Love and Hate 3 is themed around favorite and least-favorite maps, and even though I’m not eligible to win, I can’t resist an opportunity to talk about Left 4 Dead 2, especially since I can’t do TF2 because I’ve already written about my favorite and least favorite maps in the game. And while I’m going to need time to pick my least-favorite map in Left 4 Dead 2 (they’re all fun in their own way), my favorite is an easy pick. ‘The Sacrifice’ is so different from the other maps that it’s the only map I can replay immediately after a previous run without getting annoyed at the lobby host.

The primary reason I love The Sacrifice is the number of ways that it rewards knowledgeable players. At the very beginning, before you’ve even taken control of your character, a smart player knows to watch the zombies gunned down by the cutscene train. If one of them had a Hazmat suit, double-back to the train tracks and you might start the campaign with a free bile jar.

I love a free bilejar even more than orange chicken!

But it doesn’t stop there. The first map will always spawn two red gas cans at some point before the train tank. Carry those with you and ignite the tank for free, and combo with that free bilejar for a ludicrously easy tank fight.

An even smarter player will chuck the cans over this fence so they don’t even need to carry them throughout the first half of the map.

Speaking of tanks, I also love The Sacrifice’s abnormally-high number of scripted tank spawns. There are seven! Tank battles are one of the funnest parts of Left 4 Dead 2 on higher difficulties (on lower they die too quickly), turning the horde-based fighter into a high-stakes boss fight against a single juggernaut zombie, and I’m usually disappointed if a campaign’s RNG keeps rolling witches or ‘no boss’ at every checkpoint.

Map 2, The Barge, is one of the longest in Left 4 Dead 2, you could fit three normal-sized maps in it! This means it’s great for really wearing down a team, and it’s very rare for a crew of randoms to coast easily through the whole map (especially when I’m artificially upping the difficulty to keep things interesting) That is, unless the AI Director is needlessly generous with bilejars. As a ported map from the first Left 4 Dead, The Sacrifice wasn’t built with bilejars in mind and several chokepoints become needlessly trivial if a single player saves them for opportune moments (especially the scripted horde that attacks while climbing the giant pile of rubble).

My corpse is on those two air-conditioning units. The tank punched me so hard I went ramping off the top of the gravel. From green HP to dead!

But, of course, the real reason I love The Sacrifice is its unique finale. As the only finale in the game that lets the players choose how to approach it, you can either start all three generators at once and take on tanks and hordes simultaneously, which leads to some of the most intense firefights Left 4 Dead 2 can offer, or you can start a single generator at a time if your teammates aren’t particularly inspiring. The map is three-dimensional and heavily rewards players who can kite, but in return you have to be wary of special infected attacks from almost any direction. And after surviving the finale and limping your team onto the bridge, the generator fizzle itself out and somebody has to sacrifice themselves to restart it and save their team! Believe it or not, I usually let one of my teammates play this role, only swooping in if the designated martyr gets himself incapped. It’s one of the riskiest moments in any Left 4 Dead 2 map and it’s caused my team to fail and restart countless times, and that’s the sort of moment I live for. Where’s the fun in winning easily?

And that’s why I love The Sacrifice. It’s simultaneously one of the best and worst maps for self-sufficient players. It gives me all sorts of opportunities to nudge the odds in my team’s favor through map manipulation, but it’s still prepared to murder all four of us at the earliest opportunity.