As far as concepts go, Back 4 Bloods is a no-brainer. Involve the team that pioneered zombie co-op shooters with Left 4 Dead once again, introducing a slew of new features and a unique twist to set it apart from previous Turtle Rock Studios efforts. Can the frantic first-person shooter, after many tech testing and some enormous shoes to fill, recreate the charm of the classic? While it’s far from flawless, Back 4 Blood is still a blast to play with friends and offers enough new gameplay elements to keep players interested.
The gunplay in Back 4 Blood is one of the game’s highlights. Players acquainted with Left 4 Dead will recognize the weaponry, but the intense fights with the undead are new and exciting. If you want to feel like you’re in the game, you can smash the skulls of Ridden enemies with your nail-covered bat or take out zombie swarms with an LMG.
Getting started in Back 4 Blood is a challenge, and I was taken aback by the game’s relentless opponent gangs. While the tense moments when victory was on the line were enjoyable, the difficulty level seems wrong.
The Game Director is in charge of changing the difficulty level. This system tinks with the game’s settings on each successive level to keep things fresh, tossing anything from fog to burning infected your way.
I often breeze through a level with just a few minor issues, only to find myself completely outmatched minutes later in the following section. After zombies got oppressive, the Director overcorrected, and my team would easily stroll through the remainder of a level after a significant battle with nothing more than a scratch. While the game may find a good balance, I wish the highs and lows were more evenly distributed.
Turtle Rock’s twist on the traditional concept, the card system, helps to alleviate the game’s steep difficulty curve. Each Cleaner has an upgrade card that may be purchased using supply points earned throughout the co-op campaign. Boosts may be as little as a 10% increase in effectiveness or as significant as an additional life if your team fails to meet its goal.
When I started creating courses specifically for my circumstance, things began to click for me. My shotgun-toting tank could dash into the fight, shoot down a slew of zombies, and then come back without losing much health due to a card that increased my health when my boom shot connected with an enemy.
Another time, my team and I struggled to defeat a monster until we discovered a card that increased the particular Ridden’s weak spot’s damage by 20%. More variety in our decks and load-outs reduced the ammunition we had to share, making us a more effective squad. Even after defeating the final monster, I found myself with a slew of new cards to acquire and stages to revisit.
B4B plays best when you have a complete squad tearing through the unique Ridden, like most co-op games. We were screaming commands at one other or giggling as someone called a Sleeper attacked them, but Back 4 Blood reminded me of why I’ve spent so many hours battling the undead in the past and why I’m eager to do it all over again in 2021.
Solo players, on the other hand, maybe less enthused. Even when you need an additional health or ammunition boost, the AI partners in Back 4 Blood are capable and willing to assist. I avoided single combat because of the absence of stat monitoring, supply points, and even achievement unlocks. It’s a bummer for gamers hoping to have a solitary experience.
I liked the Swarm mode in Back 4 Blood, which puts Cleaners against Ridden in round-based battles inside parts of the narrative. It’s a two-team game where the Ridden and Cleaners take turns playing, and the team with the longest human survival time wins.
I had a good time as the undead, but I wouldn’t say I liked the control scheme of some of the unique Ridden, such as Tallboy, and I missed the suspenseful campaign matches. Though not offensive, the mode pales in contrast to the rest of the game’s engaging cooperative content. After a few rounds of PvP, I was happy to return to the game’s more enjoyable campaign.
Back 4 Blood is one of the video games I’m most looking forward to playing in 2021. Having fun with pals while scratching an itch I’ve had since the days of Left 4 Dead is a great feeling. However, even when the game isn’t at its best, the addition of cards piques my interest enough to make me want to play it again.