Back 4 Blood (B4B) is the next zombie team-survival game to be developed by Turtle Rock Studios, the creators behind Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead (L4D), and Evolve. Following the same gameplay style of L4D, B4B has been seen by many older fans of the developers as being Left 4 Dead 3, though B4B does bring plenty of new mechanics to the table to help differentiate them. Releasing on the 12th of October 2021, the game has had 2 sets of early access betas one being closed and the other open. This preview has been written based on experiences in both of those.
From the narrow view of the current plot at hand, B4B is set well after an outbreak of a parasite that turned the populace into zombie-like “Ridden” that seek to eat and beat the human race to extinction. As a big jump from L4D, this game features a whole slew of NPCs on hand to help you as well as the main base camp with a good 20 or so people to see. The world isn’t hopeless with so many helpers on hand.
The betas featured a single chapter that took up 8 different levels of action and traversal. Moving through houses, swamps, mountains, train yards, and eventually blasting a hole in an underground tunnel before taking a Humvee back to base. Taking the role of a “cleaner” your job is to kill the infected and complete missions for the main base.
The gameplay within B4B is very similar to L4D and other shooters, you have a main gun that ranges from snipers and rifles to shotguns and light machine guns. Your sidearm features handguns, revolvers, and desert eagles, amongst smaller shotguns and Uzis. With all these weapons you carry 4 types of ammo, handgun/Uzis, rifle, sniper, and shotgun shells. Keeping track of your ammo and sharing with your teammates is key in the higher difficulties. Aside from guns the game also has quite a few melee weapons to use like cleavers and axes.
Characters also have 3 additional slots to fill, offensive, support, and quick accessories. Offensive items are molotovs, grenades, razor wire and the like, where support focuses on healing items like bandages, pain meds and medkits. Quick accessories are some of the more universally useful, from defibrillators and ammo pouches to tool kits that unlock treasure rooms and boxes. You can only hold 1 of each type, but upgrades can be purchased to increase the number up to 2 and then 3.
Traversing the levels is the main way of getting new gear, as well as picking up copper coins for use in the safe room at the beginning of each level. Copper is spent to purchase 2 set weapons per level, any of the above accessories, or 2 upgrades that improve the quality of the accessories and your ability to hold more. When copper is picked up it is shared with the party and each member has their own total, so organising who is buying what is crucial on the highest difficulty setting.
Once you’ve completed a level you will be awarded supply points based on the difficulty and how well you did in the level. These increase drastically the further you get into the chapter. Supply points can be spent back at the base camp to purchase active cards, these are essentially perks that you can select from one of five at the beginning of each level. The more cards you buy the more are unlocked for purchase, with some of the best ones waiting for you several sets away.
Cards range from a small percentage increase to your damage resistance and maximum health to holding more accessories and having a gun-bash knife attack that can one-shot any normal ridden. With the cards and the perks of each character, you can craft a custom class for your playstyle, from a full-on medic or tank build to high DPS shooters and melee-focused choppers.
Aside from campaign play, you can also engage in a deathmatch-like cleaner versus ridden mode, where 4 cleaners must survive in a small closed-off arena against endless ridden and 4 special infected who and choose what type to play as. I felt that this game mode was rather barebones in the beta, without much depth to its mechanics. You can upgrade the special infected to gain higher stats or unique effects to their skills, but most die in 1-3 shots so they’re more one-shot ponies.
The beta was changing over time with fixes and balances, though this did come with some random bugs here or there. Thankfully there weren’t any game-breaking glitches, though one major bug was that the last mission of the currently available chapter had none of its enemies spawn which made it impossible to lose. With 2 months to go till full release, we have to hope that the beta brought in plenty of data to look over to polish the final game.
From a difficulty standpoint, B4B has 3 settings, classic, survivor, and nightmare. Classic is the easiest and takes a lot of work to fail at unless you’re new to FPS games or this particular type of team-based shooter. Survivor takes a good jump upwards, with more special infected to fight against and taking more damage than normal, plus having the friendly fire to contend with. Nightmare is the hardest and takes a major leap into a lava pool, so much so that it feels like the game should have a difficulty choice between survivor and nightmare.
Outside of the actual difficulty settings, B4B isn’t too hard to come to grips with. A full run or two will teach you most of the mechanics at play as well as building some semblance of a class. Playing the game with 3 friends makes it much easier due to communication and sorting out 4 different classes, against random play where everyone could be vying for the shotguns and causing the game to become much more difficult.
With a focus on a 4-player team, B4B is heavily designed to be better with friends, as random players can just hoard ammo, accessories, and weapons for themselves. I cannot recommend it if you lack a good group of friends who will also be playing the game, unless you’re a fan of getting left in the dust or taking everything from the random helpers.
Overall, the beta showed off a good portion of the game even if it was only 1 chapter’s worth. I played in a full team of 4, so I got to experience the best it had to offer in terms of community play. There are a few glitches about, with some difficulty adjustments that need to be made, but it is stable enough that I would be fine as it is. The variety of weapons and gadgets to put on them could do with a bit of expansion, so I hope the full game gives us more of those.
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
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