If you read any gaming blog other than Gaming Daily (although honestly, why would you?) You’ve probably noticed that Left4Dead (both 1 and 2) just got a new free update, ‘The Sacrifice’ telling the events of ‘The Passing’ from the other side. Last night I took a wander through the new campaign to see how it played.
NB: I played the Left4Dead2 version, I assume the Left4Dead version is the same but without the new mechanics.
First off, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about seeing the old Left4Dead characters in the second instalment, finally getting to see them in the bright light of day, having them battle Jockeys, Chargers and Spitters, but most of all seeing Bill beat zombies to death with a cricket bat.
This quick burst of nostalgia doesn’t, disguise the fact that ‘The Sacrifice’ is, like ‘The Passing’ and ‘Crash Course’, significantly shorter than the standard Left4Dead Campaign. I’m not one to complain about free updates, but compared the original campaigns the new ones feel stunted and underwhelming.
Perhaps it’s because they aren’t unified around a single environmental theme like say; No Mercy or Dark Carnival, as such the designers often seem to be running you through generic environments until you arrive at a high concept finale.
‘The Sacrifice’ elevates itself about both ‘The Passing’ and ‘Crash Course’ however, by offering at least one striking and original area. A section which sees you navigate across several rusted and broken ships that list sideways in the harbour.
Once again however most effort has gone into the finale. The Sacrifice uses the same area for it’s setting as the end of ‘The Passing’ but plays radically differently. Instead of collecting fuel you must start three separate generators before guarding the lowering bridge.
Cleverly this finale lasts just a hair longer than usual, instead of the standard two tanks to fight and one to run from, we actually had to deal with a third tank before the way became clear.
Holding out gets you a ladder up to the top of the bridge, where a heavy machine gun awaits, but disaster! The machine stops half way, someone has to go down to start it again, and they aren’t coming back, not with four Tanks on their tails.
It’s an interesting experiment, adding a certain amount of mandatory pathos to a gameplay driven story, but sadly I think Left4Dead has always been too light on the dialogue and narrative moments to give it a true emotional level. With the action so frantic and everyone trying to do their jobs, the ‘Sacrificee’ tends to treat it as a purely mechanical decision.
Still, nice try, interesting idea, but I doubt most people will replay it anywhere near as often as they do the main campaign.