Left 4 Dead 2: Six boycott-trumping features

We go hands-on with the Valve sequel

Last week we managed to go hands-on with the excellent - and oddly controversial - Left 4 Dead sequel in London.

With all of this talk about a full sequel 'ripping off' fans of the original, we thought we'd attempt to put sand on the flames by highlighting the features which we found together (and some alone) form a package that's well worth a new box... and a '2' on the end.

Don't forget to read our internet-destroying interview with Valve's Doug Lombardi for more things to moan about.

The New Survivors

Left 4 Dead's four new characters; gambler Nick, 21-year-old Ellis, TV producer Rochelle and Coach, weren't exactly in feverous conversation during our short demo. Part of the reason is probably the hordes of zombies they're busy painting the streets with, but the other is that unlike the old faces these four are learning from scratch.

Left 4 Dead 2 kicks off right as the first traces of infection reaches the South, with the Government clearing off and the first wave of nasties reaching the New Orleans streets. By the end of the game, says Valve, the four will have grown and changed as characters, which suggest a whole new depth of story and dialogue for the 'quick' follow-up.

The first game has proved that players will happily invest hundreds of hours into their campaign, and in response Valve's planning even more - and increasingly more rare - character dialogue for Nick, Ellis and co.

The new keenness for narrative was present throughout our demo; booming government fighter jets in the sky offer a hint at civilisation, and later we're told they'll even fire bomb the streets - and you with them if you get in the way.

The Dismemberment

Left 4 Dead 2's new dismemberment system sounds like a miniscule change on paper, but in practice it's made shooting zombies four times more satisfying (that's one time for every limb).

With an assault rifle, chunks of flesh and body parts spray with great abandon from your target ghoul. With a shotgun you can blow holes clean through the Mississippi hordes, and explosions send arms and legs spraying in every direction. We even found a Boomer's arse lying nonchalantly in the street.

Dismemberment looks great and feels better; the first time you literally cave in a zombie's face with an axe you'll be convinced, just like we were, that Left 4 Dead 2's going to feel flight aged after some decent time with this.

The Melee Weapons

And if blowing limbs akimbo is satisfying, twatting a stumbling zombie in the face with a frying pan is brilliant fun. As well as the fry-up tool we also got to try out the lethal axe in our demo (the chainsaw was disappointingly unavailable) which chops through infected with incredible power and a plethora of gore.

However, melee weapons are still really only affective against small numbers of enemies as large groups will quickly make them look useless - and don't even think about using your pan on a Witch (we did... and paid for it).

Different hand tools also appear to be affective against different kinds of infected. One Survivor quickly tool down a Witch with an axe (after this Wally offered to cook her breakfast) and other pickups (baseball bats and of course, chainsaws) suggest more baddie mix and matching.

The New Maps

Valve's new dynamic approach to building Left 4 Dead maps - which has the AI Director opening up and blocking off routes through the environment at will - means that the sequel's colourful daytime streets offer a lot more room to explore.

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