With Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios brought a new way to gather your friends and slay some zombies. Evolve took that formula and replaced the zombies with alien creatures. Now, TRS is at it again with Back 4 Blood. Returning to the world of the undead, the open beta for Back 4 Blood has given us a glimpse of what we can expect when the game launches fully in October.
The open beta for Back 4 Blood brings two game modes into the fray: Campaign and Versus. As you’d expect, Campaign tells the story of the game and gives players the opportunity to gather friends and traverse the world full of the undead. If you are looking for the nostalgic feeling of Left 4 Dead, this is the game mode for you. Versus is the PvP side of things, with one team taking on the role of the Cleaners and the other, the Ridden.
Cleaners and Ridden, you ask? Essentially, these are the terms used for the survivors and the zombies of Back 4 Blood. The beta gives us the opportunity to try out a number of different characters, all of which offer various effects and bonuses, meaning players will have the opportunity to mix and match, to find their favourite character. It also means that there is an element of teamwork needed here – work with your teammates to pick characters that work well together and offer benefits that help the team as a whole.
The Ridden, a group of undead monstrosities. Like the games that have come before, the Ridden come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We have the standard enemies, these are the running hordes of zombies that can easily be dispatched via a shower of bullets. However, we also have a number of special variants – a bunch of mutations that will be very similar to those who have played Left 4 Dead. We have a hulking great beast, an exploding abomination that vomits all over you, a strange creature that crawls on walls and snatches you up. You can see the similarities between the two titles.
Let’s take a look at the campaign option for the open beta. This is where the real meat and bones of the game can be found. The campaign can be played solo (with the help of 3 bots) or with any number of players up to a total of 4. Available during the beta is a set of 8 levels that take the players from abandoned farmland to a deadly quarry. I’m not 100% sure on the overall story of the game as this is purely a sample of a larger story, but the beta gives us a good 4-5 hours of campaign gameplay (although this may depend on how good your team is).
Jumping into an Xbox party chat with a group of friends and running through the campaign was great fun, made even better with the cross-platform functionality, meaning 2 of us were playing on Xbox Series X and the other 2 were on PC.
There is a very familiar setup with Back 4 Blood. Missions, or levels, see you start at one point of the map before traversing through the linear level design in order to reach a safe house at the end of the level – pretty much taken directly from Left 4 Dead.
We also have the same setup when it comes to weapons and items: 1 mainhand, 1 offhand (which can either be a sidearm or a melee weapon), 1 tool of sorts – such as a toolkit for entering locked areas, and 1 item for health (this could be pills or a medkit). All of this means you’ll be setting out on your adventure with 4 items in total, although you can of course swap things out and pick up items as you progress through the level.
One thing absent from Back 4 Blood is a creature similar to the Witch. For those of you that remember, the Witch in Left 4 Dead could summon hordes by making an awful lot of noise. Here however, the Witch has been replaced with… birds! Along with cars and certain scripted objects, groups of birds can alert hordes of Ridden.
Another new aspect that differs from Turtle Rock’s past games is the addition of the Decks. These decks include cards, with some being beneficial to the player, whilst others act as challenges. These challenges are picked by the game itself, so you could start a level with less health, or enemies may be harder to kill (this also adds a level of complexity and replayability). However, the beneficial cards are chosen by the player before the start of a level, so you could negate the challenge cards by choosing a +50 health card, for example.
Now we’ll take a peek at the versus mode. As you would expect, versus mode brings a PvP element to the game. One team takes on the role of the Cleaners, the crazy group of survivors. The other team will take on the role of the Ridden.
How the game plays out will be slightly different depending on which team you are on. If you are on the side of the Cleaners, you’ll spawn in as your chosen character and will have a minute or two to scavenge weapons, tools and health packs that can be used to help you stay alive. If you are on the side of the Ridden, you will be able to wander about the map, waiting for your prey to sort themselves out. – It’s worth pointing out that the Ridden will be invisible during this ‘cooldown’ period, so Cleaners won’t have any distractions when scavenging for items.
Once this initial period is up, the Ridden will spawn in and the match will begin! In order to actually win this mode, it doesn’t simply rely on the fact of Cleaners killing all the Ridden. It’s actually the opposite, it looks at how fast the Ridden can eliminate the Cleaners. Once all of the Cleaners have been killed, the round is over and the time taken is recorded. The teams will now swap over and the mode will begin again. In order to actually get a point (best out of three), your team has to have the longer time.
|Round 1||Round 2|
|Team 1 – Cleaners||Team 1 Ridden|
|Team 2 – Ridden||Team 2 – Cleaners|
|Time taken to eliminate Cleaners: 1:10||Time take to eliminate Cleaners: 1:30|
In the above scenario, Team 2 will win 1 point overall. This all repeats again until one team ends up with the most points.
The beta only gives us a small peek into what we can expect to see when the full game launches later on in the year. I imagine most players will stick to the campaign side of things, but for players wanting to take control of a hulking mutant and bash the brains out of an unlucky Cleaner, versus mode will be the way to go.
Outside of the campaign and versus modes themselves, you also have the opportunity to explore Fort Hope. This area acts as a sort-of lobby, where you can practice with firearms, unlock new cards for your deck and meet up with friends before jumping into the core parts of the beta.
All in all, there is a good chunk of content available to try out here. With the campaign taking a good number of hours and versus mode offering rounds upon rounds of slaughter, fans of Left 4 Dead and Evolve will feel right at home. From what I have seen so far, this is going to be a must-play once it releases fully in October.