The wait is finally over! Fans of the Left 4 Dead series have been waiting over a decade for a new installment to this cult classic zombie shooter. I honestly felt it would never happen but here we are in the year 2021 and Back 4 Blood is not only the spiritual successor but also developed by Turtle Rock Studios who are the original dev team behind L4D 1&2. So, does it deliver in rekindling all the memorable feels L4D gave us while introducing new gameplay mechanics to make it feel fresh?
Upon boot up, you are dropped into Fort Hope. This is where all the magic happens in regards to matchmaking, customizing your weapons and card deck building. I highly recommend spending some time examining each section to figure out how all of these new gameplay mechanics’ work. B4B also supports cross-platform play between PC, XBOX and PlayStation.
You will be given a generated in-game player ID which you can share with your friends on other platforms. All they have to do is enter that user ID in the search box and WALLA! You guys are now ready to cleanse the world of the ridden. In game voice chat works fairly well when playing with people on different platforms. A friend on my team was playing on PC. We had to make some audio mic level changes in the options but overall, the process worked flawlessly with no random disconnects or gameplay stutters.
The team consisted of myself along with 3 other experienced L4D players. This is worth mentioning since we all instantly felt the familiarity along with noticeable differences from previous L4D titles. After selecting your character (aka Cleaners) the most decisive new gameplay mechanic is presented in a card deck building system. You pick cards to suit your play style. For example, I had a card that turned my Bash attack into a knife that counts as a melee weapon.
Another gave 30% more damage when using an LMG while crouched. Once you complete an area and make it to a safe house more cards are presented to pick from and further build your deck. This new card deck building system creates a more personalized gameplay experience which in turn makes each outing into the ridden infested world feel fresh.
The card deck building system also introduces cards for these horrid creatures. These are called “Corruption cards”. See this like a risk & reward system, complete the selected card challenge which is applied to your next play and receive a reward. For example, one card requires you to complete the level within the time limit and without triggering any birds, snitches, car alarms or alarmed doors to earn 500 coppers.
This copper can be used at a safe house to purchase items such as weapons, ammo, health kits and other goodies. You can see from the description the challenge will require meticulous strategizing by your group to complete and in doing so now changes the traditional run & gun mindset. And no, we did not complete this challenge, nor did we even come close since Back 4 Blood’s gameplay is, fast-paced and keeps you frantically moving in search of cover or ammo. On that note, let’s discuss the gameplay.
Back 4 Blood controls are familiar to those who have not only played L4D but pretty much any modern shooter. Right trigger to shoot, left to aim down your weapon sight etc. If you are a COD player and use to doing quick re-aims to proximity targets that’s here as well.
So, aim down your sight, fire off a few rounds and quickly release/press left trigger to auto lock to the next ridden. The majority of ridden are not bullet sponges, so 1 or 2 headshots will easily send them back to the after-life. I will say that there are a good variety of ridden ranging from your slow movers, runners, spitters, and HOLY HELL WTF IS THAT!!!
Now our experience wasn’t all peaches & cream. We encountered 2 serious issues or game bugs which for many could be deal breakers. The first issue occurred when 3 of us returned to continue our campaign but our 4th member who was campaign host was unavailable to play. For some reason, all the chapters we completed the night before were still locked and if we clicked “continue run” it would start us at ACT 1 – chapter 1. Even when we clicked on the option to change starting location all other areas were locked. Now I’m calling this an “issue or game bug” because after replaying the earlier missions again ALL the previous locations that we completed the night before were now available YET we did not make it that far during this play session.
The 2nd issue has to deal with the handling of solo play. Upon starting you are greeted with the following message:
As you can see, everything is disabled when playing solo which in turn pretty much discourages you from playing this mode. As expected, players have been vocal about their displeasure and Turtle Rock Studios said they are strategizing on a way to “address the issue”. I have no doubt these issues or bugs will be addressed over time but I wouldn’t be doing my review justice if I failed to mention them.
Swarm mode is a 2 out of 3 4 v 4 PVP mode. You jump in either as cleaners or ridden. The goal is for the cleaners to defend against waves of common AI ridden who are attacking along with the 4 human players who spawn in as one of the special ridden. Once the cleaners die the roles reverse and the team that survived the longest as the cleaners win the match. To be fully transparent, I am not a fan of this form of PVP and after a few matches I went right back into the campaign. I’ll just say that from the matches I did play, I had no performance issues such as player drops, freezing and other known issues that can occur when playing a PVP.
So, did Back 4 Blood deliver in our expectations? The answer is YES! All the L4D feels returned for every member of my team. from the doom & gloom aesthetics, team strategizing to complete level objectives, to the funny one liner each character randomly dishes out, many of which were spot on with us at the moment reactions.
Aside from the before mentioned issues, B4B made all the necessary enhancements such as implementing cross-play and implanting a card deck building system to make every run unique. These additions ensure B4B will provide countless hours of replayability just like its predecessors and at the end of the day this is really what all of us were hoping for.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Back 4 Blood for the PS5 provided by Turtle Rock Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.