It’s been a long time since players had a good co-op zombie shooter since Left 4 Dead. World War Z scratched that itch a bit, but it’s not enough, and there’s none of the magic that Left 4 Dead had. However, there is a game that wants to try to do so, and that’s Back 4 Blood.
We uncover everything in this Back 4 Blood gameplay review.
What Is Back 4 Blood?
Back 4 Blood is a four-player co-op, first-person shooter, zombie survival game created by Turtle Rock Studios. Now for those not in the know, Turtle Rock Studios is made up of the developers of Left 4 Dead. Yes, a lot of them worked on the Left 4 Dead series and have used their capabilities to create Back 4 Blood. This makes this new game the most legitimate spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead franchise — mostly.
Back 4 Blood was released on October 8, 2021, after a few Closed and Open Beta testings. It’s available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and PC on Steam. To see if it’s worth picking up, continue reading our Back 4 Blood gameplay review.
Back 4 Blood Gameplay Review
Now that we’ve talked about what Back 4 Blood is, let’s talk about how it fares, and more accurately, how good it is. Here is our review of the Back 4 Blood gameplay, visual details, story, and game modes.
In terms of gameplay, Back 4 Blood plays similarly enough to its spiritual predecessor. You have guns, you have utility, and you have your four teammates and loads of Ridden out to bite your faces off. There are several twists to the formula though, and these come in the form of weapon rarity, attachments, and the Card System.
Weapon Rarity and Attachments
Let’s talk about the weapon rarity first. Each weapon in Back 4 Blood now has rarity, from common all the way up to Legendary. Each rarity jump has damage and stats increase to them that can be devastating in later levels. When combined with attachments, this can get crazier let’s talk about attachments.
Each weapon can slot in multiple weapon attachments, such as suppressors, extra magazine capacity, better stocks, etc. These improve the longer the campaign goes and has the same rarity system as the weapons. Players can also buy Weapon Attachments in the shop every time they get inside a safe house.
There’s just one catch to this: players can’t take out attachments off of one weapon to put them to another. This can be annoying as players might find a better weapon but already decked out their current one with high rarity attachments.
The Card System is one of Back 4 Blood’s new gameplay features. This has more in common with rogue-like games as it allows players to customize their campaign runs with various effects.
These cards are all available in single-player and PvP mode at the onset. Meanwhile, co-op players need to play the game more and unlock new cards with the Supply Lines System. Each successful and unsuccessful campaign run gives additional supply, which unlocks new cards after each level up.
There are two types of Cards in back 4 Blood, each with its subcategories: Active Cards, and Corruption Cards.
Active Cards are cards that give specific benefits to you and your teammates. They’re available at the start of a level and all around the game map. When a campaign starts, players get 1 loadout card and 3 additional cards that they choose from the deck that they created.
After that, players can get more active cards after they leave a safe house, or from around the game map. In the latter case, players need to pay with Copper, the game’s currency, to gain the Active Card.
Lastly, Corruption Cards are cards that the game’s director draws every time a new campaign starts. These have various effects on the game’s Ridden enemies, the weather, Events, and even the campaign’s ending.
This gives each playthrough additional spice as players don’t know what the game director would pick from the various corruption cards. There will even be times when the director is so sadistic, it’s near impossible to win. That is if the players don’t fix the game in their favor with specific Active Card usage. However, even then it’s still a hard slog, especially if specific Corruption Card combinations are picked.
Combat and Controls
In terms of combat, players need to work together to win in Back 4 Blood, which is on par for the course. They have a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, which can be a sidearm or a melee weapon, and several utilities and healing items. Like in Left 4 Dead, players can only bring one utility and healing item with them. Controls-wise, Back 4 Blood plays similarly to any 1st Person Shooter, so just go at it but remember your teammates.
Unlike Left 4 Dead, weapons have dedicated ammunition types, such as rifles, shotguns, snipers, SMGs, etc. This, however, led to a problem that’s not a problem in the original Left 4 Dead: ammo scarcity. Because ammunition is divided into different gun types, players can run out of ammunition eventually and this can lead to some really bad situations.
What’s worse is if the players have good, high rarity weapons with several nice attachments. If they run out of ammunition mid-level, they’ll be forced to abandon their current, good weapon to a more inferior one.
