Back 4 Blood‘s beta grabbed a lot of attention over the weekend (and even managed to attract over 100,000 concurrent players on Steam at one point), but the aftermath of the long-awaited preview has revealed that the seemingly surefire spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead may not be ready to claim the genre crown.
While Back 4 Blood is an often impressive Left 4 Dead-style shooter that immediately distinguishes itself through its card system and other roguelite/looter shooter elements, there’s no getting around the fact that the game is in true beta state at the moment and currently suffers from a number of “little” problems that are starting to add up to form genuine concerns.
So while it remains to be seen what shape Back 4 Blood is in when it launches on October 12, these little issues with the co-op shooter’s beta might be enough to raise some reasonable doubt about whether it is quite ready for primetime.
Back 4 Blood’s A.I. Is…Not Good
This rundown is in no particular order, but the quality of Back 4 Blood’s A.I. seems to be the most common complaint about the game at the moment.
Honestly, this is less of a “complaint” and more of a straight-up problem. Enemies and A.I.-controlled teammates have a tendency to get stuck in walls, stay in place, and generally behave in ways that prevent you from being able to properly play the game. The problems with the game’s teammate A.I. are especially detrimental, if for no other reason than the fact that all of their glitches and behavior problems tend to harm you while enemy errors can occasionally be useful.
This is an issue that can certainly be improved by the time Back 4 Blood launches, though you probably shouldn’t expect it to be entirely “fixed” at launch.
Too Many Mechanics Get in the Way of the Core Experience
While Back 4 Blood admirably separates itself from Left 4 Dead and similar shooters through the use of some randomization mechanics designed to make runs feel unique, not all of those mechanics work well together.
For example, Back 4 Blood’s card/deck building system is impressive (even if the cards themselves need to be balanced a bit better), but when you combine it with the game’s weapon attachments, item rarity system, and occasionally extreme ways the game’s A.I. director can randomly impact the balance of a match, you’re left with a lot to deal with in the middle of some already overwhelming action sequences.
Again, some of these individual systems just need a little tuning to work better than they currently do, but when you put them all together in their current forms, they expose a potentially bigger issue with the game…
Back 4 Blood Struggles as a “Team” Experience
While it’s obviously unsatisfying to play with A.I. teammates who refuse to help you or simply get stuck in the world, Back 4 Blood’s “team” experience is generally lacking at the moment.
The game’s loot system is one of the biggest contributors to this problem. It’s annoying enough when a teammate snags a great item from under you in a battle royale game, but it’s downright frustrating when you have to deal with that in a game like Back 4 Blood that is supposed to emphasize cooperation at all times. Most of my matches saw at least one random teammate go off on their own to grab a high-value item. Even if that didn’t immediately contribute to a team wipe, it almost always contributed to a competitive atmosphere that hindered the cooperative experience.
Back 4 Blood seems more interested in demanding teamwork through sizable difficulty spikes than it is in encouraging it organically through gameplay and map/enemy design that inspire you to work together. Of course, part of the reason that’s such an issue is that Back 4 Blood’s difficulty settings aren’t where they need to be at the moment.
The Gaps Between Back 4 Blood’s Difficulty Settings are Too Wide
There are three difficulty settings in Back 4 Blood: Classic, Survivor, and Nightmare. They’re essentially supposed to be the game’s “easy, normal, and hard” settings, but in reality, they’re closer to “tutorial, hard, and nearly impossible.”
None of the game’s current difficulty settings do enough to prepare you for the next difficulty setting. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if players who regularly have to play with A.I. bots or random teammates find themselves stuck in Classic mode. Unfortunately for those players, Classic mode proves to be so easy that it barely lets you explore the game’s best ideas.
On the other end of the spectrum, “Nightmare” mode seems to have been balanced to appeal to the most coordinated and skilled squads. That’s nice, but it does mean that randomly matched teams have a very slim chance of succeeding in Nightmare mode, especially since the game doesn’t do a great job of teaching you to properly work together as a team before that difficulty setting just throws you into the water and forces you to sink or swim.
Back 4 Blood’s Animations, Audio, and Presentation Elements Already Feel a Little Outdated
While Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood are ultimately different games, it’s obviously hard to talk about one without bringing up the other. I mean, just look at the names and the developers.
So far as that goes, it’s going to be hard for Left 4 Dead fans to dive into Back 4 Blood without feeling like something is…off. The game’s animations just aren’t as crisp, the audio lacks that “oomph” that Left 4 Dead had, and, generally speaking, Back 4 Blood‘s presentation just doesn’t live up to that sublime standard set by the Left 4 Dead games.
You can point to a variety of factors that contribute to that disparity, but it’s hard to play Back 4 Blood for long without getting that “stunt double” vibe that proves to be especially detrimental in this case given how much those presentation elements can affect how satisfying the Back 4 Blood experience feels.
Back 4 Blood’s Price and Microtransactions Could End Up Being a Problem
It normally wouldn’t be worth mentioning that Back 4 Blood is a $60 game (that is, after all, the non-next-gen industry-standard price), but fans are already pointing out that the game’s price tag feels a little high for what it currently offers.
While one of the most popular sentiments at the moment is that Back 4 Blood’s beta just doesn’t feel like a full-price game, that’s obviously kind of a hard concern to seriously discuss given that the game is obviously not quite retail-ready. The more interesting concerns come from those who wonder how many of Back 4 Blood’s problems will be addressed by the time the game releases on October 12, as well as those who wonder if Back 4 Blood is really significantly better than its significantly cheaper competition in this genre (which includes Left 4 Dead). Obviously, Game Pass subscribers will be able to benefit from the game’s surprise “day one” availability on that service, but everyone else is going to have to answer some tough questions about Back 4 Blood‘s day one value.
There’s also the matter of the game’s microtransactions. While Back 4 Blood’s microtransactions are all cosmetic at the moment (and developer Turtle Rock seems committed to avoiding pay-to-win scenarios), the number of microtransaction options in the game as well as the distinct possibility that there will eventually be cards you’ll have to either grind for or pay for has fans worried that the cooperative title could eventually be impacted by a wealth/time gap that isn’t strictly related to skill.