‘Back 4 Blood’ updates the classic co-op zombie formula

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Manufacturing “Back 4 blood” must have been a surreal experience for Turtle Rock Studios. Eventually the developers made a game about how a zombifying parasitic infection was ravaging the world while a real pandemic was raging outside their windows. It’s a case where life transitions into art and inspires it in a moment of chance.

“We’ve got some toilet paper gags in there,” said executive producer Matt Driscoll. He said the pandemic “gave us a little knowledge” of how America was reacting to the situation. He said that players will find this bathroom’s supplies to be essential as the rifle goes through derelict houses.

The greater triumph, however, is how the team succeeded in finding a spiritual successor to the legendary “left 4 Dead” Series while there was a change around them. “Video games are hard to make in the best of times,” Driscoll said, but it was more difficult during a pandemic.

Back 4 Blood takes the zombie co-op experience and modernizes it in a way that makes it more repeatable. Turtle Rock Studios didn’t want to repeat their classic with better graphics. They took it a step forward in terms of storytelling and gameplay. Instead of survivors who have to fight the zombie apocalypse, the characters in “Back 4 Blood” are hardened cleaners, specialists who have helped mankind to find pockets of life in an undead world.

MEET THE UNIQUE HEROES
In the four-act campaign, the eight Cleaners – Doc, Hoffman, Karlee, Mom, Evangelo, Walker, Jim, and Holly – are battle-tested and used to fighting the zombies called the Ridden. They are also used to the more powerful mutations that are harder to kill and have special abilities. Each protagonist has his own character traits. Doc and Mom are healers. Evangelo and Holly specialize in hand-to-hand combat. Walker and Jim are damage dealers, while Karlee and Hoffman have support talents that are essential with tougher difficulties.

Four-person squads can only have one of each character, so players must choose carefully. Each cleaner also has a history that is revealed during the course of the campaign. To get the full story of each hero, players will have to go through the campaign with specific characters and groups.

The Cleaner Talents are only part of Turtle Rock’s updated formula. The other part is the card system, which optimizes a character with certain advantages. These cards increase a cleaner’s toughness, offensive abilities, and other properties. Smart players build decks of 15 cards that enhance a hero’s talents and equipment. They earn new upgrades by going through the campaign multiple times to earn supply points that they use on supply lines, which unlocks new cards, cosmetics, and personalization options. It’s essentially the Back 4 Blood progression system.

It is noteworthy that the deck construction concept brings randomness, strategy and newly gained depth into play. Before each campaign, players must select specific cards, with the topmost being the more likely options. Players need to make the right decisions based on their equipment and the situation. After each mission, players can choose an additional card so that at the end of a run they are stronger and can handle whatever the AI ​​director throws at them.

To make up for that, Turtle Rock introduces corruption cards into the mix. Players choose which one to give to the AI ​​director, who mixes up the monsters so that no two scenarios develop in the same way. It adds a dash of unpredictability and difficulty to any run, but it doesn’t drastically change a linear campaign.

Cleaners get ready to leave the safehouse in “Back 4 Blood”. (Warner Bros. Games)

BALANCE ACT BETWEEN OLD AND NEW
With “Back 4 Blood,” Turtle Rock treads a precarious line between offering the familiar gameplay that fans loved on “Left 4 Dead” and advancing the genre at the same time. The team does that with its characters and card system, but not much has changed in the mission design. The players have to make it from point A to point B. What they do in between is different as the cleaners sometimes find themselves in situations of being besieged, looking for body parts in nests, or loading research into the back of a vehicle.

The variety of tasks is refreshing and also presents the players with difficulties. There will be a lot of trial and error in figuring out where to go on missions or where enemies are coming from when they push a button. Experience is the best teacher in Back 4 Blood, while teamwork is almost as important. It’s important to have a squad that works coherently, especially when playing in harder modes. Teammates must share ammunition, heal each other and warn the group of dangers.

Although parts of “Back 4 Blood” feel modern, it doesn’t let go of its past entirely. It’s a game that feels more nostalgic than new. That might seem like a downside to those looking for innovation, but fans can’t argue with the results. Back 4 Blood is a great co-op experience that dwarfs everything else, including the player-versus-player crush mode. Turtle Rock solidifies its position as a developer who knows how to have a co-op experience with a formula that works across platforms and hasn’t gotten old over time.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
Jason and Nick are US special forces who landed in an ancient underground temple in Iraq in “The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes”. (Bandai Namco entertainment)

MORE FEAR
A great year for the horror genre just got better with the scary season in October. Halloween is the month when publishers put out all of their terrifying projects. Bandai Namco recently came out with “The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes” by Supermassive Games. It’s the third entry in a series of endeavors to function as a playable movie.

This game focuses on the events of the Iraq war in 2003. The player takes on the role of five characters – four American soldiers and one Iraqi soldier. While the characters search for weapons of mass destruction during a battle, an earthquake sends them into an underground cave system where they discover an ancient Akkadian temple. The soldiers must survive each other and an army of mysterious monsters if they are to get out alive.

The premise is intriguing, and the campaign itself is persuasive enough to be addicting to players. You will make tough decisions and even see some characters die. The only problem with the game is that while the graphics are moderately impressive, they sometimes fail and these glitches torpedo the lifting of disbelief. If the players get beyond that, House of Ashes is a fun adventure well worth a weekend.

The other effort worth mentioning is “Diablo II: Risen” which started last month. It’s a remake of the classic hack and slash loot game that has inspired countless others. For this remake, Blizzard North is giving the game a fresh coat of paint to make it look good on 4K screens.

Players can tell the difference between the old sprites and the new polygons with a quick toggle. The move shows how impressive the developers’ hard work was in updating the game so that it now looks just as beautiful as it does on old CRT monitors. That’s fine and good, but what sets this classic apart from its competitors is the gameplay, which offers players seven classes and five acts. There’s a lot of content that will remind veterans why they love the game and give newbies a sense of why this chapter is so sacred.

With the new graphic, “Diablo II: Resurrected” shows that the classic is still proving its worth.


‘Back 4 blood’

3½ stars out of 4
Platform: Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 5, PC
Valuation: tires

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