Play N Speak
Even though there's a sequel on the way this November, Valve just updated the original Left 4 Dead with some additional downloadable content to satisfy your zombie-splattering needs. Called Crash Course, this release includes an all-new campaign comprised of two chapters, so it's not quite as lengthy as the four five mission campaigns included with the game when it was released in November 2008. If you're still playing Left 4 Dead at this point or have been looking for a reason to hop back onto streets stuffed with infected, then this is an easy purchase for Xbox 360 gamers. If you're playing on a PC, just open up Steam and you'll get it for free.
Arguments about who's getting screwed (clearly Xbox 360 gamers) by the cost differential (7.00 USD on Xbox 360, free on PC) aren't really relevant for this review, as it's going to focus on whether or not the content is any good. In short, it is. Crash Course is yet another opportunity to gun through slavering mobs of common and boss type infected co-operatively in Campaign mode, by yourself with AI-controlled survivor teammates, or in Versus mode where human-controlled uglies will spit, scream, and slash to stop your progress. It also comes with two new Survival maps, the high-intensity timed arena battle mode added in the Survival Pack released earlier in 2009.
Things kick off in Crash Course with the survivors huddled around the downed helicopter from the end of the No Mercy campaign. Apparently the pilot turned into a zombie, at which point doubts understandably arose amongst the passengers regarding his ability to properly land the craft, something you'll hear from the Survivors as they utter new bits of dialogue. From there the group of four must rumble through dark city streets, weaving around abandoned vehicles and through storage buildings to make it to an escape vehicle at the end. It's a crowded gauntlet with rooftops on all sides and few open spaces to fight, and thankfully Valve dropped in plenty of weapons and explosives to help the Survivors through. From what I played, it's a tough fight.
You'll find the action proceeds in a fashion that should be familiar to any Left 4 Dead fans, with hunters pouncing from dark corners and from behind buses, smokers skulking around rooftops and looping noose-like tongues around the necks of stragglers, and boomers stumbling from the shadows to puke zombie-nip all over those still human. Gargantuan tanks emerge in spots to toss chunks of pavement and make life generally more unpleasant than it already is, and you may even find a witch shivering in the distance from whom you'd be best advised to keep your distance.
While much of the action, similar to the action in poker, will be huddling together as a group, healing and reviving as necessary, and scooping up supplies whenever possible, two defense sections are built into the content. In one a survivor must fire a howitzer at a barricade to open up progress further into the stage, but the shell causes a fire and you're forced to fight for survival until the flames go out. In the second sequence you power on a generator and must defend your turf until the escape truck arrives. These two spots are also the settings of the timed Survival mode, which is, as you might expect, extremely difficult without proper coordination and planning. The infected swarm frequently and ferociously in Crash Course, and there are plenty of places for the special types to hide, making it a real challenge to pull through to the end even with its short length.
Crash Course doesn't change the basic nature of Left 4 Dead, but like most good content packs delivers a jolt of energy into an existing gameplay formula. It's something any fan of the original is sure to appreciate, and caters to people who don't have the time to invest in a full Versus playthrough on one of the original campaigns. For the best play experience, this is still very much a game that requires near constant communication and strong situational awareness. You can't be a lone wolf playing as the survivors, infected, or in the Survival mode and expect to succeed with any kind of regularity. If you don't like those you're playing with or tend to shy away from organizing team tactics, then Crash Course isn't going to completely change your mind about the product as a whole. It will, however, provide hours of intense entertainment to tide everyone over before the sequel is made available this November.
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