Left 4 Dead is a series I overlooked when it came out. I tried the demo on the Xbox 360 and didn't really think a lot of it. I never picked up the full release even after hearing it was a great game. Flash forward to about a month of Left 4 Dead 2's release and I still hadn't played the full version of the first game. While browsing Steam I saw that with a preorder of Left 4 Dead 2 you could get Bill's Hat to use in Team Fortress 2 and I am a sucker for Team Fortress 2 stuff so I decided to preorder Left 4 Dead 2 so I could get the hat. Steam also had a deal that you could get the first game with a preorder of the second and save some cash so I bought that one too.
A few days later I decided to fire up the first Left 4 Dead to try out the full game. After playing for a bit I found myself having a really good time playing the first Left 4 Dead. I wasn't playing it online, I like to play through a game in single player before I take it online. I beat all the campaigns and around that time Left 4 Dead 2 came out so I moved on to that one. I cleared all the campaigns by myself and then I just moved onto the next game. A few months later I decided to take Left 4 Dead 2 online and you know what? I really suck at it! I was doing campaign co-op and I was just so freaking bad I couldn't believe it. Again the game went on the shelf and I didn't look back. Recently I started playing the two games again and I have some thoughts on them both and the series as a whole.
First off I know this is probably common knowledge but the second game is far and beyond the better of the two. I remember the community getting up in arms about the release of L4D2 about a year after, saying it should be an expansion pack and all that jazz. Almost everything about the second game from a mechanics standpoint is improved. From the melee weapons added to the way the Zombies act and the number of Special Infected. I think the second game does a better job of telling the overall story even with what little is presented as you play the game. Now to me the one thing the second game has that does not surpass the original game are the actual survivors.
The cast in the first Left 4 Dead is one of the best game casts in the history of gaming. The way Bill, Francis, Louis and Zoey interact with each other is done so well. These characters are just so likable, they each have a roll and they all fill it perfectly. Now with Left 4 Dead 2 the cast isn't nearly as strong as the first game. To me the weak point is Rochelle, she just isn't a good character. I can't think of any memorable things she has said and I know absolutely nothing about her back story. I'm shocked that Valve went with her as a character especially after having a really strong female character in the first game. Next is Coach, by himself he's not really a great character but his interactions with Nick and Ellis are fantastic and really makes him come to life. With Nick you get the mysterious dude in the group. You know he's a gambler and some kind of criminal but as you travel through the campaigns he drops hints that he may be darker than first thought. He makes references to getting brains and blood out of his suit and his coldness to the other survivors shows what some could think of as a darker side.
Finally we have Ellis, Ellis is to me the best character this series has ever seen and could be considered one of the best FPS characters in the history of the genre. With his stories about Keith and his overall optimism in spite of the Zombie Apocalypse is fantastic. The way he interacts with the other characters make them all stronger just because of him and I think that says a lot about Ellis' strength as a character.
With the DLC The Passing you learn that Bill was killed and in the Sacrifice you get to play the events leading up to his death. When you play the newer of the two the group picks who sacrifice and it's not Bill each time but the official story is that Bill died. I know the Left 4 Dead series isn't about cinematics and grand story but the way Bill's death is handled in the game is not that great. You run from the group to hit the generator, die and that's it. You get a few lines from the other survivors yelling about Bill's death. I would of liked to see a cinematic or something for Bill dieing. For a series that's all about these guys to kill off one that a lot of people loved and only have it be a passing moment to me is kind of messed up.
That leads me to the one thing I don't like about this game, which is the story telling. I know for a co-op focused online shooter the story isn't really important. I would of liked to see the story fleshed out more at least in the single player mode. The characters do talk back and forth to each other and you get some insight on them as people and such but if you interrupt any of it you miss out. If they had done some beginning and end campaign cinema scenes to flesh out the story it would of been awesome.
I've been playing the online versus lately and it's really fun but I do suck at it. Playing as the infected is really cool but I really suck at that. I've been going back and forth between the first and second game and they are quite different. I actually played the second game before I played the first so going back and being online with the first game I was wondering why I kept spawning as the same three infected but then had to remind myself I was playing the first game! Earlier today I decided to try Survival in L4D and again I suck at it. I'm not use to being this bad at a game online but I am still having a great time playing and I'll continue to do so.
What really got me interested in playing these was playing the Call of Duty: World at War Nazi Zombie mode. That has some neat things in it with them including the Perks from the multiplayer and some really fun to play as characters. While Left 4 Dead is a more complete game it could take a Que from COD:WAW. I would love to see a perk system included in the eventual L4D3 and even more variety to the weapons.
As many people know the Left 4 Dead games are great and I wish I had started playing these games back when they first game out but now I'm having a really fun time playing them.