Turtle Rock Studios is a team that knows its strengths. It made a major splash in the gaming scene with the simple, yet incredibly addictive, cooperative zombie game Left 4 Dead. Unlike other zombie games released at the time, the focus on teamwork, progressing through campaigns rather than just holding out in a position, and special infected types made this game stand out despite being a little light on content. The sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, took that same formula and just added more. There were new weapons, infected types, maps, and scenarios, and it even pulled in the original campaigns from the first game.
After the second game, despite remaining popular for years after release, no further games were announced, and Turtle Rock moved on from Valve to create games on its own. Its first attempt was the asymmetrical multiplayer hunting game Evolve that failed to capture that same addictive formula as L4D. Now, seeing the opportunity to fill a gap in the market no one else can or wants to, Back 4 Blood has been announced as a not-so-subtle spiritual successor to its previous zombie titles. You and your friends won’t have to wait long to get your hands on this title, so check out everything there is to know about Back 4 Blood.
The game was originally announced during E3 2019, but we didn’t get our first real look at the game or the release date until The Game Awards at the end of 2020. A closed alpha test was announced, which ran December 17-21, 2020, and the intended release date was set for June 22, 2021. That date was delayed, however, and has now settled on the seasonally appropriate date of October 12, 2021.
The latest trailer for Back 4 Blood lists all the platforms the game will be coming to. These include the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, as well as the PC. While that covers all the bases we could hope for in terms of platforms, the best news is that Back 4 Blood intends to feature full crossplay and cross-gen support at launch. This will include all modes of the game. The official Tweet mentioning this did use the phrase “intended support at launch,” meaning it may not be available day one. What we don’t know is if there is any upgrade, free or otherwise, for players who buy it on last-gen consoles and eventually upgrade.
We also got the exciting news during E3 that Back 4 Blood will be put on Xbox Game Pass as a day one release, meaning subscribers can download the game at no extra cost.
The initial reveal trailer could have ended with a Left 4 Dead 3 logo instead of the Back 4 Blood one and no one would have batted an eye. Aside from a glimpse at how this zombie outbreak — in this game they’re called the Ridden — is caused by some kind of bug/worm/parasite, the trailer wastes no time in getting to the action. We have our four main characters, known as Cleaners, facing off against swarms of enemies in the streets with a range of weaponry. The official press release for the story is simple and looks like it won’t get in the way of the main focus of the game, which is the co-op gameplay. “The story takes place after a catastrophic outbreak where most of humanity has either been killed or infected by the parasitic Devil Worm. Hardened by unspeakable events and emboldened to fight for the last of humanity, a group of apocalypse veterans called the Cleaners have rallied to take on the infected horrors known as the Ridden and reclaim the world.”
The four Cleaners we see are Holly, Walker, Evangelo, and Hoffman. Just like the squads in both Left 4 Dead games, each has their own personality that will come through during gameplay rather than scripted scenes. In a slight change from the L4D games, where each character was functionally identical, each unique Cleaner has their own special secondary weapon and perk. We also get a look at just four of the new special types of Ridden, with more promised to come in the full release.
Between the gameplay reveal trailer, E3 showing, and all the footage shared from the alpha test, we have a very clear picture of how Back 4 Blood will play. In a lot of ways, yes, it is the same Left 4 Dead formula of loading up your weapons and working with your team to survive as you make your way through a level filled with Ridden trying to rip you apart. But what was a surprise to many were the additions Turtle Rock chose to add. Most notably, the card system.
While you’re between rounds, you will be able to choose from a select number of cards across various categories that all give different perks or buffs to your character. The four categories are Reflex, which gives boosts to speed and agility; Discipline, buffing healing and ammo; Brawn, raising melee stats and resistance; and Fortune, raising the odds of crits and HP recovery. There are a variety of cards for each category, and presumably, many more will show up in the final game. You can have a maximum of 15 equipped at a time and can range from simple stat bonuses to special abilities. To balance out your own cards, the game also will apply what are known as corruption cards. These cards dictate what kind of challenge you’ll be facing, like making the map full of fog so you can’t see as far ahead.
Also new is the weapon customization system. Rather than just picking up and tossing weapons on a whim, you are encouraged to hold on to and improve your favorite gun with different accessories and upgrades. It doesn’t look like it will be the deepest system, but will be a nice way to add another feeling of progression as you make your way through the game.
In terms of the unique Ridden we know of, so far they bear more than a small resemblance to the special infected from L4D. We have the four-armed Stinger that leaps like a Hunter but can also shoot out a sticky trap that will immobilize anyone it hits. The Retch is a mixture of a Spitter and Boomer, able to spew acid, and will pop into a Ridden attracting mist when killed. The Tallboy has one massive arm like the Charger, which can create shockwaves and AOE damage. The Ogre is the new Tank, slow and incredibly resilient to damage, but will mess up any character it can corner.
Finally, the A.I. director is back. Made famous for running the semi-randomness and unpredictability of L4D2, this A.I. oversees all the Ridden on the map, ramping up the hordes or throwing special infected at you when you least expect it, but also deciding which corruption cards will be in play. That sense of intelligent difficulty is part of what made those first two games almost infinitely repayable, so it is fantastic to know it will be back and better than ever.
Yes. Not only will there be multiplayer, but the game is designed around it. Sure, you can go solo with A.I. taking control of the spare Cleaners, but the real fun of Back 4 Blood comes in teaming up with other humans and embracing the chaos of trying to help each other survive as you’re assaulted by endless waves of Ridden. Taking yet another page from the previous zombie titles, multiplayer isn’t just limited to co-op. The competitive mode works just like it used to, with two teams of four split between the Cleaners and four special Ridden. Not much else is known about this mode yet, or if there will be other modes to play with, but it is probably safe to assume it will work at least partially as it did in L4D2.
The Left 4 Dead games were perfect for new DLC. With each campaign being essentially stand-alone, adding in new ones was easy to do without interfering with anything already in the game. At the same time, because of how poorly handled the initial DLC plans were for Evolve, some were concerned we would see a repeat of that fiasco with Back 4 Blood. Thankfully, during an FAQ, Turtle Rock responded to a question about DLC stating, “Right now, we’re focusing on making the best, most fun, and exciting game we can. We’ll figure out the post-launch stuff later, but if we do have paid post-launch content, like microtransactions, we want to do something that the community feels good about.”
While that statement is great to hear, the fact that an annual pass is already available and promises three content packs in the future does leave us a little uncertain. Hopefully, Turtle Rock learned its lesson and can stick to its word.
Pre-orders are up, and you’ve got your pick from three editions depending on your price range and how much bonus content you want. Also, by pre-ordering, you can earn early access to the open beta. Instead of waiting until August 12-16, you can jump in starting August 5-9.
The standard edition is your typical $60 game that comes with the Fort Hope Elite Weapon Skin Pack. These skins are for the 870 Shotgun, Uzi SMG, M4 Carbine, and RPK LMG.
The Deluxe Edition will cost you $90 and, aside from the skin pack, gives you access to the game four days early and the annual pass.
Finally, for a full $100, you can get the Ultimate Edition. Including everything already mentioned, you get four character skins, a rare banner, emblem, spray, and title.
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