This isn’t ideal and can be a game-ender in a lot of situations, particularly the higher difficulties. Hopefully, a solution will be found that will fix this problem in later patches.
Back 4 Blood’s story isn’t that complicated. You control one of 8 characters that are in Fort Hope, one of the last bastions of Humanity against the Ridden. Your job is to keep Fort Hope safe, find out what caused the Ridden to appear in the first place, and try to push them back. Nothing complicated in that. The main draw of Zombie shooters isn’t the story, it’s the gameplay and the atmosphere, something that Back 4 Blood DOES have. Not to the point of Left 4 Dead though.
Back 4 Blood has eight playable characters called the Cleaners. Each of them has its unique look and abilities that can benefit any team comp. In this section of our Back 4 Blood gameplay, we’ll take a look at what each character can offer.
This character is literally the mom of the Cleaner group. She’s the one with the Tough Love trait and the voice of most of the Cleaners in terms of how they should go about things. The second-in-command of Fort Hope, she brings her anger at her son’s death against the Ridden.
- Tough Love: Instantly revives any teammate that’s incapacitated once every level.
- Den Mother: Mom has +1 to Support Inventory.
- Kill the Pain: Mom starts with Pain Meds, giving them additional, temporary HP in a cinch.
- High Expectations: Team has 1 Extra Life.
A tough survivor that decided to hedge her chances of survival by joining Fort Hope, Karlee knows how to survive. She only trusts herself and her instincts from the months and years surviving by herself are honed to a knife’s edge. Once you gain her trust though, she’s incredibly dependable.
Karlee’s abilities include:
- Danger Sense: Allows Karlee to sense any Hazards near her.
- Bag of Tricks: Karlee has +1 to Quick Inventory.
- Dextrous: Team use speed increased by 50%.
- Nimble Fingered: Karlee starts with a Tool Kit, allowing her to open locks.
A native of the land and a dangerous hunter, Jim now lends his hunting expertise to the goal of killing Ridden. With a sniper rifle and a keen eye, he destroys weak spots with ease.
- Seasoned Hunter: The team gains 10% increased weakspot damage.
- Razor Snare: Jim starts with a Razor Snare, allowing him to place it on spots to damage and slow any Ridden that crosses it.
- Quick Aim: Increased aim down sight speed by 25%.
- Clean Kill: When Jim kills Ridden with precision, he gains increased damage by 5% until he gets damaged. Maxes at 50% increased damage.
A resilient, determined woman who batters up any Ridden in her path with her signature baseball bat called “Dottie.” The glue on the Cleaner’s group, she cheers them up while they do the dirty work of Ridden killing.
- Cardio: Gives Holly’s team 25 additional stamina.
- Grand Slam: Every time Holly kills a Ridden, she regains 10 stamina.
- Self Defense: Holly starts campaigns with a stun gun, allowing her to stun enemy Ridden.
- Tough as Nails: Holly’s damage resistance is increased by 10%.
A doomsday prepper of incredibly meticulous bent, Hoffman makes use of his skills as an organizer and prepper to help his team. He always makes sure that there’s going to be enough for any encounter and will do his best to contribute.
- Cargo Pockets: Team has 10% additional Ammo Capacity.
- Never Without: Hoffman starts with an Ammo Pack, allowing Hoffman to refill his ammunition by a certain amount.
- Always Prepared: Every time Hoffman kills a Ridden, there’s a chance that it drops ammunition for him and his team to pick up.
- Ready to Rock: Hoffman has +1 Offensive inventory.
A committed war veteran, Walker brings his experience as a soldier to the Cleaner’s repertoire. Armed with an M4, he can and has picked off Ridden that crosses his sights. When he speaks, most of the Cleaners defer to him, after all, he knows what he’s doing.
- Model Soldier: Walker’s damage is increased by 10%.
- Pragmatic: Walker’s team has 10% additional HP.
- Military Training: When Walker kills with precision, his accuracy is increased by 20% for 5 seconds.
- Equipped: Walker starts with a Frag grenade that he can throw at Ridden groups to destroy them.
The youngest and newest member of the Cleaners, though don’t let that fool you. Evangelo’s induction was a quick one due to how much he picks up on things. Incredibly reliable and very eager, he does have a lot of nerves, but he’ll give his all in a pinch.
