Photo courtesy of Valve
After years of rumors and speculation, Valve confirmed on Jan. 17 that they would not be working on a sequel to their popular video game, Left 4 Dead 2, to the dismay and frustration of many fans. The history of the Left 4 Dead games is long and complicated, and it is most likely the reason why this announcement upset and saddened fans of the decade old game.
Left 4 Dead is a simple game at heart. You and three other survivors need to fight your way through hordes of zombies, running and shooting your way out of deadly situations. It is a fun game that relies heavily on its core mechanics, which depending on who you ask, is often cited as a shortcoming, as game breaking bugs and the hilarious A.I. create some of the more entertaining moments. To top it off, the enjoyment you get out of screaming for help to three of your friends as they refuse to heal you is among many other memorable moments that come with playing Left 4 Dead 2.
However, what makes Left 4 Dead 2 so popular now, 11 years after its release, is Valve’s encouragement of modding. Modding allows for the alteration of core game visuals and code, which is why you’ll see players turn a boss into Shrek, or all the zombies into giant Teletubbies. And if that isn’t your thing, there are options to change the game into something that’s more your style. Examples include turning your characters and voice actors into anime characters, playing as the protagonist from Mr. Robot or just making your own mod and sharing it with the community. The possibilities are endless, they are what keeps bringing players back game after game, with almost 10,000 active players a day.
Another Valve game that features modding is Portal 2, a 2011 released game that is focused around using shootable portals to solve puzzles. While I’ve played the campaign and co-op missions dozens of times already, I recently browsed player made puzzles and spent hours on levels I had never seen before — levels that were only a few weeks old in an almost 10-year-old game. Combining the nostalgia of a childhood game with the innovation of its present day community to produce endless content for themselves is what makes Valve’s games so timeless, and why people were hoping to get their hands on a prettier, newer and more advanced version of what works so well in Left 4 Dead 3.
However, the dismissal of a Left 4 Dead 3 is not a surprise to any Valve fanatics, as they have become infamous for their unfinished trilogies — or potentially just a fear of the number three. With massively popular games such as Portal 2, Dota 2 and Half-Life 2 never receiving a third game despite outpouring support and desire for such. In fact, what brought hopes for a third game in the first place was the announcement of a new game in the Half-Life series, which will come 13 years after the release of Half-Life 2: Chapter 2. Seriously, it might just be that they hate the number three.
To give you a rundown of the history of the Left 4 Dead franchise, its first game came out in 2008, and was followed up rather quickly in 2009 by Left 4 Dead 2, which was 11 years ago. Since then, all we’ve heard about a potential Left 4 Dead 3 was confirmation that it was being worked on in 2011 and the cancellation of said production 6 years later in 2017. You might be wondering, as I was, if they made Left 4 Dead 2 in only a year, how come they can’t make another in six years? Well, Chet Falsizek, a former writer for Half-Life and Portal, had the answer.
“We thought we could make Left 4 Dead 2 in a very un-Valve way … ‘Quickly,’” as Falsizek put it.
To many, the completion of Half-Life: Alyx, the Virtual Reality prequel to the Half-Life series (they are trying so hard to avoid naming it three), was a beacon of hope for Left 4 Dead and a genuine surprise to fans of the series. Most had given up on any semblance of closure for their beloved story and characters after a decade and a half, and people were almost in denial that they finally made a third game, as the game’s completion inspired headlines such as “Valve Swears Half-Life: Alyx Is Actually, Legitimately Done.”
What really stirred up attention and forced Valve to break players’ hearts was a recent tweet by Alvin Wang Graylin, the President of the virtual reality (V.R.) gaming company HTC Vive, in China, which showed slides from a presentation that talked about the future of V.R. gaming. In it, he cited “Valve HL Alyx and L4D3” as potential console selling games for V.R. in 2020. Seeing a game that is “actually, legitimately done” next to Left 4 Dead 3 must have been unbelievable. But sadly, it was just Graylin’s own prediction, for even he thought the game deserved a sequel. And while the game is quite old, I would argue that Left 4 Dead 2 doesn’t need a third installment.
The AAA companies of today, who annually spit out mediocre copy and paste games such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, might want you to think a game needs a sequel simply to improve its visuals and complicate its mechanics. But in reality, Valve as a company has proven that to be false. Their games are not only simple and popular, but they retain their player base and allow fans of the series to keep the game alive for years on end. If anything, a third Left 4 Dead game would split the players between new and old, and while it might give them something shinier to play with, the nostalgia that comes with booting up a game older than some of its players is irreplaceable.
Left 4 Dead is a game about survival and keeping yourself alive amongst the dead, and the game completely embodies that mentality, lasting longer than almost any game out there. Valve isn’t creating a sequel because they’re giving up on Left 4 Dead, but rather they still believe in it just as much as they did in 2009, and the game doesn’t need anything that its players can’t already give it. In a few years that might change, we don’t know, so don’t lose all hope. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, they might give us a prequel instead.
Nathan Duggins is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 winter quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.