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February 14, 2014

Level Review: Swamp Fever (Left 4 Dead 2)


You got a date with the swamp creatures, boys!

Level Chronology: Third Level (Excluding DLC).

Difficulty: Fair to Crushing

Length: 15 minutes per stage, excluding retries.

Overview:

Stage 1:

After the craziness that was Dark Carnival, players start the level off in a train car shortly after shooting their chopper pilot, the only evidence to support his existence being a column of smoke behind the train cars.

Immediately apparent is the descent into less civilised environments, if the name didn't tip you off. While the previous two levels weren't exactly futuristic landscapes, they were at least somewhat connected to modern culture. Not here, though. This is the SWAMP, boys, and you're getting the FEVER! 

(Ugh, that was disgusting. My profuse apologies.) When you arrive at the shanty town, or whatever you're supposed to call it, you'll be surprised to find surprising amounts of explosive ammunition. These folks were packing!

Just outside of the town is a sideways elevator thingy (I have no idea what it's called). Once you pull the lever, Infected come running like you're dripping with candy out of every pore. Once you get in the sideways elevator thingy, you have a surprising amount of silence before the main attraction, The Swamp.

Stage 2: Swamp

Very creative naming there, Valve. We wouldn't have guessed it was the swamp if it weren't for the stage being named "Swamp". I mean, the name of the entire level was confusing enough, but if it weren't for your expert clarification, none of us could have figured out the location type by ourselves.

Gotcha! I was being sarcastic! You never would've guessed, right? Anyways...

The level introduces a brand new annoying Uncommon Infected in the form of the Mud Man, who is covered in mud. Another genius level deduction by yours truly! The Mud Men are slightly stronger than Common Infected and splatter your screen with mud when they attack you.

The level also features a stand-off inside and on the wing of a crashed airliner. *Insert joke about Lost here*

*Which doesn't really make sense since Lost didn't feature a stand-off inside and outside a crashed airliner against hordes of Infected with dual-wielded pistols.*

Stage 3: Shanty Town

So we arrive at another shanty town. Filled with caravans and poorly built living arrangements. Nice place for a vacation!

The level doesn't really contain any standout sections, but it does feature some surprisingly difficult moments. Yours truly shot a suspiciously fat zombie and had a horde of infected on his behind in less than 2 seconds.

Hunters are also very hugsy in this level, and quite a few of them were hopping around the place like overly friendly crickets. After that, you arrive at a rather shanty safe-house and end the level.

Stage 4: Plantation

The beginning of the swampy end. Players finally make their way out of the swamp and into a small town. The sun finally broke over the horizon and everything looks fine and dandy.

Except that it isn't. Things are about to get hellishly crimson. The first part of the level isn't that bad. You go through the town, eliminate Infected and arrive at an abandoned mansion of sorts. Oh, wait, a "plantation house".

You radio for a rescue boat. Yep. You radio for a rescue boat. And you stand and wait. For it to arrive. So that you can evacuate. To get to safety. From Infected. Yep.

Except that a BOATload of Infected DOCK with your destination and threaten to SINK your escape plan like the TITANIC and go OVERBOARD with their attacks until you've hit the OCEAN FLOOR.

Good gosh, I never want to hear a boat pun in my life again after that atrocious paragraph!

After a fight with two tanks and several hundred Infected mobs, the boat finally arrives and it's a mad dash to the finish before you can finally call it a day. Phew, now that was difficult...

Replayability/Memorability:

I'm starting to see the levels as the three act structure of storytelling. For those who don't know, the three act structure is the prototypical model all stories follow. The first act is the introduction, showing the protagonist his/her goal, introducing us to the antagonist and the world in which the story is set.

Once the goal has been set, the second act ushers in, which is known as the progression phase. This is where the story gains momentum, leading our protagonist in his fight against the antagonist as several hurdles are thrown at him.

When the big confrontation between protagonist and antagonist is about to occur, this is known as the third act, where the entire story comes together for the big finish. All of the preceding acts are pushing towards this final stage, the big finale.

And every campaign of Left 4 Dead 2 follows this example to a tee. It's not just one act that makes a story, it's all three working together. That's why the last act of each campaign, the grand finale, is the most memorable. It's because all of the preceding stages have been leading up to it.

It's the defining moment of every story, the moment where all the conflict comes together for the big climax and resolution, the ending. The ending and the beginning are always the most important aspects of the story because they define the rest of the story.

With that in mind, it would make sense that the finale of each chapter is the most memorable. The finale part of Swamp Fever is set in a plantation house and features a showdown against several Infected, including two tanks.

It was one of the most challenging sequences I've ever played. When you finally get on the boat, it felt like a major accomplishment. And it was.


Outro:

So that will be it for me this week! Enjoy the weekend. Please don't wake up in a ditch with a hangover and a million dollars in debt to the "Don" if you catch my drift. After that, it's back to five posts every day of the week. I guess you can say that I'm going to be SWAMPED!

...Yeah, I'll show myself out now.

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