Confession time: I’ve never played Left 4 Dead. I’m obviously aware of what Valve’s iconic shooter is all about—team up with friends and shoot zombies—and that a ton of players sucked it up like zombies feasting on cerebral miasma. Still, despite the game’s ubiquity, I just...never got around to it. Happens sometimes! Can you blame me?
Over the past few days, I’ve been dabbling with its spiritual successor, Back 4 Blood, which came out for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox earlier this week. (It’s also available via Game Pass.) It’s my understanding that the games are very, very similar—which makes sense, seeing as Back 4 Blood is developed by Turtle Rock, the folks who made the original Left 4 Dead.
Folks, I think I get it now. The formula—team up with friends and shoot zombies—absolutely rips.
Having played Back 4 Blood’s beta in August, I knew a bit about what to expect. But it was playing the level “Bar Room Blitz” this week that crystallized for me just how freakin’ cool these zombie-killing games can be. Set partway through act one, the level’s premise is simple: You hole up in a bar. You kickstart a jukebox. Zombies swarm your position. If they reach the jukebox, the music stops, at which point you need to restart it. Your goal is to defend the jukebox until the song can play all the way through. Then, an armored jeep shows up, allowing you to escape.
A few days ago, I ran through the level with Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen. Our jukebox played “Black Betty” by Spiderbait, just the absolutely spot-on zombie-killing song. We both remarked on how perfect a fit the tune was for the moment, the ideal soundtrack to gun down hundreds of zombies. I distinctly recall saying something to the effect that it felt like we were in Zombieland or 28 Days Later.
Little did I know that “Black Betty” was one of several songs that can pop up during that scene. Apparently, you can also get other iconically riff-heavy tunes, like “Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives, “Rusty Cage” by Johnny Cash, “All Hell Breaks Loose” by Misfits, and the rip-roaring “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead. (Some kind souls have cobbled together the jukebox’s offerings in various Spotity playlists.) Reading through the full setlist, yeah, every single one is just as fit for the situation as “Black Betty.” I fully plan on playing through the level several times to see what songs I get.
I’ve played plenty of zombie games that capture the zipping freneticism of a good zombie flick, but I’ve never legitimately felt like I’m in one, not the way I did with Back 4 Blood’s “Bar Room Blitz” level. That alone is enough to keep me coming back 4 more.