Left 4 Dead

X360A Review: Left 4 Dead Crash Course DLC

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Could this be the most controversial piece of DLC since the much maligned Horse Armour? It certainly seems to be turning out that way and Valve can only hope that fans are left feeling appeased by the package on display here. With the debate still raging over the validity of a sequel to Left 4 Dead after only a year, it does seem an odd choice to release this update so close to the launch of the sequel. If anything it seems designed to get players back into the game before the souped up sequel lands – but is it going to work?

The Crash Course DLC introduces a new, smaller, campaign that nestles nicely between the events at the end of the established No Mercy campaign and those that kicked off Death Toll. This campaign only has two chapters as opposed to the usual five and carries with it the familiar look and feel of the other L4D chapters, including an epic finale with zombies running amok. The real issue here is just how short the content is as you will rush through it in less than half an hour if you go it alone in Easy or Normal. If you kick things up a notch in terms of difficulty then the challenge becomes a bit more worthwhile but a skilled online team should still battle through in just over an hour or so. Hardly the amazing content we would come to expect.

Obviously the game uses most of the assets already available and that seems to translate to the setting as well, as both levels are just generic street settings that seem to have been torn wholesale from previous campaigns. It doesn’t really help that both chapters of the new campaign are also far too narrow and linear, with no real choke points, vantage spots or alternate routes. It all just feels like a straight rush from start to finish with very little popping up along the way to draw your eye which is frankly a bit of a let down. The whole selling point was meant to be on fast paced Versus play, but when the levels are just the same old thing then why would you bother shelling out for this mode? For a company with the reputation of Valve you would have expected something a bit more interesting than a couple of levels that offer nothing that you have not already seen. With the same characters, same weapons and same foes – it just feels like a drab rehash of what has come before.

While you will have a bit of fun dabbling with the levels offline, the real crime of this package becomes apparent the second you step online and see the mess awaiting you there. Zombies animations slow to a crawl and lag around the screen in a haphazard manner that looks appalling. Walls also seem to have lost some of their innate abilities as you can now walk straight through them - as can zombies which will give you many a nasty surprise when you look around to see an arm swiping you through a solid brick wall. Throw in some glitched achievements, which work for some but not for others, connection issues that can see you booted at any time and it truly is a mess. Valve have a record of quick patches for this kind of thing but for the DLC to be released in such a poor state is a mockery of their reputation. I will certainly do nothing to soothe those fans that were already upset over Left 4 Dead 2 in the first place.

Ten new achievements, worth two hundred and fifty points, have been added and they are actually a decent amount of fun to get. The majority revolve around Versus mode, which is unsurprising seeing as that was the main point of Crash Course in the first place. Given a good enough party then they could all be boosted in a matter of hours, with only the Tank achievements being much of a chore. People with the original 1k will also not be too happy to see another (smaller) genocide achievement that applies to this campaign alone. As if players had not been asked to kill enough zombies already. Two of the achievements (for Hunter pouncing and Slippery Pull) have been showing up as glitchy for players too, with a number of people struggling to get them to unlock while others have reported no issues.

To say this DLC is a disappointment is an understatement. Players will enjoy a new, shorter campaign for an hour or so, but after that they will wonder where their money has gone (straight into the pockets of MS seeing as the PC version is free). There is nothing new on offer here, the online is shambolic at best and the achievements are glitchy – a terrible showing from a company trying to win back fans. With Left 4 Dead 2 right around the corner it makes no sense for people to shell out for this, especially when the whole package feels like it was rushed out in a bid to prove to people that some work was being done on the original title. With the level of quality on show you can only hope that the majority of the team is furiously working on the sequel and simply did not have time to polish this up. You can certainly see why they wanted it to be free.


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US November 20, 2008

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