Left 4 Dead 2: The Sacrifice

Zombies are relentless, the special undead snag you at the worst moment possible, the cricket bat resounds nicely off zombie skulls, blood flies everywhere: all the fun of Left 4 Dead 2 and totally worth the money.

With Fall in full swing, everyone from game developers to movie studios to comic publishers have been ramping up their holiday production in order to milk as much cash out of us as they can before Christmas.  If you’re into media as we are, this means a lot of stuff is either out or arriving soon, and you want as much of it as you can without breaking the bank.  As far as games, Call of Duty: Black Ops is on the horizon, the second Alan Wake pack has dropped, Fable III draws closer and a new WOW DLC (among others) will ensure lots of sleepless nights and drained bank accounts…and we don’t even know if they’re worth it yet (brief aside: they are.  Let’s not be stupid).  What is known is the second Left 4 Dead 2 downloadable content pack has been released for 560 Microsoft points ($7) and features the cast of the original Left 4 Dead game with the new engine.  What is also known is I am a zombie fanatic so as soon as I saw this content available I downloaded it post-haste, gathered Mexomorph and Mr. Garrison and tore through it like a champion, all so I could be topical and give you the current lowdown on whether your $7 is wasted or if you’ll be hip-deep in the undead until Black Ops ruins your life (like it will mine).

Left 4 Dead 2, of course, is the successful “shoot tons of zombies” game that allows up to four players to bathe in the blood of reanimated corpses through several environments, raising the bar over the first game by adding new enemies and melee weapons to the already excellent formula.  The staggering flaw of the game was the cast sucked compared to the first batch of survivors.  Gay Francis, Disgusted and Racially Prejudiced Louis, Sweet but Vicious Zoey and Crusty Bill all won us over through a relentless amount of playthroughs and everyone had their favorite character.  When Part 2 hit, we had all hoped for the same group’s continued storyline but instead we get a whole new cast, none of whom distinguished themselves.  Coach (some fat dude), Rochelle (some chick), Redneck Ellis and Suave Nick just didn’t have much going for them when compared to the first cast and we were sorely disappointed, forming very little attachment for Suave Nick and even less for Ellis (who reminded us of someone we knew).  Sure, Left 4 Dead had a small, two-level campaign download called Crash Course (which I bought and no one else did) that had one more mission with the originals, and that was cool but also a little like rubbing salt in a fresh wound.  Left 4 Dead 2, cast non-withstanding, was a fun game and many hours of killing ensued.

The excitement really began to build with the release of The Passing this last April, a 560 point ($7) download that supposedly featured the original cast!  Oh, yes, we idiots all got it only to find out the old cast makes a brief appearance at the beginning (with a startling revelation about Crusty Bill, which is already common knowledge so I’m sure you’ve figured it out) and a brief appearance at the end, allegedly symbolizing a “passing of the torch” to the new, inferior, cast.  Talking about rending your heart to bits.  Seeing Zoey shooting at the Tank and knowing it’s not you pulling the trigger , let alone being a Crusty Bill supporter…. Anyway, still totally worth the $7 because of the new stuff and all of it working across all game modes and the mission does fit within Left 4 Dead 2’s storyline but just know you are not the old cast.

So, last week they release The Sacrifice and they also mention it has the old cast.  I’m a mark, so it was $7 spent even though I knew it was probably false – and even if it was true…The Sacrifice, people?  We get Bill back just to lose him?  Well, I am happy to say that The Sacrifice does contain a new, three-level campaign featuring our favorite band of stalwarts!   Kill-machine Zoey and the gang are back, utilizing the new engine and new melee weapons to kill the new undead types and hoards of our old pal the “regular” zombie.  The add-on takes about an hour to complete (a little quicker with a decent co-op partner because the AI of your computer-controlled chums has a completely different priority schedule than you do) and is totally worth the time investment.  The first two levels are large and we did spend a fruitless minute or three on the boat trying to figure out where to go but it’s pretty straightforward.  The third level is exactly the last level of The Passing except the objectives are rather different (you turn on generators instead of filling them with gas; you raise a bridge instead of lowering it) and it does require a sacrifice….but anyone you choose.  Crusty Bill has a huge fan base, possibly because we believe UFO Hunters head honcho William J. Birnes was his real-life inspiration, so it’s nice to know that we could kill, oh, I don’t know… useless, slow-ass Francis… or maybe Louis because in every static picture you can tell he doesn’t want to be with that group at all… instead of old Bill.  Just for the record, when I did it, we made Mexomorph sacrifice Bill for the achievement (we’re such whores).  Removing cast considerations, it felt like one more mission for Left 4 Dead 2, which is a good thing.  Zombies are relentless, the special undead snag you at the worst moment possible, the cricket bat resounds nicely off zombie skulls, blood flies everywhere: all the fun of Left 4 Dead 2 and totally worth the money.

But wait!  There’s more!  This DLC pack is available for both Left 4 Dead 2 and Left 4 Dead and for the same 560 points!  Something’s got to make it better for Part 2, right?  Right, indeed, but it really depends on how you look at it.  The Xbox ad declares “blah blah original cast blah blah two action-packed campaigns,” and they are not wrong in the sense that the Left 4 Dead 2 content  does have two campaigns included, unlike Part 1’s Sacrifice-only download.  What they don’t tell you is the other “action-packed campaign” is the very first level of the first game, No Mercy (which you’ve played a million times).  The selling point here is the new engine, new enemies and new weapons are integrated with the campaign so Zoey can pop 105 heads off with the fire axe in the first level.  The reality is, even for free, it’s the first level of the first game.  Takes an hour.  Defend the helipad.  We’ve done it.  The Part 1 guys don’t get it because they don’t need it.  Do I recommend the Part 1 download, then?  Not in lieu of the second one.  From what I hear, the AI is even worse than usual and for the same cost you do get the chance to try the first level slightly different and can milk a little more time out of the original cast, which we did.  It’s just silly to hinge your marketing on two campaigns when one is really old.

So, $7, huh?  Yep, and it’s worth more than many of the 1200 point ($15) games I’ve picked up (except the stellar Plants vs Zombies) in terms of fun.  We all like the Left 4 Dead franchise so it’s silly to assume this would be less than enjoyable, despite it’s few flaws, and the price is more than reasonable for what you get.  It’s also neat they provided for the people who did not purchase the second game but did attempt to bonus the people who did.  You’ve got time before Black Ops hits the shelves and $7, even in this economy, is pretty easy to come up with so very little is stopping you from murdering a couple more thousand zombies for a few more hours.  The Sacrifice is definitely worth the investment and the nostalgia factor itself is the payoff.

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