Does “Cold Stream” Herald the End of L4D?

L4D2 Cold Stream

Almost two years ago, “The Sacrifice,” DLC pack for Left 4 Dead 2 brought the series’ first batch of survivors into the updated game, allowing you to pit Bill, Francis, Zoey and Louis against the new special infected, and do it with your favorite melee weapons in a completely new campaign, as well as an updated version of “No Mercy,” both updated with all the bells and whistles of Left 4 Dead 2, like the new Mutation modes.

Now, almost two years later, Valve breathed new life into the now well-established game with the “Cold Stream” package. Containing a new campaign for the Left 4 Dead 2 survivors, and almost all of the content from the original Left 4 Dead, it doubles the number of playable maps across all available gametypes and brings back some of their fan base’s favorite content optimized and all in one disk. However, could this consolidation of content mean the end of the series?

It’s been three years since the release of Left 4 Dead 2, to a mixed reception by fans. Many of which cried out in protest at how closely the release of the sequel followed that of the first. Now while this could be a valid argument that Valve could be waiting to release the game, the company’s workhorse, the Source engine, is a sturdy thing that, like Unreal’s signature engine, can be used to make a variety of different games with minimal updating and tweaking, which is one of the reasons Left 4 Dead 2 was released so quickly. Even if the game was deliberately postponed, it would stand to reason that at least some news would have been released about it by now.

Now, the “Cold Stream” DLC wraps all the content up (with the exception of “The Last Stand, the Survival campaign from Left 4 Dead 1) from both games in one convenient package with a neat little bow. Open up the package, though and it should be noted it has only one achievement on the PC version and none at all on 360. While most of the content is from the original Left 4 Dead, to have no achievements for an all new campaign, while not necessarily a deal-breaker, is almost unheard of. The DLC pack does, however, represent an investment of time and resources. To have the end result of almost two years between DLC releases be what is essentially Left 4 Dead 1 with a face lift and a (albeit optimized) non-canon, community-made map should perhaps serve as writing on the wall for fans that perhaps Valve is putting all it’s content all in once place because it doesn’t plan to release any new iterations of the series.

Now, Valve has neither confirmed nor denied any news of Left 4 Dead 3. It still may be announced yet and perhaps Gabe Newell is just sitting on a shiny new batch of zombies to murder as soon as he’s sure fans won’t rage and boycott it. If that’s the case, though, then if not soon, then when? Whether or not a third installment is released, Left 4 Dead 2, with the combined content of itself and it’s predecessor across a variety of co-op and versus game modes, represent a huge amount of replayability as it is. Even if a L4D3 is never announced, if another of their popular games, Team Fortress 2, is any indication, there will be a team creating additional content for the existing game for a long time to come, even if the release time is perhaps a little… intermittent.

Valve is a very fluid company. It’s developers are free to work on whatever project catches their fancy and design teams are made ad-hoc depending on how many people wish to work on a given idea. As well, Valve has essentially handed the tools to make new maps and campaigns over to the Steampowered community, which, while great for PC gamers, has left the Xbox Live community, as ever, left woefully neglected. After four years, two games, a handful of content packs, piles of mutations and endless community- made content, has the zombie craze run it’s course for Valve? Has the sound of a howling horde of flesh-starved freaks lost it’s luster and appeal to our favorite game company? Or will the lure of resurrecting one of their most popular franchises prove too much? Only time will tell, but do try not to be too disappointed.

Note: I am aware that the Left 4 Dead 1 campaigns and Cold Stream were released separately on Steam. However, as I’m mainly a console gamer, my article will refer to the released L4D1 campaigns and Cold Stream as a singular DLC package, as reflects my experience with it.
Additionally, this article reflects the author’s personal feelings, reasoning and conjecture on this subject, and in no way is the release of a Left 4 Dead 3 game yet confirmed or denied by Valve.