Today the demo for Left 4 Dead 2 was made available exclusively to those who preordered. Valve sent over the sizable (1.7 gig) demo for the 360, which is very similar to the one made available for the first game- two levels to play in Campaign mode either by yourself or with friends online. There’s no Versus or any of the other multiplayer modes, but you can scroll through them and sigh a bit.

The demo includes the first two levels from The Parish, the New Orleans-themed level of the game.As it starts your heroes are getting off a boat that you got a lift on, saying goodbye to the captain and heading off to fend for yourselves. The first big change you’ll notice is that the game is in bright daylight. You’ll make your way down familiar streets and fend off all the new enemies, and notice how it feels more like a Versus match than ever. They seem to throw a whole lot more boss zombies at you this time, and the sunlight only lets you see how much more disgusting the zombies are this time. You’ll also do much more horrific damage to them. Besides shooting off limbs and heads you can also blow different parts out of their torsos, or even get them right in the stomach and watch their intestines spill out. They look a lot worse for the wear… perhaps it’s the heat down south doing it.

Most everything feels familiar but the second stage has one big moment that’s new. At one point you’ll run into a trailer that almost works as a mini save-room, except that it keeps going. Closing the door behind you get ready to open the next one, which a sign nearby warns you will set off an alarm. The horde will keep coming at you until the alarm is turned off, and the catch? To turn it off you’ll have to run through a huge maze of fences to the top of a guard tower and hit a switch. This means that this is time for a mad dash as zombies come at you from everywhere, and for once you have to forget about your friends and just try to make it there as quickly as possible.

But the bottom line is that it’s Left 4 Dead, and it’s incredible. There aren’t any huge leaps and bounds over the first game but the same frantic sense of survival will hit you once again, and even harder this time.

You do have some new tricks up your sleeve however. The biggest new addition are the melee weapons. Now you’re not stuck with a pistol or two, you can trade it in for any melee weapons you see lying around. During various playthroughs in the demo I found a police officer’s baton, an axe, a machete, a frying pan, and my personal favorite, a guitar, all of which get completely covered in blood as you smash zombies to bits with them. The machete seemed most useful, it’s quick and can take off a common zombie’s head with one swipe.

It’s pretty fun to switch to the melee weapons (using the Y button on 360) whenever there’s only a few zombies to take out, or if you just really want to get messy. Still have to find that chainsaw…

There are also some new items that you can use. You’ll still have health and pain pills, molotovs and pipe bombs, but that ain’t it. One new item is a jar of Boomer bile. That’s right, the stuff that the Boomer vomits all over you and makes all the zombies chase you, bottled up for your convenience. It’s absolutely perfect for when a Tank shows up, or if there’s a large group of zombies that you’d rather have fighting each other. Just throw it and let the zombies do your work for you.

Another new item is an adrenaline shot. For a short time it makes you faster and much easier for you to push through groups of zombies. The sound gets all muddled and faraway and the filter changes a bit till you come back down from it. It’s perfect for that alarm section in the second level.

The new enemies are beasts, and really do change up your style of play. You play more spread out now because closely clustered people can get hit with the Spitter, a vicious pigtailed monstrosity who spits green goo that hurts anything it touches and stays on the ground for a short while after. Even killing her will make her release a puddle of the acid.

The Jockey never seemed to get me down too well but he’d be horrible if he got someone by themselves. It jumps on a character’s back (making it very hard for you to not shoot your friend if you try and blast him off) and rides him like a horse, usually steering them into packs of zombies or Spitter goo.

The last new enemy is the Charger, and he’s a BEAST. If he manages to grab you he won’t let go till he’s dead, and you’ll be at his mercy as he runs around smashing you into everything. He will get you separated from your friends really easily, so your best bet is to stay as far away as you can. Thankfully he doesn’t take a lot to take down.

Yep, he has Rochelle by the foot there!

Besides the boss zombies there are also the “Uncommon Infected”, zombies that have various suits and such and require different tactics to take down. The ones in this level are wearing bulletproof riot armor that will soak up a ton of ammo. The only way to stop them quickly is to shoot them in the back where their armor’s weaker, or go nuts with a melee weapon.

Hunters, Spitters, Tanks and Boomers all reappear, but look differently. The Spitter is particuarly gnarly this time around, with a big tumor-like growth coming out of his neck. Fitting.

Another L4D vet is the Witch, who actually wanders around the game now, hands over her face like a grieving widow. She will walk right through packs of zombies, which makes for a fun time when you’re trying to aim. Startle her by getting too close or shooting her and she’ll be right on you in a second, with a swipe that will instantly incapacitate you, same as always.

Fans of the first game will be happy to note that these new characters are a lot of fun to play, and that the dialogue is just as great as you’d expect. You’ll hear a lot of similar lines but I already had a chuckle with Ellis talking about sucking heads like a Southern boy. It seems like we’re going to grow as attached to these guys as we did to the original quartet.

I’d write more but I’ve got the hankering to go back into the demo and try it out for a few more rounds, and hopefully begin to recognize the warning music of the new boss infected. The demo hits next Tuesday, November 3rd for everyone! Make sure to check out the official site for more.