The zombies in Back 4 Blood accidentally use racist language

Kenneth Williams • August 11, 18:51

Playing as the undead is a key part of any zombie shooter, but Back 4 Blood’s weird multiplayer rules have soured the experience for many. Now, a strange audio coincidence is causing another uproar.

Players have reported mishearing zombie groans as racial slurs in the current Back 4 Blood pre-order beta test. The issue seems to affect multiple zombie groans, but is still rare to hear. Warner Bros has issued a statement apologizing for the sound clip. The Back 4 Blood open beta will begin August 12.

The strange sound appears to be a result of two different zombie sounds being played simultaneously. Zombies in Back 4 Blood make different noises depending on the situation. It’s possible that zombie moans pull from a central bank of clips which are then put through a filter.  

Developer Turtle Rock Studios used a variety of tricks, including mirrored assets and clothing swaps, to keep Left 4 Dead’s zombies distinct from each other. It’s possible that zombie groans pull from a central database of sound clips that are then combined or filtered to sound unique. According to publishers Warner Bros, the perceived racial slur is a result of two specific sound bytes being played at the same time.

“Our team has been made aware of offensive language that can be heard when playing the game. 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,” the developer said. “We are working diligently to fix this issue, which should be completed either in time for the Beta, or when the game launches.”

The Back 4 Blood “racial slur” sound effect has likely gone through multiple stages of modulation to make it sound more like a zombie. Many things can happen during that complex process. The voice actor and sound effects designer almost certainly did not intentionally make a Back 4 Blood zombie use racial slurs. Still, it might be best to remove the offending sound clips before the Back 4 Blood’s final release.

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