Back 4 Blood’s Early Access has started. Since October 7th, buyers of the two finer versions have been able to throw themselves into the zombie shooter and blow out the undead lights of life from the worm-infested zombies.
After a few minutes it becomes clear that a lot has changed since the beta. Many points of criticism were actually addressed and improved. In some cases, however, you have overshot the mark and should now push a patch very quickly.
Too many specially infected people from all directions
The special zombies like Tallboy, Exploder or Snitch were comparatively rare in the beta. You only saw these special variants occasionally, which annoyed many players.
Some developer at Back 4 Blood must have read this and laughed like crazy with a “You want more? Then you get more! ”Have turned the spawn properties. Because now the maps are full of specially infected people. Hardly 20 seconds go by without a tall boy shuffling around the corner or an exploder showing up – even on the lowest level of difficulty.
That alone wouldn’t be that bad, but it becomes a real game changer due to another fact: Zombies and specially infected people are now increasingly spawning behind you from rooms that you had actually already cleaned.
This leads to a whole series of technical changes which, from my point of view, are a deterioration. Because with this the game tells you very clearly: Be quick. Accelerate. The longer you take, the harder it gets.
Slow, cautious action is punished more heavily and the possibility of falling back on “safe” points of defense is completely eliminated, as a new special zombie can appear at any time from the small adjoining room.
We fully understand the point of this change. In the beta, players could almost permanently go back to the last saferoom to stock up on items and ammunition before the final fight. That just wasn’t a good game design and it also made the matches more boring.
The better solution here would be to simply let the door to the safe room close after a certain distance instead of paving the way back with new, specially infected people and zombies.
Because the “cleaners” are currently unable to do exactly one job: cleaning. Cleaned places are quickly populated again by specially infected people. That feels wrong and pushes for a “rush-rush” style of play that pales any other style of play.
PvP mode: those who are too good will be punished
Back 4 Blood’s PvP mode, also known as “Swarm”, is not popular with all players. Veterans from Left 4 Dead in particular find it much worse than the Versus campaign.
Nevertheless, there is a group of players who have become friends with the swarm mode and want to play it. But there is a huge, serious bug in the Early Access version of the game: If one team leaves the match, the other team goes completely empty-handed.
At the moment it’s like this: Team A plays really well as zombies and destroys Team B of the cleaners within a few seconds. Team B sees the match as lost and just goes out.
Team A now receives the message that the match is canceled because there are too few players. Team A gets nothing – because they played well and defeated the opponents devastatingly. To do it like that is completely absurd. In 2021 it should be the absolute standard in game design that side A automatically wins in a PvP match if side B gives up and leaves the game.
If you fear that players will collude and pass victories on to each other – take action against it. If you leave PvP matches before the end, you get a matchmaking ban that is getting bigger and bigger. Repeat offenders are simply thrown into a separate matchmaking pool after a while, from which they only come out if they complete X games in a row without disconnecting.
We live in the year 2021. The launch of PvP modes with such teething troubles is simply no longer justifiable. You could tell because this problem has existed since online games existed.
Much has improved since the beta
We would like to make it very clear that by far not “everything is bad” in Back 4 Blood. Some things have actually changed for the better since the beta and a lot was already good in the beta, which is still great now.
Blood and body parts everywhere: The most noticeable change for everyone is: The game finally has Gore. If you shoot a tallboy at the weak point, then at some point his big, threatening arm will fall off. Other zombies regularly splinter into their individual parts – just as we were used to from Left 4 Dead. That adds a lot to the atmosphere.
Trauma damage easier to treat: Feedback was also listened to. Medi-kits and bandages are now able to partially heal trauma damage – at least if the team has bought upgrades for healing items. This makes healing items more relevant and also motivates more people to let a character play as a “supporter”.
Bots are helpful: Recently, the bots have become significantly smarter and more useful. They now use their own items, such as pipe bombs, on a regular basis and – that was my first impression – also make sense. If you run out of ammunition, they are there immediately and discard some of their own supply so you can keep shooting.
It is clear to me that Back 4 Blood urgently needs a patch, preferably right on the release day. Because a few of the issues might upset players who believed in the beta. It would probably be much, much better with a few tricks and fine adjustments.
Back 4 Blood is a good co-op game – but with a few tweaks, it could be a lot better. It is to be hoped that the developers will bring changes quickly so that the official launch does not come as a nasty surprise.