The Evolution of AI in Back 4 Blood

Back 4 Blood

When Turtle Rock Studios released Back 4 Blood as an online multiplayer, first-person shooter that’s themed as a survival horror game on October 12, 2021, it received generally favorable reviews by the fans and critics. It is considered to be the successor to the Left 4 Dead series, which has carried over many key elements that made the original game as successful as it has been. The need to work as a team that was vital to battle against opponents that became more difficult to beat upon each new wave still serves as the core objective behind the game. In the original series, the Game Director hurled wave after wave of opponents through its artificial intelligence (AI) system as it would adapt to the progression of each player participating. The environment, enemy placement, items, and obstacles would become modified upon the start of each new wave. The sequel, Back 4 Blood, is currently playable on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

Back 4 Blood Gameplay

Exactly as it was with the Left 4 Dead series, Back 4 Blood’s game environment features a team of four players going toe-to-toe with the game mode’s environment. Set as a post-apocalyptic scene, this four-person team of survivors is called Cleaners. This was a mutually shared role where everybody has to work as a team to fight their way through a series of levels that are populated with a monstrous species known as The Ridden. These zombie-like creatures are there to do whatever they can to make sure you don’t succeed. The four-member team can either be formulated by four different players that come together as a cooperative, or by up to three players that rely on at least one AI-generated bot to make up the difference. If you’re playing solo, you will have three AI bots joining your team. If there are two players that have teamed up, the game will generate two AI bots to make sure there is a complement of four teammates upon start.

Back 4 Blood New Features

A feature Back 4 Blood has that its predecessor doesn’t have is a deck of cards that add new dynamics to the entire gameplay experience. These cards are designed to make elemental adjustments that can modify a player’s health score, damage score, and stamina score. While players have access to these cards, the game’s AI Director will have its own deck of Corruption cards as tools of their own to hinder the progress of the four-player team. For the AI Director and its horde, there can be either a spawn of extra opponents, as well as activating a fog effect, or perhaps the players will see a level of a larger enemy compliment than it otherwise would normally be. Back 4 Blood also has a feature of preset hero characters who each have their own set of abilities and attributes. You, as a player, can purchase upgrades for your chosen hero character with an in-game currency known as Copper. You can also equip your character with helpful items as a means for better performance once the next level starts.

Player Versus Player (PVP)

Back 4 Blood also allows an opportunity for a team of four players goes head to head against another team of four players. In a player versus player (PVP) mode, one team assumes the role of Cleaners while the other team act as a team of Ridden. In an enclosed environment, it’s team against team in an elimination-style match where there can only be one team still standing.

Back 4 Blood Storyline

Back 4 Blood, carrying over as a sequel from the Left 4 Dead series, there is an implied extraterrestrial parasite that has infected most of the human race that has turned them into a mutated, undead mutant that is referred to as the Ridden. This parasite in question is called the Devil Worm, which began to infect the people with its outbreak. A year after the start of this pandemic, members of the human race that had not yet been infected strove to survive what has now become an apocalyptic event that has ravaged the entire world. Among the uninfected survivors, a group of veterans known as the Cleaners rose to the occasion to fight against the Ridden as they defend the fictional settlement of Finleyville, Pennsylvania, and its Fort Hope location.

The primary game mode allows a player to control one of eight different Cleaners that are core to the game’s storyline. There is Walker, who is an Army Ranger veteran and is the lead figurehead of the Cleaners. Chris is the eldest Cleaner of the group, who is also going by the nickname of Mom due to her motherly-style behavior. There is also Holly that swings a baseball bat she’s named Dotty, who has a brash attitude that distinguishes her from the rest of the group. The optimistic new recruit, Evangelo, serves as that rookie who is anxious to make a difference and always seems to look on the bright side of things instead of dwelling on the negative. The socially awkward Hoffman is also a keen conspiracy theorist that continually displays signs of trust issues, despite the fact he’s part of the team. No team is complete without its own medic, so there is Sue, who is also nicknamed Doc, who also happens to lend her expertise as a scientist. There is also Jim, who is an experienced hunter and sharpshooting marksman, and finally, Karlee, who is a rather cynical loner that usually prefers to keep a social distance from her companions.

Each of these eight characters has its own unique blend of perks and attributes. From these eight, four are chosen as a team to fight off wave after wave of enemy hordes that will be sent in their direction as they defend Fort Hope. Depending on the strategies in mind to survive a game level, the player (or players) can pick and choose whom among the roster of characters would make the perfect team. With a character like Sue (Doc), she can restore more health when healing herself and her teammates. This serves as a passive bonus against damage. With a character like Karlee, all the mutants from the enemy horde are automatically highlighted once in her immediate proximity and she can use the environmental features faster than the other characters can. In true character form, each party member will reveal bits of themselves as every single one has their own story to tell. For humor, there is friendly banter exchanged between the characters that serve as a reflection of their personality. When there’s a game-related situation that comes about, the characters will also utter out a comment, which serves as the player’s queue to either get a certain task done or prepare for battle.

