Back 4 Blood PS5 & PS4 Hands-On Preview – Left 4 Dead has been dormant for just over 11 years now and its unique co-op gameplay has been sorely missed, despite the many imitations and variants that have come over the years, including Turtle Rock‘s own Evolve.
But the studio that gave life to this genre and style of gameplay are back with a not-so-subtle Left 4 Dead spiritual successor, aptly titled Back 4 Blood. And, despite being more than six months out, it’s already extremely solid and will easily be one of the biggest releases of the Summer on PS5 and PS4.
We got the chance to play the recent Alpha of the game and came away mighty impressed by its tough, but rewarding gameplay, and the ideas it throws in to differentiate itself.
Editor’s Note: The Back 4 Blood Alpha was only available on PC and was played on a gaming PC and the performance of the game will not be representative of the final product on PS5 and PS4.
Back 4 Blood PS5 & PS4 Hands-On Preview
A Carbon Copy, But A Good One
It’s fair to say that Back 4 Blood is a blatant carbon copy of Left 4 Dead in pretty much every way. The name, gameplay, character classes, and even the mission structure are all virtually identical to Turtle Rock Studios’ previous work.
However, it has been so long since one of these games has come out, let alone one that was this polished and well put together that it doesn’t matter. Left 4 Dead has been sorely missed and Back 4 Blood fills that gaping void that has been in the gaming industry for more than a year.
It really feels like after Evolve and the many struggles that the game faced, Turtle Rock went back to the drawing board and saw that no one was making Left 4 Dead like they made it and said “f*ck it”. If no one is going to continue Left 4 Dead’s legacy then we will do it ourselves.
But, where Back 4 Blood stands out is that all that polish, quality, and robustness that was in the original Left 4 Dead games has been retained and carried over to Back 4 Blood.
For a game that is still more than half a year away, I was stunned with how well it performed and how visually impressive the enemies, environments, and blood looked. There is A LOT of blood and it satisfyingly covers you and your teammates in the same way it would when fighting a boss in Bloodborne.
Tough, Tense, And Satisfying
As for the actual gameplay experience of Back 4 Blood, missions are split up into multiple sections, with checkpoint safe rooms in-between each one, allowing you to save, regroup, and refill your ammo, supplies, or gear, and get ready for the next hoard.
Then, when you go out to fight your job is to work your way forward. You keep running and running until you hit the next objective, which requires you to hold a position, or a safe room. Back 4 Blood is stressful, intense, and a whole lot of fun, even when playing solo (which is what I did during my time playing).
The thrill of rushing past waves and waves of zombies (Ridden is the name given to them here) all to reach the next objective, and then fighting your way back through that hoard that is chasing you in order to plant an explosive was particularly memorable and made for a challenging end to the one campaign mission we had access to.
There are very few experiences in games outside of VR that make you feel the stress and requires the quick on-the-fly thinking Back 4 Blood does and that is why my experience stood out so much.
When out in the field you can find a wide variety of different zombies from the Hackers, which spit webs locking you in place, to the Retch, which explodes and shoots streams of slime at you. Outside of the hulking Ogre, the excellently named “Tall Boy” is particularly threatening due to its large arm which it can slam onto the ground, knocking you and your teammates back.
Each one feels familiar, but fun to fight. For example, if a Retch shows up, that becomes the priority target because of the slime it can shoot, which can severely impede your movement, visuals, and general awareness.
As for survivors, the Alpha offered four to choose from, two of which played the typical long-range fighters, whilst the others were more focused on close-range attacks, complete with their own melee weapon. Personally, I preferred the former as I found melee weapons to be more hassle than they were worth, with zombies swarming me.
On top of that, the environment is also packed with some interactive elements like crows, which when alerted will cause a horde to come rushing to your position, having you surrounded by zombies and forced to either flee to the next area and hope for safety soon or waste precious ammo (which is limited) and hold off against the horde. This is a nice dynamic aspect to the experience and will hopefully allow for more strategic co-op play, especially if you and your friends are all chatting over PSN party chat.
Variables For Days
The way Back 4 Blood aims to add replayability and variety to its experience is through a card system. This card system incorporates dozens of variables that can change the experience in big and small ways. Some of the larger ways runs can change include changing what zombies appear or granting you the ability to restore health upon reviving teammates or dealing damage to zombies.
It can also change smaller features, such as granting you an additional grenade or boosting your ammo supply. These grenades and tools, which are purchased at safe houses, are highly valuable, providing you with key ways to survive and hold off or find additional resources.
I didn’t get a lot of time to mess around with the card system, but you are able to build you own decks and choose how these cards affect your run, albeit they are randomly selected as you reach each checkpoint, with you choosing from the randomly selected hand.
It does seem like there is a lot of flexibility here and it seems like it will allow players to choose how they want to experience Back 4 Blood, creating a more fluid, ever-changing experience, rather than a static one.
An Impressive First Look At What Will Be One Of The Biggest Titles Of 2021
The alpha of Back 4 Blood was nothing short of impressive. How Turtle Rock has managed to retain the beloved gameplay of Left 4 Dead and replicate it to this level of polish is beyond questioning. Back 4 Blood has the potential to truly revive a genre which has been dormant for far too long.
Everything I experienced made it seem like this game was about to release, yet Turtle Rock still has six months to polish, improve and make the experience even better than it already is. Frankly, I can’t wait for June and you should keep your eyes on Back 4 Blood.
Back 4 Blood releases for PS5 and PS4 on June 22, 2021.
Alpha code provided by publisher.