After a month of comics, trailers and an attempt at a week of rolling updates two things were evident. First, the Left 4 Dead team shouldn’t try and mimic the Team Fortress tradition of teasing content each day mixed with humour as it simply doesn’t work with a game that is serious.
Second is that the combo of the comic and the downloadable content does work, so well in fact that to fully understand the DLC it is probably best that you read them. Without it questions such as why are they turning up in an armoured train or why Bill is willing to kill himself to raise a bridge never get answered.
By having the comic deal with the story this campaign feels more focused in terms of gameplay which in turn leads to a map that is unlike anything experienced before.
It is the same formula of getting from saferoom to saferoom but the journey there is an excellent affair forcing you through abandoned brick mills, docks and refuse heaps all just to survive. One minute you could be in a wide open area with a sea view, the next in a dark warehouse filled with twisting corridors steeped in shadows cloaking the infected.
The crescendos also try to be different and memorable. One forces you to release a captive tank from its train cart, on top of throwing a horde at you, just to progress. Another has you slowly climb up a trash heap only for crows to alert all nearby hordes. Do you fight them there or make a mad dash down the conveyor belt to the trash barge; its wonderfully hectic.
The only letdown is the finale. As opposed to being an climatic ending, the action is a little thin and too short and the map is the same as the finale to The Passing except that it is half the size. It is redeemed only by the final decision you have to make: who kills themselves to save everyone else.
It’s a decision that you’ve never really had to do before in a multiplayer game and it feels suitably rewarding to know that everyone survives because of you … so long as you make it past the three angry tanks guarding the generator (thankfully it only takes a second to start).
The other bonus of this DLC is the inclusion of the original game’s No Mercy campaign, playable in all modes including Scavenge, Versus Realism and the weekly mutations. It’s what you would expect with a couple of changes like railings on the roof to make it harder to death charge and some minor graphical touches such as new wallpaper in the flats.
While remaining the same in design it still feels fresh as the new infected create whole new areas of danger be it the tight packed spitter friendly train cars or chargers in the sewers. You really don’t stand a chance now against a well organised team.
In addition, while being available regardless of whether you purchase the new DLC, this weeks mutation is one of the best variations to appear in a long time. Called Taaannnk, this mode gives players 15 seconds to get as far as they can into a map before four human controlled tanks are released onto them.
It’s the tank run mod that has been around for a while though now you don’t have to bother trawling the internet trying to find good servers which use it. This is the mutation for people who are firm friends with carnage and pain.
Now all of this is fine for PC users but there is a problem for the Xbox. Valve have shown that they are willing to defend their original game by updating with new content but the L4D version of The Sacrifice simply lacks the content to justify the purchase.
It doesn’t have the mutations, the new weapons, the new infected or the new modes and when compared to its sequel it just feels empty. Definitely pick the second games version over the original, unless of course you’re an achievement fanatic who can’t live with not 100% both games.
For 560 MSP you’re getting another brilliant chunk of L4D that provides a wealth of new content to keep you busy for a while and if you have Steam there’s no excuse for not downloading both versions.