Back 4 Blood turned out really well, but PvP is a shame


Back 4 Blood turned out really well, but PvP is a shame

The zombie shooter Back 4 Blood was able to inspire many players on Steam at the weekend - but not the PvP mode. That is an absolute disaster.

In the last few days the Beta of Back 4 Blood took place and made it possible to look into the upcoming zombie shooter. Together with three friends, I shot my way through the different modes for almost 20 hours and transported several thousand zombies to the afterlife.

My first impression: The game will be really awesome for everyone who likes cooperative shooting action like in Left 4 Dead. But there is a huge problem: The PvP mode is a disaster and makes so many mistakes that it is practically stillborn.

But before I start with the problems, I first want to explain what PvP mode is all about.

Turn-based PvP with guaranteed death

In the PvP mode of Back 4 Blood, 4 cleaners (humans) compete against 4 ridden ones (zombies). First team A plays the people and team B plays the zombies. The game is played on relatively small maps where you simply have to defend the environment. There is no destination such as a saferoom.

Team A is now trying to survive as long as possible. They choose cards from their decks (quasi “perks”) and have to divide up the meager resources that are scattered on the card. They also have just under a minute to prepare for this before the zombies attack.

At the beginning, people choose 5 cards from their deck - these are their starting perks.

There are a total of three regular waves of zombies and after each wave there is a short intermediate phase in which the "swarm" moves. The swarm marks something like a dead zone and delimits the area in which people can stay without suffering permanent damage. So the playing field is getting smaller and smaller, as we know it from “Battle Royale” titles. It is therefore not possible to just hide in a room from the start, as it will soon be taken over by the swarm.

Should people survive all 3 waves - which takes almost exactly 5 minutes - there will be a last, endless wave of zombies. The swarm has restricted the playing field to a radius of maybe 5 meters so that it is only a matter of seconds before the zombie players win.

If the last person goes down, the two teams switch. Team A now slips into the role of the zombies, while Team B plays the people.

The zombies are divided into different classes, such as:

  • Tallboy, a slow but devastating hand-to-hand fighter
  • Reeker, a fat zombie who can spit poison and explode
  • Stinger, an agile but frail zombie who can pin down survivors

Zombies can be upgraded in the course of the game - both the special zombies of the players and the normal zombies. This is done via mutation points, which you automatically receive over time, and via bonuses if you harm people.

The time previously earned by Team A is now the time limit to be beaten. If team B manages to hold out longer than team A, then team B wins this round. If the zombies manage to take out team A before they reach the time limit, victory goes to team B.

The whole thing is then repeated on two more maps, because it is a "Best of 3".

Too much preparation for too little playing time

What sounds like a cool concept on paper fails in so many nooks and crannies that the fun of the game falls by the wayside.

The relationship between preparation time and actual gameplay is particularly bitter. It's just awful.

  • Each round begins with 75 seconds in which the cleaners can choose their cards. Zombies choose their character in time and wait.
  • This is followed by another 60-70 seconds, during which the cleaners have time to search the map to collect equipment and prepare their defenses. Zombies look for a possible spawn point - and wait the rest of the time.
  • The actual match follows, in which the cleaners usually survive between 2 and 5 minutes. Sometimes more sometimes less.
  • Then the two teams switch and the whole thing starts again.

In other words: on average, each round has just as much preparation time as actual gameplay for both sides.

As a zombie you spend a lot of time waiting until it finally starts.

Left 4 Dead showed it, Back 4 Blood left it out

The comparison to the predecessors and thus also the models Left 4 Dead - Part 1 and 2 is extremely bad. Here, all maps of the campaign missions could also be played in PvP. The survivors tried to get as far as possible, while the zombies had to make sure that the survivors died as early as possible. The further you got as a survivor, the more points you got.

You could have used all the different campaign cards here. In Left 4 Dead it was a lot of fun to stop and eat the survivors on the campaign cards or to reach the safe room as a survivor in order to earn a lot of points. Different strategies from “We all panic to the goal” to “We proceed slowly and carefully” were possible. It also made no match feel like any other.

Exactly this diversity that makes Back 4 Blood so terrific in the co-op campaign is completely lost in the PvP mode in its current version.

There is absolutely nothing against a couple of cards that you just have to endure on for a certain amount of time. That would be quite interesting as part of a variety of maps. But the fact that all cards are only “Defend this point to your death” is sad and leaves the PvP mode far, very far behind expectations and potential.

As a human you have a little preparation time before the zombies attack.

One final big point is the lack of satisfaction that arises as a human-player. Left 4 Dead always had a possible end point. A saferoom or an event that people had to reach in order to get the maximum number of points and thus to have won.

There is no such thing in Back 4 Blood. The people are dying. Guaranteed. There is no survival. No matter how well the team fights, the mode is designed so that you will be overrun and killed beyond the 5-minute mark at the latest. Even if you survive a terrific time of 8 or 9 minutes, death awaits in the end. So a win never feels like a real win, no matter how good you were.

Problems that (hopefully) only exist in beta

There are also numerous other problems that were extremely annoying in the beta, but were probably related to the beta. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I want to mention them briefly here:

  • Matches were almost never played 4vs4. One or more players leaves the game almost immediately. There are no substitutes and missing players are not temporarily replaced by bots. If a player leaves, he is simply missing and is a huge disadvantage.
  • Connection problems compounded the first problem. Often there were error messages from the server.
  • Even if the entire opposing team has disappeared, the game does not end. The mode just continues to play, regardless of whether there is something to do or not.

But at least these last three problems are probably due to the fact that it was only a beta and there were no penalties for disconnects - but also probably better with the server stability.

The different cleaners also have their own peculiarities in PvP.

The community is angry too

Incidentally, I am not alone with the displeasure with this game mode. In the subreddit of Back 4 Blood, little talked about anything other than all the failings of this mode in connection with PvP (via ).

So writes potatoflavoredbrain:

I would kill for campaign PvP (zombies, of course). Honestly for anything that isn't this current Kreis Arena PvP shit. Campaign PvP was probably planned, but [due to Covid] it was probably rejected.

Shdavistx also takes a similarly drastic view:

The PvP mode is an absolute joke. Everyone wanted the game mode from the L4D2 PvP. Whoever made the decision that "Swarm" is the PvP mode should be fired.

BamboozledByCrocs sees the whole thing a little more positively:

I think if they have to, it should be pretty easy for developers to build in campaign versus. The campaign cards already exist. It's just a question of whether the community as a whole is asking for it.

Bottom line: PvP could be so much better if the developers only want to

What annoys me the most: The pure gameplay is fun. Blasting away player-controlled zombies is fun. It's fun to play zombies, attack the survivors and slowly level up and unlock new talents. The basic gameplay of “Zombie vs Survivor” is fun, but the whole “surrounding” is pure agony and so much worse than it could be.

If the developers want the PvP mode in Back 4 Blood to be more than just a nice bonus, but to really motivate and be fun for a long time, then there is still a lot to be done. A little fine-tuning is not enough, massive work is necessary to set up the PvP all over again.

And to be honest, I just don't think there'll be time for the game to be released in October. I can only hope that after the launch, the developers will take the time and energy to fundamentally revise the PvP and give the players what they want: The PvP-style campaign levels, like in Left 4 Dead . Because everything else is doomed to failure according to the current status.

In Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 I have almost 1,000 hours of play on the clock, with around 700 definitely going into the Versus mode and its various modifications. In the PvP of Back 4 Blood, however, after around 5 hours I saw enough to think: "Better go back to co-op then".

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