The first expansion arrives to deliver more Ridden-slaying, but is it worth coming back 4 more blood? The Finger Guns review.
Oh Back 4 Blood, what promise you once held. We at FG still regularly reminisce of our glory times hurtling through the beta. Blasting through mobs, screeching at Tallboys, dying endlessly running up that one street. Good times.
The full release didn’t quite live up to those halcyon days, with satisfying, punchy combat mechanics weighed down by horrendous difficulty balancing, repetitive design and unengaging story elements. It was good fun… when it clicked. But for every exhilarating defence of a jukebox to Black Betty, there was yet another mundane trudge through bland environments and filler objectives.
6 months on from its initial release, following a host of patches to address balance, difficulty, bugs and everything in-between, it’s first proper DLC expansion arrives. Does it inject some much needed life to this undead slaughterfest or merely bloat out an exploder’s already decaying body?
Hit The Trail… Again
Jumping back in to try out the promise of horrific new levels were myself, Kat and Rossko. There was a buzz of excitement at the prospect of some new content and a hope for some interesting levels to provide that beta joy we’d lost in the full game.
You may be surprised to learn – as we were – that Tunnels of Terror doesn’t provide fresh standalone content you can boot up from the hub. Instead, they’re a collection of 7 randomly generated underground levels you ‘discover’ (read: stumble upon) throughout the core campaign. That’s right – the new content is only accessed by replaying the old content. You know, the same content that we’d already tired of within a few days and was widely criticised as repetitive. *Sighs*.
Kat and Rossko lasted about two hours and a few levels. I persevered, determined to find something to cling onto. I didn’t find much in my desperate search in the dark depths of Tunnels of Terror, much to our surprise.
Flush Out The Nests
Provided one member of your party has purchased the expansion and has it enabled for a run, everyone in the party – whether owners themselves or not – will also gain access to the Ridden Hives. A smart move, as it saves splitting an already dwindling player base even further. Genuinely, you’ll struggle to matchmake from virtually anywhere in the campaign now. Thankfully, bots have gone from mice to Terminators in 6 months, Hasta La Vista, baby.
As you romp through the now-tired levels of the main campaign, you’ll discover a hive entrance towards the last third of the mission, if you’re lucky enough for one to spawn. The rates are certainly RNG – I had 5 levels in a row with none, then 3 in a row on the next 3. Entering a Hive keeps you at your current level progress, but with the opportunity to take a new deck card, find random cards and obtain powerful loot. Provided you survive, that is.
There’s a certain rogue-lite feel that’s injected from the hives. Warped chests offer the potential for powerful gear, at the expense of a team-afflicting debuff (25% trauma damage… ouch). Do you delve into deeper layers of the hive with stronger ridden types, or smirk as you make off with some much needed loot early, sneering at the mounds of decimated Ridden as you exit. They add an extra layer of uncertainty and unpredictability which can be a boon to that risk/reward sense of excitement.
So far, so okay. Deciding with your team whether to enter, delve deeper, skip or exit a Ridden Hive provides another decision to make, but they fundamentally play exactly the same way all other missions do. There’s no interesting new objective or setup to any of the hives – some have holes you can fall down, some have acid lakes, some are in a mine. Their lack of originality and freshness quickly wears out the new enthusiasm for the loot and rewards they offer.
Plus, if you’re hoping to speed through a run, they’ll extend the length of time it takes. Playing on higher difficulties too, they don’t offer new checkpoints, so you’re effectively risking expending ammo, reserves and health for potentially little reward, and the chance to lose even more time or progress. So there’s that.
Join The Fray
Ridden Hives aren’t the only new inclusion at least, with 2 new cleaners and 3 Warped Ridden joining the fracas of bullets and explosions. Sharice and Heng are the newcomers for players, offering a resistance to trauma damage and spotting potential respectively as passive buffs. They come equipped with their own voice lines, but otherwise play identically outside of cosmetics, so not much to write home about.
The promise of new Ridden varieties however, was something immediately requested at launch. With the majority of specialist enemies being rehashed versions of cliched zombie tropes or being slight variations of the same core design (e.g Tallboy, Crusher etc), there was a distinct lack of excitement from facing down the same zombified beasties again and again.
Praise the zombified Gods of undead Hell then that… just kidding, the new Warped Ridden are again just slight variations of the same enemies. The Ripper is a Tallboy with a ground pound range attack, Shredder is another big ball of tank-ness and Urchin was so indistinct from other stealth varieties I actually didn’t notice facing one once. It’s a meagre and disappointing addition which had some real potential to offer some new shambling challenges, but instead falls on its own broken body parts.
Genuinely, the disappointment was real with these new recruits, both friend and foe alike. Tunnels of Terror seems content to build on a foundation of repetition by adding the smallest of variation in gameplay and aesthetic, content to call it a day after plastering a new filter on the same assets.
Back 4 Nothin’
I should stress that if you’re one of the minority of people who adore Back 4 Blood and enjoy its gameplay loop as is, Tunnels of Terror gives you more of virtually exactly the same. There are some new deck cards to acquire and synergise, legendary weapons to uncover and lay waste with and even new supply lines which consume skull tokens acquired in the Hives.
With a new difficulty mode (as if it needed another one…!) and a host of other bug fixes, the developers have certainly done a lot of work in the first 6 months of Back 4 Blood’s lifecycle to flesh out the core zombie-slaying experience. However, I couldn’t help but notice the fatigue sink in almost immediately. Our universal response to realising we had to play through the campaign again with only a chance of spawning the new content merely made us exhale in disappointed anticipation.
I truly hoped to dig something out of these tunnels that would spark even a little of the beta fun I had with Back 4 Blood. Sadly, I was left scratching around in the pits of an empty and life-less cavern. The difficulty is still poorly balanced, matchmaking is now deader than the Ridden themselves and the experience is no more substantive than it ever really has been. Maybe we can hope for the next expansion, eh?
An expansion that offers little of anything actually new, Tunnels of Terror adds only minor alterations to a formula that had already felt stale and repetitive in Back 4 Blood. The rogue-lite elements add another layer of mucus to blast off, but Back 4 Blood remains the same meagre husk it was at launch.
Back 4 Blood and its first DLC pack are available now. Reviewed on PS5.
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: WB Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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