L4D2 – The Passing: Impressions Part 2

By Alec Meer on April 28th, 2010 at 7:30 pm.

Where were we? Sorry about the delay. I’ve been in France, making awful jokes about floating skulls to Chris Avellone. He didn’t punch me, miraculously, but I remain mortified.
The Passing, then. I’m going to keep away from spoiler stuff in this post, bar stating the pretty-much-obvious that you don’t get to control the L41 survivors in any way.

They’re strictly there to chat to, but nevertheless it’s great to see them again. They have a new confidence and cockiness, to the new survivors and to each other, which befits their elder statesman status. That said, the rockstar posing doesn’t exactly gel with their situation – a little bit of desperation, sadness and paranoia would have gone a long way. I’d also say it’s a misfire to be saving the explanation for their current situation in a yet-to-come L4D1 update.

As it is, getting this first and thus seeing the calm after this unwitnessed storm, the old cast seem a bit too casual about whatever they’ve just been though. And that there’s not even the slightest discussion about teaming up or who’s going where seems willfully absurd. Neither of these groups have seen any living people for who knows who long, but they all just head in seperate directions with barely a wave nonetheless. Clearly, Valve will have larger plans, but there is a disappointingly tokenistic element to the old team’s cameos.

Neatly, though, they have a ton of dialogue despite the lack of real interaction. Whichever one of them you first encounter – right at the very start of the campaign, atop a raised bridge you can’t yet access – isn’t fixed. The game randomly picks one of two options, each of whom in turn have multiple shpiels. Over the course of, say, ten different plays you’ll hear at least five different sets of exposition and gags. And flirting. There is a lot of a flirting, in very much a giggling-at-slashfic way. There is also teasing about said flirting, and about how ludicrous it is. The writers are toying with the fans, and clearly enjoying themselves enormously in the process. The graffiti, too, remains splendid:

Further joy comes from the music – two multi-track jukeboxes appear, and amongst their discs is a Jonathan Coulton song. You can probably guess which one (hint: it’s not that one), and it’s ruddy brilliant to hear it. Fanservice write large. As is also the case with the escalated references to the Midnight Riders, most notably over the PA system at the wedding setpiece I mentioned in the last post.

There’s plenty of difference come your second and final chat with the original group too. First time I played, they offered almost no explanation as to their current situation, one of them didn’t speak at all, and I wound up feeling let down and frustrated by how brief this whole encounter had been. That’s it? Three more plays, though, and there was both a much clearer picture and a sense having had a meaningful encounter with these old chums.

On top of this, the final fight’s a tense and dynamic conflict, tasking you with collecting randomly-placed 10 fuel cans from across a large and open map, even as endless Infected spawn all around you. You’ve the choice of sticking together as a pack, taking it slowly and grabbing each can in relatively safety, or splitting up to get this deadly ordeal over and done with as quickly as possible. Splitting up is the worst possible thing you can do in L4D, of course, but the dynamics seem changed just enough to give it a chance, just this once. The original survivors are involved, in a way that’s part-joyous, part-irritating and a whole lot I’m-not-spoiling-it.

Specials and Tanks crop up regularly, mostly impeding each of your ten desperate returns to the generator you’re supposed to fill. Try and push through the festering bastards, bashing wildly with the fuel can in your arms, or do you lob it over ‘em and shoot your way back to them? It’s the gnome challenge writ large, fast and thrillingly exhausting, basically, and while the Collect Ten Cans thing is a little too artificial, it’s a much more interesting climax than another defence setpiece. The Passing is perhaps brief and short on visual wow compared to L4D2 core, but certainly it’s one of the most replayable chunks of L4D we’ve ever had. It also pulls off the difficult trick of being both shameless (if admittedly slightly disappointing) fan service and an able campaign in its own right.

And we get it all for free, while the 360 crowd has to pay. Good value, that. Hopefully there’s more to come – and hopefully involving four hoary old rockers…

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72 Comments »

  1. toni says:

    i am more interested in your meeting with chris avelone now.

    • jonfitt says:

      I remain mortified? Groan.

