What We Learned From The ‘Back 4 Blood’ Beta

Back 4 Blood is going to be exactly what some people want and it’s going to be not enough for others. That is the growing sentiment that is coming out as the open beta weekend finishes. Since the game is not officially out yet it would be unfair to both the developers and the game itself to make a final judgement on it now. However, we have seen enough of the game to get some early impressions on what Back 4 Blood may look like at launch and ways they could potentially improve the game either at launch or through updates later on.

What Is Back 4 Blood?

Back 4 Blood is a cooperative multiplayer shooter where a team of four has to mow down waves of zombies as they make their way to the end of the level. As they go through the level there will be objectives to complete such as destroying nests, lowering a bridge, or blowing up a wall to create a pathway forward. Along the way, the group of four will mainly come across the standard quick zombies that mindlessly sprint at the players and attempt to kill them. However, as they make their way through levels they’ll also come across specialty zombies such as the Exploder or Bruiser. These are much harder to take down and are where the main challenge of the game comes from.

The overall goal of each playthrough is to get through an entire act without the entire team dying. Usually, an act will slowly grow more challenging until the final level where a big set-piece plays out. Complete the set-piece and the act is complete. Back 4 Blood does have a bit of a story and continuity between acts, but the majority of players are going to be playing the game for the action rather than the narrative.

Sounds A Lot Like Left 4 Dead

If all this sounds familiar it should. Back 4 Blood is, without shame, a clone of the Left 4 Dead franchise. Had this game been released as Left 4 Dead 3 nobody would have batted an eye at just how similar the game is, but that’s also what everyone was expecting. Many of the developers at Turtle Rock Studios helped create the original Left 4 Dead. Everything that has been shown before the beta was meant to show how this is a spiritual successor and that was always going to be the big hook of the game.

However, it has been over 10 years since Left 4 Dead 2 came out. Video games have changed a lot since then and just because everyone wanted a new game does not mean they wanted the same game. Considering that, the main thing most people were looking at when playing the Beta is how similar it was to Left 4 Dead and what things differentiated it as a standalone game.

The Similarities

Back 4 Blood is largely the same as the Left 4 Dead franchise. So anyone that was hoping for a game that was new and revolutionary is not going to get that here. These similarities do not necessarily make Back 4 Blood a bad game, but it may feel uninspired to fans who wanted something newer. The entire gameplay loop of go through a level, complete objectives, and reach a safe room at the end is pulled straight out of the original, and if that was the only similarity it would be fine. However, even the majority of specialty zombies feel like re-skinned and renamed Left 4 Dead enemies. These zombies feel so similar that many players have ignored calling them by their newer Back 4 Blood names and are instead referring to them by their Left 4 Dead inspirations.

Of course, being the same does not necessarily mean bad. The gameplay loop is fun, the gunplay is well done, and the characters will quip to one another as they make their way through levels. A good group of four can make this really fun and there will be those cool moments where everything comes together to create a memorable moment. This is a clear love letter to any fans of the original games and in that sense, it accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. There is fun to be had here.

The Differences

Despite all the similarities, there are differences between Back 4 Blood and Left 4 Dead that separates them, both good and bad. The biggest difference between the two, and what will likely be the big appeal of Back 4 Blood, is the card system. Players when they start up a game will receive a customizable deck of perks that they can utilize during playthroughs. These perks range from increased ammo to faster reload times, and at the start of every level the player can pick one. These cards are going to do a great job of creating much-needed variety between playthroughs and the players who get really into it could create some really fun builds.

There are other fun differences as well, such as the addition of a shop that players can use to buy new guns, sidearms, explosives, health, and more. Guns can now have attachments as well such as silencers and scopes to further increase variety between playthroughs. Used a shotgun last round and didn’t enjoy it? Try a sniper rifle this time. Back 4 Blood’s biggest strength in the beta was how it encouraged variety in playthroughs.

With strength comes faults though and one of the most disappointing aspects of the beta were the characters. While the characters do quip to one another as they did in Left 4 Dead, the quips themselves ranged from boring to just flat out bad. It would be one thing if their comments were generic and boring, but an example of the worst of it is one character compared the situation they were in to pineapple on pizza. Nobody commented on if a hot dog was a sandwich, or if the dress was blue, but the final release will hopefully allow the characters to show more personality.

This Was Just A Beta

It’s important to remember that everything we’ve played up to this point was just a beta. There is still time for changes to be added in and it likely means that what we played is not everything. Nothing about Back 4 Blood was so bad that it should be avoided when it releases in October. If anything, hardcore Left 4 Dead fans should be excited that a spiritual successor is finally coming. Xbox and PC owners in particular should be pleased since the game is supposed to launch on Gamepass. Back 4 Blood is absolutely worth checking out in full.