Hands-on with Back 4 Blood’s retail version: Our three-hour stream is now on VOD – Ars Technica

Ah, crap, here we go again with co-op zombie action in Back 4 Blood.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

Fire typically does a great job annoying oncoming zombies in Back 4 Blood.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

So do bullets.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

Zombie-killing with friends: You've done this before, but Back 4 Blood's version feels surprisingly fresh.

This monster chases you through one act's chapter, and you can either run away or burn through ammo resolving your disagreements.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

God rays spill through fog in many of B4B's environments.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

The way light-shafts filter through these branches looks even better in motion.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

You can see a howitzer through the subtitles on this one.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

The fog obscures some, but not all, of the impending doom in this image.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

This ferry is now boarding... the dead.

Turtle Rock / WB Games


Turtle Rock / WB Games

Offer a prayer for the deador just stock up on weapons and ammo in that box over there.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

Some real Pacific Northwest vibes in this valley.

Turtle Rock / WB Games

2021 is apparently the year of Left 4 Dead spiritual successors, with two co-op shooters catching our attention thanks to their ties to that original Valve series: this week's Back 4 Bloodand this fall's Anacrusis.

Back 4 Blood, developed by Turtle Rock Studios, is first out of the gate, with its zombie co-op action now officially live for people who shell out a whopping $99.99 for the game's "ultimate" edition on Xbox consoles and PC. The more patient among you can wait until October 12, when the standard game not only goes live but becomes a part of paid Xbox Game Pass subscriptions.

If you need something to tide you over while waiting to get your band of zombie-slaying friends back together, fear not: we have our early copies of the game, and we're eager to see exactly how it looks as a full retail product. The game can no longer hide behind the safe haze of a "beta test," and we'll see how game balance, technical performance, an unlockable card system, and any microtransactions play out in the real world.

Starting at 3 pm ET today, we'll have the Ars Technica Twitch feed live and embedded at the bottom of this post. At that time, you can either watch the gameplay from this site or click through to participate in the feed's live chat while I make my way through random matchmaking of the game's zombie-filled campaign levels.

For a recap of what to expect, refer to my last hands-on impressions from the beta earlier this year:

Many of B4B's concepts are lifted shamelessly from L4D (if the naming convention with a number "4" didn't clue you in). To wit: Each of the game's "campaign" zones is broken up into smaller levels, and your squad gets an opportunity to rest, heal, and stock up on supplies at a "safe zone" between each level. Use guns, melee weapons, and explosive implements to tear through zombies, and juggle health items and tools to get your team from one safe zone to the next.

The biggest differentiator from L4D's classic formula is a series of gameplay-modifying card decks. From what I can tell, Turtle Rock Studios has implemented something that should work without demanding players spend a single additional penny on top of the retail price.

You'll start the game with a solid inventory of cards, along with an invitation to build 15-card decks. Whenever you dive into either PvE (co-op with friends against computer-controlled zombies) or PvP (a four-on-four versus mode), your first step is to pick one of your custom decks. At the beginning of each campaign phase, some of your cards will be randomly dealt, and you pick one or two of them to augment your battling from there on out.

My session will last roughly three hours, and the gameplay should include enough card unlocking and combat differentiation to give you a good sense of what B4B looks and feels like as a live product. We'll upload and embed a VOD version for those who miss the stream. (Additionally, we'll be back later this year with a peek at the aforementioned co-op shooter Anacrusis whenever its "when it's done" release date comes.)

Update: Stream complete! Twitch broke the presentation up into two separate VODs, which are embedded below in order. If you skip directly to the second video, you can fast forward through it to see a taste of some content that hadn't yet been revealed during the game's beta tests.

Part one: Ars Technica plays Back 4 Blood on its release date of October 7, 2021. Also, some brief chat about Nintendo Switch OLED.

Part two: Ars Technica beats the first Act of Back 4 Blood on its release date of October 7, 2021.

Listing image by Turtle Rock / WB Games

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Hands-on with Back 4 Blood's retail version: Our three-hour stream is now on VOD - Ars Technica

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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