      Anyway, I agree with the sense of mild disappointment at the L4D meetup. My first meeting felt like I had missed half of a conversation, and the meeting at the end was just a bit off.

      I understand adaptive dialogue is L4D’s thing (evolved from TF2′s initial work). But in a case such as this where the meeting itself is heavily controlled (you will always come face to face in the same way), more fixed dialogue would make more sense.

      But the randomness does remove the boredom of replay; so perhaps a randomly selected character each time should have been set to always say the same bit of exposition. Then the rest of the interaction could be entirely random.

    • jonfitt says:

      Whoops, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply. But I am also interested in your Chris Avelone meeting.

    • a says:

      Yes, I think we need to hear the joke.

    • suibhne says:

      That is the joke – or a joke, in any case.

  2. qrter says:

    When I was playing as Coach, he did suggest to team up with the L4D1 survivors, but that got waved away without much explanation, with something like “no, no, we’re better off on our own..”, which wouldn’t make sense to me in any zombie-infested situation, but even less so in L4D1′s specific situation.

    • Psychopomp says:

      From what people have pieced together, it seems that the original set just escaped from Lousiana, and a few of their lines lend weight to the theory that the army is killing carriers.

    • qrter says:

      That would make the encounters even weirder – I mean, like that wouldn’t be something you’d warn other survivors about.

    • archonsod says:

      It makes perfect sense. It’s the first time in either game that the survivor teams meet fellow survivors who aren’t trying to kill them / eat their brains.

      Given the experience the L4D survivors in particular have had with other survivors, the strange thing is that they don’t kill the L4D2 team on sight. Just to be sure.

    • Rosti says:

      Re: Shooting Team L4D2 on sight – they’d just rolled up in a stunt car and a bit of a mess. Fairly good sign that they wont try to eat them. Unless they were vampires I guess.

    • Oak says:

      That would make the encounters even weirder – I mean, like that wouldn’t be something you’d warn other survivors about.

      Yes, very weird. Passing strange, you might even say.

    • JonFitt says:

      I recall someone saying that sometimes one L4D1 survivor whispers to another “Should we tell them?”

    • Stromko says:

      It’s my understanding that all the survivors, and very likely every living person left, is a carrier AND immune. The ‘Fallen Survivor’ is an example of a survivor that isn’t immune, but all of them have come into contact with the infected.

      The radio dialogue at the start of the bridge sequence in The Parish suggests that the military is only taking those who have come in contact with the infected. If they wanted people who were healthy but NOT immune, they wouldn’t have phrased their questions like they did.

      Even if immunes aren’t carriers, the survivors are going to be covered in all sorts of infected gore when they jump on to the evac vehicle so it’s not like there’s much difference from a quarantine point of view.

    • Stromko says:

      Actually I’m supposing far too much when I say that every healthy remaining human is likely immune. There could well have been successful quarantines in places for all we know, places where those who have contacted the infected can’t go. I thought someone was saying the L4D1 & 2 survivors are under different circumstances there, but clearly they wouldn’t be. It seems the original crew have come to the conclusion that the military isn’t going to save the immunes (and besides which, supposing they’re still taking away survivors’ guns like CEDA was, you’re better off on the run).

  3. The_B says:

    Sorry about the delay. I’ve been in France, making awful jokes about floating skulls to Chris Avellone. He didn’t punch me, miraculously, but I remain mortified.

    I see what you did there. And I approve most whole-heartedly!

  4. Rosti says:

    Fun thing to do: Taunt/talk/laugh in front of the microphone at the wedding. Quite possibly happens in other campaigns (only just picked up L4D2), but it’s lovely to scare team mates with maniacal laughing on the PA system.

    So far, I agree with Alec – sort of hollow feeling on first play but makes more sense on reflection and is a neat little campaign.

  5. sana says:

    Just 10 cans, eh? Was that normal or EASY mode you were playing on?

    • Fumarole says:

      It seems to me it is always ten for singleplayer and sixteen for multiplayer.

    • Premium User Badge Wisq says:

      It’s sixteen cans on expert singleplayer. Every last one of them. Wasn’t able to finish that one in our first playthrough despite many, many attempts.

