Left 4 Dead 2’s “plot” Actually Does a Lot for the Zombie Apocalypse Genre

“Left 4 Dead 2?  Plot?  What plot?  Are you serious?”  You’re right.  The character development and dialogue are thin and it very well doesn’t matter to you.  All you’re probably worried about is getting that high score in multiplayer and, in the process, handle-jabbing zombie after zombie in the face with the butt of your ax and then slicing their heads off.  Or, if melee isn’t your preferred fighting method (pussies), then you can take that shotgun to their torso repeatedly.  That’s pretty awesome and it makes sense because the only real point of the game is to kill as many zombies as possible while navigating terrain safely ultimately reaching your destination which is usually an escape vehicle of some kind (cars and helicopters).  What I’m referring to in the title of this post is the back-story, which is one of hopelessness and desperation.

Left 4 Dead 2’s story arc is told across all five campaigns.  In the first level of the first campaign you and your squad of survivors were abandoned while the military evacuated all they could of a city.  As you progress through the campaign you’ll fight hundreds, (no! wait!)…THOUSANDS of zombies in various locations, them being; a hotel, a carnival, a mall, a swamp, and a small town.  The game is visually pleasing and a lot of fun to play with people online and friends in a party-type setting.

I played the single-player campaign first… I’m a loser.  I did it because I wanted to get a good feel of the game before I jumped online and merc’d some fools.  I’m the type of gamer that takes absolutely EVERYTHING in.  In Mass Effect I read pretty much everything on the Codex, again I’m a loser.  Sometimes it’s tedious to do this and can weigh down the enjoyment of a game for me and then I am repulsed to ever play it again.  With Left 4 Dead 2 this weakness of mine probably brought about an experience with single-player that most others didn’t get to enjoy, again because it’s best suited as multiplayer-online you probably didn’t even play through the campaign in order.  Fine enough, this is where I come in.

There was a certain point in the game where it hit me that I hadn’t seen anything like the backstory in Left 4 Dead 2 in the zombie genre.  This started when I was walking through one of the dreadfully silent parts of the game looking for any zombie I could to pop off some pistol rounds into.  There was a stack of zombie bodies probably 50 high that I know wasn’t the product of my shells, because I hadn’t been there yet.  I started thinking the developers had to do this to illustrate that you’re not the only ones fighting for your life and there are other survivors who got abandoned by the military as well.

Ultimately this lead into what I’ll call, “the writings on the wall.”  Several hand-written messages are scrawled in every safe-room you enter.  In them we see people calling out for Help! (I need somebody, HELP! Not just anybody!)   Right, not just anybody, but YOU specifically Christine.  “I love you Christine.   I’m taking the kids to the evac point.  Hope to see you there.”  I don’t know if that’s an actual quote, I’m ad-libbing here, but there was a lot of that type of message scribbled everywhere.  People got separated from their families and never knew if they’d see them again.  Nothing new to the Zombie genre of course because people are bound to get the shit kicked out of them, and perhaps even turn into a zombie themselves.  No big deal, if it happened to you, you wouldn’t even know you were a zombie.

The other messages were ones of criticism.  Criticism of a government organization called CEDA, which apparently did NOTHING to help people when the virus first hit.  If the zombie apocalypse hits, what are we to do if the government doesn’t help us get quarantined?  Very scary thought folks.  The only thing I can think of to parallel this idea in the game is the movie 28 days later.  If you’ve seen it you know, if not well here’s a small rundown.  The movie is a zombie film that doubles as a political allegory about the government being more evil than a bunch of zombies, and we have to answer this question; is it worse to be evil morally as a human or physically as a zombie? Which would you rather deal with?

More criticism from the unseen survivors came when I read the walls even further later on in the game.  This is where the new spin on the zombie genre comes in.  In these messages it is revealed that the government actually shot…. what hundreds or, again, THOUSANDS of un-infected humans?  One message sticks out to me (this one’s real):  “Why are they shooting these PEOPLE?  They aren’t infected!”  Another message drives the paranoia nail into the panic coffin that is the military.  In this one a street sign leading into a safe zone reads, “Come in with your hands up, if you don’t you will be SHOT ON SIGHT.”

Think about it folks.  What would you do if a zombie apocalypse actually came and we couldn’t rely on a controller to mass murder those fuckers?  Or a healthy protagonist in a movie didn’t save the day?  Well you’d use your basic human instincts to try and survive but you wouldn’t get very far without much help, that’s for sure.  The government would need to help.  And if they were trippin’ and firin’ off rounds into innocent human beings just out of fear/paranoia of being attacked because they are jumping to conclusions you wouldn’t last very long.  The government isn’t on your side and the zombies most certainly are not on your side either.  They want to eat you and rip you from limb to limb.  If Left 4 Dead 2’s back-story played out in real life we’d all be screwed fo sho, no one on our sides but ourselves and maybe a few others that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Just something to think about!  Go play the game again and read those messages sprawled on the wall.  You’ll see what I mean and it’ll add to your experience.


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About Chris Lewis

I think I'm cool. I know I'm tall. I have red hair but I'm not sure I'll have any hair in 10 years.

2 responses to “Left 4 Dead 2’s “plot” Actually Does a Lot for the Zombie Apocalypse Genre”

  1. nickrajan says :

    I think the developers would like to see this post because I feel all the little things go unnoticed by most players. I have not played the Left4dead series, but from what you describe it seems like they have created a somewhat in depth backstory without explicitly giving it to you. Another game that did this which I enjoyed was the Dead Space series (still playing the wii one) in which everything revolved around the marker- but they never explicitly tell you what the marker is and it’s powers…Much of the details and answers can be found by reading the walls, listening to audio logs, and reading text logs. I would like to see more about this and maybe even a list of games that do a good job with in depth backstories.

  2. Chris Lewis says :

    mass effect 1 and 2 do this with all the information about the history of the galaxy and the races therein located in the codex. Fallout 3 does this as well with dialogue and conversations with people who witnessed the apocalypse that you are thrust into without knowing what it was like before.

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