Back 4 Blood Review: Back for more

If you have been playing games for more than a decade, a glance at Back 4 Blood will remind you of a game from many years earlier. This is because the developer Turtle Rock Studios was behind the first Left 4 Dead game released in 2008.

Are you ready to be Back 4 Blood? (Photo: Warner Bros)

The premise is familiar – you play as one of eight characters known as Cleaners. Each character has a short backstory with specific perks. You start off with four at first and unlock the rest by completing the first few missions.

SPECS
PRICE: Free with Xbox Game Pass, or from S$84.90 (PC; PS4, PS5; Xbox One; Xbox Series X|S, version reviewed), available in Lazada and Shopee
GENRE: Survival/horror first person shooter

Although you can stick to one or two favourite characters, you may want to switch around in order to look out for interesting quips and dialogue that give more insight into their personality. As a team, you embark from one safehouse to another, while fulfilling multiple objectives like saving other survivors and securing samples for research.

Copper is an in-game currency that you collect and spend at the beginning or where the situation permits to boost your arsenal and team perks. The path ahead is quite linear and the direction you are heading is guided by location markers. There are no maps or radar. And you will always have to look after each other and watch their backs.

You get to play one of these characters. (Photo: Warner Bros)

While the cutscenes are few and far between, the game does a fair job of creating a chaotic and desperate atmosphere through all the props and scribbles you encounter along the way. Every section is littered with mindless creatures, now called the Ridden. Their outbreak is said to be caused by an alien parasite, and within them are various incarnations. These variants, like the Breaker, Tallboy and Snitch, forces you to change your approach as you try to take them down them as a team.

I think the huge supersized Ogre seems out of place. But this could be a tribute to Evolve, another cooperative shooter by the same developer.

You are one ugly beast… (Photo: Warner Bros)

Upon completing the tutorial, you are led to Fort Hope camp. This acts like an offline living breathing hub for you to walk around and approach various sections of the camp to manage your preferred settings and unlockables. But you can simply access all that by pulling up the menu with a button.

A major caveat about the solo campaign is that matchmaking and player invites, including earning supply points and progress towards accomplishments, as well as stat tracking are disabled.

FOR
+ Intense action
+ Engaging sound effects
+ Interesting card-based load-out

AGAINST
– Lacklustre solo campaign
– No split-screen support

That’s fine if you just want to test the game. But if you foresee coming back for more, playing online gives the best returns for your time. The developers have taken in feedback about solo campaign, but we have yet to hear further updates.

Even online, you may still end up playing with bots, but it leaves the server open for people to join in. You can choose to continue from your last run, start afresh or join other player’s progress through QuickPlay.

Not enough friends playing on the same platform? Don’t worry, you can easily open to players from other platforms by enabling CrossPlay. While it provides a wider network of players, you may have to deal with skill-level and language barriers.

The ability to add in-game ID of favourite players and change privacy settings allows you to manage such encounters. Otherwise, you can play Back 4 Blood with disabled voice chat options. However, this is one of those games that is best played with constant communication, especially at preparing for boss checkpoints.

So, what makes you different or better than the other player? The answer is in the Deck building skills. This is where you can put together up to 15 cards per deck with your selection of buffs, utility and perks. It is recommended to build more than one deck for you to switch around and test their synergy.

Time to load up before going into battle. (Photo: Warner Bros)

An in-built Director Artificial Intelligence attempts to create a changing landscape by adding requirements or introducing environmental changes using Corruption Cards. For example, a simple fog can cloud your vision and makes you less prepared for upcoming threats.

Playing the Supply Lines missions allows you to unlock credits to open the next progression node that will provide access to more cards including specific apparel items for the characters. It’s a pity that the game is only playable on first person view. As such, you can only appreciate your new look during specific game screens. I would love to see my character’s new look while in action.

You can only play this game in first person perspective. (Photo: Warner Bros)

Swarm, the game’s only PVP mode, allows eight players to form two groups of four. One team plays as Cleaners while the other team takes control to play and switch between different characters of the Ridden. At the end of each round, the roles are switched. And the winning team is determined from best two of three rounds.

Regardless of whichever game mode you fancy, playing with a group of seasoned players is recommended for the best experience. But for casual players coming from various backgrounds and varying skill levels, there is still much satisfaction as we try to help one another get to the next safe house.

VERDICT
Back 4 Blood is a resurrection of Left 4 Dead with a personality and cross-play feature that can bring fans together and foster camaraderie in the world we live in.

RATING
7/10