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The cast of the game fall into two categories-human survivors and the Infected (zombies). The original L4D stars four survivors left to die in a Zombie Apocalypse-Louis (“Junior Systems Analyst in his company’s IT department”), Bill (an ex-Vietnam vet who’s basically drifted since the war-until now), Zoey (daughter of a rich family, about to drop out of college, and a horror junkie), and Francis (a guy made to mix it up, who thinks he’s indestructible and happens to remind everyone of all the things he hates which is basically everything).
L4D2 replaces the playable survivors from the first game with four new survivors: “Coach” (a high school football coach and a true food lover), Rochelle (who works for a news station covering the apocalypse and manages to maintain her propriety while bashing in undead skull with surprising skill), Nick (a sort of player in the classic sense who’s had more than one run-in with the law), and Ellis (a “southern” owner of an auto mechanic shop). The only difference in abilities between the four survivors is their appearance and comic vocalizations. And yeah, I know I just did one of the unique features in the game a serious injustice with that breeze-over, but how the hell am I going to convey that kind of polish? Think of it like a mysterious romantic aspect of someone you barely know. You should get to know them better.
There are two groups of Infected in L4D-“Common Infected” aka “The Horde”, and “Special Infected” (SI). Common Infected are the base tier zombie enemies, the bread and butter of zombie movies. Bad news in a way for half of the zombie devout-these are the fast flavor. While the series does include an arguable twist on the slow kind (witches), Valve has never seemed to seriously consider the slower type, possibly for valid reasons-you’d likely need many of them in order to pose a challenge, which would quickly become a tech issue. The Common Infected chase survivors on sight, they attack mostly when in melee range (no, sadly they don’t bite, they just punch/swing/kick at you), they’re attracted to loud noise and “bile” (more on that later), and in numbers they can slow you down and cause serious damage. The “Special Infected” include:
Dude, cut your calories. Try eating little people.
The Boomer: think the fat “gluttony” guy from Se7en reanimated as a corpse. This guy harvests in his gut a great game mechanic in “bile”, and he shares it in a relatively short arc of vomit. If the bile hits a survivor, that survivor is both temporarily blinded (a critical versus mechanic) and becomes a target for the Horde (who are curiously attracted to bile). The Boomer lumbers around slowly, is stationary while vomiting, and dies easily, but when he (or in L4D2 to be PC-she!) dies (s)he in effect becomes a “bile grenade”-any survivors close to shim are both shoved away by the force and covered in bile, which attracts more zombies to attack the survivors.
The Smoker: a thin, seriously deformed zombie with sexually-connotated growths coming out of his head. The funny thing about the smoker is that yes, his name is a real reference-he coughs and hacks like a smoker, and when he’s killed he explodes in a cloud of smoke that obscures vision-but his main talent has maybe nothing to do with smoking. His tongue is his weapon, which adds to the sexual innuendo-he can shoot it as far as around thirty yards, and if it makes contact with a survivor then that survivor gets wrapped up in it and pulled back to the smoker, who then makes with the beatdown while still keeping a hold w/wrapped tongue. He stays engaged this way until he either dies, is shoved/boomed away, or he kills his target. This engagement mechanic is significant in versus.
The Hunter: this kind of hunter is built more like a “mesomorph” with some muscles, especially leg muscles. One of his main talents is leaping-he can roughly jump as far as the smoker can “smoke” (with tongue). He can also sort of parkour off of walls for double-jumps. If he lands on a survivor though (a “pounce”), he forces them down and the other half of his main talents kick in-he does a sort of MMA ground and pound number, except with tearing flesh out of the target’s midsection instead of punches. Like the Smoker, he stays engaged this way until he either dies, is shoved/boomed away, or he kills his target.
The Witch: She looks like a used up ’80s rock star groupie in a diaper and bikini top that just climbed out of a vat of flour, her fingers end in Scissorhands-like claws, and she’s always crying (well, more like sobbing) by default. Her voice is extra good at forcing the mood of despair since the survivors have to locate her quickly by sound. Walking too close to her, shining a flashlight at her, making loud noises too close to her, or downright shooting her “startles her”, at which point she gets up if down, turns toward the target, chases it down (bowling over other survivors in the way), incapacitates the target, and then begins tearing into flesh with her claws like The Hunter-only she’s much quicker to deplete health.
The Tank: the name says it all. This guy was probably some ‘roid-juiced baseball star infected by the virus (or whatever the cause of the turn to zombie form in L4D is, no plot hint ever seems to say beyond “infection”). Being the most powerful flavor of Infected, this guy gets to run around without a shirt and Krunk-smash things. He’s a great co-op mechanic for one since he’s got so many health points and such lethal attacks that the survivors have to team up to kill him. He can swat at survivors (sending them flying and causing roughly – total health damage), swat at mobile environment objects (dumpsters, cars, etc) that instantly incapacitate survivors on contact, and yank obscenely big chunks of concrete out of the ground and hurl them for additional damage.
The Charger (added in L4D2): While the Smoker pulls its targets toward itself, The Charger forcefully pushes targets. The Charger is big and oafy, with one arm shrunk down to baby size while the other is massive. Don’t just laugh off that big pimp hand though-it can cause serious damage just from swiping at a survivor (15 points at a pop). His best trick though is-charging. He can run in a straight line, grab his first target, and take them with him as he bowls through any remaining targets (sometimes sending them flying depending on impact angle) until he reaches either a barrier or a maximum distance. Once he stops he pummels his target into the ground repeatedly until the target dies or someone kills him. The “sometimes sending them flying depending on impact angle” makes for some-uh-“significant versus situations”, I guess you could say.
The Spitter (added in L4D2): This is the series’ answer to the “glass cannon”. She looks like a trailer park reject-cut-off shorts, a flowered tube-top, pigtails, and high heels-only she also looks like someone grabbed her jaw and forced it down about a foot below her skull. With her vocal chords exposed, she ejects a wad of caustic green material. This wad projects forward in a straight line up to a max distance, falls straight down upon impact with obstacles (ex. walls), and when it lands it creates a field of damaging material to the survivors. Since this is a potentially overpowered capability (it can forcibly incap multiple survivors and can be shot like a gun from sizeable distance), her recharge is slow and she’s pretty fragile.
The Jockey (added in L4D2): This guy might be creepy only if the phrase “head babies” weirds you out at all. He looks like a jogger that’s somehow devolved back to almost four legged movement. He’s got this laugh/hyperventilation thing going that makes you want to hide your kids. He skips and hops around enough for Coach to call him “Crazylegs!”, and when he hops on top of a survivor (“Ellis, is that you?”) he can steer them like a hijacked car while causing what looks like humping damage to their head. A favorite trick in versus (even above jockeying people over ledges) is to use him to force a survivor into a bathroom stall, which gives good cover and leads to swirly talk in chat. Like the Hunter/Smoker/Charger, the Jockey stays in headhump mode until he gets shouldered off, killed, or incaps his target.