Years after splitting with gaming legends Valve, Turtle Back have finally released their ‘spiritual successor’ to the adored Left 4 Dead series.
With a gentle move from undead zombies through to zombies borne of a parasite (which also might be from space), the formula remains much the same. Will it break new ground or simply fail to leave the former series’ shadow?
Having spent no small amount of weekends in my teams trying to hash together a LAN network (and massively dating myself with THAT term now) to play Left 4 Dead, it’s left a large zombie-shaped hole in my gaming life since the series largely moved on with only a small dedicated community left to the old series from 13 years ago.
However, jumping in to Back 4 Blood feels like returning to these days immediately – only with WiFi for online play meaning a much easier way of playing.
Being extremely online, much like the predecessor, DOES mean the game requires a decent amount of time spent in lobbies as opposed to leaping right in. However, with games such as the Call of Duty series already with massive followings, and suitable internet more readily available at decent rates than over 10 years ago, this isn’t something that will bother most.
As opposed to being an overarching ‘story mode’ to jump into, where you follow the reasons behind the infection, lore about the ‘Ridden’ (the new parasite zombies) and get to know the characters, you are instead thrust more simply into teams of ‘Cleaners’. There are currently eight included with the base game, including the four seen in the reveal trailer – if you’ve caught that at all. In the previous series, you had 4 – no more, no less, no DLC. However, the reason to include more isn’t simply to bulk out the roster.
In the previous game, the survivors were simply cosmetic changes to the same model, making them a simple extension of yourself in the game. Here, they each have unique skills, more similar to Dead by Daylight. Holly is melee focussed, Walker is an experienced rifleman and Mom is a capable healer – to name a few. Whilst this also means that you may find yourself feeling locked into a particular play style, it can also make for more intelligent team-building. This reviewer still isn’t sure this is an improvement however.
The Ridden have also increased in number to the old roster from L4D and make for their own intriguing challenges – and for interesting play styles when playing PvP and you control them yourself. I’ll be honest, PVP was my main reason for picking this up – to relive the old series how I used to play.
From the Stinger family of the Ridden, with 4 spidery limbs and the ability to pin Cleaners to the floor (akin to the Hunter from the original series) to the towering Tank-like Breakers there is a host of enemies to get to grips with.
This is true of whether you’re fighting with or against either faction, with humans, not AI controlling the ‘special’ ridden (as opposed to the shambling masses) this means it is far harder to guess how they’ll act – but even in normal co-op the AI Director is impressive. This means that no two runs of the same map are the same.
Whilst the new graphical updates help breathe new life into the concept with zombies more gory and detailed than ever, and new processing limits mean that being swarmed by a horde of the Ridden means less of a struggle than on older generation consoles (my old Xbox sounding like it wanted to take off), the game doesn’t quite feel fresh. It’s still fun, there’s no two ways about it, and with more content in the pipeline as evidenced by the chance to purchase a season pass to get it the moment it lands, the game is planning for longevity.
However, with the character ‘cards’ feeling lifted from too many microtransaction led online games, and the enemies feeling like re-hashes from the previous series, this reviewer is left with a slightly sour taste.
The advice? Buy it, play it, and enjoy it. If you’re a fan of zombie FPS games you will undoubtedly enjoy it and the replay value is consistent.
As with many games, it will be patched – and Swarm mode needs it desperately, so stick with it and await what will hopefully be imminent fixes to annoying but not game-breaking issues.
Author: Steve, Cardiff store