Twelve years ago, a small development team at Valve known as Valve South discontinued a small game called Left 4 Dead – A zombie-themed co-op first person shooter in which four players battle a zombie horde and they are forced to look for the group rather than just the individual if they want to survive

This helped spawn a whole new subgenre of co-op survival first-person shooters, and while Valve carried on the legacy with Left 4 Dead 2, the original developers of Left 4 Dead had reformed what is now called Turtle Rock Studios was not done, reverting to the genre they pioneered

That changes with Back 4 Blood, a co-op survival shooter with four players and zombie motifs that is being tested in closed alpha tests starting today If my early impressions are something to stray from, it’s good to have Turtle Rock back where they belong

So much of Back 4 Blood is directly inspired by Left 4 Dead that I think it’s actually important to start with the areas where it tries to be different, and nowhere is this as evident as in its deck building system In Back 4 Blood, you actually build a deck of cards that you take with you to each level. These cards are divided into four categories: Reflex, Discipline, Muscle, and Luck. Reflex cards usually focus on providing speed or stamina bonuses Discipline cards are all about efficiency, so they offer buffs that provide better accuracy, better healing, more ammo, and so on Offer Brawn cards improve your health, damage, and resistances and finally, lucky cards focus on giving you a percentage chance of something happening, along with other general useful boons, like the ability to have unlimited ammo on your secondary weapon or to be able to shoot during the sprint

You choose 15 of these cards to create your deck At the beginning of each level you draw three and choose a card four times The four cards you have chosen are your starts for active buffs and boons that you will take with you in the first part of the level. Every time you enter a safety room and move on to the next level, you can add another active card to the mix On the flip side, however, are the corruption cards played by the game’s AI director

Each level begins with a selection of corruption cards that inform players about what enemies and obstacles to expect.Just like you can add new active cards at the start of each new act, new corruption cards are also added, which is a new curveball Throw at you Whether it’s fog that makes it harder to spot distant threats, more hordes of zombies, or a giant ogre right at the start of the level

The limited nature of the alpha has prevented me from really seeing the depth of the deck system as there is only one level and a relatively small selection of corruption cards that can change the way the level is played, however the idea seems really promising, especially seeing the interplay between being able to see which corruption cards pop up and being able to plan with your team about which active cards you want to bring to the next act to prepare for it adds another layer of teamwork and coordination as you need to make sure you don’t double down on cards and have all of your basics covered

Another big change to the formula is the addition of a mini-shop at the start of each new act, instead of getting new weapons and items in a safehouse, giving you the option of choosing what to equip yourself with before continuing They do this with a resource called copper, which you can find in small amounts in the levels themselves, which is actually quite a big change as you won’t find any kind of health or item pickup in Saferooms anymore, it’s up to you to get them all yourself buy, and if you don’t have the 500 coppers to afford a first aid kit, the tough decision to make is whether to save the copper for the next act or use what to do with ammunition, grenades or whatever else you can afford to recharge?

Everything else is pretty much what you’d expect from a co-op zombie survival shooter developed by the team that essentially started the genre, so you’ll have to stick with your team as it is special zombies exist that you can incapacitate and eventually kill if not assisted by a teammate. Retches behave almost identically to boomers and explode in a puff of bile that can attract the horde Hockers spit at you with loogies that can slow you down and possibly hold you in place and snitches crawl around until they’re scared At this point they alert the Horde if they are not killed fast enough but there are also giant zombies like the ogres that seemed almost indestructible and forced my team to turn their tails and run if we wanted to live on Another day to fight

Likewise, the one level that we were allowed to play was very reminiscent of Left 4 Dead in its structure and goals. In one part we had to hold ourselves strong for a while, a loud gravel filler dropped enough stones to give us a To give a ramp we could scurry over and climb over a wall, and in another part we had to blow away a propane tank and then book it over a collapsed bridge to escape the chasing zombie horde attracted by the noise but there is also some interesting set pieces that felt completely new. It was stressful in the best way possible to fight an ogre and find your way through a crowded tunnel at the same time The team had to split up to plant two bombs on a cruise ship while it was completely overrun was a great way to complete the campaign

Overall, my first experience with Back 4 Blood felt like the right balance between old and familiar and new and fresh about Turtle Rock obviously knows this genre inside out and the way they choose players through deck customization and highlighting vendors at the end of each act feels like a smart change of direction that still stays true to its roots

Back 4 Blood

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