Back 4 Blood Closed Alpha Builds On Left 4 Dead's Accessibility

What was available in Left 4 Dead has been carried over and improved.

December 18, 2020

Throughout 2020, accessibility in video games has boomed thanks to studios wanting to allow more players the means to enjoy their games. Turtle Rock Studios’ Back 4 Blood went into closed alpha on December 17, 2020, and even with the game slated to launch in June of next year, there’s already a good range of options available.

First up, keyboard and mouse buttons can be reassigned along with mouse sensitivity adjustments and the like. Xbox gamepad controller support is present, but you can only rebind a certain range of inputs. For example, a good deal is available to remap on a controller, but if you want to assign inventory which is ‘I’ on the keyboard, you can’t assign it on the controller. But for the most part, everything remappable seems to be the most used inputs. In addition, found under the “Miscellaneous” tab you can toggle if you want Auto Recenter Recoil on or off.

There are your usual graphical options as well, such as allowing you to reduce motion blurring and field of view, and for in-game communications, you can use text chat, although the size of this can’t be adjusted as of yet and feels fairly small for some players. For those using microphones, you can choose from push-to-talk or open mic and can adjust the input and output levels using a slider. Other audio levels such as master audio,  SFX, Dialogue, and Music also have sliders as expected.

Captions are fantastic, and to me, they are what makes Back 4 Blood even more of a nostalgic trip as they’re incredibly similar to how Left 4 Dead uses captions. You’re able to choose from the following: Off, Conversation, Ambient, or Full Captions.

Character dialogue comes with speaker labels while ambient captions detail specific key enemies and use colors to show whether they’re attacking, idle, or if they’ve been killed. Additionally, the adjustments to the size and background opacity are incredibly intuitive allowing you to go from really small to really large by using a slider rather than preset sizes.

During gameplay, a Game Coach can help throw tips your way, and a “Reset Game Coach” option on the miscellaneous menu indicates that the tips will go away in time after learning how fast you’re picking the game up. There’s also a ping system that allows you to assign a marker —albeit a small one— anywhere you’re looking. Pinging will let you highlight ammo, weapons, and even enemies which is a huge help if you’re not wanting to use in-game comms.

When wandering around the map like a true survivor, you can see a glowing outline of your teammates through the walls and floors just like Left 4 Dead, and when they’re in trouble they’ll switch to an orange outline. Indicators pop up warning you of nearby warnings that can alert the horde, and if you’re covered in guts or incapacitated. Icons will also pop up for nearby items and ammo with a directional indicator. Hit markers also flash white to confirm a hit, and red to confirm a kill.

What’s available in this early stage is impressive and takes inspiration from the accessibility that was present in Left 4 Dead and builds upon that to suit modern standards. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it so to speak. And personally, I’ve always found Valve’s titles such as Half-Life 2 and Left 4 Dead have offered fantastic captions. Hopefully, more features will become available as development continues.

As for things I’d like to see, directional indicators for the more troublesome enemies such as an Ogre or Retch would be nice. Bigger and more prominent ping markers would help stand out in the flurry of action. The ability to increase the text chat would also be welcomed, and it may be worth having a current objective somewhere in one of the top corners as sometimes it can be confusing as to what’s next even if the maps are incredibly linear. It’ll also be worth the studio making sure captions aren’t overlaying informational popups, as well as maybe offering a frequency for how many lines of captions are displayed at one time.

For those unaware, Back 4 Blood is the spiritual successor of the Left 4 Dead titles. Turtle Rock Studios was acquired by Valve in 2008 and worked on Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 before it parted ways and reformed itself as an independent studio again in 2010. Since then the studio has worked on Evolve. Fast forward to last week during The Game Awards 2020, the studio shared gameplay footage and announced that a closed alpha would be taking place in December 2020.

Back 4 Blood is to be launching June 22, 2021, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. We’ll have first impressions based on the closed alpha heading your way later today.

Ben Bayliss

Based in the UK and adores venturing through FPS horrors and taking photos in pretty much anything with a functioning photo mode. Also likes car games.

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