Saturday, 8 May 2010

Left 4 Dead 2: The Passing (Downloadable Content)

The long awaited first DLC campaign finally arrived with scenes of flying pigs and Satan skating to work, as Valve actually delivered it within reasonable time - for 560 points on Xbox Live or free on PC via Steam.
    The Passing sees Rochelle, Ellis, Coach and Nick meeting with the survivors of the original Left 4 Dead, in between leaving the mall at the end of the Dead Centre chapter and breaking down at the beginning of Dark Carnival. This new campaign also sees the introduction of a few new bits and bobs such as the M60 and golf club weapons, a new bride variation of the Witch, a new uncommon common infected: the Fallen Survivor - who drops items upon death, and new item caches that spawn randomly throughout the new maps.
    The action remains totally unchanged from the main game - you work together to survive the zombie apocalypse, all the while blasting and hacking down zombies and various mutated freaks - but the addition of the original survivors (controlled only by AI) giving you a hand in the finale gives a sense of what direction the series may take in future.
    There are niggling issues with servers that are causing issues upon release but otherwise the online is still solid and definitely the way to play, though perhaps not the best way to enjoy the somewhat sparse storytelling on offer as you’ll likely miss some conversations as you talk with your team mates.
    This is the biggest problem with The Passing, as the main focus of the chapter is the story surrounding what happens to your old friends, Bill, Francis, Zoey and Louis, yet there is barely any real story told at all. Valve’s usual exceptionally subtle storytelling is nowhere to be seen and the matter of the climactic reveal is barely even acknowledged and can actually be easily missed if you aren’t careful as Valve’s talent for visual cues is, again, strangely absent.
    Since this is more of a multiplayer game these story issues would normally be fairly minor but since Valve put quite a bit of emphasis on the possibilities of the story when advertising this chapter, the issues do become a bit of a sticking point. Not enough to ruin the game experience, as it stands it still handles the gameplay masterfully with the AI Director keeping the players on their toes, but it does add an element of disappointment to what could have been an astounding piece of downloadable content - perhaps Valve’s promise of the flipside to the DLC, for the original L4D (telling the story from the other team’s perspective), will erase the disappointment seen here.


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