In 2008 Turtle Rock Studios and Valve released the landmark game Left 4 Dead which quickly became a beloved game and standard for the genre.
Fans have longed for a new chapter in the series which despite rumors; has become less and less likely as the years passed since the release of Left 4 Dead 2 and the subsequent DLC that has been released.
Thankfully Turtle Rock and Warner Bros have released Back 4 Blood which is a natural evolution of the genre and gives fans a winning mix of classic gameplay with updated features.
The game involves a group of players named “Cleaners” who run various missions following a parasitic mass infection that has decimated the world.
With eight playable characters, players will play with other players or bots to complete a series of missions which can range from search and destroy exploration, recovery, and more. Anyone who has played Left 4 Dead will be instantly familiar with the look and gameplay. Players must make it to a safe room to end a level. They have random lines which they utter in various situations, which not only advance the game but also gives some small looks into their characters, such as Hoffman being a very radical conspiracy theorist, Mom having lost her child, and another dressing as a nurse for Halloween one year.
While the dialogue appears randomly, it does add to the immersion and makes the characters a bit more relatable — which in turn allows players to be invested in their outcome.
The enemies are known as “The Ridden” and they are a dangerous and varied bunch, which includes classes that are variations on what we have seen in Left 4 Dead. Instead of a witch, there is the snitch which when alerted will call in hordes of enemies to attack players. Another example is the bruiser vs the tank who uses an oversized arm to smash players.
Combat is from a first-person perspective and players can change their weapons by picking up weapons they find along the way and can customize them as well. Pistols, shotguns, sub machine guns, and machine guns and rifles are standard but the variety of weapons is good as are the melee options such as a machete or spiked baseball bat.
There are also explosives players can equip and deploy which can really turn the tide of a battle.
Players can also obtain health from various sources such as health kits, health stations, bandages, and more and this will be needed as enemies are frequent and will attack from various directions at once.
While most missions were not overly challenging for experienced players; some were challenging and did require multiple attempts even with an experienced group of players.
Once a player is down, players can revive them, but this only goes so far. If a player is downed again without properly healing they can be lost, and have to be found and pulled out of the webbing before they can return to action.
The game has plenty of missions and action and the locales are very well crafted, with lots of detail. There are lots of easter eggs and immersive notes, such as clues written on walls.
The game features a card system that allows players to customize their experience such as adding more ammunition, health, stamina, recovery, etc. as well as challenges that can hamper gameplay. While I at first did not notice a huge difference in play regardless of the deck I selected, it became clear later in the game as I was able to customize my deck for more challenging missions such as adding more health or more ammunition.
The game also offers a horde mode for players to play on either side and to hone their skills. This is a nice change of pace from the core game.
Back 4 Blood is a great evolution of the genre, and while some may want to think of it as a nostalgic update of Left 4 Dead it offers much of what made the series so enduring as well as new wrinkles that make it a very fun and engaging game. I cannot wait to see more content and releases in the series. It was one of the most fun I had playing a game in years.
4 stars out of 5
Gareth is the mastermind behind the popular pop media site Skewed and Reviewed. He lives in Arizona with his wife Em McBride.