2021 hasn’t been an easy year for gaming, as many projects were pushed back into the next year. Turtle Rock Studios’ Back 4 Blood was one of those projects that faced an inevitable delay as the world adapted to the new pandemic working environments. Luckily, after a long way, we finally got our first glimpse at the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead with its Open Beta testing over the weekend. So, here are our thoughts on the new entry and how it stacks up to the Steam game it inspires to be like. Will it offer a modern equivalent, or simply a carbon copy with a new paint job?
First off, the game definitely feels like a direct continuation of the original. You are thrust into an infected world as you fight your way from one safe house to the next. On your way, you fight an onslaught of infected alongside some mutated variants, who offer an additional challenge. There are even boss zombies like the Ogre. He shows up to confront your team early on in the campaign, which is a unique mechanic to this game. Sadly, it wasn’t much of a challenge. It mainly served as a temporary bullet sponge and is taken care of easily.
Overall, the game feels great, and you can jump in with a group of friends to take down zombies anytime. You can always join a random group and take over an AI partner during their campaign run. It also builds its own mechanics to stand out from its inspiration, as you can set a deck of perks that you can unlock after finishing a story chapter. It’s a great mechanic that adds replayability, as new skills could make the next run easier. You also can invest Copper into perks that support the entire team. So, there’s a risk-reward system pushing cooperation.
Before you start your first run, the Beta throws you into a camp without any real information, which was jarring but a given with this type of testing. Though, it could’ve helped ease players into the new concepts, which the base game might hopefully do. In addition, you can also face a group of players and take control of the infected. My experience sadly was bogged down by the lack of available players, with me facing an entire team of four on my own.
In the Beta, you can only play through the first campaign, which is fairly long with some creative story moments sprinkled throughout. One of the hardest levels is where you must outrun a horde of zombies and get on a ferry. You’ll get overrun quickly, and we’ve frequently lost players on the bridge, which commonly ended in the entire team’s defeat. It’s a fun ride but does repeat the same concept very frequently of whatever you’re doing involving a horde of enemies attacking you once you try to solve an objective or wait around until you can continue. It was fresh back in 2009 when Left 4 Dead 2 was released. Yet, now feels a bit repetitive and lacks something to truly make it stand out from what inspired it.
Throughout your run, you have a variety of weapons at your disposal with various handguns, shotguns, melee weapons, and more. Each weapon serves its purpose well and feels great while playing on a PlayStation 5. The only drawback is that the console game snaps you to your target. So, I never felt the need to really put in the effort, as I could just easily lock on automatically. It also led to many accidental friendly fires, when a friend was standing in front of the zombie my game decided to target.
Overall, there’s a lot of potentials here. It’s a fun romp to jump in with friends and take down a horde of zombies. In some ways, the game does falter by trying to pay tribute to the original series. There are elements to make it unique, with the perk system being a highlight. Yet, it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind or really reinvent the genre. The guns feel snappy, even if the target lock-on system is very easy to abuse. It feels like a great addition for anyone looking to scratch that zombie co-op shooter itch, or who really missed the Left 4 Dead franchise.