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Back 4 Blood Review: Army of the Dead

Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)
Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)
Suryadeepto Sengupta

Back 4 Blood, the thrilling cooperative first-person zombie shooter, developed by Turtle Rock Studio of the Left 4 Dead series fame and published by WB Games, was released recently on October 13, 2021. Does the title deliver what was promised? Is this the true Left 4 Dead successor that was never made? Let’s take a deeper look.

Following a closed alpha and an open beta, Back 4 Blood was released on October 12, 2021, for the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC. WB Games. In many ways, the game might be considered the true spiritual successor of the Left 4 Dead franchise, but is it so?

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Was Turtle Rock able to capture the lightning in a bottle like Left 4 Dead, or does Back 4 Blood fall short of excellence like Evolved? Let’s take a deep look and review the thrilling cooperative first-person zombie shooter, Back 4 Blood.


Back 4 Blood Review: Left 4 Dead 3?

Back 4 Blood is a straightforward and familiar game at its core. It's another entry in the first-person cooperative zombie shooter genre. However, the developers at Turtle Rock do add their unique take, which aims to set itself apart from other titles in the genre.

While the limited number of levels might feel repetitive after continuous play, different card systems vary the gameplay significantly. Pairing that with the various weapons and cleaners with different abilities provides a unique gameplay every time.

Bonus Rule: You're part of a team now, so watch out for each other. #Back4Blood https://t.co/XnB7Q7RK4b

Let’s look at how Back 4 Blood sets itself apart and what the players should expect.


The Journey of Turtle Rock

Back 4 Blood is in many ways the culmination of Turtle Rock’s two-decade-long journey while simultaneously a step towards their next chapter. Created back in 2002, Turtle Rock started its game development journey with the Counter-Strike franchise.

The creators initially developed the Counter-Strike mod for Half-Life and later formed Turtle Rock when Valve decided to publish Counter-Strike as its own game. After developing Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and its follow-up Counter-Strike: Source, as well as the Xbox port of the original Counter-Strike, the studio started work on a new cooperative PvE original IP, Left 4 Dead.

Left 4 Dead 2 (Image by Valve)
Left 4 Dead 2 (Image by Valve)

Before the first Left 4 Dead release, Turtle Rock joined Valve and was renamed Valve South. However, the partnership was short-lived between 2008 and 2010, after which the studio split from Valve and retained its original name, Turtle Rock. Turtle Rock did develop Left 4 Dead 2, but Valve slowly moved away from video game publishing after that.

Other than Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock also developed Evolved, an asymmetric PvP title that failed to garner mainstream attention, even after its reboot in the form of Evolved Stage 2.

Back 4 Blood is the culmination of Turtle Rock’s development journey, from the success of Left 4 Dead to the failure of Evolved.


The narrative premise

A parasite overtakes the world of Back 4 Blood called the "Devil Worm" that has infected and turned most of humanity into vicious, undead mutants called the “Ridden”. A small group of survivors called “Cleaners" fight the Ridden and defend Fort Hope, a settlement within fictional Finleyville, Pennsylvania, United States.

The game kicks off with four cleaners, Walker, Mom, Evangelo, and Holly, arriving at a settlement in Evansburg to trade supplies. A horde of mutated Ridden suddenly swarm and overrun the territory.

Fort Hope in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)
Fort Hope in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)

Amid the exciting gameplay, the narrative certainly takes a back seat. However, the story of Back 4 Blood isn’t promising or attempting to be a narrative experience. Instead, the story servers as a vessel for the gameplay. So how is the gameplay?


The gameplay

Back 4 Blood has two distinct gameplay modes, four player co-op PvE, where the players have to face off against hordes of zombies, some with unique abilities, and the 4v4 PvP, where four players play as the cleaners while the other four play as Ridden.

Players can either go solo or join with three other players to battle through the cooperative campaign. Even though the levels might seem similar, Back 4 Blood utilizes the card system to set it apart drastically.

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As for the PvP competitive multiplayer Swarm mode, one team takes control of the Ridden while the other team takes the role of Cleaners. Each team has unique weapons and abilities, and with each round, players get offered more perks and upgrades.

With the game modes, Back 4 Blood perfects the art of repetition, as each run-through is set differently, despite being on the same map, due to the vast array of the card systems.


