This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Back 4 Blood.
Oh boy, another entry for the hall of thinly-disguised remakes of games made by creators who don't have the rights to the originals anymore! (And yes, it was a lot of work fitting all that on the plaque by the door.) This time, it's Turtle Rock, the original creators of zombie shooter Left 4 Dead, bringing out their new zombie shooter, Back 4 Blood - boy, that disguise is thin even by the usual standards, isn't it? That's like a uniformed policeman trying to go undercover by putting his hat on backwards. - Valve, it seems, not being terribly interested in doing anything more with Left 4 Dead, as it had kind of realized its full potential and Valve prefer to be innovators; either that, or they were all too busy playing that game where they fling a handful of cash at a stucco ceiling and place bets on how much of it will stick. But Turtle Rock were all like, "What if, instead of Left 4 Dead making no more money, it instead made some more money?"
And thus was planted the seed of Back 4 Blood. The "4" in the name comes from there being four playable characters, you see, which is a bit weird, since Back 4 Blood has eight playable characters; yeah, you can only have four playing at a time, but if you're into number puns, there's a lot you can do with eight. "Running L-8"; "Zombies 8 My Face". Oh, wait, not zombies; "Infected". No wait, not Infected; "Ridden". Ridden?! That's a word that just reeks of "we had to come up with a legally distinct alternative", isn't it? No one in reality would call them "The Ridden". What, we up against a resistance group founded by disgruntled domestic horses? I keep misreading it as "The Riddler", and wondering if civilization has finally been brought down by Batman's most confounding foe.
But I digress. As I say, there's eight playable characters, and-- Ooh! I just thought of another number pun title: "Dead W-8". Oh, sure, on the one hand, you have distinct characters like "old woman" and "chunky, bespectacled doomsday prepper man who was probably very grateful that the zombie apocalypse meant he didn't have to go to his court hearing for joining the January 6 riots", but then you have two variations on "serious man with beard", as well as Hot Girl A and Hot Girl B, characters I can only assume were added to the mix in order to have more cosmetic variance with which to fuel the grind machine.
Not that I care much about cosmetics when I'm not in a CVS at three in the morning, desperately seeking a Christmas gift for a middle-aged female relative, but the cosmetics in this game really are pathetic. "Ooh, be a good boy and grind all your vegetables, and we'll let you have one of three pastel-colored dress shirts that don't have any of the accessories your default look has, but your co-op partners might appreciate the dressed-down look in the three seconds before you're all interchangeably covered in blood and puke!"
So as for the gameplay, well, it's Left 4 Dead, isn't it? That's entirely by design: you go level by level through infested streets, farms, and public buildings, headshotting hordes by the hundred, occasionally having to deal with special zombies that are similar to the Spitter, the Smoker, the Boomer, etc., but with nice, legally distinct names that no one in reality would ever use. "The Hocker"? What, is it a disgruntled fan of Canadian sports? Although, I feel like the special zombies' abilities seem to be more focused on just dicking the survivors about than strategically separating them; most of them, while incapacitating a player, just sort of stand there in an awkward clinch, waiting for the other players to rescue them like they only read the first half of The Undead Monstrosity's Guide to Speed Dating.
Rather than Left 4 Bread's short campaigns, Back 4 Biscuits has one big one, and the loading screen has a little timeline track showing exactly how far along it you are in case you need to plan an upcoming wedding reception around it. But I don't know if I'd call it terribly plot-focused, any more than a communal swimming pool is "small child urine-focused"; sure, it's there, but it's fairly easy to put out of your mind and probably not worth worrying too much about. You're part of a community of survivors in the post-apocalypse taking orders from a stock, no-nonsense military bloke, and there's a scientist and some kind of new weapon to use against the Riddled. Honestly, it was hard to keep track of what was going on at any given moment because the explanatory voices tended to get drowned out by zombie violence, and the other players I was with just wanted to press on and continue working towards the next pastel-colored dress shirt.
That, at least, one could avoid by playing with bots, of course, but if you do that, you'll quickly find that the bots can be relied upon about as much as a Ryvita seatbelt; when they're not having difficulty outwitting a dastardly-placed corner or knee-high fence, they're just standing there, not doing anything, because they need someone to tilt their head until their brain rolls back into place. One time, I found two of them somehow both clipped inside the same bit of wall; I didn't know whether to restart the level or congratulate them on the upcoming marriage. I wouldn't even bother attempting the final boss in solo mode, 'cos I seem to be the only one who realized we were supposed to be shooting it in the weak spots rather than stand around comparing eyebrow length or whatever the fuck they were doing. Oh yeah; there's a final boss.
Since there's only so many ways we can rephrase "It's just like Left 4 Dead, but with lift-up flaps", we might as well catalogue all the ways 2 Back 2 Furious differs from it, and one of those ways is with monster bigness; as well as the final boss, there's a recurring boss that's a giant colossus made of expired delicatessen meat. But to dwell on which game has the biggest displays of pork products in its trousers is to miss the point; after all, it's not like these bosses really add anything to gameplay besides provide big, obvious bullet-sponges on which to hone our ability to point at a big thing.
The point is, if Left 4 Dead had any subtlety at all, with its giant, screaming zombie hordes and big fat dudes with weaponized bulimia, Back 4 Blood excises it; it's more interested in throwing endless parades of special zombies at you than in building Left 4 Dead's characteristic peaks and troughs, where the game would pull out the bum dildo for a few moments to let you get your breath back and appreciate the times when it isn't buggering you senseless. Without that, Back 4 Blood is just a stream of noise, and I struggle to remember any standout moments from it. But what are you going to do, Left 4 Dead fans? Play all the other new Left 4 Dead content that's coming out thick and fast? No; this is the only new Left 4 Dead you're getting, and you're stuck with it, so you might as well try to smile as the bum dildo slides home.
It's not even that it's bad, really; it's just not that interesting. "But Yahtzee! You haven't even mentioned the deck-building element! Surely, there could be nothing more interesting than a deck-building element obliging you to sort and select your cards before you start playing, akin to James Bond not being able to go to his next globe-trotting action scene until we spend five minutes watching him decide what underpants to pack. Surely, Yahtzee? ...Yahtzee? ...Yahtzee? ...Surely? ...Say something, Yahtzee." Um... breasts?
- Has a dicky tummy: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Another reason to throw money at a stucco ceiling is that if any of it sticks you'll know it's in need of laundering
- And now to find those breasts