Out of everything on the bingo card for the Back 4 Blood developers, I’m sure having to explain why their zombies sounded like they were screaming racial slurs probably wasn’t one of them.
The furore arose during the game’s beta test over the weekend, which is currently only available to press, streamers and those who pre-ordered the game on PC or consoles. And even though it won’t get a much wider release until August 12, that was enough for some people to discover that the zombies had a habit of screaming some colourful language.
It’s one of those situations where the developers obviously haven’t inserted a slur into Back 4 Blood — but the way the audio pans out, it’s almost impossible to hear anything else. I didn’t hear this voice line myself in my time with the game, although our US colleagues heard it at least twice, and other users have reported hearing it on social media as well.
It reminds me of instances of other clips where audio lines sound like something else. You can hear this in Slay the Spire, where the shopkeeper’s lines occasionally sound like they’re telling you to fuck off, or Brigitte’s ultimate in Overwatch which has been universally heard as “I LOVE TEAM MEI”. (If you’re curious, Brigitte’s actually saying ‘Alla, till mig!’ in Swedish.)
And WB Games has confirmed that a similar problem is happening in Back 4 Blood. In a statement to our US partners, the publisher said the unfortunate audio is the byproduct of two audio clips playing over each other.
“Our team has been made aware of offensive language that can be heard when playing the game,” WB Games said. “This was not recorded or ever intended to be part of our gameplay. The audio is a result of two different Ridden growls that are playing simultaneously and when heard together sound like that word. We are working diligently to fix this issue, which should be completed either in time for the Beta, or when the game launches.”
Betas are for testing and fixing errors, so all of this is par for the course. Still, the clarity in how voice lines clash makes you wonder how nobody heard this in internal testing. But at least it’s being patched out: zombies are meant to be unpleasant, but they don’t need to be that horrific.