Disclaimer: This review was conducted on an Xbox Series X
Everyone has seen the jokes and memes about how Value does not have the mental capacity to count to three. We had Portal, Portal 2, no Portal 3. We had Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2, but no Team Fortress 3. Half Life almost broke the cycle with Half Life, Half Life 2 (broken up into episodes one and two), and then Half Life Alyx, but that is not exactly the title card of Half Life 3 we all wanted. Then Turtle Rock Studios came along and essentially pulled the same thing. We had Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, and now we have Back 4 Blood. And after playing it nonstop for God knows how long, I can confidently say where this game stands, at least in my opinion. So let us talk about just how good this game is.
Who’s Ready 4 Some Story and Lore?
Now obviously the best place to start in a video game review is with the story, not the gameplay, and let me say Back 4 Blood actually has an interesting story! Seeing how this game is clearly modeled to be like Left 4 Dead and plays just like every other purely multiplayer game out there, I expected the story to be very minimal. Left 4 Dead just goes, “Uh there’s a pandemic and it’s making people zombies, and these guys are immune and have to escape. OK bye!” Back 4 Blood feels like it gives more detail and more lore. Granted it does do the same thing of pandemic, immunity, play game, but I feel like the story is more enriching.
You have this expedition research team that goes out and discovers a weird worm thing. Turns out that worm thing is bad and when put in some water it lunges out and infects a scientist. Normal zombie apocalypse stuff happens and now a good chunk of the world is infected, or in this game’s case, “ridden.” On top of that bare-bones explanation of the story, we also get more information about the ridden and the worms themselves. See, the worms breed and reproduce in water, and that is showcased in how you find a lot more ridden in places with a lot of water: lakes, pools, and even water treatment plants are all infected. The worms also collect a bunch of biomass they use to create nests and special ridden. Overall, the storytelling and world building is solid, but it would not hurt to make things a bit more concise and available.
When it comes down to the characters, just like in Left 4 Dead, you have special infected in Back 4 Blood, each with their own traits and characteristics. Unlike Left 4 Dead; however, these special ridden do not get their traits from characteristics the host already had pre-infection. Where Left 4 Dead had the obese people turn into boomers, athletes to hunters, and smokers to, well, smokers, Back 4 Blood has the worms carefully engineer the mutations in the special ridden. And besides how cool that is, I feel like that gives more substance and depth to the infected and apocalypse itself.
The survivors, or cleaners, on the other hand—not so much. I feel like the cleaners have a better group dynamic than the groups of Left 4 Dead, but I do not think they are nearly as memorable. There is no witty and quotable writing in Back 4 Blood, which I think makes the story suffer. I feel like there is a better bond between the cleaners, but not a better bond between them and the player. People remember Coach and Bill years later because of their writing and sheer memorability. The cleaners in Back 4 Blood are written in a way that makes the in-game characters remember them, but not the players, and I find that disappointing.
Fun and Interesting Gameplay? Wowie!!
I am just going to say it straight up, the game is fun. There is a reason I have played it nonstop. From the campaign and spawn mode to even the lobby, it all feels so good. Spawn is Back 4 Blood’s versus/competitive mode, and it is some of the most fun I have ever had in a video game. It stars two teams of four who compete to either survive the longest or kill the other team the fastest. One team starts as the cleaners, and the other as the ridden. The cleaners choose cards that have abilities tied to them and grab as much equipment as they can to prepare for and survive the horde. The ridden get to choose which special ridden they want to play as and spend points on mutations to help them in the coming horde. Then the round starts, and the cleaners must survive as long as possible while the ridden try to kill them. Cleaners die and the teams switch, but the new cleaner team now must survive longer than the other team did to get the point. Meanwhile, the new ridden team must kill them faster than the other team did to get the point. Cleaners either survive or die, points get divvied up, and the game repeats this process for a best of three match.
This form of gameplay is exhilarating. The rush to get the best time while also trying to carefully plan out your next move is so fun and exciting. On top of that, everyone gets to choose their characters and play styles, unlike a certain game I keep mentioning. The lack of random number generation and the freedom to play however you want makes this some of the best multiplayer I have experienced in recent years.
And let us not forget the campaigns. It feels exactly like a next-generation, new and improved Left 4 Dead experience. Campaigns follow the same structure, so you get put into one long story mission divided up into different acts. You bounce from safe room to safe room, completing tasks, drawing ability cards, and finding new equipment, all the while fighting off waves of ridden. The gameplay feels so rewarding, and just has a great feel overall, at least for multiplayer that is. Solo feels a little lacking, with its lackluster bots and no in-game rewards; so playing in multiplayer, regardless of how good your teammates are, is just an infinitely more enjoyable experience. But that is not to say solo play is inherently bad, it just does not have as good a feeling as multiplayer has.
With that being said, guns feel good to shoot, melee weapons feel good to swing, and ridden and cleaners feel satisfying to kill, like you just accomplished something huge. The ability cards really make you feel like you are getting stronger, and building new decks feels so rewarding too. On the flip side, there are ability cards that change up how campaigns play, and make the act harder to get through, which just adds further to the challenge and reward of this game. Guns were made to be fired while aiming downsides but can still be reliable while firing at the hip. I honestly cannot find much wrong with this aspect of the game. Any problem that I have is just a personal nitpick that I understand must be included. This game is just that great.
Featured Image: IGDB