For those who don’t follow these things, the new, free Left 4 Dead DLC drops next week, which does 2 things - it enables ‘Versus’ mode on the 2 maps where it wasn’t available before, and it adds a new gameplay mode called ‘Survival’, which is basically about holing the survivors up in one area of the map and throwing zombies at them relentlessly, with leaderboard scoring for the teams that survive the longest.
Valve have talked about it in their blog, and to be honest I’m really not sold on the whole idea. It basically turns Left 4 Dead into Gears 2’s Horde mode, or alternatively a final setpiece with no ending. Now, I love Horde - we’re still playing it right now, having bought the Combustible and Snowblind map packs recently, but it’s a different kind of game. One of the reasons I like playing both Gears and Left 4 Dead months after buying them is that they give me two different kinds of co-op experience - the former being really a kind of first person tower defense, and the latter being about being forced to make your way through a zombie-infected territory, despite the urge to lock yourself in a closet and barricade the door. The key thing about Left 4 Dead for me, is that every instinct tells you to hunker down, to make an area safe and stick to it, but in reality you know you have to press on into the unknown, leaving each place of relative safety that you created for yourself because you know it’s really just an illusion. I think it encapsulates the survival horror movie feel completely that way, and all without needing an explicitly laid out plot or silly cutscenes - the environment tells all the story you need.
Also, while survival mode might seem just like an extended end set-piece in the main game, but in the end set-pieces you’re just trying to hold out for rescue to arrive - it’s desperate, chaotic and insane but you know that maybe, just maybe if you hold out, you might be in a fit state to make that final mad dash for the helicopter / boat / army transport with multitudes of baying zombies at your back. That’s the rush - that carrot of potential salvation is what keeps you going through the mayhem, that eventually, it’s going to end and you might just make it. I’m not sure that I’d be very motivated to just defend against hordes of zombies with no chance of rescue, with the only way out being death. Sure, I do that in Horde, but the question remains why I would choose to play L4D survival mode rather than Horde, since arguably they’re the same and the defense mechanics are more refined in Horde. I play L4D because it’s different, I’m not really that interested in L4D trying to provide a Horde-like experience, because I already have one of those, and it’s pretty damn awesome.
Well, it’s free so I guess I can’t complain. I would much rather they spent their time on new levels though - which I would be very willing to pay for.