Left 4 Dead: The Sacrifice Review
A tidy ending to the struggles of the original survivors, although a far greater purchase for the second Left 4 Dead game.
In Left 4 Dead 2's first downloadable add-on episode 'The Passing', the new survivors briefly met the original cast from the first game. It was made abundantly clear that fan favourite character Bill had died before the two sides met. Since then, players have been wondering just what happened to Bill. Now developers Valve have an answer ready for them.
After escaping with the military at the end of the first game (and then escaping from the military, as seen in the official online comic) Bill, Zoey, Francis and Louis have made it to a dockyard to find a boat. Bill believes that if they can find and secure a sailboat, they can escape this zombie hell and get to an island. Unfortunately, while four survivors start the campaign, only three will ever make it out alive...
This is a highly unusual DLC add-on for several reasons. Firstly, it's a more story-driven affair than just about anything in the whole of the first Left 4 Dead, with the focus entirely on the group's barely-controlled rising tempers towards each other and the narrative thrusting forwards to the inevitable sacrifice. Secondly, it's been released as an add-on for both Left 4 Dead games, making the difference in quality more apparent than ever.
The game plays out in the usual Left 4 Dead manner: four survivors arrive in the middle of nowhere with nothing more than a few basic weapons and a destination in mind. They fight their way through three fairly short (thirty or forty minute) maps filled with zombie hordes and hold off until rescue arrives. What makes 'The Sacrifice' stand out is are the excellent new set-pieces on offer.
While the levels themselves are disappointingly grey and bland - not a patch on the hugely varied maps in Left 4 Dead 2 - the new Crescendo Events provide some excellent and very tense battles. One sees the players forced to release a trapped Tank from a train car and doing battle with it in a cramped train warehouse. Another features a desperate scramble up an enormous pile of gravel that slows movement, while the finale can see players attempting to engage multiple Tanks at once. It's this tiny bit of variety that marks 'The Sacrifice' out against much of the first Left 4 Dead.
There are no new musical tracks to listen to - not even more fantastic Midnight Riders songs - but there's plenty of excellent new unique dialogue to enjoy from the survivors. Francis' incessant hatred of everything reaches hysterical levels, while Zoey's anger at Bill (which was shown in the comic) is brought to the fore. Even Louis' eternal optimism seems to be on the wane and listening to the four desperately try to stay upbeat in the face of overwhelming odds is far more interesting than it was in the whole first game. You can also choose who makes the sacrifice for the team, as any player can be the one who saves the others.