It’s unusual to write an article on Left 4 Dead 2, when aabicus is so clearly better at the game than I am. And with only 30 hours (apparently) on the game, I look like a bit of a noob, even though as many as seven years ago, I was being dragged around Advanced coop campaigns and the only one I never managed to beat (and actually played) was Hard Rain, because that is genuinely a grueling campaign. That being said, I also know quite a bit of the ins and outs of the game, and I’ve always liked how strong the characters are.
I mean, the characters of both Left 4 Dead and its sequel are mostly really strong. In the first game, you’ve got the overly pessimistic but experienced Bill, you’ve got the optimistic but less experienced Louis (who is totally based off Shaun from Shaun of the Dead and if you haven’t seen that movie, you should stop reading this article and go and read it now!), you’ve got the clumsy, full-of-himself Francis and you’ve got Zoey, who balances everyone out, as well as having a nice morale compass and has a strong relationship with Bill.
In Left 4 Dead 2, things are about 75% as good as Left 4 Dead 1. Coach replaces Louis perfectly, being overly optimistic but also having his own niche, he’s not just optimistic, he’s trying to be uplifting. Ellis is annoying, but his stories and silliness help make the world seem less dreadful. Nick is rather pessimistic about everything apart from the fact there’s no cops. Rochelle though…
There’s something about Rochelle I can’t put my finger on. I just don’t like her.
It’s not a sexist thing. I think Zoey is an amazing character who does her job well. Rochelle is just… forgettable. Completely and utterly forgettable. I didn’t even know what she was supposed to be until I looked her up. Nick is clearly a shady guy of some sort, Ellis is some sort of young mechanic and country guy. Coach is clearly a sports coach, probably for a high school. According to a L4D wiki, Rochelle was a “small-time associate producer for a news station” but I wouldn’t have known. At best, I would have called her a reporter.
I think the problem is that Rochelle seems too muted. Feels like Valve wanted to avoid any black stereotypes, but went a little bit over the top and made Rochelle too bland. At the same time, it feels like they couldn’t find a decent role for Rochelle. She’s the sensible one, but so is Coach. She’s sassy, but so are Nick and Ellis in their own ways. She’s optimistic, like Ellis is. She just doesn’t stand out enough apart from being female and nice.
But really though, there is space for her to have a bigger personality. As to what that personality might be, I’m not sure. Perhaps she should have pushed the “looking to score a big story!” thing a bit more. Or maybe she could talk about where she’s from a bit more, since I have no idea what her backstory was apart from “oh I worked for a new channel”.
Maybe Rochelle could have had a completely different personality. One fan-made skin in the Steam Workshop is for Prom Rochelle, which actually suits Rochelle insanely well. This might have made Rochelle feel more at home with the player base, which I’m pretty sure has quite a few teenage players in it, but also makes for quite a cool getup.
It’s not just me though. Most people will avoid playing as Rochelle, as far as I’ve seen. Whenever I’ve played with others, if there are three of us, Rochelle always ends up being an AI bot. If there are four of us, one of us will begrudgingly play as her.
If Left 4 Dead 3 ever comes out, it’ll be interesting to see what happens or what happened to the L4D2 survivors. Hopefully Rochelle will have found herself more of a personality by then.