Back 4 Blood’s closed beta testing has just concluded and the game is looking to respark the vintage Left 4 Dead gameplay but with modern improvements. Developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Back 4 Blood will hit PC, PS5/PS4 and XB1 and XSX|S on October 12, 2021. In this preview, we’ll take a look at the beta performance of Back 4 Blood for PC and see how it handles on various graphics card. Unfortunately, due to the difficult circumstances of benchmarking this game as consistently as possible, our AMD and NVIDIA GTX cards couldn’t make the cut. I plan to expand this when the game comes out and single-player campaign finally enables solo campaigns.
Speaking of the gaming coming out, this article is tested on the closed beta version of the game that was open during August 5 to August 9 with our testing being done on the last 2 days. With that said, changes can be introduced to game on retail launch in October which could change performance as reflected in this article. I don’t see the game changing though except maybe for launch drivers optimizing the game further as well as some possible introductions of other add-ons for graphics, if and should the developers feel like it.
Bearing this in mind, the benchmark results here can serve as a reference for anyone looking to scout the performance of their GPUs relative to our rig.
Focusing back to the game, Back 4 Blood is an online multiplayer first-person shooter that focuses on multiplayer and teamplay. Back 4 Blood is also introducing a Versus mode where team of 4 players playing as the defending Cleaners (the human survivors of the game) against a team of 4 Ridden players (the zombies of the game.)
In versus mode, attacking teams (Ridden) need to eliminate defending human players (Cleaners) in the quickest time possible to secure a win while defending Cleaners need to survive for as long as possible with a circle shrinking more and more and tightens to the max around 7 minutes of holding. Riddens can upgrade their creature characteristics along as choose their variants while Cleaners have various human survivors with different perks for use. In the beta, there are locked characters which were not available readily namely Doc, Karlee and Jim.
The main mode of the game is the campaign mode wherein players can join in active games (Quick Play) or group-up in parties of 4 to run campaigns. The beta has Act 1 active which runs through multiple stages in the Act. Like Left 4 Dead, the gameplay is a typical objective run from point A to point B with hordes of Ridden stopping you along the way. The game is straightforward in this arc with no complex gameplay needed. Just shoot everything and aim well as friendly-fire is always active with increasing damage as the difficulty ramps up.
There’s plenty of in-game mechanics that need to be detailed like the traditional DBNO (down but not out) status in combat as well limited ammo, horde alarms, as well as the most notable addiitons, cards and the encampment hub. A full game review close to launch will serve this better.
For those interested, OPEN BETA will begin August 12 and conclude August 16 for all platforms. Back 4 Blood will be available in Standard Edition ($59.99), Deluxe Edition ($89.99) and Ultimate Edition ($99.99).
With that out of the way, let’s look at some in-graphics and benchmarks. The screenshots below are capture in 4K Epic with anti-aliasing turned off with the game running in DirectX 12.
Back 4 Blood presets go from Low, Medium, High, Epic and Custom (user changes). Anti-Aliasing supports FXAA, TAA and NVIDIA DLSS.
Motion blur can be turned On or Off. I turned this off in all tests.
For some reason, the game sets render scale to 87% regardless of resolution. That said, all the tests are tested on 87% render scale. One can set it to 100% if desired.
Testing methodology is complex in this game. Just like any online game, there’s no fixed location one can do a replicable test run with reliable data. The best benchmark location I found is the last stage of Act 1: The Sound of Thunder which can average frametimes from 130FPS in 4K Epic to 50FPS once the horde start pouring in. While this is not a graphically intense situation, it is the most ideal to test system performance to replicate fluid gameplay under stress. Still, running a test in this scenario will be the best if the chance of death in 5 seconds not 100%. That said, I had to develop a way to do a repeatable horde encounter while being able to traverse a repeatable area.
The start of the Abandoned mission in Blue Dogs Hollow starts off in the church with preset amounts of Riddens already waiting, this opens up to a hill area leading to the back of the gas station with the rear door causing a horde call which is very repeatable. A random special ridden will occassionally pop-up but other than a Tallboy, packing a shotgun deals with them easily.
Due to the complex nature of the run, it took me a while to make a consistent run pattern but I nail it down. It did take some time and I was debating running 10 sample versus 3 but data is within acceptable margins so I stuck with 3 runs although special riddens would usually cause me to reset the campaign.
On to technical details, the game is tested in Epic settings using various graphics cards. Due to the lengthy process, we were forced to conclude the testing with closed beta reaching the end of availability. We had a couple of Radeons and GeForce GTX cards to include but we’ll confirm results are consistent and we’ll proceed again in open beta if time permits.
NVIDIA DLSS Impressions
Turtle Rock Studios included NVIDIA DLSS support with Back 4 Blood allowing gamers to get a bit more with their current cards. With DLSS enabled, I tried finding some of the common issues cited about DLSS. Now I have videos of gameplay but I forgot the disable mic recording and the mic banter was just too, ehem, too PG, for my liking to be out on public display. Regardless, in general gameplay I didn’t notice DLSS-related issues using an RTX 3080 on Epic settings with DLSS. I played the game primarily in DLSS Quality mode but did drop to other modes just to test and performance improve was great but unless I was really chasing FPS, I don’t really bother. Back 4 Blood itself is fairly lightweight until the ridden zombies come out in full force and since you’re wading through them while mowing them down instead of drowning in riddens, situations where the game crawls is few… so far.
Back 4 Blood is a good team game, and should reignite that childhood attachment many of us had with Left4Dead and the gameplay itself is very approachable especially if you have friends to play with. That does put a downside to Back 4 Blood as it seems like the players won’t be able to run solo campaigns when offline as the game requires login and the game’s FAQ page state you need an internet connection to play. This is quite sad especially for a $60 game on retail and is easily its most glaring flaw.
Gameplay-wise its looking pretty solid despite some minor bugs in gameplay like bots not getting kicked when a player takes over effectively giving the party extra members who are invincible and can at least shoot. PVP versus mode also lets the game continue despite players leaving, going on. Other bugs are related to aiming with guns getting stuck in ADS after getting DBNO. There’s also random crashes and disconnections but this could just be the servers.
PC performance looks approachable and the in-game graphics look very clean. The game doesn’t seem to be after super-realistic and even in low settings, the PC version manages to maintain a lot of the visual details it needs to look modern while still being as light as possible for mass adoption.
For fans of realistic games though, this may be a nitpick but due to this choice by Turtle Rock Studios to pursue this kind of look, the game’s fog mixed with the edges will give off a blurry look to many of the edges in-game which could give the impression of a soft image especially in lower resolutions. This is very subtle but present especially in areas with high contrast.
NVIDIA DLSS is a nice addition but with console support, FSR could be in the horizon as well. For NVIDIA GeForce RTX card owners, this should help them get the responsiveness that the game may need especially in large swaths of zombies coming your way. CPU requirements is not something we dived in but I noticed the game will prefer more cores in heavy horde scenes. In our testing, all cards can do 150+ FPS in the highest graphical settings and gets a decent boost with DLSS especially in 1440p. Dropping graphics incrementally increases performance so while keeping the game’s visuals pretty decent so feel free to tune to your liking.
Back 4 Blood will resume open beta in August 12 to August 16. You can try it out for free and is best played with friends. The game can be purchased for PC thru Steam.