The announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 has not gone down well on the Steam forums.
So far, one of the more surprising announcements at E3 has been Left 4 Dead 2. Valve announced this game with a video showing what looks like a highly evolved version of last year’s co-op zombie shooter. Uncharacteristically for the developer, the game already has a launch date of November 17 this year.
Considering the history of Valve, it seems bizarre that the announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 has caused a massive user backlash. We bitch and moan for years about the seemingly interminable delays that happen with Valve’s titles, yet when it backs up one of the more spectacular PC games of recent years with a sequel, fans go all rabid.
In a way, the anger is a problem of Valve’s own creation. Its constant free updates to games like Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2 (TF2) have primed the audience for perpetual improvements – an expectation that the money spent on the title will keep on giving. To be fair, Left 4 Dead felt like a game primed to go down this path. With only four campaigns in the original game, it was short, but the focus of the game was on replayability, which Valve delivered through the innovative AI director.
Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t just new campaigns. According to a quite excellent preview on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, it attempts to bring a more coherent storyline to play – with survivors working their way into New Orleans for the finale. It looks and sounds like a bona-fide sequel – new environments, more advanced AI director, new characters, bigger focus on melee weapons (including a freakin’ chainsaw), and new infected to battle against. While Left 4 Dead’s inherent joy was the relatively simple gameplay, Left 4 Dead 2 brings more complexity to bear without diverging from the relentless zombie slaying.
Yet, the Steam forums are already full of people making ‘witty’ remarks about spending $45 on the Left 4 Dead beta – despite that they have already gotten more value out of the game than they would out of most full-priced titles. Players have had new modes added for free, and the recent SDK will not only bring to bear new user-created content, but also the ability for content to be developed now and ported to the sequel.
To be fair, when Valve launched Left 4 Dead, it promised a similar level of support to what it has put into TF2. To this point, that hasn’t materialised beyond the eventual addition of all the campaign maps to versus mode and the inclusion of survival. However, it brings up the whole issue of just what we pay for when we buy a game. Left 4 Dead, as is stands, is probably the best PC game released last year, so gamers should be happy that the sequel has a quick turnaround. TF2 was originally announced in 1998 as an expansion to Half-Life – it took nearly a decade for it to actually be released.