BACK 4 BLOOD Review (Xbox Series X|S)
Updated: Oct 19
Developed: Turtle Rock Studios
Published: WB Games
Genre: First Person Cooperative Shooter
Release Date: Oct 12th, 2021
Platforms: Xbox Series/PS5/PS4/Windows
*Review copy provided to me by WB Games
''Back 4 More''
Back 4 Blood is a first person cooperative shooter game that is developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by WB Games. Taking their own inspiration and ambitions from their long dormant franchise, Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock attempts to bring back that chaotic arcade like zombie apocalypse fun that has been missing for quite some time. But do they succeed in delivering on their own vision? Only one way to find out, so lets go!
A zombie apocalypse has taken over the entire world and has left cities and countries in a state of chaos and destruction. With the infection being labeled as the Ridden, it is now up to a group of survivors, known as The Cleaners, to take the fight back to the undead monsters and figure out how to bring their reign of terror to an end before its too late.
Back 4 Blood is the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead, and in most cases, feels nearly identical to what you played and enjoyed years before, even down to characters, premise and zombie types. Band of selectable heroes, check, different zombie types with their own skills and abilities, check, escaping and starting each new level in a safehouse, check again. So is it the same game then? yes and no. While yes those things are very hand in hand similar to Left 4 Dead, they honestly do not feel 100% the same overall. Confused? I'll elaborate. Left 4 Dead had Boomers that were bloated and could explode their nasty goo all over you and Back 4 Blood's equivalent to this is the zombie type of Retch. Both zombie types from each game roughly do the same, rush you, explode, spit on you and attract a horde. This holds true for the other remaining zombie types in Back 4 Blood as well. Snitcher is similar to a Witch in regards to if you startle him, shoot him or make a sound, he will alert the enemy horde, Stinger is just like a Smoker who can grab and pin you, and the zombie type of Breaker is in the same vein of the Tank from left 4 dead. Sure that might sound like a copy and paste job, but let me assure you that it's not the case here in Back 4 Blood. This is because the game having over a dozen different Ridden variants. Each of these variants posing a very different threat than the other, guaranteeing that your life is going to be a living hell. Now I have to get out the habit of calling these things zombies though, they're Ridden, not zombies, we don't use the Zed word here! according to Shaun. So out of respect to him, we won't say it from here on out. But ok you know the premise, you know some of the zombie types, let's now focus on how the game actually plays.
When you start your game, you're thrown into a hub area that is basically like a little survivor camp made up of all the people who are still trying to take the fight back to the infected Ridden. This central hub area is where you will access all the main features this game has to offer you. It's not an abundance of stuff, but it's enough to at least keep you entertained. Here in the survivor outpost is where you can check out the training camp that allows you to train yourself with each weapon in the game. This includes machine guns, pistols, shot guns, rifles, grenades, and melee weapons like bats and machetes. Straight across from his area you'll find out where you can customize one of the playable eight characters you will have at your ready. All of who have their own specific loadouts and stats. We'll get to that in a minute though. This section overall is mainly for aesthetic purposes, so unless you really want to change clothes that badly, it's not really anything of substance overall. This is basically the same deal for the customize weapons area of the camp. If you want to change your guns color or melee weapon color, knock yourself out, otherwise, just move on along. So what the heck is even the point of the hub area, this is all just aesthetic stuff and thangs!. Simmer down Rick Grimes. You didn't let me finish. In this area, you will also have access to your campaign, deck cards and supply lines. These 3 categories alone is what sets Back 4 Blood apart from being in the shadow of Left 4 Dead and immediately puts it in the bracket of ''more unique'' than the previous two Left 4 Dead titles. Now you have all you need in order to you know...play the actual game. I know, crazy concept right?
