Turtle Rock Studios’ Back 4 Blood is out on October 12th and aims to revive the zombie-killing mayhem that made the studio’s Left 4 Dead series so much fun. It’s releasing on Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and PC along with a day one launch on Xbox Game Pass so let’s take a look at 15 things you should know before jumping in.
Story and Setting
The zombie outbreak has happened and the world is already in a post-apocalyptic state of chaos. While humanity has mostly fallen and turned into special infected creatures known as Ridden, there is a group dedicated to battling the monsters. Known as the Cleaners, their journey takes place over multiple Chapters, exploring different locations and wiping out any Ridden that get in their way. The long-term objective seems to be in re-claiming the world, bit by bit, instead of simple survival.
Chapters make up the bulk of the campaign (Evanburgh being the only campaign available at launch) and see players visiting different areas to slay the Ridden. Two Chapters have been revealed thus far in the open beta – The Devil’s Return and Blue Dog Hollow – each with four missions. How many there will be at launch is yet to be confirmed but each Chapter seemingly requires an hour or so to complete. This depends on the difficulty you choose, of course.
If you’ve played any of the Left 4 Dead titles, then Back 4 Blood will be easy to jump into. It’s a co-op shooter where you slay hordes of zombies, locate and upgrade weapons, share supplies like health between your team and much more to survive en route to the next safe house. Alerting groups of pigeons or creating too much noise can cause swarms of Ridden to be attracted to your group, and various Special Ridden will crop up to make life miserable. Unlike Left 4 Dead, there are unique perks for each Cleaner, Cards that add random modifiers and even an aim-down-sights option for shooting. Characters also suffer Trauma when taking damage, which reduces their overall max health until they access a healing station.
Back 4 Blood offers three difficulty options – Survivor, Veteran and Nightmare. Survivor provides players with more health, ammo and Trauma Resistance, friendly fire is disabled, two Continues are provided, and you gain additional healing and Trauma Recovery at safe rooms. The Ridden also take more damage. Survivor adds more Mutations into the mix and friendly fire is on with 35 percent effect. Nightmare is the toughest – while Incapacitated, players will take more Trauma damage, friendly fire is enabled with 60 percent effect, the Ridden have more health and deal more damage, and you only get one Continue. Turtle Rock has since admitted that the Survivor is a little too easy while Nightmare is too difficult, and will look to tune both in light of feedback from the beta.
Each team in the campaign can have four Cleaners with eight to choose from when the game launches. They all have their own perks and abilities that can tip the odds in your favor. Doc, for instance, offers 20 percent healing efficiency and can heal each teammate for 25 HP once per level. Hoffman has a chance to find ammo on killing Ridden, increases the team’s ammo capacity by 10 percent and has an additional Offensive Item slot. Holly recovers 10 Stamina on kills, adds 25 to the team’s overall stamina and has more damage resistance. A well-rounded squad of damage, utility and support is the key to success.
The Ridden you’ll typically encounter are mindless and will attack haphazardly. But among the dozens of normal Ridden are Special Ridden with more health and unique abilities that can make life much tougher for the Cleaners. These include the Breaker whose fists are hardened and deal extra damage; the Hag, which will grab players and try to eat them whole; the Snitcher, who alerts nearby hordes if they spot you; and the Ogre, a massive creature who throws projectiles from a distance. Each has their own unique behavior – including the ability to ambush players – and requires responding in specific ways.
Cards are a unique addition to the zombie-slaying formula. Players can customize a deck of 15 cards, each providing unique bonuses like additional stamina, more movement speed (at the cost of disabling Sprint), faster revive speed, more weak spot damage and more in missions. When a Chapter starts, players will draw different cards to stack these bonuses and offset any disadvantages, with an additional card that can be chosen after each safe room. This all sounds great…until you realize that the AI Director can also use cards.
The AI Director returns and once again, it’s main purpose is to keep track of different player actions and react accordingly, like when to send Ridden hordes, unleash Special Ridden and more. It also gains access to its own cards called Corruption Cards which add specific effects like exploded Stinkers attracting the horde, more Bloaters, and fog that will obscure one’s vision. These even provide bonuses to the Special Ridden like weak spots being covered by armor, increased health and damage for certain Mutations, and much more, changing up the challenge significantly on each playthrough.
Versus, known as Swarm Mode, is 4v4 and pits Cleaners against the Ridden in a battle for survival but very different from Left 4 Dead. The Cleaners are tasked with protecting their safe house from waves of Ridden, which includes player-controlled Ridden, for a set amount of time. Once the round is over, the two teams switch sides. The team to survive longest in a best-of-three contest wins. While the Ridden can rely on stronger Mutations for their team (which carry over between rounds), the Cleaners can upgrade their weapons. Swarm Mode is also its own mode and doesn’t use any missions from the Campaign.
No Campaign Versus
So surely there will be a Campaign Versus mode – where the Cleaners encounter player-controlled Ridden in different campaign missions – in traditional Left 4 Dead fashion, right? Unfortunately, no and there are no plans for the same. As for why this was cut, Eurogamer reported co-founder and design director Chris Ashton as stating, “We have a lot of defensive equipment and our specials are good at ambushing. Defending worked far better for our game than running from A-B.” It’s a shame but hopefully this will be added some time in the future.
Cross-platform play has been confirmed for launch, meaning that players across PC, Xbox and PlayStation platforms can play together. However, there’s no cross-progression support, meaning you can’t transfer your saves between platforms. Turtle Rock could implement this in the future given the login system it has now but don’t hold your breath.
Pre-order Bonuses and Special Editions
Like many big games releasing this year, there are multiple editions of Back 4 Blood to purchase – Standard for $60, Deluxe for $90 and Ultimate for $100. The Standard Edition provides the base game only while the Deluxe Edition includes the base game, four days early access and the Annual Pass. The Ultimate Edition includes everything from the Deluxe Edition but with more in-game items like a Rare banner, emblem, spray and title, and a 4 Character Battle Hardened Skin Pack. Pre-ordering any edition will net the Fort Hope Elite Weapon Skins Pack for free.
Interestingly, Turtle Rock Studios had not revealed requirements for running the game on PC. It’s likely still optimizing for the final release but in the meantime, we do have the open beta’s recommended specs to fall back on. CPU-wise, you’ll need an Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, a GeForce GTX 970 or Radeon RX 590, and 12 GB of RAM. A solid state drive with 25 GB of installation space is also recommended. Windows 10 64-bit is also a must along with DirectX 11.
Those playing on PC have a pretty nice range of options to choose from including 4K resolution support, uncapped framerates, and support for multi-monitor and ultrawide monitors. Nvidia’s DLSS is also supported along with graphics options for Vsync, adaptive FX quality, motion blur, textures, foliage and much more. It’s fairly extensive overall and provides extensive customization regardless of one’s system requirements.
Annual Pass and Post-Launch Plans
Back 4 Blood’s Annual Pass provides three paid DLC drops after launch which offer new playable characters, special Mutated Ridden and new story missions. For paid content in PvE, if the party leader owns the same, then anyone in the squad can access it. Post-launch PvP content will be accessible to all players which includes new characters and Ridden (though these must be unlocked “through progression”). PvP characters have access to the same cards at the beginning of each match as well so no additional purchase is necessary.