Back 4 Blood is a solid spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead

Back 4 Blood is the latest in the looter-shooter zombie apocalypse co-op genre, which was very much pioneered and perfected (depending on who you ask) by the Left 4 Dead series.

Given that Back 4 Blood comes from Turtle Rock Rock Studios too, there was a lot of hype for this title, which had its cross-platform launch on 12th October and for the most part achieved solid reviews from a breadth of international publications.

The user reviews, as is sometimes the case, tell a different story, as we have recently an exodus from Back 4 Blood to the original Left 4 Dead series, particularly within the Steam community.

Is there some kind of disconnect that websites missed and fans of the genre have picked up on? This is what we aim to uncover below.

As such, instead of our traditional review, we’re going to look at the things that Back 4 Blood does well and whether and can indeed be classed as a worthy successor to the genre that Left 4 Dead help build.

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Starting up Back 4 Blood very much reminds us of the opening stanza of Saving Private Ryan. Namely a short introduction where the major players are loosely showcased to the viewers and then we land on the beaches of Normandy, diving head first into killing zombies that are called the Ridden in this series.

During the course of the campaign mode, which consists of four different parts and compromises of a little less than 20 chapters, you uncover why the world is as post-apocalyptic as it is, discovering the origins of the virus that turned the dead into undead hordes that have a penchant for wanting to kill you and your team.

All in all, it is pretty standard for the genre, but Turtle Rock tries to spice things up by adding more nuanced dimensions to your foursome.

There are eight characters in total in offer, each running the gamut of ethnicity, gender, age and skills, so there is a decent amount to choose from, provided you’re looking at the online co-op modes. If you are sticking to the campaign, you only have access to four to start things off – Holly, Mom, Evangelo and Walker.

On top of the aforementioned skills, there is also a card system at play to help you customise the different perks and abilities your character (referred to as cleaners in the game) will have during each new mission. This system adds a little bit of flavour to the overall experience, but it isn’t anything groundbreaking for the genre.

The same goes for the Ridden, with different types each sporting varying abilities that need addressing. There are your run of the mill Ridden, which are fairly easy to take out provided they don’t pop out of the ground to snatch and hold you down, or when a horde of them are summoned depending on the actions of players.

The other Ridden also run a fairly familiar gamut, with the Snitcher summoning more zombies, the Tallboy and Reeker being semi-tanks and the Stinger being a more agile and hard to hit opponent.

In general, the Ridden don’t necessarily offer the challenge that many may be hoping for in the campaign mode, but we have found the co-op multiplayer modes ramp things up significantly, especially when playing with other actual people instead of bots.

That said, if your communication is on point and you are not saddled with toxic or frustrating team members, the co-op experience can be quite rewarding as there is a distinct sense of achievement when completing an objective or knocking out an opposing team.

As for the mechanics, this is where Back 4 Blood shines. We played the PS5 version of the game and things run buttery smooth on the current gen console. Turning and navigating the environment was sharp, although traversing obstacles leaves a little to be desired.

That issue aside though, and the gunplay was particularly satisfying.

We had hoped that given this game was played on a PlayStation 5, it would have made the most of the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers to offer up different sensations depending on the weapon being employed, but that was not the case here as it has been on other recent shooters on the PS5.

If there is that kind of mechanic, it was not evident here, but regardless of that, we enjoyed the speed and precision of all weapons on offer. Where those playing on console are always at a disadvantage compared to those on PC for shooters, as was abundantly evident on Resident Evil Village, the responsiveness on offer for Back 4 Blood is welcome.

Now we get to the missing ingredient – absurdity – which is what helped to set the Left 4 Dead series apart from other looter shooters.

Characters were seemingly in on the joke and leaned on the absurdity helping to cut through from some of the intensity of fighting off hordes of zombies.

Back 4 Blood has some of this, with AI members of the team reacting to mistakes you may make while playing or when a Tallboy/Reeker explodes and spews viscera all over the place. There is sadly not enough of this though, with the cut scenes in between chapters providing the only fix.

As such, Back 4 Blood may be a little bit too straight laced for fans of the genre.

If you can look past that, there is a solid zombie looter shooter on offer, which may benefit from such love in the form of DLC.


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