  6. Alexander Norris says:

    He didn’t punch me, miraculously, but I remain mortified.

    I hate you very much, Mr Meer.

  7. PleasingFungus says:

    “And that there’s not even the slightest discussion about teaming up or who’s going where seems willfully absurd…”

    Yet again, it’s the variable dialogue at work. On my – second? – playthrough, the survivors did discuss teaming up, but Rochelle (?) vetoed the idea. On the one hand, it did seem a little odd at the time, but on the other hand…

    SURVIVORS ENCOUNTERED:
    News-chopper pilot: turns into a zombie and tries to eat them
    Boat-crew: ?
    Church guy: turns into a zombie and tries to eat them
    Pilot: ?
    Military: probably tries to kill them (c.f. L4D2 graffiti, ‘archonsod’s comment)

    So, a minimum of 60% backstabbing/murder; very likely higher.

    I’d be a bit leery about teaming up too, if I were them.

  8. Nihilille says:

    He didn’t punch me, miraculously, but I remain mortified.

    I lol’d pretty hard. No really.

  9. Chucrute says:

    All the cans are placed on the map already, not random and on multiplayer you need to collect all the 16 cans to activate the generator.

    IMO Valve focused too much on the writing on The Passing, there is an incredible amount of jokes and dialog responses, more than in the 5 original campaigns. But the maps overall were uninspired, so was the addition of those foot lockers.

    • Vandelay says:

      I disagree. I think the maps are some of the best that are in L4D2. The narrow streets and high roofs lend themselves much more to the game than the more open levels the are spaced out in the original campaigns. The gauntlet through the tunnels is probably the best in the game, with the pitch black making it much more tense, and the huge horde when the Bride Witch is startled/killed is one of the most vicious in the game. I would say that the area that has really suffered has been the exposition of what is going on, although that might be due to me not having really replayed it in campaign (and a current bug seems to be preventing me from playing it in single player.)

      I agree with you on the foot lockers though. A rather pointless addition that doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the Survivors already get enough items. I was very thankful that they are not included in Versus mode.

    • JonFitt says:

      I thought portions of the “Sewer Zone”, were uninspired architecturally though: Large dark square room with pillars, reminds me of some Doom 2 maps I made.
      The tunnel at the end was great though.

      I did like the streets and the wedding specifically, but the bridge itself felt like an obvious video game roadblock.

    • Starky says:

      There is a reason the sewer is very bland looking…
      That reason is simply the largest damn horde you’ll ever see in L4D (short of cheat commands anyway).

      They probably had to place it in a darkened, plain looking section so that that section wouldn’t chug to a crawl for people skimming the games system requirements.

      I personally find that sewer section one of the best bits in any L4D map, just sheer fun rushing along with all those zombies running straight at you.

  10. alice says:

    @sana

    He was probably playing single player.

  11. The_Garden says:

    2 things wrong with this

    1) There’s only 1 new song in the Passing, the Midnight Riders “Save Me Some Sugar”. I know, I just browsed through the entire DLC1 folder. “Portal” and “Your Brains” by Jonathon Coulton were in the original L4D2 lineup.

    2) It’s 16 cans in the finale, not 10.

    • airtekh says:

      It’s 10 in single-player mode.

    • The_Garden says:

      10 on single player? I was in single player right now, I still got 16…….oh on NORMAL. Easy is for pussies

    • Psychopomp says:

      I played through my first time on normal by myself

      Still 10 cans.

  12. Drug Crazed Dropkick says:

    The JoCo song has been in L4D2 since the start. Shame on you for not noticing it.

    • Shitflap says:

      @Drug Crazed Dropkick

      There’s now 2 ;P

    • JonFitt says:

      I heard Your Brains playing in Dark Carnival yesterday, but didn’t know if it had only appeared since the Passing update. I guess not.

  13. Stu says:

    You know, you can already “be” the Midnight Riders if you have Rock Band on the 360:

    http://www.rockband.com/music/artists/Midnight_Riders

  14. Yhgtd says:

    “Collect Ten Cans”

    Ten ? Someone’s been playing on Easy… :-)

  15. Denton says:

    @Shitflap

    There have always been 2 Coulton songs in there.