- Fit: Evangelo’s stamina regen is increased by 25%.
- Light Footed: Evangelo and his team have a 5% increased movement speed.
- Fire Starter: Evangelo starts with a Molotov, allowing him to set an area on fire, dealing massive damage.
- Born Survivor: Evangelo has the uncanny ability to break out of grabs by himself. In addition, he also has increased breakout speed by 75%.
Doc is, unsurprisingly, the team’s medic. A career-oriented woman before the calamity, she makes use of her skills to help Fort Hope stay afloat. Of course, it helps that she’s a good shot with a gun as well.
- Triage: Doc’s team has 25% additional Trauma Resistance.
- Skilled Physician: Doc has 30% Healing Efficiency.
- Ready to Operate: Doc starts with a bandage that allows her to heal herself or a teammate.
- Field Medic: Doc can apply a Field Dressing to each of her teammates once per level for a 25 HP heal.
Graphics and Level Design
Graphics-wise, Back 4 Blood is a nice-looking game. Unreal Engine 4 does good work and the developers know how to use it well. Every campaign looks good in terms of visuals and the additions of Mist and Darkness from certain corruption cards add to the game’s visual design. However, there’s a bit of a problem in terms of the designs of the Special Ridden.
For one, there are some Special Ridden that have different functions that look incredibly similar from far away. An example of this is the Stinger variant of Special Ridden. Stingers have three variants: the usual Chaser, the Stalkers, and the Hockers. Chasers are the most common of the bunch and have a disorienting projectile attack. Stalkers, on the other hand, function similarly to Left 4 Dead’s Jockey and drag allies away from help. And lastly, the Hockers, which spew out viscous goo that traps players.
These Ridden have specific functions, but they all look very similar when players look at them from far away. Sure, they look distinct when they’re close, but if not, it’s going to be a bit annoying to differentiate them. This problem also affects several of the Special Ridden as well, and there’s a bit more to this story in the Sound Design portion, but we digress.
In terms of Level Design, Back 4 Blood’s levels do look good, but some areas look similar to each other. There are some parts of the campaigns that look great and unique, particularly the Bar Finale and Dr. Roger’s Return Finale. But sometimes, the levels can blur with each other.
In terms of Sound Design, Back 4 Blood holds well in some areas. The guns sound great, there’s a lot of groaning and moaning from the Ridden, as befitting the zombies that they are. These are great to hear, and it provides a lot of immersion to Back 4 Blood’s game.
However, that’s where the good times end. This is because some things are missing from Back 4 Blood, specifically, the various calls that special Ridden have. This was already touched upon in the graphics section, as the Special Ridden has several variants that look so similar it’s impossible to differentiate them from what they do. In addition to this, these Ridden don’t have any kind of discernable audio tell to herald their arrival.
Let’s take an example from Left 4 Dead, the iconic Witch. The Witch is one of the most dangerous enemies in Left 4 Dead, just one hit can incapacitate a survivor after all. Thus, it’s imperative to know exactly the time and place a Witch is, to either avoid it or to kill it quickly. This is done by the fact that the players hear someone, or something crying in the vicinity.
By just hearing crying, the entire team immediately turns off their flashlights as the slightest light can anger them. There are various sound cues for each of the special infected in Left 4 Dead, something which adds to the immersion and even the horror of the game.
In Back 4 Blood though, there are almost no audio cues on when these special Ridden arrive, which can be annoying as players can’t prepare themselves for their arrival. Hopefully, there’s going to be additional Ridden audio cues added in later patches.
Back 4 Blood has two types of game modes depending on the players. They can either go for the PvE Campaign Mode or the PvP Versus Mode. We’ll talk about these game modes below.
The players go on a campaign of several levels until they reach the final area. Usually, these final areas have a full stop, last stand/escape sequences where players need to fight hordes of Ridden. Pretty typical stuff, if the players played Left 4 Dead, they’ll know what to do.
At the start of a campaign run, players pick a loadout card and three additional cards from the deck that they created. Then, the Director would pick Corruption Cards to spice up the run. This gives Back 4 Blood’s campaign a lot of replayability.
However, Back 4 Blood’s difficulty is a bit of a problem, specifically the difficulty spike. The spike between the three difficulty levels Back 4 Blood has is so high, it’s a bit ridiculous.
