Saturday, April 13, 2024

Back 4 Blood is the game you want on your radar

Despite being nothing alike, Back 4 Blood might just be the game that’ll tear me away from fixing generators and running away from monsters in Dead by Daylight.

It has everything: zombies (also known as the Ridden), absolutely terrifying variants of those zombies, a cast of characters that cannot stop repeating quotes at me because I keep accidentally shooting them, and an environmental adventure that has me super excited to jump back in. Probably after I finish writing this preview, oops!

I’ve slowly come to realize that I prefer my games when I’m with friends and being scared, so Back 4 Blood is certainly the game for me. I jumped into the beta last night, and I can humbly say that after reading a lot about cards, decks, and a ton of different systems that I remembered vaguely from my 20-minute stint in Left 4 Dead 2, I was eager to start a campaign and kill some zombies.

First off, you choose your character. I picked Mom, an older lady who says things like ‘Christ on a Bike’ and ‘Sorry Sweetie!’ when she accidentally shoots you in the ass. I like her a lot, and I really appreciate that she gets the powerful, Belgian shotgun that SHREDS through not just zombies, but your team too. I found out about that particular tidbit after going to the shooting range and absolutely obliterating my friend in one shot. Sorry gang, grandma just needs a bit of time to get used to stuff! My bad!

After choosing your characters and picking the cards you’ll use – which effectively gives you and the team status effects like 10% more stamina or transforms your melee attack of punching the shit outta zombies into a quick knife stab instead – you start off in a safehouse. This is something that Left 4 Dead fans are more than familiar with. There are a few guns laying around, and some resources. We were playing on the easiest difficulty at first, just to get a feel of things, but my god as you progress through the campaign it does NOT remain easy, so pick up those bandages and pills STAT.

Back 4 Blod has you playing as a group of ‘cleaners’ that’s one goal is to take down the Ridden

And so with everything we needed secured, my team and I ventured out into the first part of the campaign. And it was pure, utter, zombie-infested fun from the very beginning. I am not remotely kidding when I say that everywhere you look, there’s a zombie just waiting for you to get close enough so they can try and take a bite out of you. It makes every step you take feel dangerous but exhilarating. It also helps that you’ve got the ability to melee the crap outta them if they get too close, coating yourself and your team with the literal blood of your enemies.

Killing zombies is pretty easy, but it’s when the bigger variants come in that you need to be careful of. There’s one enemy called a Bruiser, which looks like Slenderman’s more muscular cousin with one, mutated hand that can pick players up and crush them. This leaves you completely defenseless and requires your team to shoot at the Bruiser for you to be released. Other zombie variants include the Ogre, a 20ft something zombie with red pustules oozing out of its skin, a vomit-powered zombie that spits at you called the Retch, and so much more.

While these bigger zombies may be scary enough, you shouldn’t let your guard down around the common infected either. Going back to decks and cards for a moment, there are cards that help increase the difficulty of the game – either through environmental changes like permanent fog, or making attacks from zombies increase slightly so that it becomes more treacherous to get caught out in the open by a horde. It’s definitely a welcome change, as it made my team and I worry more about the environmental changes we were heading into.

One thing I was pretty impressed with during my time with the Back 4 Blood was bots. Bots take control of your squad members if they decide they need to leave the game or they’ve got to safehouse checkpoint and want to go off and do something else. And for the most part, they work quite well! I’ve only ever had to heal them once or twice and they are very happy to go do their own thing and help out the team. I’ve been saved by a bot during a real risky fight, and it made all the difference. The only problem I’ve had with them is when people join mid-game, as it spawns another character alongside the bot, making my team go from 4 to 8. It was definitely a bug that helped us at the time, not gonna lie!

There is a Versus game mode in Back 4 Blood that lets you play as the Ridden

Outside of the campaign game mode, there is something called Versus. I didn’t get much of a chance to play in this mode but what I did play looks pretty darn promising. It’s basically PvP, with you either playing as the Ridden or as the Cleaners. As the Ridden, your task is to kill all of the Cleaners as soon as humanly possible, whereas for the Cleaners you just need to hold on out with each wave you survive making it harder and harder. It’s a fun game mode, and will definitely scratch that PvP itch for players looking for it.

Ultimately, there’s a lot to like about Back 4 Blood and if you haven’t yet heard of the game or are unsure whether to get into it, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s real fun and, as with most online games, is best played when you’re with friends and are looking to just shoot some zombies for fun. Fans of Left 4 Dead might be after something more, but as someone who didn’t spend too much time with that series, I really do think that Turtle Rock Studios has a winner on its hands regardless of it being exactly like it’s predecessor or not.

Back 4 Blood’s open beta is out now until August 9th, with another beta open to everyone starting on August 12th and ending on the 16th. The beta can be accessed via a PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart is Editor-in-Chief of Gayming Magazine. She specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.