SummaryBetter than the original in every way
The GoodThe difficulty has increased in quite a few ways; you can no longer spam melee attacks to keep hordes away, zombies and special infected are much stronger and camping is now much harder. Not only does this increase the difficulty of singleplayer matches, but it also results in better players online. The removal of melee-spamming is my favorite change because it was really unfair in the original Left 4 Dead when people just backed into a corner when a horde was coming their way.
The campaigns are now much more enjoyable to play due to new and interesting settings. There was a campaign on a carnival which was especially amusing because you could play games if you got bored or play with clowns. In the original most settings were pretty simple and mostly aimed at locations everybody would recognize. The settings are still recognisable though, they just made them more wacky.
The new character cast has a lot more personality than the original (who do make an appearance). Sometimes you notice that they used the old characters as a floor on which they build the rest of the house. Rochelle is just as caring as Zoey, Nick is a lot like Francis and Coach is the leader-figure (Bill). The story as a whole has improved a lot and now the many campaigns form are connected instead of separate stories (I understand the comic did connect the many campaigns in the original L4D, but that doesn't count). Somehow the new characters aren't as like-able as the characters we got used to though.
The new Infected are really awesome; The Spitter which spits burning goo, the Charger which grabs people during his charge and of course the Jockeys which takes control of players were all pretty original and fun to play against. I especially liked the Charger because he could really mess up my tactics from time to time. The new uncommon Infected were also nice, but I hardly noticed them.
There are more multiplayer modes and the competitive ones have certainly improved. This is mostly due to the new Infected I mentioned earlier, in the original there were only three (not counting the Tank) which meant you always had the same characters on the field and could only perform a handful of tactics. Now there are six Infected and you never know what Characters will show-up. The Mutation mode is fun, but I don't really get it and Scavenge is a nice change.
There are new finales and Valve did a pretty good job at trying to make them as fun as possible. I still liked the old "Call the rescue team and hold-out for a few minutes" formula a bit better due to the simplicity, but I do have to salute the variation L4D2 offers. There are levels where you need to; bring gas cans to a car, run across a bridge within a time limit and keep a rock concert going. They came up with some pretty cool stuff here and even though I like the original finales better, it's still a nice change for when I am bored.
The new equipment is a lot better than I thought it would be, I was a bit cynical when I saw all the new stuff; adrenaline shots, melee weapons and boomer bile just to mention a few. It is however very easy to understand what they do and it doesn't make the game harder to play at all. I was afraid that we would end up carrying so much stuff that switching would be hard, but everything is still orderly. Adrenaline replaces Pain Pills, Melee Weapons are trade-able for pistols and defibrillators can be picked up at the cost of health-kits instead of all been connected to a new key.
The BadThe level design is often very confusing and Left 4 Dead 2 is not the kind of game where you want to take your time to figure out where you want to go. I already mentioned that in my review of the Crash Course map, but not it is like they build the entire game like that campaign. Yesterday (23rd of May 2011) I was playing versus with a load of friends when we suddenly had to navigate through a burning building. This was not such a problem until we suddenly couldn't find a door anymore in a massive room. Eventually three of us died before I finally found the exit and went for the safe-room, but we weren't very happy.
Some of the old problems have not been fixed at all. The hunter is still very annoying to control for example and the bots have only gotten more annoying. There are some very easy ways to fix the many problems this franchise carrier with it, but little to no effort has been made to try them out. And when are you going to make a training option to play as Infected?!
Because I didn't want to have any lag while playing with friends, I lowered my graphics settings to medium, but this was a little too low. The game didn't look any worse, but whenever I shot a zombie in the chest it just looked like they had a t-shirt with blood and bones printed on them.
It's still very hard to find a good game by joining random matches. There were rushers, team-killers and slackers all over the place and they really ruined a lot of matches for me. I try not to quit games because some of those people might be new and they are just trying to learn how to play, but when I can't talk to them or they won't let me help them, I am going to leave them to it.
The Bottom LineLeft 4 Dead 2 is a very fun game and I like it a lot better than the original. This is very subjective though. Left 4 Dead was a very serious game, but Left 4 Dead 2 is a lot more wacky and is often hilarious. There are a lot of campaigns from the original on Left 4 Dead 2 though, so even if you do prefer a more serious version of the game, you can play those.
Aside from the bots who are a lot more annoying than they used to be, Left 4 Dead 2 is a better game in every way. Buying the original might even be a waste of your money because you would be paying for three or four campaigns that didn't make it into the sequel. I can recommend this game to almost everybody given they can handle a little challenge and like to play as a team.