If Left 4 Dead and World War Z left you wanting more, then not only will Back 4 Blood have you slaughtering zombies, but doing it with friends across all platforms.
Developed by Turtle Rock Studios (the studio behind Left 4 Dead), Back 4 Blood has you and three other friends (or AI) making your way through hordes of zombies and special infected/mutated undead types. If you’ve played Left 4 Dead or the recent Aliens: Fireteam Elite then you’ll feel right at home with Back 4 Blood, with some added improvements, but also a few changes.
The core gameplay in Back 4 Blood is very similar to that of Turtle Rock’s famous Left 4 Dead series. Four survivors will move from point A to point B, surviving waves of zombies while performing required tasks. Each mission is broken up into multiple acts, with safe houses or safe rooms marking the end of a level. However, there’s a variety of characters to play as in Back 4 Blood, each with their own special ability. For example, the character of Mom can revive a down-but-not-out ally once per level super-fast, has an additional support inventory slot and has an additional extra life before she’s killed and removed from the level.
“The core gameplay in Back 4 Blood is very similar to that of Turtle Rock’s famous Left 4 Dead series. “
There’s also a large variety of weapons available that can be upgraded and modified. You’ve got the standard assault rifles and shotguns that you’d expect to see in any first-person shooter, but then we’ve also got modern favourites like the AA12 auto shotgun, which is fantastic at mowing down hordes of standard zombies. You’ll need these weapons too if you’re going take not only crowds of cannon fodder zombies, but the special zombies that, if you’re not prepared, can easily wipe out a team. Just like in Destiny, The Division or countless battle royale games, weapons and attachments have different rarities, with legendary variants dealing more damage.
Besides new weapons in Back 4 Blood, there’s also a card system which changes the way the game works. Even the easiest difficulty (recruit) is rather difficult, especially when you’re not playing with friends or not coordinating weapons and attacks. The card system not only provides buffs to players, but the game has its own card system too where it’ll throw curveballs at the players. Each character has 15 buff cards that they can equip as they progress through the main campaign, with a new card being equipped at the start of each chapter. Players might have cards that increase reload speed by 20 per cent, or melee kills heal two points of health (which comes in handy if you’re playing as Holly, who’s a melee-based character). But while players get buffs, the game introduces cards that replace standard doors with security doors, that when disturbed set off an alarm summoning a horde of zombies. Or special zombies will have body armour, making it harder to take them down.
Speaking of zombies, Back 4 Blood not only has hordes of standard cannon fodder zombies, but a roulette wheel of death containing those aforementioned special zombies. There’s the standard variety of special zombies you’d expect such as tank classes, fat zombies that vomit on you, spitters and pouncers, but there are also boss-like zombies. One example is the Ogre, which is a behemoth style enemy (roughly the size of a troll from Lord of the Rings, or a Brumach from Gears of War) that throws balls of pus, or catapults you around the map if you get hit. Or the Hag, which works a bit like the Snatchers from Gears of War, grabbing players and running with them. However, the Hag tries to dig a hole and escape, and if they do with a captured player, the player is killed and removed from the mission.
While Back 4 Blood is basically Left 4 Dead for a new generation of players, you may find yourself asking, “Didn’t I already do this mission?”. There are missions here where you’ll repeat the same environments, or levels that require simply eliminating five hordes of zombies to open a safe room door. Some special enemies like the Hocker will spit on you, and we found in some instances spit would travel through or around walls. There are also a decent variety of special infected enemies, however a fair few of them have been copied over from Left 4 Dead, and simply have new designs and names.
If you played the open beta a couple of months ago, some massive changes have been made to the difficulty too. Recruit difficulty can be genuinely hard, and playing on Back 4 Blood‘s version of medium difficulty is impossible without help from the buff cards, and there’s an unfair amount of special enemies on harder difficulties too. Even after playing hours on recruit with some decent cards, we found we still couldn’t even complete the first mission on medium difficulty.
Thankfully though, Back 4 Blood is a simple pick-up-and-play title that isn’t only easy to play, but is completely cross-play between Xbox, PlayStation and PC. Between each act are cutscenes with a story, rather than just moving from mission to mission like we have in previous games like Aliens: Fireteam Elite. There are movie references hidden in levels, and even one mission where you need to activate a jukebox in a bar and fight off waves of zombies like in Shaun of the Dead. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?!
Back 4 Blood is available now on PS5, Xbox and PS4.