Five Things I Learned from the Back 4 Blood Beta

This weekend I got to spend a few hours playing the Back 4 Blood Open Beta, which I’m sure many of you did too. Back 4 Blood is a first-person co-op zombie shooter developed by Turtle Rock Studios. It’s the spiritual successor (or a sort of sequel) to their Left 4 Dead series of games. The beta supports cross-play which is a good sign for friends who want to team up on different platforms.

Back 4 Blood features a colorful cast of characters (or “Cleaners” as their called in the game), all with different abilities and weapon proficiencies. The cleaners can fill out the cast of any George Romero/Zack Snyder “______ of the Dead” movie. The writing and banter between them is fun at first, but tends to get a bit stale and repetitive at times — hopefully this is just a small taste of all of the lines they’ll have to choose from.

I’m not going to give my review of the beta, because it’s basically just a test version of the game — this did feel pretty complete and I didn’t run into any major technical problems. Instead I’d like to share five things I learned from playing the Back 4 Blood Open Beta this past weekend.

Back 4 Blood – Official Trailer

1 Friendly Fire

Many of today’s shooters don’t allow for “friendly fire,” but growing up playing co-op games with friends there were many games that allowed you to accidentally (and purposefully) hurt your teammates. In many shooters today you can’t even fire your weapon when aimed at a teammate or friendly NPC character.

In the chaos of a co-op zombie survival shootout, friendly fire adds that extra element of awareness. Since you’re basically just spraying bullets every which way at times, it’s very hard not to shoot your teammates when huddled up together. Many times I found myself trying to find a spot where I can take out many zombies, but also stay out of my teammates’ sight. No matter what happens you will get shot and shoot your teammates in Back 4 Blood, and that’s fine as long as you are also there to heal each other when necessary — that’s called teamwork!

2 Game Modes

During the beta we saw three game modes. The Campaign and Quick Play modes featured a good amount of smaller missions where you take out hordes of zombies while making it to the next safe house. Back 4 Blood missions are definitely replayable. You can complete these same missions over and over with different groups, or with the same groups trying out different cleaners each time.

The Versus mode definitely surprised me. I was expecting it to be cleaners vs cleaners, but instead it was cleaners vs zombies. It’s much like the actual game missions with four human cleaners, except there’s a horde of AI zombies and four specialty/boss zombies controlled by humans. The interesting part is that it was a competition to see which team can survive the longest as cleaners, and the teams switch places round to round.

I’m sure there will be many more missions and even versus modes in the actual game release.

3 Loadouts

The first thing that’s important in Back 4 Blood is to find the right team of cleaners. Each cleaner brings different expertise and abilities to the game. For instance, Hoffman spawns ammo with kills — which can be helpful to him but also the team. Other cleaners heal with melee kills or give the team a stamina boost.

It’s also important which weapons and extras you start off with and hope to find along the journey. In one of my early matches my cleaner was able to carry two large weapons, but later on with a different character I could only carry one large weapon and one compact sidearm or a melee weapon. Certain cleaners can heal with melee kills so it’s important to have a machete, axe or some kind of swinging weapon for when your health gets low. 

4 Base Camp and Items

Exploring the base camp I was able to prepare for upcoming battle in different ways. There was also a shooting range where you could test out weapons to find out what you’d like to look for in game.

There are special player decks you build for your different characters. The player cards are a fun addition and remind me of playing co-op board games with friends. Before each level you can also randomly pick some player cards for the round and specialty cards that can either make things harder or give a bonus for completing certain tasks.

There are also plenty of cards to unlock as you play by visiting the supply lines. Cards that will increase your abilities. In Back 4 Blood you can build some pretty stacked decks for each run.

5 Play with a Crew

This game, just like the Left 4 Dead games before it, is best enjoyed with a group of four. Back 4 Blood only allows for online multiplayer, not local, so everyone will be playing on their own screen. I mostly played with strangers this weekend with my mic off and the team muted. I also had problems sticking with teams because of this, or maybe it was pure chaos with so many people trying to play.

I spent many of my games playing with two to three bots on my team. Even when I began with four human players, by the end of the round or the next mission I’d have lost one or all of them. Back 4 Blood is built to play with friends, and if I could get a solid team together I may end up buying and playing this game.

Back 4 Blood is launching October 12, 2021 on all platforms (Xbox, PlayStation and PC).

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