Every single element in Left 4 Dead 2 is there for a reason. Its features, weapons, zombie types, etc are balanced between each other and have their own role to play. All unnecessary aspects of the setting have been trimmed out, boiling the zombie apocalypse into a polished and nuanced nutshell. It’s a great game for players new and old, as a standard normal-difficulty campaign can throw enough curveballs to keep veterans on their toes while also letting the inexperienced focus on reaching the next safe room and surviving.
However, if you limit yourself to only the base game, you’re missing out on the hundreds of amazing modifications, or “mods”, that exist to fine-tune the game to exactly what you may be looking for. The Steam Workshop has an amazing array of these mods available to change literally any aspect of the game you choose, and they’re as easy to install as clicking the green “Subscribe” button. As something of a purist, I only tend to use very subtle mods that tweak the game in slight ways to fix small issues that bug me. Here are some ‘practical’ mods that I hope will give you an idea of how exploring L4D2’s modding community can help you fine-tune the apocalypse just the way you like it.
This first problem may sound a bit silly, but I occasionally have trouble telling the visual differences between certain weapons in the game. The biggest one is the shotguns; while the Combat Shotgun stands out distinctly with its bulky black frame, the Chrome shotgun and Tactical shotgun look very similar to my eye, which is not a good thing when the Tactical is better in almost every way. When it’s dark and I’ve got zombies gnawing on me, I need to know which one I’m picking up before I commit to switching out my primary weapon, and that’s why I grabbed this mod that gives the Tactical shotgun a very classy golden skin. For the same reason, I adore this mod that turns my Magnum into a silver long-barreled revolver, letting me know at a glance which pistol is resting on that darkened shelf. The default Magnum looks too similar to the P220 pistol for my liking.
This applies also to the weapon upgrades. Both incendiary and explosive ammo come in little yellow boxes. While it’s rarely super important to know which one you’re about to pick up, I prefer coloring the incendiary box red so I can instantly distinguish them. Lastly, the laser sight pickup is the only permanent upgrade and also the rarest, and it holds a very special place in my heart for turning my favorite gun, the AK-47, into a super-accurate heavy-hitting powerhouse. Considering you can go a whole campaign without seeing the laser sight pickup and it always spawns in remote off-the-path places, I want every possible advantage to spotting it, so I colored its box bright glow-in-the-dark green.
If you care about things like visibility, I also highly recommend this flashlight mod which gives your light an LED bulb, removing those rings that come with standard beams. It’s a subtle but very nice improvement. Changing gears to a non-diagetic aspect, in the below screenshot you can see a mod that makes a subtle change to the default HUD:
Health is rendered as a percentage, letting you know exactly how wounded each teammate is. When push comes to shove and the team is having to allocate pills and health kits, this can be a great help. There are a number of custom HUDs available on the Workshop, try them out and see which one conveys the information in the way that pleases you most.
You can even customize your server browser. Are you familiar with the console-style server browser from most other Valve games? This mod gives you one of those to pick your server from. If you play on things other than Valve’s dedicated servers this mod feels like a necessity.
Now this last one doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the others, but I consider it almost mandatory for anyone who has discovered the “third person” mode which can be enabled on listen servers and enjoys playing like that in single player. As someone who prefers third-person shooters, I love this mutation because it solves every major problem with L4D2’s shifty third-person perspective. Default crosshairs were always wrong, so this mutation replaces them with a laser pointer showing where you’re actually looking. It’s so accurate I can snipe a zombie with it in the screenshot below.
In addition, un-modded third person has a bug where shotguns don’t play their sound when you fire them. This mod fixes that. It also comes with some bot improvements; they can use melee weapons, close the safe room door and keep going if you die, instead of defaulting to an instant game over. After subscribing to this mod, you can play it from the “Mutations” menu on the game’s main screen. There are a few other mutations bundled with it, including a single-player version and an FPS version.
Speaking of bot improvements, if you play L4D2 single-player you really ought to invest in some of the mods that improve the standard bots. Just look at all the improvements this mod offers your three stooges. There’s even an advanced version which lets you give them commands or switch which survivor you’re controlling! Pick the one you prefer and marvel at how suddenly you can focus on surviving the apocalypse instead of chaperoning some kindergarteners through a battlefield.
None of these mods are game-changing. When playing with three randoms on a public server I can rest assured that the four of us are receiving the same information from the game world. My goal with this article was to show you that there’s almost no reason anyone should restrict themselves to the core game. There’s almost certainly a few mods out there that could improve your game in one way or another, and they couldn’t be easier to install.