|Developer||Turtle Rock Studios|
|Publisher||Warner Bros. Games|
|Platforms||Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC|
|Release Date||October 12, 2021|
When Back 4 Blood first got announced a few years back, I was ecstatic! Finally, a worthy successor to the Left 4 Dead franchise originally created by Turtle Rock Studios and later acquired by Valve. But how does Turtle Rock’s newest foray into the FPS genre fare in comparison to its predecessor? Read on to find out!
Violence: Gore and viscera is plentiful as zombies and Special Infected (the boss-level zombies) explode or get chopped up, leaving behind blood, guts, and other gory bits.
Language: Your standard fare for a horror game, though foul language is infrequent and mild. You’ll hear an occasional f***, s***, or d***!
Drug Use: One major episode is set in a bar with alcohol aplenty but no characters really drink or use drugs though players can find pill bottles than can be used for temporary health buffs and for minor healing, just like in Left 4 Dead.
Sexuality: Some zombies shuffle around in low cut tops and some characters may make the occasional innuendo-filled joke, but beyond that there isn’t much in the way of sexual content.
Spirituality: As far as spirituality, characters may comment on faith while defending a church as the last segment of a mission, but there are no characters who were pastors before the outbreak and nothing in the barebones plot that actively preaches a message or anything of that nature.
B4B starts in a hub of sorts where players can edit their Cleaners, the name given to survivors fighting back against the infected, by selecting armor presets, costumes, weapon skins, and other customization options. There is also a shooting range, access to B4B’s PVP Swarm mode, and places to upgrade Supply Lines (the path to progression for unlocks) and change out decks before missions.
Die-hard fans of L4D will feel right at home with the core gunplay and mechanics of B4B as it is mostly identical to what they loved about Turtle Rock’s previous hit. The main thrust of the game is still for players to shoot and stab their way through hordes of infected and special infected on their way to a safe room where they can use accumulated currency to buy and/or upgrade weapons and gear. There is still a barebones story about the outbreak and most cutscenes are only there to introduce each Cleaner, of which there are eight total at first, with the latter four becoming available upon finishing Act 1 of the game.
Where gameplay really differentiates itself is with the card system. The AI Director gets a set of three cards at the start of each mission which alter the setup in some way, such as creating a hazy fog around the map or making enemies more vulnerable to head shots and less vulnerable to body shots. However, as a counter-balance, players have their own deck of fifteen cards to choose from. Everyone starts with the same basic deck, but as supply lines are opened and upgraded over the course of play, more powerful cards become available. While the base cards offer things like 10% more ammo or giving you a knife for your basic melee attack, higher rarity cards will give you a charge attack when wielding melee weapons or even allow you to restore a bit of health for each melee kill. Still others might give you extra slots for throwables like molotovs. This really encourages experimentation and ensures that no two playthroughs will be entirely the same. All Supply Line upgrades and accumulated supply points are unlocked through playing the game, as so far there are no micro-transactions to speak of.
There is also a solo campaign, but unfortunately, at the time of writing, Turtle Rock has not yet implemented a way to allow supply points to be unlocked through solo play. This means that any progression made when playing online with friends or randoms does not carry over when switching to solo play. However, campaign progress does carry over. This is one of only two major flaws with the game, as the second is the disappointing PVP options.
Whereas L4D and it’s sequel has a PVP mode that could be played within the campaign, here there are just separate smaller maps with clustered arenas where player-controlled Cleaners face off against teams of player-controlled special infected and AI zombies. This is disappointing because it makes the PVP feel tacked on and like it doesn’t even belong in the same game, as none of the appeal of the co-op campaign is there and you also don’t earn unlock points for Supply Lines here either.
All in all, Back 4 Blood is a welcome return to an era of zombie shooters which has only recently seen a resurgence with the likes of World War Z and Zombie Army 4. Fans of Left 4 Dead will absolutely love a refined and polished return to the gameplay that made Turtle Rock’s original creation so great, and the new card system brings the game more in line with what modern gamers are accustomed to in other shooters and offer a little something for everyone.
The Bottom Line
Back 4 Blood offers something for everone. It modernizes and refines the beloved gameplay of Left 4 Dead and offers a new card based system to help players build unique and interesting playstyles while a progression system tied solely to gameplay ensures players will keep coming back for more zombie killing mayhem!