I don’t remember when I first played Left 4 Dead. I think it was in a dingy cybercafe. I think. I’m not really sure cause my memory’s a bit fuzzy these days. All I know is that Sal was there, a couple of my old secondary school pals were there too and we had a rowdy good time screaming and laughing in the back of the cafe. Playing Back 4 Blood brought up a ton of those memories.
Now more than a decade later, I’ve lost contact with most of those guys…except for Sal. He’s like the one constant in my life that never changes.
But I digress…
Back 4 Blood is here. It’s done by the folks behind Left 4 Dead.
Question is, is it any good?
Let’s find out!
What is Back 4 Blood?
Back 4 Blood is a four player co-op first person shooter developed by Turtle Rock Studios. It’s published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. The game is available on PC as well as the Playstation and Xbox consoles. It’s cross-play enabled which means you can play with friends on other platforms.
Our copy of the game was generously provided by the people at Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.
Left 4 Dead really made an impression on me back in the day so I was really looking forward to this game. Turtle Rock Studios (they used to be a part of Valve) developed the Left 4 Dead series so I had high hopes they’d be able to raise the co-op zombie survival shooter genre to a new level.
Yes, Back 4 Blood is much more than Left 4 Dead ever was. Turtle Rock Studios’ thrown in additional elements that makes you want to keep playing to unlock different features to enhance the characters strengths to complete higher difficulties.
There’s a legitimate progression system now, including customization for character abilities, weapon and character skins. All these were missing from Left 4 Dead. The stages are also much cooler and more immersive now, especially when compared to Left 4 Dead’s.
All these new features though…they’re not enough.
You will play as one of the 8 “Cleaners” who are a group of post apocalyptic survivor defending Fort Hope. It’s one of the last few bastions of humanity left in the world of Back 4 Blood. It’s where the few survivors of the zombie apocalypse hole up. It’s also the hub of the game where you can gear up for your next mission, try out the shooting range and get new customization cards to use in your deck.
You can also change your characters there.
Each of the 8 unique characters comes with their own starting benefits like Walker, who starts with a +10% damage advantage, +20% Accuracy for 5 seconds with Precision Kills and a Team effect of +10 Team health. These traits, dovetail nicely with the cards you can equip.
That means that if you’re a melee based player, you’ll always want to play a certain character to further enhance your playstyle and deck.
I am a “chiong-ster” which means I’m an offensive driven player; I tend to rush headlong into danger with no regards to other players…which Sal berates me about every single time after we finish a stage!
‘Bro, it’s a co-op game! Stick together you idiot! Don’t run off fool!’
Every damn time.
I don’t care though. I’m back running into the hordes the next stage. I can practically feel Sal’s blood pressure rising every time I go AWOL and he has to save my ass. I do admit that’s not the best tactic since this is a very co-op dependent title. You’ll need the firepower provided by the other players to survive.
I just don’t care. YOLO bro.
It’s hard to do that sometimes though because the AI bots in the game are completely full of shit.
To say they’re incompetent’s putting it nicely. They’ll ignore zombies up in their face to shoot at those coming from a kilometer away. They’ll ignore me being swarmed to jump around for no reason. I guess they’re happy the human meatbag’s finally dying? Their path finding sucks so bad that I’ve had a bot run circles around my dying body and STILL not revive me in time.
There is no way to convey how much I hate (HATE!) the bots in the game.
Unlike the Left 4 dead series where you start fresh each game, Back 4 Blood introduces a card, point and credit system. During every run in the game, you will be able to earn points and coins.
The credit can be used at the vendor to upgrade your weapon, purchase healing items like med kit, bandages pill for that game. You can even use it to purchase ammo and health refills at the start of every run. Credits earned in the game can only be used in that specific game so don’t be afraid to use them all up.
You’re never seeing them again after the run’s done.
Points on the other had can be used to purchase cards which gives different benefits and add-ons which you are able to use at every game. It can literally affect whether you complete that stage given the right stack of cards. Cards go for a minimum of 5 points to 150 point depending on the effects.
Some of them can just be cosmetic and others are downright powerful.
You’ll get to buy these cards in the hub and they’ll need to be integrated into your deck for them to be used in-game.
My personal favorite is the “Two is one and one is none” card which lets you equip two Primary weapons.
