This past week saw the release of “The Sacrifice,” Valve’s latest add-on for the Left 4 Dead games. This new campaign serves as a prequel to Valve’s previous DLC, “The Passing” which featured an appearance from the original survivors of Left 4 Dead—one man short. “The Sacrifice” gives players the opportunity to experience the events leading to “The Passing,” and the loss of one of their comrades—and not the kind of loss where you pick him up from a hero closet a few minutes later.
To avoid any confusion, “The Sacrifice” is available for both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2—but the package is slightly different. The version for the original L4D includes only the new campaign, “The Sacrifice,” played with the standard enemies and equipment of that game. Alternatively, the L4D2 version includes the new campaign and an updated version of the “No Mercy” campaign from the original game, with both taking advantage of L4D2’s expanded arsenal and enemies. Regardless of which game you play, you’ll be playing these campaigns as the original survivors.
Considering that the release of Left 4 Dead 2 was not universally supported by fans of the original game, the decision to release this add-on for both products was a pretty sound strategy, likely good for business while also appeasing those who were not supportive of the release of L4D2.
It’s worth noting that L4D fans may find their experience with this DLC significantly improved by the free online comic prequel. This is a pretty substantial product, especially against comparable offerings you may find for other games, and is not so much a prequel to this particular campaign as a love letter to fans of the original four survivors. The narrative of the Left 4 Dead games is pretty sparse, occurring in snips of sharply crafted dialogue and what players can piece together from the openings and endings of the campaigns—so that Valve has taken the opportunity to produce a solid storytelling effort without compromising the gameplay-driven nature of the games is commendable. The comic serves as solid primer to get players excited to play the new campaign.
“The Sacrifice” is shorter than the on-disc campaigns, requiring about forty minutes with variations for difficulty and skill. It continues L4D2’s strategy of employing unique finales with unique demands, this time requiring one of the most complex actions from the players in order to finally complete the campaign. Requiring careful timing and a good strategy, you’ll find that actually making the eponymous sacrifice is the real trick. Oddly, the campaign does not end with the grand, sweeping shot of the survivor’s escape, which may seem trivial but ultimately diminishes the sense of accomplishment as the game ends.
“The Sacrifice” is also lighter on the crescendo set-piece moments, making it somewhat less memorable than the other campaigns, but is still up to the lofty standard of L4D level design, with sharply designed environments that are easy to navigate and provide unique dangers and opportunities. The campaign also features a selection of new dialogue from the survivors, which is invariably going to make more sense to those who have read the aforementioned comic.
As noted earlier, the L4D2 version of “The Sacrifice” also includes “No Mercy,” the first—and arguably most popular—campaign from the original game. While a new campaign is always good to have, the inclusion of No Mercy is the main course here. Bringing what is perhaps the strongest effort in the series to date to the new weapons, enemies, and tactics of L4D2 is a win-win situation. The campaign itself is identical, with one notable exception: the finale has been slightly altered to remove the stairwell and closet that were used as a crutch by many players. Beyond that, the new enemies of L4D2 change the flavor of the campaign significantly—being designed specifically to break the careful strategies of L4D veterans, they will immediately and consistently disrupt the comfortable patterns players have developed over the past two years playing this campaign.
“The Sacrifice” is free for PC and Mac owners of L4D or L4D2; Xbox 360 players, however, will have to shell out 560 Microsoft points. L4D2 players will easily receive the better deal, featuring two complete campaigns. Players of the original Left 4 Dead may feel 560 points is somewhat unreasonable for an hour-long (or less) campaign, but when one considers the nigh-infinite replayability of a L4D campaign, the price may sting less.
*A copy of this title was purchased by Gamesugar for review