HomeGamingHands-on with Back 4 Blood’s retail version: Watch live co-op action at...

Hands-on with Back 4 Blood’s retail version: Watch live co-op action at 3 pm ET

2021 is apparently the year of Left 4 Dead spiritual successors, with two co-op shooters catching our attention thanks to their ties to that original Valve series: this week’s Back 4 Blood and this fall’s Anacrusis.

Back 4 Blood, developed by Turtle Rock Studios, is first out of the gate, with its zombie co-op action now officially live for people who shell out a whopping $99.99 for the game’s “ultimate” edition on Xbox consoles and PC. The more patient among you can wait until October 12, when the standard game not only goes live but becomes a part of paid Xbox Game Pass subscriptions.

If you need something to tide you over while waiting to get your band of zombie-slaying friends back together, fear not: we have our early copies of the game, and we’re eager to see exactly how it looks as a full retail product. The game can no longer hide behind the safe haze of a “beta test,” and we’ll see how game balance, technical performance, an unlockable card system, and any microtransactions play out in the real world.

It’s in the cards

Starting at 3 pm ET today, we’ll have the Ars Technica Twitch feed live and embedded at the bottom of this post. At that time, you can either watch the gameplay from this site or click through to participate in the feed’s live chat while I make my way through random matchmaking of the game’s zombie-filled campaign levels.

For a recap of what to expect, refer to my last hands-on impressions from the beta earlier this year:

Many of B4B‘s concepts are lifted shamelessly from L4D (if the naming convention with a number “4” didn’t clue you in). To wit: Each of the game’s “campaign” zones is broken up into smaller levels, and your squad gets an opportunity to rest, heal, and stock up on supplies at a “safe zone” between each level. Use guns, melee weapons, and explosive implements to tear through zombies, and juggle health items and tools to get your team from one safe zone to the next.

The biggest differentiator from L4D‘s classic formula is a series of gameplay-modifying card decks. From what I can tell, Turtle Rock Studios has implemented something that should work without demanding players spend a single additional penny on top of the retail price.

You’ll start the game with a solid inventory of cards, along with an invitation to build 15-card decks. Whenever you dive into either PvE (co-op with friends against computer-controlled zombies) or PvP (a four-on-four versus mode), your first step is to pick one of your custom decks. At the beginning of each campaign phase, some of your cards will be randomly dealt, and you pick one or two of them to augment your battling from there on out.

My session will last roughly three hours, and the gameplay should include enough card unlocking and combat differentiation to give you a good sense of what B4B looks and feels like as a live product. We’ll upload and embed a VOD version for those who miss the stream. (Additionally, we’ll be back later this year with a peek at the aforementioned co-op shooter Anacrusis whenever its “when it’s done” release date comes.)

Listing image by Turtle Rock / WB Games

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