Back 4 Blood Beta First Impressions

Back 4 Blood has now had two betas, one closed for those who pre-ordered and got twitch drops and another open beta this past weekend from 12-16 August. Back 4 Blood comes from Turtle Rock Studios and is a spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead series, and although it shows some promise the game still has some major issues to sort before the full launch coming in October 2021.

Back in the 2000s Left 4 Dead burst onto the scene with great PvE gameplay and zombie battles and managed to capture a huge worldwide audience. Some of the original team are back together to work on Back 4 Blood and you can certainly see that in their latest title. Back 4 Blood is very similar to it’s predecessor, and I’ve has plenty of fun in the beta, but mainly in the PvE side. The PvP side of things still needs plenty of work to be up to the standard of the rest of the game.

The gameplay follows a familiar template. You start out solo or with a squad, you’ll scavenge for weapons and ammo and then head out to try and take on the hordes of zombies. Battle your way through a series of set pieces, through buildings and underground tunnels, warehouses, and the like, to finally take on a boss. I found it best playing with other players in 4 player co-op, ramping up the difficulty to the top and treating it like a tactical shooter. Back 4 Blood manages to recapture the feeling of Left 4 Dead in a fairly authentic way, pulling at those nostalgia strings very well.

There are modern elements to the game which are nice additions. The card system for various buffs comes into play as you have to create a deck of cards at the start of missions. This allows you to get more health, more ammo, and coordinating with your team can affect the outcome of PvE runs. The looting and gathering feel very much like a battle royale. You don’t have tier weapons, but the feeling of running around, picking up weapons and ammo from crates feels like the team has looked at games like Fortnite and Warzone and borrowed some of the modern mechanics.

The game is a beta, so I shouldn’t be too hard on the optimization, but the framerates and overall smoothness of the game didn’t feel up to scratch. Hopefully, with a little more time the team can optimize the game because it wasn’t only me who was having issues here. My whole squad was complaining about framerates, demonstrating there’s still a little work to do here for the Back 4 Blood team.

The card-based system really does make the game stand out, and elevates it above what the team has previously produced with Left 4 Dead. As well as the character buffs, there are also environmental dangers too. The Crows often became an issue, especially on harder difficulties where you have to be careful not to disturb the birds, otherwise, they attract the horde of Zombies towards you.

The ammo and health economy could do with a little tweaking too, I found myself often running low on ammo, and ideally, you want to be running around and killing as many zombies as possible. Each character does have a handy secondary weapon that goes with your primary you can pick up, but some are much better than others. In the first few runs, I had a pistol as my secondary, which was very useful, but on switching characters and trying someone else I only had a machete, which didn’t really hold up against the flood of oncoming zombies at all. Check out your character’s attributes and weapons when you select and be aware that some are better than others.

PvE is fantastic and I can see myself playing together with friends a bunch when this one comes out. PvP on the other hand didn’t feel fun to me. Rather than pit players vs players with all the regular weapons that come with that, you are humans vs zombies. While this sounds fun on paper, the Zombies felt very weak when compared to the humans and I would find myself dying or dead for half of the matches. You can select a variety of zombies to try out; regular, big exploding ones, and tall slower moving ones, plus the ones that can jump and climb up walls and spit poison. For me, it didn’t click at all, and hopefully, there will be some rework here as I have seen similar reports from other players in PvP.

I’ve had a good time in the Beta and I’m much more excited for the game now, having hardly paid attention to it in the build-up to release. It’s also going to be available on Xbox Game Pass, so if you have a subscription there, well… you already have access. Back 4 Blood is coming out on 12th October 2021.

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