Back 4 Blood Alpha Impressions

I, like many others, absolutely adored Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Get a few buddies together and it manages to be one of those games that just nails the idea of co-op gameplay; there truly is no lone wolf tactics that will work, and if you’re not on the same page and watching each others back then you’re in for a bad time. Even repeated plays of the same handful of levels rarely got old as the enemies were randomly spawned in, with the AI Director making things harder or easier depending on how well we were doing. And the end of level clusterfucks that kicked off as we waited fr a generator to warm up or a rescue boat to arrive were gloriously dangerous – and fun – action set pieces.

After the success of these titles, Turtle Rock came out swinging with Evolve; a 4v1 asymmetrical shooter that was full of promise (and super glowing previews) but ultimately failed to live up to even a fraction of Left 4 Dead‘s brilliance.

Well, it seems that Evolve might just have been a blip on the studio’s radar. Back 4 Blood takes what was great about Left 4 Dead – from it’s fast-paced action to the funny quips from each of the four survivors – and changes just enough to make it feel fresh and exciting. In short – it’s fucking brilliant, and next June seems too far away already.

As alluded to above, if you’ve played L4D then you’ll know exactly what you’re in for here. Starting in a safe room, we have ample time to gather our resources before kicking of the level by opening the door. This time out there is a currency system rather than weapons lying on a table for all parties to choose from. As it stands this is probably the most disappointing aspect for two reasons; a) it means we might go into a new round completely out of ammo or health if we don’t have enough funds, and b) the obvious potential for MTX here has me hesitant that Warner Bros won’t go down that unfortunate path. It’s not just weapons and health that can be purchased either, there are also attachments for guns, as well as perks and throwables. I usually ended up with around 600 copper (the currency) at the end of a round, which is enough for one medpack, or a handful of smaller items, but certainly not enough to leave us fully kitted out. All of this is in the ALPHA of course, so hopefully Turtle Rock can balance this a little more favourably come release.

Once we’re out that safe room though, well, the L4D-ism’s come in droves. The combat is almost like for like, with the main addition being Aim Down Sights – but don’t get me wrong, it feels as solid and responsive as ever. Zombies comes at us relentlessly and even though they go down easily the sheer numbers make fighting out of even a smaller crowd tough. Our allies (and pick-ups) show up with an identical outline for ease of navigation, and the common enemies seem to still be following some sort of AI Director-type deal. With only one stage available in the Alpha it’s hard to really tell though, as the big bad boy – the Ogre from the recent gameplay demo – showed up every time. How much of that is in place to help with analytics is unclear, though it also seems to be a very designed set piece, so I imagine that particular section is set in stone.

Battling our way to the next safe house is a constant, well, battle as zombies are helped out by the Special Infected. Once more, it’s clear that these are riffs on the L4D versions, albeit by slightly different names. Even after all these years though they still had a huge impact on a run, and are altered just enough to make fighting them less predictable than before. It felt like that showed up in far greater numbers this time too, though again that could just be an effect of the Alpha.

Part way through there is inevitably some contraption that needs turning on, or blowing up, that will attract huge numbers of zombies to our location. Much as before, these sections are super tough even on the lowest difficulty, and if your team isn’t ready then get ready to struggle like all hell.

Conclusion

I was pretty stoked when Back 4 Blood was announced, and even more when the Alpha was revealed. After Evolve, I tempered my expectations a little, but from this brief slice of the game I’d say that Back 4 Blood is already shaping up incredibly well. It might base its gameplay on a *checks calendar* 10 year old game (I’m so old…) but that is no bad thing at all when it’s this damn fun. Definitely one to keep an eye on, and hopefully more players (and Xbox players too) can get their hands on it before its June 22nd release.

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This game was previewed on PC (via Steam). All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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