Back 4 Blood - Review

Turtle Rock Studios, having debuted with the super-popular cooperative zombie meat grinder Left 4 Dead, got into a strange situation.

Back 4 Blood - Review
Back 4 Blood: Less fan, more subtleties - review of a computer game for Xbox Series X/S.

The unique and even in some sense revolutionary Evolve turned out to be of little interest to anyone, because no matter how a person with a blue eye praises everything new and unusual, the brain will unconsciously strive with all its might for things familiar, mundane and not requiring the construction of new winding paths of neurotransmitters. Yes, there are a lot of reasons for its failure, but the most important, in our opinion, is described simply - there was simply no place for fun and the opportunity to relax in it. Press "start” and join a random session without unnecessary tinsel, just to have fun shooting, rejoicing in the splashes of blood and fireworks from the limbs. Yes, there were high bdsm difficulties in Left 4 Dead, and tactically verified fights in Versus mode, but elementary fun was still at the forefront of the cult zombie action movie. Back 4 Blood, it seems, brings back to us that most fervent zombie meat grinder, but it is necessary to wade through a bamboo grove of contradictory solutions, alien, at first glance, mechanics and bewildering restrictions.

The beta version of Back 4 Blood left us with quite contradictory impressions. In short, the description of the new Turtle Rock Studios project can be reduced to the phrase "the same Left 4 Dead with a few oddities". But it is worth digging a little deeper, and it turns out that there are so many of these "oddities" that only horns and legs remain from the usual formula. Instead of giving you an understandable cooperative zombie meat grinder, the game immediately pokes you in the face with some kind of sophisticated card system, forcing you to make decks. Immediately, characters with different abilities come out, the need to collect and spend money competently within the session, customization of weapons, division of all items into "rarity" levels, endurance consumption, different calibers, injury system…

To be honest, we, like many, at first just wanted to dismiss the novelty, call the game a "pathetic parody", grumble how the developers "broke everything we loved them for", and just run away to the good old Left 4 Dead 2, where everything is fine, and the grass is greener, and the zombies are more cheerful. However, it is much more interesting and correct to try to delve into the vinaigrette of new mechanics, try to taste, understand and accept the new vision of cooperative games from the studio.

To begin with, I want to get even with the card system, which initially infuriated many. No matter how annoying these damned cards are at first, a giant layer of diversity, replayability and a sweet feeling of progression between races are buried in them. Initially, there is a weak starting deck, which you will most likely be too lazy to edit until even at the complexity of “recruit” your gang will not get stuck in a particularly difficult moment. Over time, you will begin to consciously form builds with the whole team, and then Back 4 Blood will flourish. Someone takes on the role of a medic, chooses a pretty Asian woman, collects a deck to strengthen treatment and the speed of resuscitation. Someone is playing the role of a berserker fighter with melee bonuses, he needs endurance, thick skin and treatment due to blows. Someone supports the team with cartridges, which, unlike the same Left 4 Dead, often run out. The assortment of cards will be regularly replenished, and you will come up with new interesting builds. Especially powerful card power-ups come complete with penalties. For example, speed up resuscitation by as much as 150% due to reduced health by 5%.

Interference maps are of particular interest. Like useful cards for building a build, they are selected after each completed stage, it is, of course, impossible to get away from choosing from two or more evils. It is allowed to fill the stage with impenetrable fog, more doors with alarms or flocks of crows may appear on the level, which call the crowd from careless movements of players. From some cards, some ordinary zombies burst into flames, are covered with spikes or begin to spray acid after death like strangers. You can also doom yourself to a battle with one of the three bosses in a random place or strengthen the already extremely nasty special infected. At the end of any act (except the last one), the game already throws out such a pack of curses on you without a choice that it becomes very difficult to survive in this chaos without a well-formed build.

The general idea of Turtle Rock Studios is clear: this time they decided to take team interaction and planning to a whole new level at the expense of accessibility and dynamics. In Left 4 Dead, you were also worthless by yourself, should some hunter or smoker grab your carcass. But this was directly related to combat situations. Back 4 Blood also places a huge emphasis on the preparatory stage, long before the battle. In addition to choosing a character and forming a deck, you need to plan a bunch of subtleties. Who will take sets of tools for opening locks, who is a bandolier, and who is a defibrillator? How to distribute a modest supply of cartridges of different calibers? There is even an extremely useful opportunity to throw off any item, weapon or accumulated money to comrades. Finances play a key role during the session, because without them it will not even be possible to fully recover from the wall first aid kit when your character is injured. Each race begins with the purchase of all sorts of nishtyaks from the supply box, of particular value in which are expensive, but extremely tasty permanent improvements for the whole team.

There are only three difficulties, but even the second one does not weakly break the horns of all fans just to fan-mix the dead. The third one cannot be overcome at all by the developers themselves, based on numerous interviews. Increasing the difficulty, among other things, increases the damage to comrades, and here we come to another important feature of Back 4 Blood - it is often better not to shoot at all than to shoot anywhere. A stray bullet is not only harmful to a friend's ass, but also risks scaring off a flock of crows, activating alarms on some doors and cars and waking up a screaming zombie snitch. Unlike Left 4 Dead, there are many more ways to accidentally summon a horde to your soul, especially when "the cards are not so laid down." Literally.

The game tends more towards horror, because it is impossible to rush and swing a club endlessly, endurance will run out. To rush like a tornado, scribbling from four machine guns, will also not work, ammunition will quickly run out. There is a spread of bullets and a noticeable recoil. Your team is forced to literally crouch half the time, count bullets and be afraid to sneeze once again surrounded by flocks of crows and brain-hungry inhabitants wandering from side to side.

