Back 4 Blood Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Left 4 Dead
 
Rating: R18+
 
Release Date: Out Now
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


-Fun with friends
-Scratches the itch Left 4 Dead left behind
-Forms a solid base for future content

Negatives


-Terrible AI, without other humans the experience varies wildly
-Some inorganic pathing leads to frustration


Bottom Line

For the last 13 years the bizarre absence of a successor to Valve’s tremendously popular Left 4 Dead 2 has been a lingering concern amongst genre fans. The tried and true formula with an appealing and accessible creative direction, inviting casual and professional 4-player co-op zombie slaughtering mania, has been kept afloat by the aforementioned […]

Posted October 18, 2021 by

 
Full Article
 
 

For the last 13 years the bizarre absence of a successor to Valve’s tremendously popular Left 4 Dead 2 has been a lingering concern amongst genre fans. The tried and true formula with an appealing and accessible creative direction, inviting casual and professional 4-player co-op zombie slaughtering mania, has been kept afloat by the aforementioned game’s post launch updates and robust mod tools. Though now long in the tooth even with community support filling the void, the genre had oddly found little in the way of a modern rendition. Until now.

Built by Turtle Rock Studios, the creative team behind the very original Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood aims to revitalise the design bedrock and gameplay loop that originally put the studio on the map. A hot blend of a familiar tried and true core with modernised ideas, Back 4 Blood aims to be a late-to-the-party Left 4 Dead 3 that fans have been screaming for. But nevertheless invites the question: after 13 years, is this enough?

We consider this review a snapshot “of the now”, believing Back 4 Blood will update and evolve much like a Live Service title as time progresses. In order to adequately cover the core experience as-intended, we’re providing three perspectives from a handful of co-op sessions, to better gauge the diverse experiences Back 4 Blood has to offer. We played Back 4 Blood on a combination of Xbox Series X and PC, utilising crossplay to play together.

ADAM GHIGGINO

Back 4 Blood feels like a good start. It’s certainly got the appearance and spirit of Left 4 Dead, and there are individual moments of sheer chaos that are hugely fun, like the jukebox-activated zombie invasion of an Irish bar. For every moment like that, however, there’s also a confused search for an exit which should be obvious, or an unclear objective. When you only get a single continue to advance through the game, it’s frustrating to get your progress shunted back, despite being able to pick up at certain points in acts. Bot AI is fairly terrible, but get a group of four friends together and the experience improves dramatically, even if you just end up killing each other over and over again in the shooting gallery outside Fort Hope in the hub menu.

Back 4 Blood is obviously intended to grow beyond its initial foundation here, and I hope it can eventually become something that truly feels like a step forward from Left 4 Dead, rather than a cover act.

ANTHONY CAPONE

It’s been far too long since we jumped into the zombie hordes of Left 4 Dead. For anyone thirsty to relive those fantastic memories or simply looking for mindless zombie thrashing fun, Back 4 Blood is the answer. This game is an absolute blast to play with friends, with interesting map design and a meaty campaign that should take more than a few weekends to complete. This game isn’t one you can play solo – having at least one other friend to play with is imperative, not only for enjoyment, but even for progressing through the story. 

Back 4 Blood has been designed with co-operative play in mind, as the buddy AI is even more mindless than the zombies, and the difficulty is rather steep – even on the lowest setting. The gunplay lacks weight and good luck trying to get your head around the card system, which somehow buff your character’s abilities. But nevertheless, Back 4 Blood is a fun romp when you have a squad, and will surely scratch that lingering Left 4 Dead itch.

 

JARROD MAWSON

Early impressions of Back 4 Blood weren’t hot. Starting with two players and two bots, the latter due to the game’s failure to find any players to fill the gaps, resulted in a campaign session ripe with frustrating difficulty spikes and genuinely abhorrent bot AI support. Trying again with four committed human players and, despite hordes of undead, Back 4 Blood really started to come to life.

The Left 4 Dead DNA is unashamedly upfront, as are attempts at revitalising the formula, and at this point in early launch Back 4 Blood is a combination of hits and misses. Shooting feels satisfyingly punchy and gory on PC, with tight aiming and gun control, as you mow through mountains of the unliving. But the iconic special infected (hilariously near identical in design and function to Left 4 Dead) lack distinct, highlighted visual identity to have them stand out in packs, leading to some cheap feeling deaths. Level design and presentation takes cue from modern tech advancements looking sufficiently detailed and moody, with some interesting campaign pathing and setpieces aimed at surprising players and avoiding repetition. But the odd loosely communicated objective and inorganic pathing or safe room can lead to unnecessary confusion and break of pacing. The newly introduced card collection and draw system, which adds varied modifiers and perks to rounds as they progress, is a mix of welcome and impressive disruptions (such as an incredibly thick fog rolling through the map, greatly disrupting visual clarity) that are sure to enhance replays, and trivialities via incremental upgrades and implied alterations that are hard to gauge having any meaningful impact at all.

Back 4 Blood presents a strong core, and it’s clearly a labour of love for the team at Turtle Rock Studio. There’s no cut corners, nor a sense that the team aren’t perfectly equipped and talented to handle the design blueprint. Within the experience are some genuinely great ideas elevating the production beyond an overly safe path that could have been taken. But Back 4 Blood is more of a good start over a perfect one. Polish, refinement, and reevaluation will hopefully bring the game closer to “essential” over “recommended”. But it’ll be the long term post-launch content support that’ll really define whether or not Back 4 Blood has the legs of its predecessors, or is left to rot with the rest of the dead.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.