I recall the first time I saw the game poster for Left 4 Dead at my local Hollywood Video rental store (yes I am that old), and being unbelievably hyped about trying it. I’ve had a soft spot for zombie horde type games for a long time along with a lot of people, hence the popularly of the genre.
Said genre only became more explosively popular when the TV show The Walking Dead on AMC further cemented it into the lexicon. Surviving a zombie apocalypse however was not pioneered by that one show. Zombie-centric content has been in greater media form and awareness since the 1968 when Night of the Living Dead first hit the theater.
I went ahead and preordered Back 4 Blood on my Xbox One S, and I’m here now to tell you if the slaughter holds up during the open beta in our Back 4 Blood hands-on preview:
Back 4 Blood
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: October 12th, 2021
Price: $49.99 USD
The 14 gig download didn’t take long to load up, and the accessibility settings screen is the you land on after it loads up. It gives you options for text to speech, crossplay settings, video and audio defaults etc. Y’know, the basics.
Upon start, the game dumps you into a free-roam ‘hub’ type area where you can purchase upgrades and perks for your character. Said perks include stamina, health, melee, reload speed, heavy attacks and the like.
The perk and upgrade system reminds me of Fallout 4‘s card perk system. You can customize different loadouts that you can pick from for each match.
So far in the open beta, they haven’t locked the card perk system behind a paywall. Hopefully this feature stays, as microtransactions suck and aren’t welcome far as I’m concerned.
The game is an online server-based deal, where you can start a game playing with bots, but they will eventually eventually be replaced with real people as you play the game.
This would be sort of like how World War Z operates. So far I haven’t had too much trouble starting runs into the stages. The wait times aren’t horrendous at all, even on my older console model.
Gameplay is fast and fun. The pace and speed is at Doom (2016) levels sometimes. The weapons run the range from automatic rifles, light machine guns, pistols, revolvers, shotguns, machetes, barb wire bats, grenades; all kinds of zombie killing essentials.
I haven’t had anything bug out graphically, and it plays very smoothly. The gunshots sound nice and crisp, and melee animations and overall feel is fluid and not too janky at all.
The audio sort of bugs out if there’s too any zombies onscreen, however, the sound gets garbled and distorted for brief periods. I imagine the developers are aware of such a glaring audio bug, and will work on fixing it before the official release.
There’s not much of a story, and the main focus is on gameplay and the action therein. Each area has three or four main areas to clear, and range from cleaning up hordes, to gathering samples from the zombies to destroying nests. Here’s hoping they’ll expand upon it and build some sort of a universe that you can immerse into.
There’s different kinds of freaks too. The four armed Stinger jumps around buildings and walls with ease, while spitting spiderweb at you along with caustic acid.
The Crushers are mutated freaks with a a giant arm that means almost certain death if it grabs you. Their weak spot is accentuated for easy bullet placement, but it’s easier said than done in middle of a horde crawl.
The Bloaters love to spit bile at you from afar, and won’t hesitate to charge and blow up with a suicide attack. Said bile affects the zombies similar to the Boomers from the previous games, whereas they run after you in a frenzy.
The fun ones and my personal favorite are The Ogres. Giant zombies that can attack from far away with a ball of congealed blood, and smack the shit out of you if you get too close. Their weak spots easy to see so they go down fairly easily as long as you keep moving.
There’s also a versus mode available where you can play as the zombies and fight against humans in special designated arenas. Said mode allows you to spec out your characters with a separate perk card system similar to the campaign mode.
The action is just as fast paced as campaign too, depending on the players themselves being the only difference. The matches are timed, and the winner being declared if they survive for a longer time.
In closing, Back 4 Blood still needs polishing since it’s still in beta, but so far it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been busy running and gunning down hordes of the undead with my shotgun and machete.
I’m looking forward to how Back 4 Blood develops further, and what the final product will be. Personally I’d like to see a more fleshed out story, if at all possible. Mindless action packed carnage is fun but gets boring over time.
Back 4 Blood launches October 12th for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.