In a game that essentially has no ending, one of the most sought after achievements in Left 4 Dead 2 is finishing each of the five levels on expert (Still Something to Prove). While it’s a notable and reasonable accomplishment, achieving that goal is no easy task.
So if you’re tired of dying to the hordes of zombies, tanks nailing you with perfect accuracy, killing Jockeys and Hunters feels like you’re shooting air, and being shot by teammates boils your blood, then read on for a complete guide to getting through one of the most difficult modern day gaming experiences. Don’t worry baby, Gamer Limit is going to make it all better.
Before I begin dishing out all my secrets to you, you need to realize that if you want to finish each of the campaigns on expert, it means taking advantage of everything you come across. “Survive all campaigns on Expert” does not mean seeing the sites and trying everything out. It means, if you want to survive, you need to be like a river and find the path of least resistance.
Group Selection / Your Individual Performance
Since not all of us have the advantage of having three of our best friends with microphones and a local connection available at all times, this guide assumes you’re like me: playing with random people and playing with crappy latency.
What you do have control over is yourself. How you perform and your attempts to communicate will highly dictate your success. When you play with random teammates, don’t assume they’re all experts. More than likely they aren’t. What you need to do is make attempts at communicating with them, and don’t be the one to physically lead the group. That’s right, do not ever be the lead man.
Like I said before, you can’t assume your teammates are experts. You have to assume they’re all mid level players who will shoot at everything. It may sound illogical, but players will shoot through anything to get an easy kill, even if it means killing you.
This leads me to my next point: don’t be trigger happy. Your main goal is to finish the campaign on expert. You don’t receive any benefits for killing the most zombies or annihilating the most special infected. Whether you have the least or most amount of kills makes no difference on the final outcome.
If you see an attacking zombie about to flank one of your teammates, but you don’t have the right weapon to take it out, just let the zombie hit your comrade. It is better he takes one hit from a zombie rather than a hit plus a gun shot wound from you.
Choosing the right weapon is a matter of personal taste, but I highly suggest first tier and second tier machine guns (Uzi, SMG, AK-47, M4, and the Desert Rifle). Since being the cover man means preventing the undead from attacking your partners’ blind sides, you need a weapon that will quickly take enemies down without the risk of shooting your teammates. That is why I do not recommend shotguns.
Similarly, while sniper rifles will pierce through a horde, you need a weapon that has a wide spread that puts a lot of lead. That is why I do not recommend sniper rifles.
Also, when the Tank shows his face, your goal is to take him out quickly. The M4 and the AK-47 will kill the Tank the quickest without being close to him.
“Rule 9: Guns Are for Hunting, Not for Zombie Killing: When you’re running who has time to stop for bullets… It’s not a proper means for killing zombies as they [Guns] run out of ammo and need reloading. Remember a Cricket Bat or Toilet Lid do not need loading!” (Columbus, Zombieland).
If you want to play like an expert, you need to learn how to use melee weapons. While double Pistols are fun to use and Magnums are the best way to protect yourself when you’re incapacitated, melee weapons will protect you when you’ve been overrun.
Since you can only push zombies away about five times before fatigue hits, you’re pretty much vulnerable to the horde after that. But with a melee weapon, you can essentially push and swing in combination an infinite amount of times without ever feeling fatigued. Trust me, you’ll survive the most dire situations.
While I haven’t been able to figure out if there are any differences between melee weapons, I always feel more confident with the Fire Axe and Katana. Whichever melee weapon makes you feel like a bad ass, go with that.
Do not be frugal with your throwable items. When you hear the music chime in, pull out whatever you have and toss it. It doesn’t matter if the horde will be attacking you from one direction or multiple directions. If you have it, use it.
At the same time, you need to communicate with your teammates that you’re throwing an item, so that you and a friendly don’t throw simultaneously. There’s nothing like a wasted feeling when that happens.
When you’re presented with an option, always go with the Molotov. Some people will disagree with me here, but I recommend it for a few reasons. When the horde all of a suddenly rushes you, you need to be able to block them off. Since a Pipe Bomb only draws them away for a short amount of time, and a Boomer Bile won’t kill anyone, the Molotov is your best defensive item.