Back in the first L4D, the developers demonstrated their ability to draw gloomy horror scenery, but here, thanks to more powerful hardware and experience, they gave out an almost flawless entourage for a gloomy zombie adventure. Ordinary and a thousand times seen abandoned shops, cemeteries, basements, gas stations, ships and churches are decorated with love and attention to detail. Almost all of these places were present in one form or another in the Left 4 Dead dilogy, except for caves of tentacles, flesh and pus in the style of late Gears of War and the cemetery of nova ships. The latter, at the same time, turned out to be the stupidest place in the game, because you risk drowning your hero more than once, trying to figure out where you can walk and where you can't. Three acts came out quite epic and twice as long as the average act you know where. The final, the fourth, is a complex bossfight with an exorbitant level of epic, pus and bloody biomass in the frame. An excellent, in our opinion, epilogue!

In general, the campaign turned out to be quite large and intense, even without taking into account replayability. Sometimes, however, we have to return to the same places according to the plot, but this is not very annoying, because we observe the fruits of our deeds, for example, the life of the rescued survivors in the library, where before that they frantically nailed up the windows under the yoke of the advancing horde. The range of entertainment is familiar: there is an analogue of the defense of the rock scene, only in the bar, there is a fervent passage of a combine harvester in a corn field, a convulsive search for boxes in a defended mansion will shake your nerves, a howitzer tunnel will deafen you... Developers especially like to send us to search for and open nasty yellow pimples in a strange biomass, guided by a network of tentacles. This goal occurs about a dozen times in the campaign, which is a bit annoying. The most disarming moments are when the game begins to crush you with an endless stream of enemies, requiring you to run somewhere or perform certain actions. Such episodes are so disorienting during the first passage that even with minimal difficulty you will almost certainly lie down with the whole team, not understanding where to run and what to do.

Many things in Back 4 Blood are hard to evaluate without slipping into subjectivity. For example, the sensations of shooting, which vary from "complete shit” to "excellent and juicy". The design of infected people can also be attributed there, which began to resemble slimy biomass with a bunch of pimples and thorns more. Nevertheless, there are failures that are difficult to justify by the taste and the unique vision of the developers. For example, abandoning the much-loved Versus mode on campaign maps can be considered a categorically erroneous decision. In an interview, Turtle Rock Studios employees mutter vaguely about the fact that “they wanted to give players a new experience, and in general, in this case the session would be too long by modern standards”" but who forced them to do such long acts? It is all the more strange to make such a decision when almost all the community unanimously considers it erroneous.

The infamous "Swarm" mode with the battle of mutant players and human players on tiny maps did not seem to please anyone. Its only useful function can be considered the ability to manage special infected, imagining how cool it would be to ambush them on ordinary campaign maps. Immediately, no ambushes will be implemented, the survivors simply occupy a point and fight back, since the regime does not give them motivation to move anywhere.

Also, the game, at the moment, has a completely deranged system of saves. You can't just launch an act that interests you, first you need to go through the campaign before it. Moreover, having passed the campaign on the "recruit”, you will not be able to launch any place on the "veteran", please pass on it from the very beginning.In addition, for some reason, the game did not count me passing many acts when I was not a "host". It seems like we ran with four friends all the way to the final, but three out of four can start independently only from the beginning of the first act.

Another stupid limitation is related to the customization of weapons: you cannot remove the sights and body kits from one weapon yourself and hang them on another, only replace them with others. And if there are no other body kits nearby? Well, so put up with an idiotic sniper sight on a newly found legendary shotgun, until you accidentally come across, for example, a collimator. It is simply impossible to remove it.

For some reason, the developers also did not give the opportunity to receive supply points and at least some kind of progression in a single game with bots. Everything would be fine, but playing with random players, I still encountered the usual liveries, and after a couple of stages of the act, I remained exactly the same in the company of four dummies. And if there is no difference in the gaming experience, why limit the progress?

Which is good, all of the above and many other problems are completely solved by future patches. For sure, if there are no technical limitations of the engine, players will push the creators' egos soaring in the sky and ask for a normal Versus mode, the ability to remove weapon kits and much more. Moreover, it is clear that Turtle Rock Studios did not sit still after the beta version, but fixed many obvious problems. Bots have become noticeably smarter, although they still sometimes dance Satan, instead of curing you, periodically jump into the same abyss and get stuck in the scenery. But with them, at least it is possible to move forward more or less tolerably on the “veteran”. Even after the beta, you can safely jump into the middle of the act, take the unfinished cards in the recreation room and not feel like a useless nischuk. The sensations of shooting have changed somewhat (there is more kebab ketchup!), the balance has been adjusted, the network code has stopped being very sick…

The most important thing to know about Back 4 Blood is that it is much more difficult to join it than in the more airy and understandable Left 4 Dead. The game is boring, it gives you some kind of cloud of strange mechanics, forces you to save cards, make decks, engage in management and forces you to prepare for the meat grinder almost longer than to participate in it. However, if you try to delve into all these things and give the novelty a chance, it is able to reveal itself as an excellent original action movie on the 4th. A little more measured, atmospheric and scary, with a strong emphasis on team interaction, planning and preparation. Some of the developers' decisions (such as the rejection of a full Versus mode and an idiotic save system) are puzzling, but almost all the problems of the game either rest on taste, or are fixable in the future. I want to believe that this is the very future of Back 4 Blood will be juicy, meaty and saturated.