So, by now, anyone who follows gaming news has figured out that Back 4 Blood isn’t exactly blowing away fans of Turtle Rock’s previous outing Left 4 Dead 2.
In fact, as Kotaku reported over the weekend, there were more players on Steam playing the latter than the former.
Now, that’s not to say B4B is a bad game. It’s just indicative of a recent trend that goes beyond a single franchise (or spiritual successor as the case may be).
The problem: certain gaming paradigms have, kinda, peaked.
There’s no way you’re a fan of L4D2 and you log into B4B for the first and get totally blown away. These days, sequels and follow-ups don’t tend to have the kind of generation-over-generation increases that pack as much punch as those of yesterday.
The differences between the first and third Zelda or Super Mario Bros. games, in terms of graphics, audio, gameplay, and storytelling are huge. And the same can be said for the differences between Final Fantasy XIII and XV or even GTA IV to GTA V.
That’s not to say B4B isn’t a good game. I played it a bit, it’s better than L4D2 in many ways. The card system is a bit… uh… different. But the gameplay and pacing are both very solid.
It’s just, well, it feels like an unauthorized reboot of L4D2 more so than a spiritual successor or even a totally different franchise.
The other problem: Games are works in progress these days. While many people are looking at the recent rumors surrounding GTA 6 getting stuck in development hell as a sign things might be going sideways, they’re not looking at the big picture.
Rockstar has a license to print money with GTA Online still among the most popular games on multiple platforms.
It can afford to take its time creating something that stands out from previous titles in the franchise. What it can’t afford is to blow the hype by putting out something that’s just Red Dead Redemption 2 with cars instead of horses.
The spectre of Cyberpunk 2077 still hangs heavy over the heads of studios and publishers alike. There’s a good reason why Bloodlines 2 and other highly-hyped AAA titles have been delayed in the wake of the CD Projekt Red disaster.
Sure, COVID delays explain a lot. But the market isn’t as easy to amaze as it once was. Xbox Live gives tens of millions of gamers access to dozens of new AAA titles every year. It takes more than just a fresh coat of paint to get the masses’ attention these days.
That being said, we all know that video games aren’t just “units” anymore; they’re platforms.
When Fortnite came out, Epic envisioned it as a glorified tech demo. Now, years later, it’s the most popular thing since Coca-Cola.
I can see a bright future for Back 4 Blood if the developers are willing to massage what’s apparently a decent start into something a bit more unique.
I sure hope they do. There’s a shortage of good co-op games in the world, it’d be a pity not to continue developing this one.