Zombie slayers, rejoice! Then find a damn good hiding place or a gun with a spare bullet for yourself because the “The Sacrifice” DLC for Left 4 Dead AND Left 4 Dead 2 is pretty brutal.
This campaign shows the fateful events leading up to the crossover DLC “The Passing” (Read our Left 4 Dead "The Passing Review) and the demise of chain smoking Vietnam vet, Bill. That said, Bill doesn’t have to die here: any one of the survivors can sacrifice themselves to save the team...if they can survive long enough.
Don’t let me scare you away: only the finale is particularly punishing (on normal and above difficulties). The first two levels are pretty standard for the series and route the survivors through a boatyard and shipwrecked barges. The maps feel like the less linear designs in L4D2, and there is one stand-out moment as the team scales a giant mountain of sediment as zombies stream up it from all sides.
Of course, all of this leads to the bridge and a map that should look very familiar from “The Passing”. This time, however, you need to start three generators to power the bridge and then take on endless waves of infected and tanks (four at a time is no problem, right?) as you decide who is brave enough to go back and restart the final generator to let the survivors escape.
Here’s where your experience will change dramatically depending on which version of the game you’re playing and who you’re playing with. If you’re still clinging to the original L4D, you’ll find it annoyingly impossible if you choose to play with the A.I. It’s not that the A.I. can’t shoot like the best of’em, it’s that they can’t climb a ladder at the end of the finale to save their own asses. Instead, they choose to remain at the bottom of the bridge as it’s flooded by infected and there’s no good way to save them.
Now, if you’re playing with all humans or playing the DLC with L4D2, you won’t have this problem at all. It’s common knowledge that the A.I. got an upgrade for the sequel, but it’s a shame it has such a negative impact on using the DLC with the first game.
That said, I really enjoyed the new levels. There’s plenty of clever new dialogue, immobile exploding barrels that obliterate zombies by the dozens and completing the final challenge feels like an accomplishment.
Of course, “The Sacrifice” is also playable in Versus and Survival modes with some spectacular new assault points for the infected. A word to the wise, be careful on boats. Though it's notable that “The Sacrifice” will work with both L4D and L4D2, though L4D2 owners will get all the helpful perks that appeared in the sequel, cameos by the uncommon and special infected enemies, and a port of “No Mercy”.
The verdict? It’s definitely a good time, but those who didn’t buy L4D2 will find themselves a bit overwhelmed.