  16. Hulk Hogan says:

    quick someone whine about how they should of been given l4d2 for free

  17. Mechorpheus says:

    Even Advanced mode SP only requires 10 cans.

  18. Dave says:

    I hated the end section with the can-gathering, at least in single player. But I hated it less than the similar scene in the mall.

    Overall, this one didn’t feel like there was anything new. Granted I only played it once, but I figured, why play it multiple times if I didn’t really like it the first time?

  19. Dead Man's Party says:

    I just finished the level on Advanced Single Player and still only had to collect 10 cans.

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    “Three more plays, though, and there was both a much clearer picture and a sense having had a meaningful encounter with these old chums.”

    First time I played it was Francis and Nick who started the conversation. Francis was extremely cranky, but it was obvious that it was because “we lost a good man”. Mid-way through the level, Nick initialized a conversation with the other L4D2 guys where they decided they didn’t trust Francis (in part because of his behavior, and in part because Nick doesn’t trust anyone), but later changed their minds slightly when they met up with Louis and Zoe. Just enough to cooperate to get the bridge down, but not enough to trust them to watch their backs. (I was thinking: “Gee guys, BILL just died. Of course Francis is cranky! Give him a break!” But it makes sense from the L4D2 survivors’ point of view. It wasn’t the best first impression.)

    Maybe I just ended up with the most subtle conversation options the first time around, but it was very clear to me from the start why they didn’t want to team up permanently but might want to work together temporarily.

    “(hint: it’s not that one)”

    I’ve heard both Still Alive and All We Want To Do Is Eat Your Brains from the L4D2 jukeboxes, so I’m not sure which one you’re “not” referring to.

  21. pistolhamster says:

    I enjoyed the Passing. It lends part of the spooky darkness from L4D and that I like. Im one of those who didn’t mind the brighter, lighter world in L4D2. Been playing a lot of multiplayer in versus mode on the three new maps, and they are pretty nice for that. Good places to ambush as Infected and all.

    I think the involvement of the old cast is clever but perhaps a wee bit brief. But that is typical Valve – they know how to make you hunger for more of a good thing. Like Half-Life 2 EP3 or something…

  22. Premium User Badge phuzz says:

    I’ve not heard the L4D1 survivors say anything yet, except “here you go” (throwing me med packs and stuff).
    They just stand there and glare at me, I feel left out :(

    (1 play through on SP, about 3 on MP)

  23. Thrawny says:

    The first time i played it, i seem to have run into a bug that caused all the cast to say nothing at all. :(

  24. abhishek says:

    Impressions of 30 minute DLC spread across 2 articles? wow.

    • Starky says:

      It’s valve, they can fart and it will get 2 articles on RPS, as well as a million forum posts spread across the web and people dedicating hours to trying to sniff out what Gabe had for lunch and if that holds any clues to HL2ep3.

      Not without good reason though, they are masters of web-PR and community involvement.

    • haircute says:

      @The Haters:

      This is you guys. This is my impression of you guys:

      DANG! This privately run website for pc game enthusiasts is being enthusiastic about a game they like! That just makes me so mad! Wow. I can’t handle it when people like things. Wow. It makes me so mad when people like Valve games because they are sheep. Wow. Only I know what it is right and true. Wow.

    • haircute says:

      Also, you two knuckleheads: I promise that people that like things aren’t doing it to piss you off. No matter how much the voices in your heads are saying otherwise. Take your meds and post less.

  25. Durkan says:

    Fumarole said:
    It seems to me it is always ten for singleplayer and sixteen for multiplayer.

    And the positions aren’t randomn – at least on the dozen or so times I’ve played through (multi only) (Ahh – I wonder if the SP cans show up in 10 of the 16 locations from MP?).

    Aid positions move but not the cans.

    Which is a good thing as it’s already hard enough. Spawning from the director starts off at “oh my god no” levels and quickly progresses to “you have got to be kidding me” before getting to “AiEeEeeEE RuN fOr yOUr tInY LivES!!!!” and thats on advanced.

