Republished on Wednesday, 11th January, 2023: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of January 2023's PS Plus line up. The original text follows.
This isn’t Left 4 Dead 3. But it is Left 4 Dead 3. But it’s Back 4 Blood. Four survivors blast through a co-op campaign split into various acts, with safe rooms acting as checkpoints. Most of the Ridden (this game’s choice of colourful pseudonym for the z-word) are your basic fodder, though when they appear in larger numbers things can get a little more hairy. Besides these practice targets, though, you’ve got Special Ridden to give you and your squad a much harder time; creatures like the Tallboy, Reeker, Crusher, and the fearsome, enormous Ogre – among many, many others to mix things up.
If you've played Left 4 Dead, you've played Back 4 Blood, and that's not a bad thing because the Valve classic (and its sequel, of course) are beloved for a reason. Gunplay here is snappy and satisfying, with meaty sound effects and absolutely spectacular gore. Level design is strong, too, but it's the encounters with hordes of zombies that make the game what it is and while we often felt overwhelmed, we never felt like Back 4 Blood was presenting us with impossible odds.
It’s all very familiar, but in a way that feels rather snug and comforting, rather than derivative and same-old. It’s ostensibly about getting from A to B, where A is a safe room and B is, er, another safe room. Each scenario has multiple chapters, with a variety of well-crafted wide-linear maps that offer copious set-pieces, secrets and – most importantly – a seemingly (and actually) never-ending stream of Ridden to blast into meaty chunks.
Replay value is the name of the game here, and it’s given focus via the Director system that ensures – so sayeth the marketing – no two sessions will ever be identical. Said Director – through faceless, voiceless AI – will play Corruption Cards that change the rules of each mission, another one being proc’d with every new area you reach. These cards have varying effects such as increasing the count of particular Ridden types, or simply making them more lethal. You’ll also get cards that affect your visibility, with a thick, pallid fog blanketing the ground. It’s not all bad, though – some challenges offer a risk/reward system, such as having you ferry objects all the way from the start to the finish, taking up valuable inventory space. It’s worth it, though, to be rewarded with more Copper.
Yes, Copper – the in-mission currency. Don’t panic, we’re not talking about microtransactions here: during each stage, you’ll find little caches of Copper all over the place, as well as being rewarded with it for skilled play. It’s used in the safe rooms between levels in order to buy you and your team guns, items, and special perks. That’s not to say you necessarily need it; firearms and melee weapons are all over the place (as you’d expect from a zombie apocalypse), but it feels good to be rewarded for your diligence with a more powerful shotgun, for example. But Copper isn’t the only collectable, which brings us to the rest of the card system.
You’ll need to earn Supply Points in order to unlock cards for your own deck; a series of equippable and game-changing buffs and benefits that form the real meat-and-potatoes of Back 4 Blood’s laudable customisation. With these you can tailor your playstyle to your deck, bringing in bought cards (as well as those found in the missions themselves) to improve ammo capacity, healing speed, and all manner of different modifications to the game. This is alongside any benefits you get from your chosen survivor, essentially a class-based format where you may find a particular character more useful than another in specific maps or scenarios.
Of course, all of this would be worthless without strong online performance. Fortunately, we had absolutely no issues getting a session going either with friends or with randoms; the quickplay options always delivered and setting up a campaign – even late-game – never saw us waiting for long.
We wish we could tell you it was equally good in single player, but it's not. You can't earn Supply Points playing alone; a bizarre choice considering there's really no good reason whatsoever for this limitation. That said, it's unlikely that solo is going to be anyone's major focus – especially since the bots that will fill out a (rare) incomplete team are so slack when it comes to reviving an incapacitated player. Stick with randoms or your mates, we say; Back 4 Blood shines with friends and you'll have an absolute riot regardless of your mutual skill level. We wish that Left 4 Dead 2's console split-screen would make a return, though.
Speaking of which, the PvP in Left 4 Dead 2 was very popular, but Back 4 Blood's implementation of a similar-ish mode – called Swarm – feels almost insultingly barebones. Players take control of both survivors and an army of Ridden, but it has none of the nuance or tactical scope of Left 4 Dead's beloved versus mode; it almost feels like an afterthought, and one that should absolutely be addressed in future updates and/or patches.
