Back 4 Blood beta first impressions

Is Back 4 Blood leaving Left 4 Dead for dead? Not quite, but, after playing the B4B beta, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Back 4 Blood beta
Back 4 Blood is bloody good. Mostly.

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Like a baseball bat arcing through a zombie’s skull, the Back 4 Blood early access beta is in full swing. Naturally, we’re already sampled a lot of what Turtle Rocks’s undead shooter has to offer in these early hours and so thought we’d offer up our early impressions.

Essentially they are this: As we suspected all along, it’s Left 4 Dead 2 with cards, pretty much. 

More Left 4 Dead is a good thing

On the plus side, Back 4 Blood does very much feel like the continuation of the Left 4 Dead line in all but name. The characters seem a little blander, but there are more of them and we’ve yet to really attach ourselves to any of them, so that’s probably to be expected. Likewise B4B’s undead are cut very much from the same L4D cloth as the Cleaners, with many of the Ridden looking and feeling like they wandered in from the Left 4 Dead 2 set by mistake. This is no bad thing, given that the L4D games were perfectly cast on both sides of the mortal divide.

The range of gameplay is pretty much the same, too. Four player PvE campaign missions, divided into convenient acts, supplemented by eight player PvP where one team controls the star players among the undead horde. The maps feel broader and more open, which is both welcome and expected, as well as more heavily populated, which we suspect is to the cost of L4D’s intimacy, but again this could be down to us being far less familiar with the beta than we are with the games that inspired it.

We’re yet to settle on our favourite weapons, but the gunplay is generally very promising and solid across the board. The lighter SMGs have a pleasing fizz about them, the handguns are punchy and the oh-so-important shotguns have that gait that is so important to a shooter. Nothing feels sluggish or overly floaty (to use the technical term), and every weapon looks to have its niche. Naturally we’re inclined to suggest some tweaks need to be made to make each feel balanced, especially in PvP, but again, that could be down to a lack of time on the game. 

Back 4 Blood Deck Manager
We weren’t keen to hit the decks in Back 4 Blood, but we’ll stick with it for now.

Back 4 Blood’s cards on the table

The big difference between Back 4 Blood and the Left 4 Dead games is the aforementioned card deck system, which is something we are less impressed by. The majority of us on Gaming Verdict have a natural aversion to card systems in shooters anyway (hello Titanfall Burn Cards), and Turtle Rock’s attempt to shoehorn in a system that should be left to card games does little to assuage our fears that it’s another misplaced gameplay system that we might never come around to. But, again, it’s early days and maybe the devs might make the immersion-breaking mutator collect ‘em up system optional rather than mandatory. We live in hope.

Generally though, Back 4 Blood is allowing us to relive some happy memories from many, many tense hours playing Left 4 Dead and it’s sequel. Whether the deck system is enough to lift the game above its spiritual predecessor, or it holds it back to the point that we might instead return to something more enticing is too early to say. But, we’re prepared to give Turtle Rock the benefit of the doubt and plough ahead. If our Back 4 Blood impressions change over the coming days, we’ll let you know.