As you boot up the main games campaign mode, solo or online, you will be able to pick between one of the four main characters to play as and each of these characters offering a different buff or weapon at the start of the match. For instance a character like Evangelo has an automatic stamina regen, as well as a team buff of movement speed, Walker gives the team a boost in health and allowing him to deal 10% more in damage, Holly having the ability to be resistant to some small amounts of damage and applying a +25 stamina gain to the entire team. It goes the same way for all the other unlockable characters as well. With only being able to pick one character per match, with no duplicates allowed, you will have to learn to play as multiple different characters in order to be an effective teammate. The main reason I tell you to learn to play as other characters is because every character you play as, operates on its own separate loadout and deck selection. What the heck is a deck selection, are we playing Yugioh now? ITS TIME TO DUEL. Wait no no, it's not Yugioh, but there is card strategy involved to some degree. So what is deck selection? Well deck selection is a series of unlockable cards that are equipped to each characters loadout screen. Picking the right set of cards to use will determine what type of role player you will be for any party you are in and will determine whether you are more of a supporting role, attacker, medic, etc. One example of this is my use of the character Walker, in which who I currently have 15 separate cards equipped to his loadout, all them having special stat increases of faster reload speed, health regeneration for critical hits, increase in weakness damage to enemy ridden, boost in healing efficiency, raise in ammo capacity and a plethora more. Picking the right load out will determine how far you will get in the campaign, or how much of a nuisance you are to others, and if you aren't careful, leave your team in a splatter of blood like I ended up leaving poor Mom in this game. Hey Mom. You got Red on you. But don't go away just yet, card decks aren't only usable for these characters in the main campaign because they're also able to be equipped for solo campaign, online campaign decks and swarm decks. But I'll get into the swarm decks when we dive into our extra stuff section, as well as tell you about a role that Supply Lines plays in your roughly 12 hour adventure. Game time differing depending on your teammates skills and difficulty level.
Depending on what type of glutton for punishment you are, you will have the options to choose from multiple difficulty levels, each one being more challenging than the last. Coast along, enjoy the ride and the story mode with no real added stress by playing on Recruit with no friendly fire. Veteran mode which acts like the normal difficulty mode for the game where more strategy will need to be undertaken to get through it by utilizing your deck to your full advantage and then there's Nightmare mode, a mode that you had best play with a static party of your close group of friends to even stand a chance because otherwise you're either going to break your controller or have a stroke. Whichever comes first. The overall campaign mode is structured by Acts, four acts to be exact and each act, with the exception of act 4, pushing you through an assortment of locales across 7-8 different stages per act. If there's one thing Turtle Rock Studios nailed in this games outing, its intensity and atmosphere. Starting off slow, allowing you move through the dark woods and only seeing normal mutated Ridden with their glowing eyes, can really set the tone, especially when hearing growling and snarling out in the distance. The game eases you into the madness by having you slowly make your way through stages, picking off enemy ridden, completing specific objectives like pass the level with all Cleaners alive, etc. But it's not until mid act 1 and heading into the latter half leading to Act 2, where things really start heating up. As you begin your creeping progression through the stages, one after another, the scenery changes, no longer is it a dark and cold forest, but now you're in a suburban neighborhood looting houses, finding the previous dead owners now turned undead, an eerie gloomy cemetery that looks like its ripped straight out of an old Universal monster movie, a long forgotten shipyard, now turned ghost wasteland for ships and its crew, and even down to Sunnyvale Trailer Park where Ricky and the boys used to hang out. Man. Every since Lahey stopped being in charge, this place has really went down hill... The apocalypse didn't even arrive here, this is just how bad things were ran under Randy. Stick to cheeseburgers, Randy bo bandy. Heck you even find Freddy Kruegers house, red and green sweater and all, no joke.
If you remember the days of screaming on your mic as enemy hordes swarm you in Left 4 Dead then you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that feeling is back, at least in online multiplayer and some of it in solo mode. Even with a fully upgraded card deck at your disposal or accessories like laser sights, damage boosts, magazine increases, defibrillator to raise fallen opponents, health packs and pills to increase yours or your allies health, tasers to break a Ridden grapple.. all of that still won't save you from some of the more frantic game play. Each corner you come around could be your last, with Ridden like Hocker, who hide in the trees and off in the distance who are able to paralyze you in place or swiftly attack, Bruiser who with his mutated arm, overwhelms you with his raw power, Retch, who attracts the ridden horde after you and then poisons you by spitting a large amount of green goop on you, so much in fact that even Peter Vankman would think Slimer was involved. Shooting each mutated special Ridden and killing them isn't exactly easy either, most of them are complete sponges if you try to take them head on, especially the big bad mini boss fights with Ogre that takes place. Ogre is a gigantic mutated Ridden who must be taken down with bombs, mounted machine guns or just slowly picked apart little by little over time, barring you of course, running out of ammo. But this is why you always aim for a weak spot that every Ridden has on their body in order to take them down as fast as you can to avoid catastrophe. Bruisers have weak points on their arm, Retch for the stomach, Ogre shoulders and stomach, Stalker and Crusher in the head, etc. Knowing these weak points will determine how long you live.
