The highly-anticipated Back 4 Blood open beta is nearly upon us, and I recently got the opportunity to go hands-on with the game ahead of the beta period. I also got the chance to talk to Turtle Rock Studios executive producer Lianne Papp about the game and the team’s experience working on Back 4 Blood. My group got to test out a sizable chunk of the co-op campaign and play a bit of the Swarm PvP mode, and we walked away very impressed with what we saw.
Back 4 Blood has some huge shoes to fill. Left 4 Dead 2 still sees thousands of concurrent players daily on Steam, and the online multiplayer space is more crowded than ever. I also haven’t sat down and played Left 4 Dead in any serious capacity since the good old days on the Xbox 360, so I have rose-tinted glasses to the highest degree when it comes to that series. Even with those fond memories, Back 4 Blood still managed to impress me.
Cooperation and Communication
The open beta will include both PvE and PvP maps, and I was able to go hands-on with both modes. PvE co-op is obviously the focus of this game, and Back 4 Blood definitely delivers in that regard. Co-op levels start out simple, only pitting players against small groups of Ridden (it’s like Days Gone’s “Freakers” all over again, they’re just zombies), but the difficulty quickly ramps up once additional objectives are tossed into the mix.
You’ll actually have to coordinate and communicate with your group to make it out alive, which was much more teamwork than I was expecting. At one point, part of my team had to plant explosives on a ferry while the rest provided covering fire. In another level, two group members gathered boards to fortify windows in a cluttered church. Those tasked with fortification could not use their weapons, so it came down to the rest of the group to keep the Ridden at bay. Every level isn’t a challenging gauntlet, but there are definitely a few sections where you can’t just coast through.
A Wide Array of Ridden
Just like Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood boasts its own collection of special infected. Most of them incapacitate players until an ally comes to save them, but that’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Back 4 Blood features special boss-like Ridden types, however, and they make intimidating opponents.
The Ogre is a massive boss with a huge health bar, and it disappears and reappears throughout the level at set intervals. It comes from Turtle Rock’s desire to implement larger monsters into the game, an idea that the team carried over from Evolve. “We feel like zombies shooters haven’t really done that,” said Papp in our interview. “You haven’t really faced something that’s quite large and intimidating and can do things like grab you out of a room and pull you out.”
My group encountered it in a claustrophobic tunnel, and it was quite the ordeal trying to keep it at bay while also clearing the normal Ridden that were swarming us at the same time. It was a great co-op experience, and I loved it. You can see the Ogre in action in the gameplay trailer below, but it doesn’t really do the creature justice. Back 4 Blood’s boss infected types are an incredibly exciting addition to the formula, and I really hope they’re not restricted to just a handful of levels.
Swarm is the PvP mode in Back 4 Blood, pitting four Cleaners against four player-controlled Ridden in a battle for survival. Once the human players are eliminated, the teams switch sides, and whichever group lasts longer as the Cleaners wins the match. Matches can get pretty intense, but they don’t overstay their welcome.
Papp describes Back 4 Blood’s PvP as “snackable” in reference to the pick up and play nature of the mode. Swarm’s rounds are quick and bite-sized, allowing players to drop in for a quick session without requiring too large of a time commitment. The team wanted to create something that was “different but inviting to most people,” and the asymmetrical Swarm mode definitely delivers on that. It was unique enough that it held my attention, and it’s the perfect fit for those that don’t have the time to sit down with a full group of four for a PvE session but still want to shoot some zombies.
Open Beta Overview
I could share many more thoughts and impressions about Back 4 Blood, but you’ll have the opportunity to play it for yourself soon when the open beta kicks off on August 5. There’s a lot of content included in the beta and crossplay will be enabled, so you can gather your friends and team up regardless of platform. Here’s what you can expect in the Back 4 Blood open beta:
- 2 PvE Co-Op Maps
- 2 PvP Swarm Maps
- Five playable Cleaners
- Six playable Ridden
- Fort Hope hub
The early access open beta will run from August 5 through August 9, and you can get access by pre-ordering the game or watching Twitch streams with drops enabled. The open beta will open up for all players the following weekend on August 12, and everyone will be able to play until August 16.
Back 4 Blood will be released on October 12 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.