Left 4 Dead 2 was a very popular game among critics, particularly among us here at The Newb Review. This year Left 4 Dead 2 won the prestigious BAFTA (the UK’s equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Multiplayer Game of 2009. So you can imagine out excitement when Valve confirmed that they would be releasing a number of add-ons for this fantastic title. The first piece of downloadable content is The Passing, which has our band of survivors coming across the survivors from the original Left 4 Dead. The tag line for this new act is “no one survives forever” which teases the death of one of the beloved characters… But who?!
Fear not, we will not spoil it for you here.
The Passing features one new act, made up of three new chapters that take place after the survivors escape from the shopping mall in the supped up race car, and before they are forced to abandon it outside the Dark Carnival. Having followed the road straight out of town, our tenacious survivors (Coach, Ellis, Nick, and Rochelle) find themselves at a raised bridge, which is being protected by the original survivors. After a brief cut scene (which on occasion failed to actually load up for me) we are told that the generator that controls the bridge is out of fuel, and that you will have to refuel the generator if you want to get across. Of course, in typical Left 4 Dead Fashion, there are about 1 Billion zombies between you and your objective. By the time you reach your objective you will probably be drenched in Zombie blood, bile, vomit, and an array of nasty bodily fluids. Why are things never easy in the Zombie Apocalypse?
The three chapters feature everything you have come to expect from Left 4 Dead 2: dimly lit streets, a raging storm, and Zombies… Lots and lots of Zombies. All of the Special Infected return, including the veteran Boomers, Smokers, Hunters, the dreaded Tank and Witch (who has had something of a makeover for this act) as well as the new kids on the block, Spitters, Chargers, and Jockeys.
On your quest to restart the generator, you will come across lock boxes filled to the brim with supplies, as well as two new weapons; a golf club, and an M60 Machine Gun as well as a new type of uncommon infected, the Fallen Survivor. Basically, the Fallen Survivor is a survivor that was not as immune to the virus as he might first have thought. This new zombie takes an awful lot of shooting, but also carries a lot of items, such as health packs, Molotovs, pipe bombs, etc, so coming across him does have its rewards, as well as risks.
Also returning are the Survivor messages written on the walls of the safe houses, with one note in particular that will bring a smile to the faces of fans of Capcom’s Dead Rising series.
As well as new achievements, there are some new Avatar costume pieces to unlock, including your very own Gnome Chompski, which will doubtlessly capture the imagination, and trouser contents, of Valve’s more hardcore fans.
All three Maps can be played in the story mode (on your own, in 2 player split screen, or 4 player online), Versus mode (which features a team of survivors VS a team of special infected zombies), Survivor mode (a time attempt to survive as long as possible against the zombie hordes) and Scavenger Mode (in which you must collect as many canisters of gasoline as you can within a set time limit). Arguably the biggest new feature added in this DLC is the Mutations Mode.
A short blog post that is attached to the main menu explains Mutations Mode thusly: Mutations mode takes already established game types, such as Versus, and adds special conditions to them, like a chainsaws only mode. Think of it as being like Golden Gun mode in Goldeneye, or Riot Shields only Modern Warfare 2 matches. Each mutation will last for one week exactly, and once every type of mutation has cycled through, players will be asked to vote for their favourite one. The top user voted Mutations will be made playable again. The first Mutation is Realistic Versus Mode, in which there are no respawns, and no outlines on players or items. In short, Realistic Versus Mode takes away all of the advantages on the Human’s side, making it a very Zombie friendly game mode. With at least six types of mutations confirmed, it is clear that Valve is dedicated towards breathing more life in to Left 4 Dead 2’s multiplayer.
Graphics: 4/5 While the Source Engine that powers Left 4 Dead 2 is showing it’s age, a lot of effort has gone in to making the game look at good as possible, particularly with the design of the levels and characters. Faces look particularly gruesome, and the streets are dauntingly atmospheric.
Sound: 3/5 The music, sound effects, and voice acting are on par with the main game, as you would expect. However, on occasion, I have had a few problems with the noise produced by the raging storm being far too loud, drowning out all of the other sounds in the game. I do not know if it is intentional, but I found it very irritating.
Story: 2/5 Anyone that is playing Left 4 Dead because they are looking for a fantastic in depth story should probably look elsewhere. The story is very basic, and on occasion, a key cut scene at the beginning of the expansion failed to actually let me know what was going on. It’s a good thing that Valve have announced an expansion for the original Left 4 Dead to fill in the gaps in this add-on.
Gameplay: 5/5 While you can play it in single player, Left 4 Dead 2 is best played with other people. A welcome addition included in the 360 version brings an update, which has been available to PC players for some time, that allows any empty spaces in your multiplayer Versus or Scavenge games will be filled with computer controlled bots.
Longevity: 4/5 Your first play through of the Passing will probably last between half an hour and one hour, depending on your skill level. Achievements and Avatar Awards incentivise multiple play throughs of the DLC, while the Mutations mode breathes new life in to the multiplayer modes, both locally and online.
Overall 4 Exploding Boomers out of 5. While there are a few niggling issues: unclear narrative, and the odd sound problem, The Passing brings with it a lot of new features that are fun, engaging, and downright addictive. PC players can install this update for free, while Xbox 360 Owners will have to pay 560 Microsoft Points (about £4.80) for the privilege.