The card system

While on paper, the card system might seem like a pointless gimmick and an opportunity to monetize the game, it is truly far from that. In many ways, the card system makes the game and sets it apart in a marketplace of various first-person cooperative zombie shooters.

As players progress through the campaign, they’ll earn Supply Points which can be spent to acquire new cards through Supply Lines. As players collect new cards, they can create new and better custom loadouts through deck building. As the campaign progresses, cards can stack to become more powerful.

There are two types of cards in Back 4 Blood. Let’s take a look at them,

The card system in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)
The card system in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock Studio)

Corruption Card

At the start of each level, the game director draws unique cards. Corruption cards apply various randomized game parameters related to the Ridden, the weather, etc., and these cards stack additional dangers with every passing chapter.

Active Card

Following the game director picks, the player will draw three cards and can pick one of them. Active cards allow the player to pick various special perks, which can be broken up into one of four categories called

  • Reflex (blue)
  • Discipline (red)
  • Brawn (green)
  • Fortune (yellow)

The cards are also split into four types: Offense, Defense, Utility, and Mobility. The player should choose active cards wisely to counter corruption and have more chances to win.

For all you melee using Cleaners, keep these cards with you for an extra boost. What are some of the melee cards in your deck? #Back4Blood https://t.co/D8uuJu2u0Z

With 100s of cards forming a massive number of combinations across four players, it can drastically alter a game. A fog card can adjust the level and change the visibility, while a Stinger’s card will spawn stingers, who can attack long distances.


The cleaners and the Ridden

The Back 4 Blood game has eight playable Cleaners at launch for use in PvE and PvP modes. Each has its unique perks and secondary weapon, making team composition an essential personal and strategic consideration.

The cleaners are as follows,

  • Hoffman - Spawn ammo with kills, Offensive item slot, Team ammo capacity, Starting secondary weapon: M1911
  • Walker - Precision kills increase accuracy, Damage, Team health, Starting secondary weapon: Glock 23
  • Doc - Heals low health teammates even without items, Healing efficiency, Team trauma resistance, Starting secondary weapon: Beretta M9
  • Mom - Instant revive, Support inventory, Team extra life, Starting secondary weapon: The Belgian
  • Holly - Recover stamina with kills, Damage resistance, Team stamina, Starting secondary weapon: Spiked Bat
  • Evangelo - Breakout of grabs, Stamina regeneration, Team movement speed, Starting secondary weapon: Machete
  • Karlee - Sense hazards, Quick inventory, Team use speed, Starting secondary weapon: Tec 9
  • Jim - Precision kills increase damage, ADS speed, Team weak spot damage, Starting secondary weapon: 357 Magnum
Cleaners in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock)
Cleaners in Back 4 Blood (Image by Turtle Rock)

While the players take the role of Cleaners in the PvE cooperative campaign, one of the teams in the PvP will take on the role of the Ridden. At launch, players will be able to select from 4 Riddens. They are as follows,

  • Snitcher
  • Tallboy
  • Reeker
  • Stinger

The performance

The review copy of Back 4 Blood provided by WB Games and Turtle Rock Studio was tested on PC via Steam.

The configuration and framerate is as follows

  • CPU: i5 8300H
  • GPU: GTX 1060
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Preset: Mid to high
  • Framerates: above 60 fps

The conclusion

Back 4 Blood Review (Image via Sportskeeda)
Back 4 Blood Review (Image via Sportskeeda)

Back 4 Blood doesn’t aim to redefine the genre, but what it does is deliver precisely what it promises. A good first-person cooperative zombie shooter with enough variable factors to make each run-through unique.

Turtle Rock succeeds in what they attempted to do. From creating Left 4 Dead and its sequel to the dark days of Evolve to now Back 4 Blood. The game defines a journey for Turtle Rock studio. No Back 4 Blood is not Left 4 Dead 3, but it’s neither attempting to be. Back 4 Blood is, simply put, one of the best games of the First-person cooperative zombie shooter genre.


Back 4 Blood

Reviewed on: PC (code provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)

Platforms: PC (Steam, Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

Developer: Turtle Rock Studios

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Release: October 8, 2021


Edited by Yasho Amonkar

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