But just killing zombies from point A to point B wouldn't be too much fun after awhile, it would be kind of tedious right? Lucky the folks over at Turtle Rock were ahead of the game and gave you side objectives to do, so the action breaks up into sections of running and gunning, securing an item like lab experiments, destroying ridden nests hidden throughout a level, rescuing survivors, turning on power generators or activating gates to unlock areas with your next objective. But holy crap, activating a fence literally made me scream because you're stuck in a tight area where you can't move and you have literally 20-30 Ridden infected rushing you and you have nowhere to run. I nearly ran out of ammo and soon that fence opened, goodbye team, I'm out like Forest Gump. There are MANY of these types of moments In Back 4 Blood, many many instances happen while you're in the heat of the battle, and then you're told ''run to the exit''. But what the heck? where is it, its literally nowhere around. You start to panic and think to yourself ''Ok.. where is safe... where is familiar'' and suddenly. Bam you got it, The Winchester. Wait no.. that's not right, the Safehouse, that's what I meant right? ok cool. My go to weapons for around 90% of my playthrough were the Glock and my Carbine. Being able to fight at medium and short distances with headshots and precision kills was fun as all heck, especially when getting cornered and having to just Rambo spam my way out of a situation. However, I did get my Inner negan on and go to town with my bat from time to time. Hitting them in the head and watching it explode, spinning around a harder enemy and just beating him over and over was not only fun but sorta comedic too. You know, now after I busted open some skulls, I can see why Negan did it, sorry Glenn. I know, I'm mean.
Everything above sounds awesome right? well ya for the most part this game is extremely fun, but its far from perfect and there's some serious flaws it has going on. Some of the things I'm about to name can or will be fixed in future patches but for the here and now, they're an issue. Certain areas like crossing along ships, your character will glitch through the floor and fall like they've fallen off a cliff or ledge, in this situation, you cannot be raised or helped up. You must then give up and try again. Game also will randomly boot you to the main title screen and make you re-login, glitch at end of Act 2 where Breakers regenerate their health even when they're not in area of other ridden swarm, and finally the worst culprit. Bad AI. I wish I was about to exaggerate but the BOT AI in this game is literally some of the most frustratingly bad AI I've witnessed in a very long time and I played Alien Colonial Marines. Besides getting in your way during crucial moments which blocks your gun fire, they also will not raise you if you have fallen, and instead, just give you dialogue about picking you up, like they're actually saving you, but not completing the animation and this leaves you sitting there for 2 min until you die. This gets extremely frustrating when they don't help and makes the solo campaign at the end of Act 3 and Act 4 a complete chore and cumbersome experience that literally killed all enthusiasm I had at that time due to enemy placement spam and bad AI. I hated it. It was so bad it even made Rick Grimes cry Oh NO in shame. I had to go online to finish the game with others, which honestly is the TRUE way to play, duh, right?.
Once you have completed the main game, there's still a few things left to do. Take on missions with friends to gain supply points which can be used in the camps Supply Line section to unlock new and more powerful cards to use for future playthroughs or with the buddies. Clocking in at over a dozen to collect to start with, you have a good grind ahead of you. One other fun thing you can take on is Swarm Mode. In Swarm mode you're able to take on other players in a PvP fashion and either take control of one of the humans or fight as a mutated Ridden to eliminate all humans from existence. It's short, simple and to the point. Nothing amazing, but nothing bad.
At the end of the day Back 4 Blood was a fun experience with a lot of mixed baggage in between. There are so many times where this game showed how great it can be with its strategy based card system, intense and engaging gun play, great atmosphere of the levels presented, Ridden that made you think on your toes and use your items more efficiently, fetch missions and destroy nests missions which offered a good break up from all the shooting, all those were great. However, when the game was bad.. It was really really bad. All the negatives stick out like a sore thumb completely. Bad and unresponsive AI, glitchy floors on some levels, questionable level design at the end of Act 3 which made it seem like they just said ''throw everything at them, who cares'', those all made solo campaign a chore to play and not fun. If you are someone who plays offline only and by yourself, I'd suggest waiting for a $40 price drop or passing for now until it gets patched. However, if you have a significant other or buddies to play with, then I totally recommend it in that case because there IS a good game here. This is MEANT to be played with others and anything else, Is just not worth it. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear. GameNChick says BUY NOW... if you play online that is.
*If you play online and have buddies*
*If you prefer the solo game play over online*