Overall, my impressions after playing the Back 4 Blood beta last weekend, as well as the alpha earlier on this year, have been decidedly positive. The gunplay feels tight and responsive, the level design is dripping with atmosphere and attention to detail, and the fascinating deck system introduces compelling rogue-lite elements to the experience. For me, it beautifully balances modern conventions and zombie-driven nostalgia.
When it comes to co-op, Back 4 Blood appears to be everything I could hope for from a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, players expecting a host of engaging PvP modes will likely find themselves incredibly disappointed by the final package. While there is a 4v4 Versus mode that pits heroes against mutated undead, it quite frankly isn't at all what I wanted from PvP and doesn't come close to filling the Versus campaign void.
What is Versus campaign?
Anyone who's played Left 4 Dead 1 or 2 is probably familiar with the iconic Versus campaign mode, which replaced the AI-controlled Special Infected with up to 4 rival players. These monstrous adversaries were tasked with defeating the player-controlled Survivors while the human team attempted to reach the stage's safe room as fast as possible. The two teams would then swap places between rounds and face off to compete for the highest score based on team damage and stage completion time.
For many players, myself included, this offered amazing incentives to revisit the various acts of Left 4 Dead and added enormous amounts of replayability. More passionate members of the community would even argue that this is the quintessential way to experience Left 4 Dead. It gloriously combined the intense moment-to-moment action players expect from the co-op campaign, with the fascinating dynamic of unpredictable player behavior. It wasn't always the way I chose to experience the campaign, but it was a welcomed and beloved game mode amongst my group of friends.
What does PvP look like in Back 4 Blood?
Back 4 Blood does feature a dedicated 4v4 PvP mode called Versus. Unfortunately, instead of sprawling campaign maps for Cleaners and Mutated Ridden to battle in, Versus throws two teams of four into smaller arena-style stages. This streamlined competitive mode tasks the human players with surviving for as long as possible against hordes of undead as well as player-controlled Mutated Ridden, while the enemy team does everything in their power to incapacitate and ultimately kill them. After each round, the two teams swap roles and contend for the longest survival time. Versus in Back 4 Blood is essentially Versus Survival from Left 4 Dead 2.
My experience with Back 4 Blood's core PvP mode has been astronomically disappointing so far. On paper, Versus should serve as a refined way to experience the fundamental gameplay loop of Back 4 Blood in short bursts, but from what I've seen, it's just been an unbalanced mess. I spent more time preparing for each round to start than I actually spent playing, and the dramatic momentum shifts have typically been impossible to overcome. This almost always led to one team or the other getting completely steamrolled. Regardless of whether or not I was on the giving or receiving end of these beatdowns, I never felt like Versus delivered a worthy PvP mode in Back 4 Blood.
Will Back 4 Blood add Versus campaign?
Despite some footage from a developer breakdown video in December of 2020 that potentially hinted at the mode, as it stands, Turtle Rock Studios has no plans to add Versus campaign "at this time." In a post on the game's official subreddit, developers confirmed that this highly requested, fan-favorite mode likely won't be making its way to Back 4 Blood. The primary reason cited for this omission comes from a reply via a Turtle Rock Studios representative who stated, "We have a lot of defensive equipment and our specials are good at ambushing. Defending worked far better for our game than running from A-B."
With a lengthy roadmap of planned content for Back 4 Blood and some rather ravenous requests from fans, hopefully, the developers reconsider their current anti-Versus campaign stance. I can absolutely see myself pouring dozens of hours into the game's traditional co-op campaign, but as a longtime fan of Left 4 Dead and considering the obvious similarities between Back 4 Blood and Valve's legendary zombie-shooter, I'm rather disheartened by the game's current plans for PvP.
Share your thoughts!
Are you upset by the lack of Versus campaign in Back 4 Blood? Have you given the current Versus mode a try? Let us know in the comment section below! And if you're looking for something to play while we wait to blast the undead, check out our list of the best games on Xbox Game Pass.
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