Imagine equipping a LMG on one hand and an 8-shot shotgun on the other. Slap in a couple of shotgun effects cards which lets you heal with each shot, I will be a lean mean killing machine. While most benefits are good, there is no free lunch in the world.
Some of the benefits had to be traded for penalties like -25% swap speed for wielding 2 primary weapons card.
Balancing your playstyle with the cards is all part of the fun for the game though I wished the developers had gone all in. A leveling system for the cards (that improved them with use) would’ve been awesome, as that would entice you to use all the cards instead of just relying on a meagre few.
Deck management among players is important to ensure that there is harmony among the co op characters especially on higher difficulties. Due to this, playing with randoms online can be a massive pain in the ass. Some of them just don’t take the time to optimize their deck, or are using characters that don’t complement their gameplay styles.
On higher difficulties, this is a massive hindrance, especially when you take into account Corruption cards and their negative effects.
Corruption cards are stage modifiers and/or optional objectives which add another layer of difficulty to the mission. By completing these optional objectives earn copper coins for yourself and the team. The cards can also screw up your run by making the stages foggier, have more enemies and other negative effects.
No two runs will be similar because of these. The randomness is a two edged sword; while it does offer freshness when you replay the game, it can make runs unnecessarily hard.
That’s because in between you and safety are hordes of the undead…or Ridden in this case. They all fit in the Left 4 Dead archetype so there’s no much new in this regard. Whatever their new names are, they still act like the special zombies in Left 4 Dead. They’re a real annoyance, and their appearance is always a pain in the ass.
I wish the game would lower their spawn rate because honestly, fighting them is a chore.
The last thing that you want to meet is the Hag. It’s an abomination from hell that will grab and devour you if you don’t kill it fast. The special Ridden definitely adds to the difficulty of the game, especially on higher difficulties like veteran and nightmare where the spawn rates of the Special Ridden are absolutely crazy.
On top of the special Ridden, the game also chucks bosses into your paths at certain locations.
There are 3 main bosses which will appear at specific times of the game.
The breaker is a Tank like Ridden that charges players and crushes them to their death. The Ogre is a large creature that appears from the ground. There are able to throw projectiles made from meat and bone and also crush you with their massive arms.
During boss fights, a health bar will appear in the top of the screen to show the health of the boss. Good coordination and teamwork are paramount to taking down the bosses fast. Boss fights (apart from the final boss) don’t require much smarts though. You just need firepower and good aim as the bosses all have easily avoided tells and weakpoints to blast.
I’d have preferred the bosses to be more like the final one, with its multi-staged battles. It’s a true battle of attrition but it’s really fun as you’ll need to not only depend on your teammates but also deal enough damage to stop the boss from reaching its target.
Regular boss fights are nothing like that and that’s a shame. It’s like the devs just placed bosses in and called it a day. No new stage mechanics, no new environmental triggers…nothing.
If you’re sick and tired of co-op, there’s also the game’s Swarm Mode.
Swarm mode is like L4D’s versus mode where 4 players control Cleaners and another 4 controls special Ridden. The mode itself is a timed survival where cleaners have to defend themselves in an enclosed area where they are repeatedly being pounded by swarms of Riddens and Special Riddens.
It was fun for awhile until the side playing cleaners keep getting pinned. After awhile it is no longer fun playing the Cleaners and most will likely disconnect if they are in the Cleaner’s team.
The Bottom Line.
Back 4 Blood is definitely much more than the Left 4 Dead series…but it’s unfortunately not the evolution the genre sorely needs. Back 4 Blood feels like a rehash of Left 4 Dead’s tired gameplay and doesn’t evolve enough in meaningful ways to truly innovate.
Other games in the genre, particularly World War Z and Aliens: Fireteam Elite, are way better in some aspects. However, I still recommend playing this with friends and other humans. The bots will only get you through the easy missions on lower difficulties, in order to complete the boss fights and specials runs humans are still required.
Game with loads of fun for co-op with friends but Swarm Mode is unbalanced which can be frustrating. Never play with the A.I.
- Fun shooting.
- Decent replayability.
- Cards offer decent customization options for different playstyles.
- Runs great on recommended hardware.
- The AI.
- Unbalanced Swarm Mode.
- The AI.
- Uneven difficulty spikes.
- No character progression.
- Did I mention the AI?