At least it's a graphical treat, running at the slick 60 frames-per-second you'd expect from the PlayStation 5, with vivid colours and lighting that we think (and whisper it) outdoes the Xbox Series X's very slightly more washed-out look – though both run at the same 4K resolution. Being cross-gen, we're sure that it could in theory look better but you'll hardly have time to complain about the aesthetics when you're shoulder-deep in Ridden entrails.
Having spent a lot of time with Back 4 Blood, we think it's well worth your time and, crucially, your money. It's just a lot of fun blowing Ridden heads off or smashing them with a baseball bat like a watermelon in an anime beach episode. It doesn't really deliver a compelling experience solo – the bots are just a touch too stupid for that – but Back 4 Blood ought to become a multiplayer fixture for the rest of the generation to come. Unless they bring out Back 4 Blood 2 in, like, a year.
Me looking at the review:
We've been waiting for you.
Also thanks for mentioning split-screen.
But another user mentioned in a previous post that the solo progression is gonna be looked into (but not the always online connection).
Seen a few youtube reviews of this and it's been less than stellar.
What with xmas coming up and evreethink - I might just give this a miss.
I just kinda thought the beta was a bit crap. There was no balance, either the zombies were brain dead, literally, or there were far far too many at one time. The cards system is a bust as well. Bit of a let down imo.
Left for dead 2 better
Devs have already said they are looking into solo progression
@nessisonett The card system appeared to be pointless, at least at first glance (in the beta), but a few hours into the campaign and you start to make some really interesting decks that work as fun modifiers for a run. Think of it as a bit like a roguelite: you start out kinda weak with a few basic cards, then as you acquire (or purchase) more powerful ones, you start to build a wildly fun deck where you have full control of how you want your character's build to be. Even failure in a run still grants you points and cards that carry over. The card aspect has ended being the most fun and engaging aspect of the game for me!
No character progression on solo doesn’t give me the desire to jump into this anytime soon. I hate when games punish you for being someone who enjoys playing solo.
No solo, no buy. Would love this otherwise.
@lolwhatno didn't know it was one of those games that requires a constant internet connection to play hate when they do that just give me the option to play offline
Loved L4D, played so much of it and I was hyped for this game. But the beta didn't win me over and the key issue for me was where many will see added depth all I saw was needless complexity. Left 4 Dead was especially simple and I liked that, also it was never too long to play.
B4B is longer and much more complex and I just wasn't into that. At least the beta meant I saved my money.
Wondering if anyone else feels this way or am I just a boring old man pining for nostalgia rather than something new? I feel like the former honestly.
No solo progression means a no from me.
Shame as I was actually looking forward to this.
I apologize if I come off as toxic, but this is literally the nicest review of the game so far!
Other independent reviewers claim it's broken, unfinished, unbalanced, and generally is poor compared to the Left 4 Dead games.
And yeah, the card system and the lack of solo progression are big no-nos for me.
World War Z Aftermath trumps this, and that one doesn't have microtransactions. Solo progression is available and it runs buttery smooth on the PS5/XSX systems.
@BlaizeV I've seen before where developers who were known for making a certain kind of game or IP and then when they tried to do a spiritual successor they change too much from what came before.
In B4B's case most people just wanted Left 4 Dead but from the sounds of it they changed the formula too much.
@Divergent95 I kinda feel the same, I'd rather have a Left 4 Dead (2) remake/remaster. This coming from someone who's never played those before, but they look so much more interesting to me.
Played the beta and got the Ultimate Edition which included early access and I gotta say this review is spot on 👌. It’s a fun game with a good framework but it leaves a lot to be desired.
Those are just some of the things I can think of now. I do wish the Ridden had more character to set them apart from each other too; the scream of a Hunter or giggling of a Jockey in L4D2 made them feel unique. Overall though B4B is a solid B game that just isn’t all there yet.
@Amusei I highly doubt that, but who knows
Thankfully, WWZ Aftermath is a great alternative, not to mention Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
Surely worth one comment that The Ridden is the worst name for zombies ever. What’s the connection?
Yeah, some parts of the game fall flat for me. Played it for a good few hours with 3 mates (crossplay worked wonders, I can confirm) but a few things need fixing... swarms seem a bit too constant, at times, just to keep you from being able to take your time, looting maps, and I'm not all that sold on the card system. An 8 seems fair
@Would_you_kindly Yep, really wanted to get the game, always online is a deal breaker.