The campaign that fuels the game starts with Army Ranger Walker, Chris/Mom, Evangelo, and Holly arriving at the Evansburg settlement in hopes to trade for supplies. They are met with a horde of mutated Ridden that swarm in on the team, who force them to retreat to Fort Hope and its commander, General Phillips. In the process, they are assigned to demolish the Washington Crossing Bridge as a means to delay the advancement of the Ridden. While at the fort, the team discovers the Ridden attacking the stronghold. As the enemy overruns the town outside the stronghold’s walls, this four-member team is joined by Hoffman, Karlee, Sue/Doc, and Jim. Together, they manage to fend off the horde from the fort and rescue the survivors. These Cleaners are then sent to a mine where there are more of these zombie-like enemies swarming about. Once the mine is sealed, the Cleaners proceed to raid a police station and a crashed cargo plane to secure for themselves military-grade armaments.

After that mission is completed, General Phillips sends the team of Cleaners to another location to bring back with them a scientist named Doctor Rogers. The story has it he developed a chemical weapon called T-5 that has a devastating effect against the Ridden. Once the doctor is extracted, along with his research material, the Cleaner team travels to an abandoned research facility that also doubles as a quarantine center. It is at this location where the team of Cleaners needs to collect additional material to produce the T-5 chemical. When there, they discover a mass grave that has become the breeding ground for the Ridden horde and a new batch of their mutant varieties. Once the T-5 compounds are procured, the Cleaner team head back to Fort Hope by a helicopter referred to as Black Hawk, which is piloted by Rogers. Upon arrival, it is seen the fort is under attack by a massive burrowing Ridden referred to as the Abomination. This proves to be the team’s opportunity to test the T-5 weapon on the big monster of a creature before the helicopter they’re riding in crashes. The crash results in the death of Doctor Rogers and the team of Cleaners must move forward without him as they work together to neutralize the Abomination.

From Left 4 Dead to Back 4 Blood

The evolutionary development from Left 4 Dead to Back 4 Blood came from the development team, Turtle Rock Studios, as a means to further expand the story the original series produced. Compared to other zombie-style games, Back 4 Blood is less dark in its theatrics. Among the team of Cleaners, there is an elevated sense of confidence among each character, which makes them come across bolder than the batch of everymen from the Left 4 Dead series. This time, instead of merely trying to survive the zombie-like horde, the fight is on to push them back as a means to create as much safe space as possible for all the post-apocalyptic survivors. This is made clear among the dialogue shared between the Cleaners as they step out of the shadows of fear and into the spotlight of determination.

Not only did the development team from Turtle Rock Studios evolute the Cleaners, they also installed a card game system to make the game become more dynamic and challenging, especially among veteran players who’ve already played the games from the Left 4 Dead series. However, for traditionalists that prefer to stick with the original gameplay style, there is a Classic mode they can go with. For players new to the series that have never played any of the Left 4 Dead games, Classic mode also serves as a good beginner’s run as the complexities of the cards are taken out of the equation. For these new players, as they become more familiar with the game and welcome the idea of a new dynamic, they switch to the gameplay option that puts the card program into use. It was announced in March 2019 that Turner Rock Studios, along with its publisher, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, was to release Back 4 Blood during the 2020 Game Awards. Originally, the release of the game was supposed to be June 22, 2021, but it was delayed to October 12, 2021, as the development team felt the game required further refinement. With 2021 showing far too many games being released in either broken or unfinished formats by Triple-A companies, the risk to make that same mistake was something both Turtle Rock Studios and Warner Bros. strove to avoid. There was an open beta that was released in August 2021, which started with the first phase from August 5th until August 9th for players who had already pre-ordered the game. The second phase opened up for the rest of the interested players from August 12th until August 16th.

Back 4 Blood Reviews

Highly anticipated upon learning Back 4 Blood was to bring forth a continuation of the Left 4 Dead series, when this game was released it received generally favorable reviews from players who tried it on the PC and PlayStation 5. As for players using the two Xbox versions, the reviews were, at best, average. At least this is according to the Metacritic point of view. Regardless of the reviews, there are currently over six million registered players of the game since its October 2021 launch. Fans of the Left 4 Dead series have made it clear most of them appreciate the evolutionary Back 4 Blood game while some of the newcomers have found it entertaining enough to play it. Time will tell to see if Back 4 Blood intends to bring forth any expansion packs or additions.

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