Back 4 Blood isn’t like Left 4 Dead. It is Left 4 Dead.
It’s a shame that Valve never resurrected the Left 4 Dead series because, having delved into Back 4 Blood‘s closed alpha, I can confirm it’s Left 4 Dead 3 in everything but name. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier.
For those who didn’t experience Left 4 Dead the first time around, Back 4 Blood is a team-based first-person shooter that sees you and three other players (or bots if there’s no-one about) sneaking and slaughtering your way through the zombie hordes. Back 4 Blood makes use of the ‘Game Director’, which manages the in-game action, ensuring no two games are exactly the same. So if you’re blasting your way through the undead a little too quickly, the director might decide to throw a horde your way, if you’re lucky.
If you’re unlucky, however, you’ll find yourself under attack from one of the many special ‘zombies’. Well, they’re supposedly infected by parasites, but they’re zombies by any other name. If you listen carefully, these special zombies telegraph their appearance, but it’s easy to get so caught up in fighting off the regular undead that you don’t notice the acid-vomiting super zombie until they’re puking in your direction.
There wasn’t a huge amount of teamwork going on when I tackled Back 4 Blood, even though I was playing with two other humans, but we generally stuck close enough to make it three-quarters of the way through the two-act alpha. What I loved about that most recent run was how many times we nearly failed.
That’s not something you’d normally boast about but, perhaps thanks to the AI director, there was never a moment when I felt we had it too easy. I was on the edge of my seat, hoping I’d get to fallen survivors in time to revive them and that they’d do the same to me. As cool as the new, colossal ‘Ogre’ zombie is, it was the sheer number of undead that did us in. And so we ended up flailing around on the floor as worms (probably) ate their way into our brains.
The feature that really proved to be a game changer was the card system. Both you and the AI choose cards to boost your run, give you extra abilities (on top of buying ammo and equipment between levels). But during my last, I run a got a card that gave me health every time I melee killed a zombie. On reflection, I should have communicated this to the other players, who just saw me doing an impression of Negan from The Walking Dead. But it motivated me to get up close and personal, knowing, if I timed it right, I could regenerate my health right back to maximum.
Sadly, the Back 4 Blood alpha didn’t include PvP multiplayer. One of the joys of Left 4 Dead was (and still is) being the infected, picking off players like you’re in a low-budget horror movie. Gladly, developer Turtle Rock has confirmed that’ll be in the final update and I can’t wait to deliver some worm-headed vengeance.
The Back 4 Blood closed alpha has now, er, closed, but you can join in on the co-op zombie-slaughtering (or human slaughtering) when it crawls its way out of the grave to PC and consoles on 21st June 2021.