

    I prefer 1 so much more. Mainly because the cartoony blood of 2 is a huge turn-off. The new infected aren't that great either, the maps are WAYYYY too open, and while I love me some new content, I feel as if we were absolutely overwhelmed with the weapons (all of which were pretty much reskins of each other) addons, (lasers, explosives, and incendiaries were so rare, i have no idea why they're even in the game) and new zombies. The issue I have with the game is that so much was added that it literally made the game not as fun as the first one for me. But that's just me.
  • iHateFatPeople - October 18, 2012 12:44 p.m.

    Replace 'Greatest' with 'Worst' and you have yourself a real article.
  • mentalityljs - October 18, 2012 12:14 p.m.

    I would agree with this artice under a few exceptions. Had all of the L4D1 DLC not been available I can't see how L4D2 would have held up as well as the original. Like others have said, L4D1 concentraited more on the horror theme rather than all of the action and comic relief the second attempted. Still, with all of that said, i've logged hundreds of hours in both and are still an acceptable fall-back title.
  • reecemunkey - October 18, 2012 3:53 a.m.

    This is the only game Im sad I never got to play, But i wont get an xbox for just one game! Still very sad!
  • lol30859 - September 12, 2014 6:02 p.m.

    Bro, ITS NOT XBOX EXCLUSIVE! GET A COMPUTER AND GET STEAM! IDIOT! I play it on PC BTW
  • GamingBear - October 18, 2012 3:01 a.m.

    I have got to say I was a little unimpressed with l4d2. The first I loved, played it quite a lot, versus mode almost every night at one point. The second one seemed to lose the suspense in favour of all out action, which is fine in doses. L4D2 also seem to complicate matters with weapon mods and new annoying mutant zombies. What I loved about the first one was how simple it was, easy to play but a challenge to master.
  • MysterEnygma - October 18, 2012 12:33 a.m.

    Personally I think first one was better: cast (other than Nick and Ellis, rest of cast sucked), atmosphere was more creepier/horror movie like compared to the "dem zombie duwn south!" vibe. And I felt 2's chapters felt longer than they should've been. But that's just me.
  • Jackstraw - October 17, 2012 5:16 p.m.

    You continue to write these articles as though anything ending up on a top whatever list from your site actually means something...
  • overrated44 - October 17, 2012 11:25 p.m.

    You continue to comment on these articles thereby nullifying your statement. Also, you comment on articles on the internet as if your opinion means anything to anyone. :D
  • ParagonT - October 18, 2012 8:57 a.m.

    Probably a bad way to give back a retort that nullify's your statement as well and can be said right back at you or anyone. Not that I agree with the guy, but not the best response.
  • Fursnake - October 17, 2012 3:44 p.m.

    Both L4D games are decent fun for a month or two. One of the greatest games ever? Not quite.
  • ThundaGawd - October 17, 2012 1:20 p.m.

    Not to mention the amount of mods you can cram into the PC version, just a few hours on mod sites such as l4dmaps or gamebanana and you can find literally hundreds of high-quality campaigns to keep you occupied (Ever wanted to play through the entire Silent Hill campaign, puzzles and everything, with 4 friends and more zombies? or run through hordes of undead as an earthquake brings the city down around you?) along with some very high-quality weapon remodels & reanimatios. Playing realism strips away the HUD, but if your team has medkits that light up like the spinal displays in Dead Space while running through a building that feels as though it should belong in Mirror's Edge, it adds a nice sci-fi/cyberpunk feel to the game. I have over 150 hours put into the game, and I still play every week with a group of friends, the abundance of custom campaigns makes it a different experience every time because you genuinely never know what to expect.
  • ThundaGawd - October 17, 2012 1:23 p.m.

    You can also find mods to replace the L4D2 survivors with the L4D1 survivors and vice-versa (voice swap and all) depending on your preference, since pretty much everybody preferred the characters from the first game.
  • saolotoga-brandon-alofipo - October 17, 2012 1:09 p.m.

    I must also disagree though. This game is a farcry from any realistic situation concerning a Zombie Apocolypse. The game does NOT have a limited supply of ammo. First of all, all the pistol ammo is unlimited. And on top of that, whenever you find a small pile of ammo, you can sit there and resupply as much as you'd like from a pile that looks as though it'd only replenish 3 or 4 magazines per person. That aside, I do still enjoy some thrilling Zombie killing action.
  • Bloodstorm - October 17, 2012 12:36 p.m.

    Gotta disagree. Despite owning both of them (because I got them cheap, yay for Steam sales!) I have put a measly 13 hours combined into these two titles. They were fun for a few hours. They ruined it by sucking out any surprise. You just kill a lot of things, but nothing ever really surprises you.
  • db1331 - October 17, 2012 12:57 p.m.

    So you didn't play VS then? That's the whole point of the game. Of course playing against the AI is going to get old fast. Try playing against a well-coordinated infected team, then tell me you don't get surprised. Anyhow, am I the only one who thinks the first game was better?
  • saolotoga-brandon-alofipo - October 17, 2012 1:04 p.m.

    I thought the first one was much better as well.

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

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