Release Date: October 12, 2021
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Director(s): Phil Robb
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Genres: First-person shooter, Survival horror
"Review Copy Provided By Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment & Turtle Rock Studios"
Left 4 Dead was one of the most acclaimed zombie shooter games of the late 2000’s and while it was critically acclaimed, Valve didn’t continue the franchise after Left 4 Dead 2 in 2009. Turtle Rock Studios ended up splitting from Valve and after over a decade, Turtle Rock Studios have teamed up with WB Games to release a new game that is both a new intellectual property and is essentially a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead named Back 4 Blood. The question now is will Back 4 Blood be the game that draws in fans of that may have moved on from the older series or will it be a game that eventually gets left in bargain bin? Let’s find out.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world; humanity is on the brink of ruin after a worldwide outbreak of a parasite not of this world. The majority of humanity is infected by the parasite and turned into what is called the Ridden and it is up to a group of survivors known as the “Cleaners” to fight off the zombie outbreak and save humanity.
The general controls are like a typical first-person shooter in that you have your fire, ADS (Aim Down Sights), jump, crouch, sprint, weapon swap, melee, and support item usage. Back 4 Blood plays almost exactly like Left 4 Dead with a few key differences to set it apart.
Back 4 Blood utilizes a card-based system where you can set up a deck of cards that have various buffs for your character and sometimes for your entire team that can give buffs to your health, stamina, and more. Some cards can give you some unique buffs that switches out your melee attack for a high-powered knife attack or another card that gives all your attacks a massive damage boost while giving you extra damage buffs from incoming attacks when you’re in a near death state. You can find random level cards that will cost you some in game money to activate and give you a random buff. These cards and buffs can also stack and at the start of each level, you will need to build out a deck for your character.
There are 8 characters or “cleaners” to choose from that each play to different strengths and weaknesses. Walker is your general all rounder who can give you the most balanced stats and has, typically, the best weapon loadout of all the characters. Doc is your resident medic and gives you generally the best group and individual healing while someone like Mom is great at being a support/backup character in your 4-party team. Speaking of 4 party teams, you will need to balance out your team as no 2 players can pick the same cleaner so if one person picks Walker then another player will need to select from the remaining 7 characters.
There are 3 difficulties to choose from being Recruit, Veteran, and Nightmare. Recruit gives you a fair amount of challenge without becoming too insane and is ultimately an enjoyable experience regardless of your ability to work as a team or not. Veteran gives you a fair amount of challenge and requires you to work with your team and know the various class strengths of each character. Nightmare is honestly for those who enjoy struggling and making it out of the fox hole by the skin of their teeth, nightmare is not beginner friendly and is honestly a mode only for the most hardcore of hardcore gamers.
There are 4 Acts to work through in the campaign that are broken up into smaller sections that can take anywhere from 15-25 minutes each to complete that will have various objectives within them such as bomb placement, tower defense horde mode, deliver the packages, and more.
This game looks good, like REALLY good. The art style isn’t shooting for full on realism, yet it does walk the middle ground of realistic and video gamey. If anything, I would say take what L4D looked like and bring it to the modern era and there you go. Each character has a unique look to them which gives them so much character and life. The enemies look as they should given that you are going up against the undead and look like they stepped out of a B-Rated horror flick. You have a good variety in enemy types and sizes such as having the typical zombies be bunched up in giant hordes while the larger and smaller enemies stand out from them with the Tall Boy and Burster variants.
Levels look gorgeous especially when you get to see the fog and lighting effects which greatly add to the mood and atmosphere of the levels that you are in.
Is the game going to win any awards for it’s looks? No, then again it doesn’t need to either.
The characters all fit into one of several B-Movie Horror flick archetypes complete with them spouting off one-liners and having some hilarious quips. The voice acting is well done, and you’ll even hear some familiar voices such as Steve Blum of Cowboy Bebop fame. The voice acting during cutscenes was well directed as it helps to draw you into the narrative of the world these characters live in. The weapons firing off, explosions, unsettling moans, and more all sound as they should and there’s not much more I can say about it other than that.
The only downside I can think of is the fact that the card system can seem daunting and may even offput some people who may want to just jump in and start mowing down some zombies. Given that you need to pay attention to what each card does and carefully build your deck of cards; I can see a lot of people finding this to be overwhelming and needless.
The other issue is how dumb the AI companions are, although compared to the early beta’s, they are substantially better yet they still kinda suck as they will get caught on walls, doors, and more. Some will even rush into a horde of zombies and get themselves killed messing up any chance of utilizing strategy with them.
My last complaint is that I can’t customize my guns the way I want outside of in level shops the way I can in other shooters which I find to be an easily fixed oversight. I want to be able to have a custom loadout every time I dive into playing and not have to always earn a specific loadout.
Is Back 4 Blood the spiritual follow up to the Left 4 Dead series that we’ve all been waiting for and is it worth your money? Yes, yes, it is and much more. I see B4B to be a gain with endless replayability and is that refreshing shot of energy the FPS genre has been sorely lacking for years now. While not everything is perfect in B4B, enough of the game just simply shines and is unapologetically fun to play and knows what it is. If you are looking for a fun multiplayer shooter that you can dive into with friends, strangers, or even by yourself with tons of customization options, a unique deck of cards formula and revives the fun of the Left 4 Dead series enhances that formula; then Back 4 Blood is the game you need to be playing.