Each campaign is divided into chapters (five usually, though Dead Center and Swamp Fever have four), and somewhere in there is an “event” moment where you have to trigger something loud enough to attract an entire horde. The typical strategy was to hole up in a corner and wait for either the rescue vehicle to arrive or for the horde to dissipate. Now, not only do the Charger and Spitter force you to break up, you also have to accomplish actual goals while the whole place goes to hell around you. It’s no longer just about surviving.
Above: Dead Center ends with you gathering gas for this supercar
Above: Tactical cola extraction marks the first time we loved a fetch quest
Above: Hard Rain ends with a disorienting, blustery tropical storm
So, not only are the locales new and exciting, butthe game’s most famous feature has been radically altered. The original’s crescendos required minutes of preparation, from placement to equipment to overall battle plan. Now, you barely have time for any of that, as there’s now an alarm to deactivate or a roller coaster to run. Yes, there are still a few “normal” events, but we’re incredibly pleased with the variation.
The main game is designed for co-op, and you won’t find a better shooter in this regard. Beyond that, the versus mode returns (pitting teams of survivors and special infected against each other) along with Survival (stay alive the longest, best time wins) and the new Scavenge mode. The latter is like versus in that you take turns playing as humans and specials, but now there’s a goal instead of just making it to the end of the level.
Above: Gas cans are quite far apart, so you have to stick together
There are several gas cans littered around a small area, and the survivors must venture out for them to keep a generator running. Once the timer runs out, the round ends and you switch sides. On the surface it’s like versus, as the special infected have all the same tricks (Smokers pull you away, Hunters pin you, Jockeys force you in a different direction etc) but now you’re impeding an actual process instead of the survivor’s quick run to the end of the map. Furthermore, Spitters can ignite cans when they’re held, or spit a glob of burning acid right over the generator, preventing the humans from filling for a few seconds.
Above: As the special infected, it's your job to mess with the survivors
As with versus, you have to learn the nuances of the special infected to truly appreciate the balance. We heard a lot of complaints about L4D’s vs mode, usually that the specials were too weak, died too fast or were too hard to use effectively. All those are true, but learning how to pull off amazing combo attacks is part of the charm. Scavenge takes this one step further by allowing you to execute elaborate plans built to stop the survivors cold.
Obviously we weren’t able to play truly online (game’s just out today, after all), so we can’t comment on matchmaking or the new team making options. Odds are they won’t affect the score or magically be so bad we’d have to revisit the review, but just for honesty’s sake, we played in a Valve-controlled environment and it worked just fine.