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Previews

Left 4 Dead 2: Six boycott-trumping features

We go hands-on with the Valve sequel

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Off-route abandoned villas and battered alleyways are far more plentiful in the demo we played, giving further justification to the introduction of various new pickups (including different kinds of handguns and incendiary ammo) that you're rewarded with for exploring.

In the original game, though the appearance of items, special infected and common baddies was dynamic, would always have you take the same route. Left 4 Dead 2's Southern locales will vary from a mad dashes to safety to winding death traps every time you play.

The sheer sprawl of the playfield also means it's easier for rookies to get lost and separated from the other survivors, and subsequently put to rest by an eagle-eyed Smoker... as we were. We'll pay attention next time.

The Charger

The Charger is the first new special infected revealed for Left 4 Dead 2. In a nutshell, he's half Tank, half Rhinoceros, with one giant arm for knocking down survivors and speedy little legs for charging in out of nowhere.

In the demo we played Chargers were two a penny and carried hardly any of the fanfare gifted to the three original 'boss' zombies.

Two thirds of the time we only realised a Charger was in the crowd when its corpse came speeding towards the ground in front of our feet (see the tail end of the video below) and they're not the strongest of baddies either.

The idea is these charging beasts will split up - and briefly incapacitate - a group of survivors closely bunched together, which became a popular tactic in the original game. Unfortunately our group of Survivors put Chargers on the ground before they go anywhere near us.

Still, we acknowledge that this is very much a work in progress - and we haven't experienced even a fraction of the game - so these critters could be given a much needed boost in the run up to release.

The Finale

The finales are one aspect of the original game that Valve felt needed a good kick in the backside. So instead of the farmhouse sieges we're used to the concluding acts in L4D2 are now frantic, relentless battles from A to B, as seen in the chaotic bridge crossing we got to play in London.

The rat race kicks off - naturally - with a radio. Once the survivors have radioed for help, a large barrier slowly and dramatically recoils to the ground and the action's kicked off with a traditional roar from the alerted horde.

Pictures a worth a thousand words - and moving ones even more - and you can watch the entire demo finale in our video footage below.

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The new 'A to B' setup is designed so that players can't "game" their way through the finale, i.e. finding a nice bunker to hold up in and pointing four rifles out the door as was so commonly the best strategy in Left 4 Dead.

During our play sessions we witnessed plenty of players attempting to camp up inside an abandoned truck, only to run out of ammo and get completely overrun by the horde. It's now a more frantic, exciting and entertaining end to a campaign's events, and we welcome the change.

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