E3 2009: Left 4 Dead 2 Announced, Zombies Moan in Disappointment

800px-left4dead_promoI’ll likely get hung for this post but I’m going to vent a bit anyway. Today during the Microsoft Press Conference at E3 2009 there was a reveal trailer for the next Left4Dead installment. Normally I’d be ecstatic about such an announcement, and initially I was – when I watched the trailer along with the Crackdown 2 teaser – but once the high faded a bit I realized how not OK I am with this whole sequel concept.

Left4Dead is less than a year old. It shipped with a very slight amount of content, only got added value with the later Survivor patch and is only now getting mod support from the community and rather than expand it and give us a more reasonably sized game.. we’re being fed a sequel.

More Zombie killing is a goal I subscribe to religiously. I love Left4Dead, I played the heck out of it for months until the 4 basic scenarios wore dry and even the injection of new content with the recent patch didn’t work to vary or sate that apathy much. The original gang isn’t done, I want more adventures, more maps and scenarios and frankly more value from that initial purchase – just as Valve promised.

The trailer and accompanying press release also worry me because the features they tout for the upcoming continuation don’t seem earthshaking or innovative, or like additions that don’t belong in a patch for the original game. What I’m referring to is the addition of more melee-centric weapons and combat, and an upgraded AI Director. Then there is this statement:

“Featuring new Survivors, boss zombies, weapons, and items, Left 4 Dead 2 offers a much larger game than the original with more co-operative campaigns, more Versus campaigns, and maps for Survival mode available at launch.”

Who is responsible for L4D not having a great selection of content, modes or characters?

Well the same people who are now expecting us to shill out full price yet again to support their hype machine. I’m an ardent supporter of Valve over the years but this move really bugs me. We’re still waiting on Half-Life 2 Episode 3 to wrap that story up – 4 years later – and yet they can crank out another money grab in the form of an L4D sequel. Valve doesn’t patch or fix problems with the 360 version of the Orange Box, yet they can produce an entirely new L4D product? Something smells here and while the “freeness” of the Survivor patch is a great move in an industry increasingly based on selling you parts of their completed game after release as a continued revenue stream, I am afraid with the current information in hand I may have to change my position on Valve and its formerly consumer friendly posture.

The new title is scheduled to ship on November 17th for Xbox 360 and PC, just in time for the Christmas rush, and features an apparent Southern US setting and characters including “Inbred Tank” and a multi-ethnic survivor team. I’m sorry but I think I’m going to take a pass here.. until I see something that shows a sequel was needed to the game, and this is not just more than a simple tech upgrade with new maps and re-skinned characters. You can view the full details of the press release after the jump.


Sequel to Best-Selling Co-op Thriller Coming This Holiday

June 1, 2009 – Valve, creators of best-selling game franchises (such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike) and leading technologies (such as Steam and Source), today announced Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2), the sequel to the best-selling and critically-acclaimed co-operative multiplayer thriller.

Coming exclusively to Xbox 360 and PC, L4D2 promises to set a new benchmark for co-operative action games and become one of 2009′s marquee titles.

“A large part of how Left 4 Dead became 2008′s top-selling new IP on Xbox 360 and the PC was the custom-tailored gameplay made possible by the AI Director,” said Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve. “With the knowledge gained from creating the original, new technology, and a passionate team, L4D2 will set a new benchmark for cooperative action games.”

Set for release on November 17, the title adds melee combat to enable deeper co-operative gameplay, with items such as a chainsaw, frying pan, axe, baseball bat, and more.

Introducing the AI Director 2.0, L4D’s dynamic gameplay is taken to the next level by giving the Director the ability to procedurally change weather effects, world objects, and pathways in addition to tailoring the enemy population, effects, and sounds to match the players’ performance. The result is a unique game session custom fitted to provide a satisfying and uniquely challenging experience each time the game is played.

