New levels aren’t the only thing that The Passing brings to the table though – which is good for anyone who uninterested in Versus Mode, because to those people The Passing isn’t going to be of much use, frankly.
There are a few smaller additions to the whole game, such as new achievements and a new melee weapon (a golf club that feels identical to every other hand weapon in the game), but the major ones are the new rifle and Uncommon Infected.
Cropping up only rarely, the new M60 heavy machine gun is handy for those occasions when your carefully calculated attack plan ends up FUBAR and you need to fend off multiple hordes of zombies. Its high rate of fire and devastating power mean it’s ideally suited to the open sewer sections too, where there’s no cover to hide behind and no doorways to stem the flow of zombies through. On the downside though, the power is balanced out by the fact that it can’t be reloaded at all – like the chainsaw, once it’s out of ammo then that’s it.
The new Fallen Survivor Uncommon Infected though is far less interesting, proving to be little more than a tough zombie who carries a bit of equipment you can salvage if you kill him. Taking him down is made tough by the fact that he prefers to flee than fight and boasts greater health, but it’s still not much of a challenge. Unlike the other Uncommon, the Fallen doesn’t require you to suddenly change your tactics to defeat him, nor does it bring a new threat against the team – so it’s honestly a bit hard to get excited about it.
Insert Evil Laugh Here
There is one saving grace for The Passing though and it comes in the form of the new Mutations mode, which assures long-term variation and playability in the form of weekly mutators that alter the core game. The game mode will change every week - the one running at the moment is a Reality Versus mode, which lets two teams square off against each other under Left 4 Dead 2’s more challenging rule-set. Looking further into the future there’s talk of a few other likely modes, including the Chainsaw Massacre mode which kits survivors out with unlimited Chainsaws and nothing else.
Mutations mode will definitely provide much needed variation to Left 4 Dead 2’s now tired core campaign and it’ll likely encourage casual fans to drop in on the game more often out of idle curiosity, but it brings downsides too. The most obvious one is that you might fall in love with one game mode but only have access to it for a week. The more interesting dilemma is that the best thing about The Passing is temporary by design, which makes assessing the value of The Passing as a whole problematic. Valve has only unveiled two mutations – what happens if all the other mutations are rubbish? How long will the mutations continue to be updated?
At the end of the day though, for most people these problems won’t be a huge issue – The Passing is free on PC and something for nothing is always good, so the faults aren’t a big concern. It also doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, because you can’t help but download it next time you play L4D2 thanks to Steam’s auto-updates. PC gamers have no real position to complain from.
Xbox 360 gamers though are an exception and, while The Passing doesn’t cost too much - it's 560 MS points, just shy of a fiver - it does cost enough to make us question whether it’s really worth picking up unless you’ve been playing the game continuously since launch. If you have, then the Mutations will let you get some more fun out of the game at least once a week. Otherwise, don’t be lured in by the promise of a new crossover campaign which is frankly pretty underwhelming, because there just isn’t enough content here to make it worth the effort.