Back 4 Blood Review
Fans of Left 4 Dead can rejoice – Back 4 Blood is bloody brilliant. It comes with a slew of issues; this I can’t deny. But, when it comes down to it, the sum of its parts equal something far too good for a few shortcomings to spoil the party. The latest from Turtle Rock Studios shows that not only does this team still unequivocally sit atop the zombie-shooter genre, but that they’ll continue to do so for a long, long time.
It’s not that Back 4 Blood reinvents the wheel. The truth is, if it weren’t for the shiny coat of paint making the game look as good as one would hope something releasing in 2021 looks, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Back 4 Blood and Left 4 Dead. The premise still revolves around a team of four people, hacking, stabbing, and shooting their way through an endless stream of the undead. As you mow wave after wave down, you’ll methodically work your way from one safe room to the next, where you’ll earn a few moments to catch your breath and find your bearings.
Back 4 Blood begins to differentiate itself from its predecessors in its use of card-based deck-building mechanics. Progressing through the campaign or winning matches in the PVP ‘Swarm’ mode will net you resources that can be spent on various bonuses. Many of these come in the way of the cards mentioned above, which will boost your character when equipped. Extra health and ammo, faster reload speeds, and better modifications are only the tip of the iceberg, and I appreciate that Back 4 Blood will throw modifier cards into the mix that work to make things more difficult. Plus, given that there’s such a large pool of cards to play with already, it’ll be a while before you start to feel the pangs of repetition.
Equally as crucial for keeping Back 4 Blood feeling fresh is the smooth, Call of Duty-esque gunplay that the developers have adopted. I’ll admit, both Left 4 Dead titles didn’t click with me in the ways they did with others. Much of this had to do with them feeling choppy and sluggish compared to the staples of the genre. But, Back 4 Blood remedies this by not only nailing the feeling of rewarding, satisfying gunplay but delivering it all at a consistent 60-frames per second. Enemy heads pop, squish, and splat in gloriously garish fashion, feeling particularly gratifying thanks to the PS5’s DualSense controller. Turtle Rock Studios has made clever use of the haptic feedback, ensuring every shot feels as if they ring out in your hand. It’s an excellent effect and one that genuinely helps in creating immersion.
Of course, as was the case all those years ago with Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood is chockfull of issues, some big and some small. The largest of its problems being that, in its current state, single-player is utterly meaningless. If you choose to play solo, you won’t be rewarded supply points, you won’t earn trophies/achievements, and you won’t unlock the four characters that require a bit of story progression to gain access to. It’s flabbergasting to think that a decision like this could be made by a team of people with functioning brains, but at the very least, Turtle Rock Studios have already announced they are looking at fixing this blunder.
Other grievances pepper throughout Back 4 Blood, running the gamut from minor annoyances to deeply, profoundly exasperating issues. Items demand a frustrating amount of precision to pick up. Attachments cannot be removed unless they’re replaced with something else. The number of special enemies that spawn is ridiculous; there are times you’ll scratch and claw to fight through three or four extra-powerful foes, only to be greeted by the same group of zombies in the next room.
Then there’s the difficulty itself. You’ll find Back 4 Blood sporting a traditional easy (classic), medium (survivor), and hard (nightmare) mode, but the gap between these levels is entirely ridiculous. Easy could be cakewalked through with a team consisting of you and your parents. Medium is made for people that live and die for first-person shooters. And hard is, simply put, an abomination.
Yet, I can’t help but feel that, regardless of its current dilemmas, Back 4 Blood still manages to be a damn good time.
Staying 4 More
Back 4 Blood is one that I’ll be playing for a long time to come. Turtle Rock Studios has committed to improving the game, both through new content and patches. And I trust that they’ll right most of the wrongs with their latest zombie-slaying simulator. It may feel light on content, and you’ll need a team of people if you want to make any actual progress, but hop on board now, and you still be pleasantly surprised at just how fun Back 4 Blood can be.
***PS5 review code provided by the publisher***