Featuring new Survivors, boss zombies, weapons, and items, Left 4 Dead 2 offers a much larger game than the original with more co-operative campaigns, more Versus campaigns, and maps for Survival mode available at launch.

Supported by a $10+ million marketing campaign, Left 4 Dead has sold over 2.5 million retail copies since it was released in November of 2008. Left 4 Dead 2 is targeted for release on Xbox 360 and the PC on November 17, 2009, and will be launched worldwide with a multi-million dollar marketing campaign across TV, Outdoor, and Online.

“Left 4 Dead was backed by our most aggressive advertising campaign to date, and resulted in a top 5 showing on two platforms during holiday 2008,” said Doug Lombardi, VP of marketing at Valve. “Left 4 Dead 2 is a larger game and will be supported with even more consumer and retail advertising programs than the original.”

Left 4 Dead 2 will be featured as the cover story on PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazines this month. For more information, please visit www.l4d.com

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5 Comments on E3 2009: Left 4 Dead 2 Announced, Zombies Moan in Disappointment


On June 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I agree 100% I may go out on a limb as well and throw TF2 onto that pile. Releasing part of a game and patching in the rest later seems to be Valve’s standard operating procedure. Lead with Half Life, then push the Half Games.

Thats why I only buy Valve games Half Off

Morning Toast

On June 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

I agree with the short turnaround. This era of games is all about pushing content to the release. Burnout does it. Rock Band does it. You build a great, solid base and just keep building on it. The L4D base was great…do we really need a complete new release?

They had the Orange Box, now I forsee a Green Box that has L4D bundled up with some other add-on or game. To see a high profile game like L4D go from top shelf to bargin bin in less than a year is silly. I hope it’s not a trend that others will hop on.

Morning Toast

On June 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Oh…and frankly, the little preview shown at E3 didn’t really impress me. Looks like a typical sequel – more, bigger, better looking. So be it but it doesn’t have me drooling like when L4D came out last year.

Anthony S

On June 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Ungrateful. The one word that best describes the author of this post. I think I speak for most when I say that I am EXTREMELY grateful for the quick turnaround on L4D2. In addition, the opportunity to support the makers of such a wonderful game is something I can look forward to with the knowledge they are so dedicated to what they do. It is few and far between that a company is so supportive of its customer base. Thank you valve!

Shawn Sines

On June 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Maybe, maybe this is a matter of being ungrateful. And with a little time between the post and consideration I think I have an answer to why we’re not just getting a content upgrade/update with DLC.. the same reason that The Orange Box has been such a mess for 360 – unlike Steam, the console version of the game is not easily updated.
The source engine has received entire code rewrites and updates since its launch – which would fall in line with the Director 2.0 additions and new gameplay tweaks.. but how does one do this on the console version? So from that respect I completely understand that as a factor in deciding to quickly release a second improved product… but you know what.. just say that if that is the case.. don’t hide it behind PR flak.

The last two days Valve has been in firefighting mode from questions made by folks like myself about this decision. One of the biggest failings of L4D was always that it was content light. A great game but content lacking.. and Valve responded in its release cycle with “Don’t worry we always support our games and we promise more good stuff to come and make this worth the investment for you.”

So what did we get? Two maps that should have shipped with the game – the other two versus levels – and a new game mode that doesn’t really offer much new other than a short sprint to challenge achievements.

L4D is built on source.. we know it can already handle melee. I’m not against DLC I have to pay for to support a game I really love.. but this approach feels contrary to Valve’s traditional support position and that is what I take objection to.

The new game will be another $60 console investment.. full priced game.. and it looks like it will include much of the value promised for L4D but am I ungrateful for calling attention to that? This is an example of Valve disappointing me as a consumer.. and this post is my venting on it.

Anthony, I’m glad you have not lost faith in them. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy the product they produce in their usual level of excellence but its a disappointing move for a company that always seems to over promise before eventually delivering a superior product. I’d have preferred new additions to L4D on the console to keep it alive.. on the PC I have no worries – the community developers always provide when Valve moves on.