    The physical “performance” of the original crew is jarringly 1 dimensional in comparison to the dialogue they’re given. There’s an enormous amount of variation in the dialogue and it’s all pretty funny.

    Even “the” dead body (see spoiler friendly comments and everythin’! XD ) – I ran past it umpteen times before I someone pointed out who it was.

  26. RazorBlade79 says:

    The first 2 maps are fantastic, the 2nd may even be my new favourite map in L4D2 (it reminded me a lot of HL2 actually) but I don’t like the final one very much. It’s really formularic, and after playing it several times I feel like I know how to beat it. that means I feel like there is a best way to do it and I / we now always do it that way. it’s kinda boring actually.

    I wasn’t disappointed in the encounter, I’m just glad they didn’t fuck it up by doing the usual bodyguard mission type.

    Anyway, after two DLCs I think we know what to expect from Valve regarding new campaigns in quality and size, so I hope they are already working on the next one!

  27. Disgruntled says:

    Well as a PC user the only thing i got free was the fact the DLC has made my L4D2 crash after the cutscene and looking at the forums theres hundreds of other people who have this problem to. Support cant seem to find the error, so my opinon of the new DLC is please valve take it out so everyone who has bought your product can play it.

    • Viskernus says:

      I don’t know if this is what you’re referring to, but I’ve had some problems for a while where the opening movie of the game caused a crash, removing the intro.bik file from the game media folder fixed that. (and it needs to be redone when the game is patched)

  28. pilgrimOmega says:

    “Hopefully there’s more to come – and hopefully involving four hoary old rockers…”

    Well, that would be awesome. However, I think in homage to Spinal Tap, a “the drummer blew up” joke will be inserted, and the three remaining rockers are joined by the most badass chick groupie ever. One that makes Courtney Love look like a nun.

  29. haircute says:

    Now I’m certain I heard one of the l4d1 survivors say “Should we tell them?” when I first met them. The Army is killing survivors!!!

  30. said says:

    As you said: it was big fuck you to the L4d1 players. I have talked to people from Spain to USA, Latin America and there is no one that dont agree with this:
    -The wonderful idea of L4d game hasnt been exploited to the maximum (that is: more short videos stories between the ending of each campaign in solo mode which brings more depth to the sequence of events and also to give more information to the player about the whole situation)
    -The Passing is a great campaign but custom mappers are doing a better job related to the IDEAS (about the designs and music etc Valve obviously has the lead, they are creators!!). Some think this new campaign is not better than custom campaigns in the proportion that Valve has lots of resources and mappers dont.
    -The two seconds you interact with the original survivors are a complete joke and doesnt give any crescendo feeling or climax sensation at all. It is like they are there smiling in the middle of an apocalyptic crysis instead of we as players could be able to play with any of them so we can lead the group to the ultimate survival experience. There is no point in putting the original survivors so FAR and DISTANT from the L4d2 survivors!!!!!
    -We agree we have grate expectations on Valve because we have seen what are they capable of (Half Life sequel is an excelent presentation card to expect the BEST STORIES in game experience and not only shuting and shuting and shuting with no sorrounding histrionic depth)

    Conclusion (our conclusion as a faithfull customers and players of L4d sequel): The Passing has not reached the point of being the most important campaign on L4d sequel, is just another good campaign with many good spots for playing Versus mode but the top of the top in L4d interaction between original and new survivors is yet to come.

    Thanks

  31. haircute says:

    The first time I played through was on Single Player Easy and I had to get sixteen cans. I played on Normal Multi this past weekend and had to get sixteen cans. Are you guys sure you know what you’re talking about?

  32. sharkfriend says:

    When I played through on singleplayer, expert, I had 10 gas cans. Hm.

  33. Dead Man's Party says:

    Well, math was one of my stronger points and I do work with numbers all day, so I don’t think counting to 10 is a problem. Also, the top of the screen shows that only 10 are needed while playing the level.

    Perhaps we should start putting whether we are playing PC or Xbox versions… maybe the requirements are different.

    I play on the PC version.

