Left 4 Dead is one of my favorite games I’ve ever played. There isn’t much like it out there and it’s a game my niece frequently wants to hop into with me. Since it’s over 10 years old though, the controls and gameplay can be difficult and it’s not a ton of fun to play with the bots. With the release of Back 4 Blood, I’ve been cautiously optimistic that it would fill the void of Left 4 Dead and I have to say, I think it has.
Back 4 Blood takes the Left 4 Dead formula and makes it drastically better. The game introduces a slew of new characters you can choose from that each offer special perks and skills to support the team. In this game, players build decks of cards that provide a variety of benefits. They can increase your health and stamina, make it easier to find copper (the in-game currency), and even provide critical help in times where it’s looking like your team is about to meet their demise. Like Left 4 Dead, there are “acts” you play your way through, but Back 4 Blood introduces much longer, more complex challenges throughout the story. Rather than just trying to survive, your team is tasked with helping other survivors and uncovering what is driving the zombie hordes.
I really love how immersive the game is and how it feels like there is purpose to what you’re doing. The levels are unique, the design and mood is ominous and beautiful, and I loved seeing where the game took me. You have the option of playing alone or with people online. While I typically would prefer not to play with random strangers, the game does not reward the solo campaign in the same way. Completing levels in an online campaign awards “supply points” that can be used to unlock new cards and cosmetics for characters. You will not get these in the solo campaign which is a bummer. In some cases, you can get lucky and find yourself alone in the online story (you have a better chance of this if you’re starting in the middle of an act rather than at the beginning of each), but bots are not exactly reliable. I mean, check out my team of bots fearlessly facing off with this… car.
You have the option to carry specific types of gear with you that each serve a different purpose. Different types of grenades, healing kits, toolkits, and stun guns can be used to help your team survive each act. While at first I was opting for the toolkits so I could unlock specific doors, I found I prefer keeping a stun gun on me because if you find yourself facing a special enemy type and you’re on your own, a stun gun can get you out of it.
After several experiences with unreliable teammates abandoning me or crappy bots doing nothing, I recommend choosing the stun gun over the other options for that category. Stun guns do run out though and you may still find yourself in an awful situation. In this next video, you’ll see my heroic team of bots stuck in a room and me being absolutely demolished by zombies (Sometimes they’ll teleport forward, but I wasn’t so lucky this time). I escape the first special only to be immediately taken over by another. I get to watch myself slowly die while my bots try to jump through a window on another floor for an eternity. Thanks guys.
Humans aren’t any more reliable than bots necessarily. You’ll find yourself matched with people who run ahead, who have no regard for hazards, or just don’t care to help teammates out of bad situations. I learned from this clip that if someone is talking in my game, it will capture their voice. Watch as people won’t get in the safe room and invite special zombies to come destroy us. Then, listen to the awkward laugh of my teammate as we finally get everyone to go inside.
In addition to special zombies, you’ll also find yourself facing off with “boss” enemies in different stages. Ogres, breakers, and hags are just some of the monstrosities you’ll face off with. While you are supposed to be aiming for their weak spots, it can be a bit chaotic and accuracy isn’t always easy. The first time an ogre showed up, I was in awe. The first time a hag showed up, I realized it may be the worst enemy type in the game. Hags seem to be the rarest encounter, but they suuuuccckkkk. I don’t have a video of a hag encounter because I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen one and when I do, I run for my life.
I really love the visuals in this game and how immersive it is. You explore a variety of locations and encounter unique obstacles in each. A stand-out difference in Back 4 Blood is the amount of chances you get to complete the act. If your team dies and you do not have any “continues” left, your group will be automatically disbanded and your run will be failed. You have to start a new run and you may choose between starting from the beginning of the act or picking the last stage you were in. Generally, you’ll have better luck matching more quickly if you start over, but you will eventually end up in a game either way. I also discovered your team will be automatically disbanded after successfully completing an act. Womp.
There is a multiplayer versus mode you can play in which people take turns being zombies or survivors. I tried this once on the first day I played, but I wasn’t really into it. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more now that I have a better grasp of what’s going on, but I don’t think it is my main area of interest. Right now, I’ve been revisiting levels and playing with my niece. The game gets progressively harder, especially the ends of Act 3 and Act 4, but the earlier levels, while challenging, give you more opportunities to mess up without it being catastrophic.
Overall, I am really enjoying this game. If you loved playing Left 4 Dead, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this game. The world-building is great, the designs are creative and fun, and it feels like there is a real story unfolding as you move forward. I have been going back and revisiting levels to continue unlocking new perks. So far, I’ve played on the introductory difficulty level and with how hard it gets, I’m afraid to see how challenging the harder versions are.
I can share more about how the game plays and experiences I have in higher difficulty modes another day, but for now, I leave you with this secret. Birds alert hordes of zombies. If you want to avoid them, but don’t feel like sneaking around, throw a frag grenade at them and blow them up like my niece demonstrates here:
Are you playing this game? How do you think it stacks up to Left 4 Dead? Let me know in the comments!