It has been over a decade now since the release of Left 4 Dead 2, and while there have been a lot of zombie games that have released over the years, none have truly captured that Left 4 Dead magic.
Enter Back 4 Blood.
Announced back in the Game Awards 2020, Back 4 Blood is the newest game by Turtle Rock Studios, the developers of the original Left 4 Dead, and from the looks of it, this upcoming game is the spiritual successor to Valve’s iconic co-op zombie shooter. Much like the L4D games, Back 4 Blood features a co-op campaign where four players must make their way through hordes of zombies.
Ahead of the game’s release this October, Turtle Rock Studios held an Early Access Beta (that’s still ongoing as of this article’s writing), and they will hold an Open Beta later this week. In the Beta, players can try out a portion of the game’s campaign, as well as its player-versus-player mode.
So, is the game any good? So far, it’s safe to say that Back 4 Blood offers plenty of thrills!
How does it play?
The main game mode of Back 4 Blood is its four-player co-op campaign that players similarly to L4D. In the campaign, the team of four must work their way through a zombie-infested map until they reach a safehouse. There they can restock and get ready for the next section. And at the final map of an “act” (which consists of four maps each), the team must achieve a certain objective. This should be quite familiar to L4D veterans, though it’s also easy to pick up and play for those who haven’t played any Left 4 Dead game.
Aside from how the game flows, Back 4 Blood’s “ridden” (the in-universe term for zombies) enemies are also reminiscent of L4D in that there are a bunch of normal ridden that are supported by special ridden types. These special zombies range from one that stuns players in place, as well as a bruiser type enemy that rushes at players and grabs them. This mix of enemies makes for more dynamic gameplay, and it means players must work together as they can’t just mindlessly mow down enemies with ease (especially in the higher difficulties).
What is different about Back 4 Blood is that the weapon system. In the game, each weapon and item has a rarity, from common to legendary. These affect the stats of each weapon/item, meaning you have to be on the lookout for better stuff as you progress through the map. Personally, I didn’t really find this item rarity necessary, but it’s not a bad addition.
Another thing different about the game is that it features a Card System. What it does it that each player can unlock cards that feature buffs as he/she plays the game. These cards can be formed into a deck, and during each run, players can select a deck they want to pick. At the start of each map, players will be able to select cards they want from their chosen deck. Similar to the weapon rarity system, I didn’t find the Card System necessary, but I can see the appeal as it can let players experiment with different builds based on the buffs that each card brings. It’s also a good reason to keep playing the game as cards are unlocked as you get more in-game currency that’s awarded as you play.
Though enough about mechanics–how does the game actually play? Well, in the Early Access Beta, there are eight maps in total that were playable. And based on playing a couple of hours on these campaign maps, I can confidently say that there’s a lot of fun to be had in this game!
While I wouldn’t exactly call Back 4 Blood innovative, its use of the tried-and-true zombie formula makes for some entertaining gameplay, especially with friends. For me, it absolutely scratches that L4D itch of mowing down hordes of zombies. Though do take note that while playing the game on its normal difficulty isn’t too challenging, you absolutely must communicate and plan your actions properly as a team on the higher difficulties. Based on my time with the game, the ‘Veteran’ difficulty posed quite a challenge, but if you’re playing with friends, it’s a must-try.
I definitely enjoyed my time with the game’s campaign, though I couldn’t say the same about PvP.
PvP needs some work
Back 4 Blood’s versus mode pits two teams of four players against each other, with each team rotating between survivors and ridden. As survivors, a team must survive for as long as they can against waves of ridden (much like a horde mode), all while the opposing team take on the role of special ridden to wreak havoc on the survivors. Once the survivors are defeated, the teams swap and do it again.
On paper, this seems like a fun game mode, but based on what I’ve tried during Early Access, it could use some work. The biggest issue for me is that I found the maps to be too small, meaning it didn’t give survivors much in the way of cover. While there’s still fun to be had here, the overall versus mode experience just wasn’t as engaging compared to the campaign mode.
Of course, these impressions on the game’s PvP mode are based on a beta build of the game, so we might see improvements when the game releases.
Technically fine, but there are some bugs
While we can’t give our verdict on the game’s technical performance as we played a beta build of the game, we were impressed with how the game looked. While we did experience a couple of bugs (the worst being a boss not appearing at all for one player), the game did run smoothly on our admittedly high-end PC, as well as on the PS5.
Speaking of console and PC, I personally played mostly on PS5, and I found the experience overall to be quite nice. Though I did find that Back 4 Blood’s gunplay doesn’t feel as tight as other FPSes on console (that may be by design, though I can’t say for sure). There’s also the fact that the game’s aim assist by default is very strong which can be quite distracting. Thankfully, the strength of aim assist can be tweaked in the settings.
One thing I do want to praise regarding the console experience is crossplay support. In Back 4 Blood, playing with players on other platforms is hassle-free, which is great news given that not everyone plays on the same platform. Aside from being easy to set up, we didn’t run into any issues during out play sessions which featured a mix of PC and PlayStation players.
So, is Back 4 Blood the true Left 4 Dead successor that fans have been waiting for? It’s a bit too early to say that right now. But based on what we’ve tried during Early Access, Back 4 Blood has a ton of promise as its campaign mode is a blast to play, especially with friends. While we did experience some bugs, it is to be expected given that we tried out a beta version of the game. And although the versus mode left a lot to be desired, the sheer fun of the game’s campaign mode still makes the game something that we’re excited to try more of.
Here’s hoping, then, that the game has enough content and gets PvP improvements when it launches this October.
Not able to play during Early Access? You can try the game out later this week during the Open Beta.