Valve communities are no strangers to esports. Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are two of the largest competitively-played games in history. Other Valve titles like Team Fortress 2 and Team Fortress Classic have also left their mark. But did you know that Left 4 Dead 2 has its own active competitive scene?
For those who don’t know L4D2‘s gameplay: One team plays as the Survivors and attempts to reach the safe room at the end of the map. The other team plays as zombies and attempts to kill the Survivor team as fast as possible. After the first team reaches the safe room or dies trying, teams switch sides and the other team gets a chance to see how far they get. At the end of the campaign, both teams have their distance scores added from each map and whichever got further overall wins.
Left 4 Dead 2‘s gameplay isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of competitive esports. After all, the two teams have vastly different goals for winning. Not to mention in high-level play the Survivor team is extremely overpowered. Their guns, grenades, medkits, and defibrillators are just too strong for the zombie team to overcome. So you will notice that for competitive play these elements have been drastically nerfed. Survivors only have access to semi-auto shotguns, submachine guns, and usually a single Hunting Rifle. In many leagues, even the Hunting Rifle’s considered too powerful and gets replaced with the bolt-action Steyr Scout from Counter-Strike: Source.
Health kits and defibrillators are always removed too, and every survivor starts the match with a single bottle of pills. This turns Survivor HP into an indication of progress for both teams, since each’s lost health points will never come back. Every spit, every boom, every scratch from the zombie team contributes to the overall goal of wearing down the Survivor team.
Speaking of score, competitive L4D2 grants a bonus for every hit point the Survivors carry to the end. Originally, Valve had removed this mechanic because it tended to cause snowballs favoring the already-ahead team. But in competitive, it adds value to every health point the Survivors can keep as they progress through the map. You’ll soon notice the Survivor team protecting their teammates with the most health bonus. They’ll send the bleeding teammates to trigger upcoming events, and the zombie team will ignore them and try to pin the high-value targets. This adds an exciting element to the ever-shifting cat-and-mouse game.
Every map is set up to have only one Tank spawn and one Witch spawn. Both of these are high-intensity moments, especially the Tank as it’s the zombie team’s best chance at securing an incap. Tanks in high-level play are insane, busting out curveball rocks, bunny hopping to clear distance, and in general being the highlight of every map.
Competitive Left 4 Dead 2 is a lot more cinematic to watch than most other eSports. I can’t really think of another game that evokes the same feeling. Plus, it’s very good at teaching you how to play better. The strategy is so reliant on positioning that you’ll quickly learn amazing ambush spots and critical junctions on each map. For the longest time, the competitive scene limited itself to stock Valve maps, but recently they’re playing a lot more custom campaigns.
If you want to see some modern competitive L4D2, you picked the right time! We’re at the very end of the 2018 MavWar Hype tournament. Maverick Warriors (and 3ybx, their most frequent streamer) is the organizer behind the largest and most famous L4D2 tournaments in the scene. You can see every match of the current tournament up to the semi-finals on their YouTube channel, and the Grand Finals will be airing any day now. (Update: The Grand Final is now posted!)
Kissme, Killatoy and 3ybx are also great YouTube channels for finding lots of high-quality shoutcasts. I highly recommend you check them out. I hope you fall in love with competitive L4D2 like I have!