Team-Up Zombie Romp 'Back 4 Blood' Exceeds Expectations

Not just a Left 4 Dead clone

Key Takeaways

  • Back 4 Blood is now available, giving fans a spiritual successor to the original Left 4 Dead franchise.
  • While Back 4 Blood hits on a lot of the high points brought to life by the original series, it also deviates from the formula to add new twists and turns.
  • In the end, Turtle Rock has managed to re-create the addicting gameplay of the Left 4 Dead series, while also introducing new mechanics to help keep things feeling fresh 10 years after the formula’s birth.
A screenshot from 'Back 4 Blood.'

Despite deviating from the original formula that made survival games like Left 4 Dead so addicting, Back 4 Blood still exceeds at all it sets out to do, even if it stumbles along the way.

We’re almost there. I can see the markers for the safe house painted on the side of a building, pushing my rag-tag group of survivors towards safety. It’s a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to over the years and one that always feels welcome when it starts to hit.

We round a corner, finding ourselves face to face with a Tallboy, one of the many unique enemies that Back 4 Blood has to offer. Alone, they aren’t hard to lead around the world, taking potshots at their weak points, but if the Director (what Turtle Rock calls the AI that decides how many and which zombies to throw at you in any given level) throws more at you, things can get tricky. As we prepare to take it on, we hear another roar behind it, a second Tallboy emerging from behind a semi-trailer.

Our hopes of easily making it to the safe room vanish. We’re already running low on ammo, and Tallboys take quite a few bullets to put down. The Director hasn’t gone easy on us this run, and it doesn’t look like it plans to pull any punches, even at the end of the level.

It’s this complete unknowing of what lies around the next corner that helps make Back 4 Blood so addicting and part of what keeps me running back to Turtle Rock’s latest release with open arms.

A screenshot from 'Back 4 Blood.'

Mixing Up the Formula

"If it isn't broke, don't fix it." Chances are, you've heard that saying at least once in your life. While it might be true for many things, when it comes to games like Back 4 Blood, which borrows heavily from other games, mixing things up isn't always a bad thing.

One of the biggest differences you'll notice outright in Back 4 Blood is the introduction of Decks. Essentially, players can put together different decks of cards they can unlock as they play. These cards then grant you various perks, like increased health, at the cost of making your character move slower. 

I wasn't the biggest fan of the cards and decks back in the beta, but now that I've had more time with them, and I've been able to build actual classes with unlocked cards, I get the appeal of adding a card-based perk system. It brings a lot of additional variance to the game and puts more control in the hands of the player—if they delve into it enough.

Each character also comes with their own perks, like increased health, more ammo, or even better melee attacks. Much like the cards you unlock, these perks all help to make each run feel different as you play through the levels again and again. Back 4 Blood also utilizes an AI director similar to Left 4 Dead, though this time it seems to have a bit more control over the world and where enemies appear.

A screenshot from 'Bacl 4 Blood.'

Standing on Its Own

The unfortunate thing about dubbing something a spiritual successor, though, is that oft-times, people start to compare the new experience to the original far too much. Back 4 Blood is, for all intents and purposes, a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead. However, it is not Left 4 Dead 3, nor does it feel like Turtle Rock intended it to be.

There are many times when Back 4 Blood fails to hit the same high notes as the original games did, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to hit all the same notes at the same level to be a good game. Instead, it just needs to excel at the new things that it brings to the table, and Turtle Rock has done just that.

Sure, Back 4 Blood isn’t just a clone of what Turtle Rock accomplished with Left 4 Dead, and that’s what makes it so good. But we’ve already played that game a thousand times. It’s time to try something different.

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