  34. Somegit says:

    Due to unforseen steam errors, I can’t play for more than 15 minutes at a time. Every game on steam crashes. However, I have been able to see a fair bit of the passing, albeit in tiny, crash free chunklets. I don’t really think it’s anything to have a song and dance about. It just feels like more content with a protracted and oddly truncated interaction with characters from the first game tacked on.

    [rant]
    I like the scripted voice acting at set pieces but instantly tire of it in the rest of the game. It drives me nuts to hear people complain about being shot when you never intend to do it and they talk of it as if you could substitute ‘shoot’ with ‘flick’. I resent having to reload, because I know my character will bellow this event to the entire world as if he were a redneck at a wedding (I don’t get it either). The game would be a lot more palatable if you could turn off reactionary/combat chat lines, even if it’s just for yourself or by yourself. I play with a mic. My in game character interrupts me. Doesn’t that seem a little retarded? The players have so much character that I can’t be me. It’s a conflict of ideas, of identities. And it put me off the game for quite some time. And it could be fixed with a tick box in the settings.
    [/rant]

  35. Skyler says:

    Actually if you may attention several times the L4D survivors discuss if they should of invited the L4D2 survivors. Also Louis also mentions to the group if they should of warn them from something. So obviously something happen it just the L4D are hesitant in revealing what. You can also tell that there distrust in the L4D2 group. For example Couch doesn’t trust Francis.

    • Dead Man's Party says:

      “You can also tell that there distrust in the L4D2 group. For example Couch doesn’t trust Francis.”

      Heck, I wouldn’t trust Francis either with that attitude he has at the beginning of the level. First time meeting him and you already have to wonder if he would shoot you in the back to take your medkit.

  36. blacksky says:

    does any one know why ther servers are down for left4dead 2 its been 2 days since i havent been able to find any servers to play on or any games.
    can some one update me on this issue
    thanks

  37. Jeff Little says:

    What with all the F*cking Gas Can collecting..
    I have stopped playing the dead center because of it and when I got to the end of crossing I was pissed. Come on you can thinks of better endings so I will stop playing this one soon… besides there is a whole section dedicated to collection cans.

  38. andrew says:

    wat i want to know is why in the hell did they kill bill off. he was awesome and fucking cool. the way i see it there was no point in killing off a character period. i mean come on and then they try and get away with saying that its the prequel to l4d but that doesnt make any damn sense. IF thats true then bill shouldnt be in l4d if he is dead. wat is up with that?

  39. NightBlade says:

    I would like to insert my 2 cents here. I haven’t been playing these games all that long, but c’mon gang. What EXACTLY would make you fanboys happy? Oh wait… I know. We’ll just have Valve send you all upcoming changes to the game so you can randomly bitch about them and complain until they decide not to release them. I REALLY hope that Video Game Test Groups never come to your town, or most of us will probably never see another good game again. IMHO, I think the games are brilliantly done and give a whole new twist to the Survival-Horror genre. My only problem is that I have to agree with Andrew. Why the hell would you kill Bill? This guy survived VIETNAM!!! A zombie apocalypse would be like a walk in the park with the Carebears. Without Bill’s military survival training, the others would no doubt died long ago. Plus, he was my favorite character, so I guess I am a little biased. Anyway, GREAT DLC. Keep up the good work. And IGNORE the whiney fanboys, Valve. Yer doin a hell of a job.

    PS. If EASY difficulty is for pussies, then try this. Gather all the gas cans near the generator, but don’t pour any until you have them all right there. The game automatically starts sending 2 and 3 tanks at a time after you. Pussies BEWARE! :p

  40. JJbenson says:

    I Think That The Surviovors Are Trying To Eliminate The Rest Of The Zombies In The Are,And Take Breaks In Safe Rooms,But then Again ZOMBIES MOAN – LOAD AND SCARY Sitting there Groaning Away 24/7 A Killing Machine With its targets – It will exist as is or not eexist at all They Cannot be Re Programmed – Domesticated – THEY MUST BE DESTROYED.My Favorite Ways Of Destroying Are The Combat Shotgun And Chainsaw And Magnum pistol. But I Think They Are trying to Kill every zombie In My Hometown. I Hope I Don’t See myself As a Zombie!