Valve says the sole purpose of Left 4 Dead 2's new multiplayer mode, Scavenge, is to provide the game "quicker, even more frantic gameplay" than the versus mode has to offer.
That's hard to imagine given the blinding speed at which us games journalists tore through the normal versus mode while waiting for the developer to set up Scavenge matches. But two lightning-quick rounds a lot of incoherent howling later, the whole thing had gone by so fast that I almost didn't grasp what had happened. Luckily, I wrote it all down.
What Is It? Scavenge is a new multiplayer mode in Left 4 Dead 2's lineup. It still pits four Survivors against a zombie horde dotted with special class Infected. But the catch is that the Survivors have to gather as many of 16 cans of gasoline throughout a map to fill up a generator while the zombies do their best to stop them, kill them or destroy the gas cans. The whole thing is timed and each gas can fed to the generator adds 20 seconds to the clock. The mode plays to three rounds with victory going to whoever got more cans total (and if there's a tie, it goes to who got the most in the least amount of time).
What We Saw I played two matches of Scavenge on the Xbox 360 in a noisy club with a slew of other games journalists.
How Far Along Is It? The game is out November 17.
What Needs Improvement? It's WAY Too Easy to Generator-Camp: The map we were playing on had the all-important generator planted in the bottom of a drained pool at a motel. There was absolutely nothing to prevent an Infected from climbing into the pool and camping the generator so that the survivors couldn't successfully fill the generator (which takes about as much time as executing a heal or reviving a partner).
The Spitter Is All-Powerful: Gas cans are vulnerable to gunshots as you might assume they would be. However, they're especially vulnerable to the Spitter's saliva after they've been picked up. I don't mind that the Infected can rain on the Survivor's gas parade, of course, but I think it's not fair that the Spitter gets to have all the satisfaction of exploding a can of gas in a Survivor's arms with a well-aimed expectoration. Also, the Spitter can camp the generator without actually being there just by spitting in front of it to block a Survivor from getting close enough to pour the gas.
What Should Stay The Same? Strategic Gas Can Placement: Aside from camp-vulnerable position the generator was in, the gas cans were spread out in a perfect way to challenge Survivors. Here and there, there would be clusters of three cans up on a roof you could throw down to waiting Survivors for a quick run back to the generator. But eventually, the cans come down to singletons spread out so far from each other you have to split up to get them in a timely fashion.
It's Fun And It's Frantic: I didn't think it was possible to speed up the experience of Left 4 Dead's versus mode — but there you have it. Scavenge goes by extremely fast (hence the three-round setup) and it's all the more fun for it. You're still getting all the weapons and desperate give-and-take of switching between Infected and Survivor factions that you would normally have. But at the same time, you're savouring it in an entirely different, gas-soaked way.
Final Thoughts The katana is your best friend. I'm just saying.