It’s been a long-time coming but we finally have the spiritual successor of the Left 4 Dead franchise in our hands, Back 4 Blood. Similar to its predecessors, Back 4 Blood is a zombie-killing first-person shooter developed by Turtle Rock Studios. Its main draw is its 4-player cooperative gameplay which has you playing through various missions, rushing to safe rooms, saving people, and killing a whole lot of zombies on the way, all the while challenging how well you can work as a team. And while we do have a general review of the game, honestly the best way to review this game would have to be through a Back 4 Blood co-op review.
Since this is the spiritual successor of the Left 4 Dead franchise, how does it compare?
Arron: Back 4 Blood co-op is a massive improvement over Left 4 Dead in pretty much every way. The levels are more detailed with more variety and interesting moments, the guns are more varied and feel better to shoot, and there are more choices for players to make at every turn. Leading up to Back 4 Blood, I think there was a chance for the game to become obscured in the shadow of Turtle Rock’s previous work, but it has surpassed it completely.
Kyle: It felt to me like a seamless improvement on Left 4 Dead. If you had told me it was a direct, official sequel, I would believe you. There are plenty of new additions and variety that made it feel like what a good sequel should be.
Quinn: If you’ve been reminiscing over Left 4 Dead, never fear! Back 4 Blood brings the best parts of Left 4 Dead back—the cooperative, 4-player gameplay, the zombie-killing fun, and the level designs—but it adds so many new features that pull it into the modern-day. The card system especially makes it stand out as its own entity. The Back 4 Blood co-op at this point has grown into something that leaves Left 4 Dead in the dust.
How does the card system enhance the co-op experience?
Arron: The card system is a great addition to the co-op experience although it can take a bit to get used to. Making decks of cards allows groups of players to better tailor their playstyles to complement one another. Being able to have one player focus on melee, another on healing, a third on ammo, and a fourth on dealing damage for bosses and mutated ridden not only gives players more options but also makes playing with friends a much deeper and more rewarding experience.
Kyle: I was originally really skeptical about the card system, to be honest. I didn’t think the concept would fit well in a survival game. Holy cow was I wrong. The variety of enhancements and boosts were really interesting, and the more you play the more varied you can make your experience. The Corruption cards that added challenges to each level also made the encounters feel different and more interesting. Especially when boss battles came into play.
Quinn: The card system is an interesting roguelike addition to the game. It adds a flavor of chance and luck that I never would have thought would work with this sort of game, but it does. You never know what’s around the corner because of Corruption cards. But if you have a great team, it’s fun to find ways to work around each card or discuss how to tackle it best.
Are the characters useful or diverse enough for four players?
Arron: The available characters are definitely diverse enough for four players. Each character has their own perk and ability that helps influence how players approach the game without being too restrictive. Like the card system, this helps groups of players tackle the game with a number of different roles that help mix up the gameplay. The different characters also cater to a variety of play styles, whether players want to just swing a baseball bat, shoot a machine gun, or aim careful critical shots. Some of the characters seem more universally powerful than others, but having all of them for options is a really solid addition to the formula.
Kyle: Each character has their own playstyle, which combines well with the use of enhancement cards. There are so many different ways to approach each Act and each mission, and the character selection and their perks are no different. I did like that they weren’t just cosmetically different, they each have abilities that can be the difference between life or death in-game.
Quinn: With up to eight players to choose from, there’s plenty to go around. But some characters do seem to get picked over others; that may be because they’re more powerful or because they let you be a bit of a lone-wolf. Nevertheless, the various perks each has work well in concert rather than alone simply because they’re so diverse and each player can add a much-needed element to the team.
How do the enemies stack up?
Arron: I think the enemies are a bit of a mixed bag. Ever since Left 4 Dead exploded the popularity of zombie shooters the templates it set for special infected have been extremely popular. Back 4 Blood is smart in that it includes variations of those familiar types while introducing a few new ones as well. The new additions are welcome and creative, but the design of many of them is lacking when compared to other games in the genre. The variations of each special type of zombie look pretty similar to one another, which can make it hard to react to them accordingly or call out their presence to teammates.
Kyle: My only real criticism of the game was the variety, or lack thereof, of enemies. Even the special ridden felt very similar, and nothing felt mechanically challenging to deal with. It is a shame the approach to every enemy encounter is just “try not to die and find new ways to kill stuff.” The variety only exists in the card and character selections, enemies just felt way too similar for me to even care about the different types at all.
Quinn: If you’ve played Left 4 Dead, you’ll know what special Ridden you’re going to encounter. There are a few variations, but for the most part, they’re very similar to special infected you would have encountered in 2008. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, visually, a lot of the special ridden look similar which makes it hard to determine what they’re going to do in the split second you see them. Not quite enemies, but my favorite addition has to be all the new ways to alert the horde. They may very well make your clumsiest teammate your worst enemy.
Overall, if you’re looking for a game that can bring you the type of cooperative fun that the Left 4 Dead franchise did, look no further than Back 4 Blood co-op. The gunplay is instantly familiar along with the setup of various missions and overall gameplay. But while the base of the game is from 2008, the additional trappings will make it attractive to a modern-day audience.
Back 4 Blood is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S through Gamepass, PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC.