Star Rating:


Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series XS, PS4, PS5

Release Date: Tuesday 12th October 2021

Genre(s): Action, Horror

As a spiritual successor to 'Left 4 Dead', Back4Blood takes many cues from the cult series, featuring numerous easter eggs and hidden messages in saferooms and the walls of missions referring to 'Left 4 Dead'.

The callbacks aren’t limited to easter eggs, with the entirety of the game and premise essentially crafting 'Left 4 Dead 3', or as close to it as possible.

Of course, there are many differences, and general improvements from the 10+-year-old series 'Back4Blood' builds upon.

Now, instead of merely choosing a character based on their aesthetic, each character has a unique set of base skills and starting weapons.

For most of this writer's playthroughs, I played as Karlee or Mom. Karlee, as a first preference, offers a foresight feature. When close enough to objects and doors that will alert the horde, the game UI (User Interface) highlights alarmed doors and cars in red to alert the player team before an unwanted skirmish for survival occurs.

Karlee also has the added benefit of starting every run with a toolkit and a Tec-9 SMG as a secondary weapon – arguably the best secondary weapon in the game besides melee weapons or holding two primaries by using a card.

And therein lies the biggest draw (pun excused) of 'Back4Blood's addition to the existing 'Left 4 Dead' formula.

The card system, while at first may seem like a misfit for a game like this, is a very welcome and enjoyable feature.

In each run, players create a deck of cards offering perks, buffs, and nerfs to change up the gameplay. For example, lower-level cards may increase stamina or health.

With higher level cards offering to reload weapons while holstered at the cost of weapon swap speed. With so many permutations of combinations of cards to use on a run, coupled with the game AI director randomly generating scenarios for you and your team to overcome, the possibilities of a run are endless.

All combined, this results in so much replayability for the player, and each of the difficulty levels on offers further replayability for players to overcome the challenge.

With that said, there are some sticking points.

While all the elements are in place for 'Back4Blood' to offer a near-endless repayable co-op multiplayer experience, it misses the mark.

Firstly, the friendly AI is in shambles.

What started out as looking like some minor pathfinding issues quickly uncovered itself to be useless AI. At one point on a forced solo run, I was grabbed by a hag, forced to watch as they chewed down on Karlee’s body as three AI-controlled teammates stood aimlessly by being attacked by the general horde.

Secondly, the campaign and story is scant. Replayability would indicate a greater volume of voice lines too, which is frankly repetitive to the point of irritation. As great as the voice talent is in the game, hearing Mom say the same line about how she likes being called Mom over and over is tiring.

While limited by the pandemic and other factors, it would have been great to see or hear a greater variety of voice lines in moments throughout the game.

On the point of enduring a solo run like this comes the problem of matchmaking.

If there's one thing 'Back4Blood' does incredibly well it’s that it is the game that makes you miss your friends.

When playing 'Back4Blood' with friends, or even randomers online, it was a real hoot.

However, without actual people controlling at least some of the characters, the AI makes this game so unappealing.

On the aforementioned solo run, I was three-quarters of the way through the game on my first playthrough and my usual squad weren't available.

Having to play on the lowest difficulty, matchmaking seemed to not be my friend and threw me into a game by myself with three AI-controlled characters.

Frankly, with all its replayability, 'Back4Blood' misses the mark.

Fresh players will be alienated as, since its release, most players have flown through the campaign and are playing on higher difficulties with better decks.

On the one occasion I was lucky to get matchmade with two lovely random players, they didn’t realise they were playing on the lowest difficulty right away, and once they did realise, the game got a lot tougher.

With their better decks, and receiving beggar all rewards from this run, the players took to sabotage for their enjoyment. Every set of birds, every door alarm and every car alarm were set off bringing larger waves of the horde to tackle.

The game is simultaneously, too hard, and too easy dependent on your card system and the number of playthroughs.

On a fundamental level, more balancing is needed in 'Back4Blood' to ensure the game is open to new and existing players.

On the player versus player mode, briefly, this too is unbalanced.

The horde has an unfair advantage once a team discovers a very easily exploited meta.

Two Hockers and two Retch create an environment for the cleaner team whereby they cannot last long in the mode. And instead of the rounds coming down to player skill and survival, it comes down to who can hock and spit the enemy team the quickest.

Overall, 'Back4Blood' displays a lot of potential and is immensely fun with a full four stack of players, but without ongoing balancing updates, it may put new and existing players alike off playing.