Apparently one of the survivors is going to die, for real, in the new DLC The Passing, to be released soon for Left 4 Dead 2. This comes from Valve’s Chet Faliszek, who said that one of the original survivors will have to bite it.
This is cool and all, but there are definitely some flaws with this type of idea. Left 4 Dead is a game not unlike the RPGs of yore, the pen and paper games where characters were inextricable to the play experience. In other words, the only way for a player to interact with the game is through a character, and if that character were to “die,” or have something more like permadeath, then the game stops being fun. In fact, it stops being a game. In D&D this means the player gets in his/her car and goes home. So I mean, in Left 4 Dead this might work a little better, since what, you would just go back to the server browser?
But the problem, more concisely, is that the survivor’s death doesn’t, at this time, seem to impart any kind of significant emotional impact to the player. Who cares? When you’re playing a pen and paper game you usually try to kick the players out of their “I can do anything because I know if I die I won’t play and the DM doesn’t want me to go home” syndrome by have an orge that cleaves them in twain. Over a volcano, so they can’t be resurrected. But with Left 4 Dead all this means is that the survivor won’t be selectable on certain maps, something I’m sure can be modded in.
Character death is obviously way more important in a game like Mass Effect 2, where you care that Rex won’t be in the next game. As it is it barely seems like Valve will be picking the character anyway, since it’ll probably be the players choice as to who dies when the time comes. Then they browse for a new server or start playing a survival match or something.
I would say that the most value I’ll get out of this is a nice Valve cutscene. In another direction, it would almost seem to me that Valve is trying to imply some new angles with the Left 4 Dead franchise, where others are most certainly exhausted.
Bottom line? Portal 2 and Episode 3 will be where the storyline magic happens, and Left 4 Dead may just be a good multiplayer experience.