When you hear the musical chime, stop for a moment and look at what direction the horde is attacking you from. If it’s from multiple directions, throw it at your blind side, and focus all your fire power to the horde that is coming straight at you. You’ll survive nearly every attack when you use everything to your advantage.
Map Tips and Exploits
As I mentioned earlier, while exploiting the game may feel like you’re cheating, you need to take advantage of everything in order to survive. The following is a comprehensive guide to getting through some of the toughest parts.
Concert – Finishing the Concert is extremely difficult because there isn’t really anywhere safely to post up with out being attacked from all sides. But from trial and error, the most effective spot to camp out is in either corner of the bleachers.
Because you can see the horde coming from a long distance, and your back is protected, this makes it the most ideal spot. Once the Tank comes, light him on fire and disperse. Once he is dead, return to your position and resume the killing.
1. Swamp – When you come to the airplane in the level, there’s a way to bypass it without having to open the emergency hatch. If you go to the end of fuselage, you can hop on the seats and jump your way up and over the aircraft. It’ll save you ammunition and avoid the risk of taking any damage.
2. Shanty Town – One of the most difficult parts of getting through Shanty Town is staving off the horde when you have to lower the bridge. But thankfully, there is an extremely easy way around it. When you go to lower the bridge, every team member needs to crowd it.
As it starts to lower, everyone has to run up the bridge and jump onto the adjacent roof. Go to the opposite end of the roof, and squat down over the ledge. When the horde goes to climb up, they’ll automatically die when they touch your feet. Also, with the exception of the special infected, no zombies can come up from behind you.
3. Plantation – The easiest way to get through the Plantation is to post up near the gate where you contact the boat for rescue. Have one person guard the left side, one person guard the right side, and two people guard the middle. Gather as many Molotovs and gas cans as you can.
Once the horde starts coming, you’ll be able to fend them off from all directions without them ever getting close to you. When the Tank comes, light him on fire and disperse from the area until he is dead. Once he is down, return to your original position and resume the killing until the boat arrives.
Sugar Mill – The second level of Hard Rain is by far the most difficult of all the stages in the game. You’re in an enclosed space where zombies can drop down on you from every angle, the sun’s glare blinds you from seeing ahead, the rough terrain and all the debris stall your escape, the 10 or so Witches you have to avoid are a nuance, you have to run through a corn maze where you have zero visibility, and most of all, it’s a very long stage. Thankfully, I have a few tips to get you through it all.
1. This is the one stage of the game where I recommend a shotgun over the assault rifles. Instead of avoiding the Witches, crown (Instant kill when shot in the head) every single one you come across with a shotgun. Chances are, you’ll accidentally disturb at least one Witch when you try to avoid all of them. Better to take them out before they kill you.
2. When you go to call the elevator, quickly run diagonally to the opposite end of the structure, and inch your way onto the ledge. You’ll avoid contact with all of the zombies, and you’ll be safe from the special infected.
1. Quarter – When you go to lower the bridge near the end of the level, the best place to hold out is underneath the stairwell. Collect as many Molotovs and gas cans as possible and create a wall of flames in front of you. You’ll be nearly invulnerable as the hordes try to advance on you.
2. Bridge – Once the military starts lowering the bridge, run straight for the goal with a melee weapon in hand and a Pipe Bomb ready. As the horde comes at you head on, throw your bomb to the side in order to make a clear path. When you reach the Tank, try to run straight past him.
If you can, light him on fire with a Molotov. Do not bother to stop and kill him, just run past him and don’t look back. As you get to the end of the level, shoot yourself with an Adrenaline Shot and fight your way straight to the helicopter.
While playing Dead Center, I was unable to find any exploits that’ll help you get through easily. But for a comprehensive guide to surviving the last stage, check out Alex Yue’s guide to Scavenge Mode. It’ll help you effectively collect all the gas cans in an organized manner.
If you find any other exploits, have questions, or have a few other tips to surviving all the campaigns on Expert, leave your input in the comments section below.
UPDATE: Dark Carnival Finale
When playing the finale on Dark Carnival, if everyone in the group jumps from the forklift onto the plywood, the team can avoid ever encountering any infected. It’s a fairly simple way to get past the finale without ever having to fire a bullet. Remember though, in order for the exploit to work correctly, everyone still alive has to be standing on top of the plywood.