For example, Recruit Difficulty, the game’s easy mode, is a pretty standard fare when it comes to Zombie Shooters. Veteran, the normal mode of the game, is so difficult it’s recommended to have pre-built, good decks, and good team coordination to beat.
And don’t even get us started on Nightmare difficulty, which is a whole other beast. You’re going to need crack aiming skills, a good deck, and at the very least good teammates with excellent coordination to win, and even then it’s hard. It also doesn’t help that some Corruption Card combos would make Nightmare difficulty nigh impossible to win — as we’ve discussed in the Card System section.
Hopefully, Turtle Rock would fix the difficulty spike in later patches, but we’ll just have to see.
In addition to the Campaign, Back 4 Blood has a Versus Mode where two groups of four players duke it out. One side plays the Cleaners while the other side plays the Special Ridden. This isn’t a problem, but the game mode lacks direction, unlike Left 4 Dead’s Versus Modes.
Back 4 Blood’s PvP mode isn’t like in Left 4 Dead where players play a whole campaign with the second team playing the Special Infected. In Back 4 Blood, Versus Mode is just a slugfest between the Cleaners and Special Ridden. Not much is noteworthy, which is sad since playing Versus Mode on some of the game’s campaigns could be pretty good.
Back 4 Blood Multiplayer Gameplay Review
Back 4 Blood’s multiplayer is a pretty robust one. Players can queue into a Multiplayer lobby and be matched with Random players. In addition to this, they can also be put in the middle of a multiplayer match with them filling up the missing survivor. However, this causes some problems, specifically in Team Cohesion due to the sudden appearance of a new player.
In addition to this, Versus Mode is a chaotic mess of a game mode that needs a bit of tweaking. Perhaps taking a bit more inspiration on Left 4 Dead’s own versus mode would help the game a bit more.
Is Back 4 Blood Worth Trying Out?
All in all, Back 4 Blood has a lot of interesting things going for it. However, in its current state, it’s probably a good idea to go for a “wait and see” approach. The game has a lot of potential, but it needs a bit of time to get that potential out.
This concludes our Back 4 Blood gameplay review. The next section looks further into games similar to Back 4 Blood.
Games Like Back 4 Blood
Now that we’ve talked about Back 4 Blood in our gameplay review, let’s talk about other games with a similar premise. We’ll start with the obvious one, Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. Then, we’ll talk about Warhammer: Vermintide 2, and lastly, World War Z.
Left 4 Dead 1 & 2
Left 4 Dead is the quintessential zombie shooter game that ever came out and for good reason — from its incredible gameplay to the vicious yet fair AI Director. The game’s graphics still hold out after a long time, and the serious yet sometimes funny banter between the characters lends a good bent to the game’s world. A lot of Back 4 Blood’s developers also made Left 4 Dead and the latter game’s influences made their mark on Back 4 Blood.
In addition to all this, the game’s source engine also makes it one of the most moddable games out there, adding to its replayability. Do you want to play against Shrek Tanks? That can be done. What about replacing the Survivors with Among Us crew members? Doable. Maps created by the game’s community? Also there. Left 4 Dead is an incredible game, and its influence on zombie shooters is apparent in all of the games on this list.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Next up is Warhammer: Vermintide 2, the sequel to Warhammer: Vermintide. Set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Vermintide 2 has players as several adventurers who, by luck or providence, manage to do their part in defeating evil. Well, it’s not that simple, but this is the basic gist of things.
Still, the game is mad fun even though the initial reception is a bit lackluster. In addition to all this, you fight Skaven, aka the rat people, and the Rotbloods, warriors of the Chaos God Nurgle, who are not very hygienic. Combine that with a developer willing to add DLC’s and expansions to the game? Well, players can expect to have a lot of fun with Vermintide 2 in the future.
World War Z
Last but not least is World War Z, which should be familiar to most people due to the film and the book that inspired it. World War Z is, of course, set in our world where a zombie virus has decimated humanity.
Players play as four characters in different parts of the world who need to get out of their current location due to the severe rise of the zombie population. If you’ve played Left 4 Dead or any of the games on this list, you already know the drill. The only different thing is the fact that World War Z’s on 3rd Person perspective.