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Valve’s always good about post-release support for their games. The amount of updates Team Fortress 2 has received is borderline mythical in its scope and ambition and that’s a game that’s nearing its third birthday. Support for both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have left most of us wanting, especially when compared to the amount of attention Team Fortress 2 has received. It’s a bit more understandable, considering just what kind of multiplayer experience the Left 4 Dead series is; it’s a co-op/4v4 multiplayer game and any single map needs to work for the vast volume of modes Left 4 Dead 2 contains. The Passing, which will hopefully be the first of many more content updates for Left 4 Dead 2, is a great slice of DLC. It might have taken months for it finally land, but it’s bound to rack up some extra playtime.
Acting as the connective tissue between Dead Center and Dark Carnival, The Passing revolves around lowering a bridge so that the survivors can continue to drive on with Jimmy Gibbs Jr.’s legendary stock car. The extra twist is that original cast from the first Left 4 Dead has plans to help you get across, as they provide a solution during the first chapter and much needed munitions support during the third and last chapter for The Passing.
It hits all the familiar notes of Left 4 Dead 2 – lots of mowing down the infected horde, looking out for each other's backs and generally sticking together. The humor is still there in full force, as the newly recorded situational dialogue comes and goes often and they’re always worth hearing. The stunning procedural weather system that was present in Hard Rain also makes its way into The Passing and it’s still an impressive sight. It’s hard to believe the aging Source engine still has so much visual bite to it.
In terms of new, there’s a lot here, especially compared to Left 4 Dead’s DLC, Crash Course, which did little to add anything new to the game besides the two new chapters. New weapons are here for both guns and melee weapons. The M60 machine gun is death in its most eviscerating; sustained fire on a horde will result in automatic gibs, with the only catch being it only holds 150 rounds before it’s rendered useless. For melee weapons, the golf club makes its debut, and it’s crazy how Left 4 Dead 2 never shipped without one.
A new infected type, the survivor infected, is likely to be the most controversial addition once you take The Passing into the game’s Versus mode. It carries around supplies, and gunning them down will give you access to them. Its behavior is vastly different to the general infected, though, because it’ll run away the second it catches sight of any of the survivors. It’s easily something that can tip the scales one way or another for the survivor team in Versus, because a clutch med kit can easily give the survivor team a huge advantage. It’ll be interesting to see how much this affects Versus matches in The Passing as time goes on.
The only true disappointment is how much of a role the original Left 4 Dead cast has. Francis or Zoey spits out a line in the first chapter and by the finale, they do very little in really adding to the growing fiction of the Left 4 Dead series. It’s a real bummer, especially if you have strong attachments the original four that started it all. It’s nice to see them and it serves as a neat bridge between both games, but it really feels like a total afterthought and a complete waste of potential.
That said, hopefully Left 4 Dead’s upcoming DLC will address some of this problem. Serving as the prequel to the The Passing, there’s a lot to look forward to in the Left 4 Dead realm and at the all-mighty price of completely and utterly free, at least on the PC, you can’t miss it.