I I agree with this review, and whole there are other alternatives I really do not think WWZ or Aliens have the same polish or quality. Those are great too, but the hitching and lack of content in Aliens, and instability and wait times in WWZ (the Italy episode is unplayable for a lot of people on PS5 with a frequent crash that occurs in multiplayer at the end of the first chapter).
Monetization wise... I mean there are DLCs for both Aliens and WWZ. Hopefully the monetization systems aren't too egregious in the future.
No split screen is a no go for me, along with no solo progression. Shame, this would be great to play with my wife. We played the hell out of Left 4 Dead back in the day on 360.
“ Unless they bring out Back 4 Blood 2 in, like, a year.”
I honestly hope so since left 4 dead 2 was an improvement over 1 , and with dlc included made left 4 dead 1 entirely useless beyond being a novelty . I read the Xbox review of it on the Xbox site , and presumed the swarm mode wouldn’t be bad but now I see the review here and I’m feeling like a mixed bag again . The driving factor for me with l4d was the versus , I’m big on PvP games and if swarm mode can’t even be half as good then i just have to wait to get this game for cheap
@beebs720 yeah , very stupid idea not to have split screen . It makes me wonder how consoles are getting better if they can’t even support split screen anymore
@lindos Political correctness and conforming . With covid being a thing “infected” would trigger some people . I don’t think “zombies” is in the game neither is it ?
It’s on gamepass so Sony should put it on ps plus to even the score
Playing this on GamePass guarantees there'll be a decent number of players.
I played the beta and it completely turned me off of this game. I loved L4D and played it a ton and this definitely has the L4D look but something about how it plays is just off. Unless it has changed from the beta, the controls just felt heavy(in a bad way), or wrong. The aim assist was super annoying when trying to be more precise. Really just everything about how the game felt was off for me. I'll definitely be waiting for a sale to get this.
Eh, it has some things that could be improved upon, but overall it’s a very fun game. Multiplayer is nearly a must for this type of game anyway. I’m not saying it GOTY, but people have way too critical opinions towards almost everything short of a 1st party release these days. It’s a shooter where you get to kill gobs of zombies. It’s best played with friends and family. It’s not quite as simple as L4D, but some things give you more flexibility and options in your character. Very few games are absolutely perfect (if any). I think if you like this kind of thing, give it a chance and find a few buddies or online friends to play it with. It can be a blast:
Gaming should always be about choice. Players should be able to play their games the way "They" want. Restricting the single player mode, is a bad idea. If I want to play couch co-op, single player (with bots), why shouldn't you get the same benefits in terms of player progression as you do playing online. Having everything tied to online, feels like you've got a constant time limit on everything you do in game. I really hate this model with a passion. Gaming was (and still should be about choice) but that is slowly being taken away by everything being an "online service".
I played the beta but the card system just totally put me off.
No love for solo/single player means an instant no buy, thanks for saving me some money.
I'll definitely get this but probably after a price drop and a few patches. Forking out 60 euro seems a bit steep, especially if you need your mates to do the same
@PhantomMenace84 agreed , it plays like your typical generic MP FPS rather than a unique shooter that’s not a MP FPS
Played it on gamepass thought it was garbage, bored me to death and the aiming and movement feels off,oh an 8 erm......😂😂
@nomither6 it's really too bad too because some friends and I were really looking forward to playing it. Maybe they can fix it eventually.
Pretty good review. The swarm mode IS tacked on, too! I see why they didnt do a full-on "versus" mode like Left 4 Dead - the levels in Back 4 Blood are sooo long. That'd be a long versus game! I dont like the card/deck system, this isnt call of duty. I dont like the insane unfair difficulty. Most people are complaining. Have you experienced literally TEN special ridden all come out at the same time?! Non stop zombie spawns on the mine shaft level?! It's crazy! I played L4D 1 and 2 for thousands of hours, on hardest difficulties.. never had these issues! Also, you basically HAVE to turn on crossplay or you WONT get in a game with PS4/5 people. You mostly get xbox and pc people (who are actually terrible at the game lol). I rarely get a match with even one PS gamer. I turn crossplay off and let the game timeout looking for people, it then starts the game any way, with bots, they're more useful than most players, sorry to say! A few good patches, a tweak to enemy difficulty and spawns... it'll be good to go as an alternative to not getting L4D3.
If someone wanna play this game on PS5 (or PS4...) just add me on PSN, because I'm happy to buy two PS5 standard edition consoles, for me and for my son... Amazong game which I play also on Steam...
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