I was lucky enough to get to play the Back 4 Blood beta thanks to my friend AngelOfWeir gifting me a pass!
I will admit going in that I had some serious reservations about what I’d seen. After over 1800 hours in the Left 4 Dead, Payday, and Killing Floor franchises, I was seeing some massive issues in the early streams. So I was very happy to play the beta and see that all of the issues I was concerned about got fixed. Here are some reasons I’m definitely gonna buy the game when it comes out:
1. The zombies are fast!
This was the biggest one for sure. Go watch some alpha footage and see how slow and shambling the zombies are. It’s my opinion that slow zombies just don’t work in a horde shooter because it leads to really slogged gameplay. It forces the devs to make them bullet sponges to compensate for their speed. It’s the main reason Overkill’s Walking Dead was one of the worst horde shooters I’ve ever played. Thankfully, the devs sped them up for the beta. Now you’ll regularly find them bumrushing you and keeping you on your toes.
2. The looting aspect of Left 4 Dead has been enhanced.
Left 4 Dead isn’t nominally a looter shooter, but there’s definitely an element of scavenging the land finding the best weapons, attachments, and equipment. And while Back 4 Blood characters start with more than a pistol, you’re gonna be ditching them quickly to find higher-quality weapons or ideal attachments. In addition, I found ammo a lot more scarce than in Left 4 Dead 2, which is a great change in my opinion. It forces you to explore, to upgrade your secondary, and to swap unneeded ammo with your teammates. I saw a lot of complaints about the inability to remove attachments, but I think that was a good call. Not just because there are negative attachments, it also adds to the variety of different weapons you’ll come across. It makes it more likely you’ll have to make tough decisions on which weapon to hold onto.
3. The card system adds a lot of depth without hurting gameplay.
The card system worried me when I saw it, I normally hate that stuff. It avoids being overly complicated because you only get one new active card per map. You just pick a card, and you did it, time to go kill zombies! And finding/purchasing cards in the field adds a level of progression even when you later wipe and lose your campaign save file.
4. The weapons had punch and were satisfying to use.
I’ve said before that if I could add any gun to Left 4 Dead 2, it’d be a battle rifle with iron sights. And to my happiness, Back 4 Blood has two which feel great to use! All the guns do, including the melee weapons and the emergency shove. Weak-feeling weapons can be a real turn-off in an otherwise-solid shooter, so it’s great that the devs didn’t lose sight of what made Left 4 Dead’s weapons iconic.
5. Health is a rare commodity.
One of the major balancing mechanics in Back 4 Blood (and Left 4 Dead for that matter) is that health is hard to get back once you’ve lost it. Medical items are limited and you never get any chances to freely heal up to full. This means every healthpoint you lose comes back to haunt you later in the campaign. I love how this organically makes the game more difficult as the campaign wears you down through attrition. Super happy Back 4 Blood maintained this design.
All in all, I was very impressed with what I saw in Back 4 Blood and it exceeded my expectations. If I had to cite something I found lackluster it was the Special Infected designs, I had a hard time telling them apart visually. I suspect they were built more for PvP with how they have their own card-style upgrades. (Though I did like how those cards would activate in PvE to make them scarier as the campaign went on.) Overall if you dismissed this game as “yet another Left 4 Dead clone” I encourage you to give it another look when it releases on October 12th.