Well, this wasn’t the announcement I was expecting at all from Valve.

Let me make this clear: I’m a huge fan of Left 4 Dead. I’m not even a fan of zombie movies that much, but as far as I’m concerned, Left 4 Dead was the best game last year, and I’ve logged some 50 hours into it (which is a hell of a lot for me).

I bought the game at launch, but even so, a sequel coming out this year is just a little too close for comfort.

I’ll rundown the most memorable new features I grasped in the last minute or two of watching videos and reading impressions from IGN (the quotes are from this preview), most of these are written with the idea that you already know a bunch about the original:

– Melee weapons. Cool. Axes. Look bloody.

– Day time levels.  Look interesting. Sounds fun. Overall there are five new campaigns, and they’re all set in "the American South", so I guess there will be more of a connection between campaigns this time. One is in Savannah, where apparently "the zombie infection hasn’t hit yet", and another is in New Orleans, which sounds like a lot of fun.

– The AI Director can change the layout of the level. This is very interesting. A lot of people felt the Director didn’t actually make much of a difference in Left 4 Dead because the actual layout was always the same (I disagree), so this should quiet their complaints. Obviously this will only happen to a certain extent, I’m guessing – the example given was that if players weren’t doing well when they came to a particular area, then the path through it could be pretty much straight, but if they were doing well, it could be a maze full of dead ends.

–  All the game modes from its predecessor, along with one brand new unannounced one. I’m very curious about the new mode. Maybe it has a player being the AI Director for the Survivors? Obivously you would place certain limitations so that they can’t just cheat and spam like crazy if that were it. 

– New characters on both ends. The new humans don’t make much of a difference, so I’m more curious about the new Infected. As far as I see, they don’t seem to have been announced, other than the variation on the Witch – in daylight she becomes "The Wandering Witch", which obviously makes her a lot more dangerous. As in, she’s not stationary. Uh-oh.

–  Variations on the "crescendo moments" from the first game. These were when you would hit a button and a huge horde would come that you’d have to fend off. The problem with these is that they started to not really be that hard, as players could just corner up and mash the gun button. Additionally, although this wasn’t mentioned, it wasn’t very fun to play these moments as Special Infected, as it was pretty much impossible to make any headway. Valve has rethought this so it’s not a viable strategy to corner up, which fixes one of the only problems I had with the original. Examples given were after hitting the first switch, you’ll have to fight your way to a second to stop the horde from coming (love it), or that you’ll be in a parking lot where every car has the car alarm attached (frightening).

And that’s pretty much it. Looking over it, that’s a pretty substantial list of features. Valve has also earned some goodwill at this point, I think, and they’ve never before shown a tendency to squeeze customers for value so far, so I don’t think they would start now. My only two remaining problems are this:

1. Most of this looks like it could’ve been patched into the first game. Valve has already given us plenty for free, and this would be one instance where I would be okay paying for paid DLC, or an expansion pack.

2. The real reason I was upset when I first read the announcement, and when I first started reading the blog, is that what I really wanted was Half-Life 2: Episode 3, and did not suspect in the slightest that this might happen. I know they’re working on Episode 3, everybody knows they are and have been for ages, so goddamn it, show it!

Right now, though, I am tentatively excited for Left 4 Dead 2, despite its close proximity to the original (assuming, of course, it goes delay-free). And right now, I think I’ll go play some Left 4 Dead.