Follow Genre: FPS, Horror survival
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros interactive
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
Tested on: PC

Back 4 Blood – Preview

Good: The Left 4 Dead franchise is back in spirit
Bad: bullets and enemies still feel a bit wonky so far
User Score
(3 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Back 4 Blood is finally here. After almost 12 (!) long years since the release of Left 4 Dead 2, people are eagerly awaiting the new four-player co-op gameplay where you get to blast your way through hundreds of zombies on your way to a safe room. As the developers did officially develop the first Left 4 Dead under Valve’s contract, this may be the reason for the game not bearing the official title of Left 4 Dead 3. That it’s at least a spiritual successor is abundantly clear in everything the game presents itself to be. We were very lucky to try out the Early Access open Beta, because who doesn’t love a good Left 4.. eh, Back 4 Blood blasting session?


Watching the trailers for Back 4 Blood and grasping the general gameplay concept, you’d think this is definitely another Left 4 Dead down to the bone. In a way, you are right. The general concept is still the same. You start with four “Cleaners”, which are the survivors, and you need to bane your way through a whole bunch of “Ridden”, which are the infected a.k.a. zombies. Where Left 4 Dead felt a bit unsatisfying at times when purely judging the amount of content in a campaign, Back 4 Blood brings you an upgrade. In the beta we played, there was only a single campaign available, but it instantly had eight different levels, doubling the content you would generally get in a Left 4 Dead campaign. This already felt like a huge improvement, and every little act (level) felt special in its own way.

The difficulty settings seem about right as well. There’s survivor, veteran, and nightmare. Survivor is quite accessible to everybody, where veteran is already a whole jump up in difficulty and includes friendly fire. Nightmare is exactly what the name indicates. One of the questions we have so far is that, while this single campaign experience was fun and it seems rather balanced aside from some Beta bugs that should be avoided (instant death when touching water), we wonder how many campaigns will be available eventually. Where the original Left 4 Dead’s content and gameplay quantity seemed somewhat disappointing for about 60 bucks, there’s a reasonable fear that Back 4 Blood will follow the same formula. It wouldn’t be the first time that a game uses paid DLC to grossly extend its life and bank account.

Where Left 4 Dead also got known for its multiplayer mode that simply replaced the special zombies with the possibility to let enemy players get into the game, Back 4 Blood does not have this so far. The Beta does, however, have a mode where you can play as Cleaners versus Ridden, in a wave-defense type of game. One team tries to set a survival time versus multiple waves of Ridden, including enemy players controlling special Ridden. Here, the other team needs to beat that score by surviving longer. Survive longer and you win the round, where winning two out of three rounds on multiple maps wins you the game. So far, the multiplayer feels a bit hollow and perhaps even somewhat broken. Back 4 Blood uses multiple progression systems, including a small one in Versus mode. Here you can make your special Ridden of choice stronger, but when a team picks the right types of Ridden in the first place, they don’t even need upgrades as they can basically hammer down on a single person with ease.

Where the Versus mode and its progression might need a little bit of tweaking, a different progression actually got us quite excited. Back 4 Blood uses an overall “card” system, which could be seen as deck-building mechanics. This means that you can gather and build a deck of cards, where you unlock more with points, which you get for simply playing the game. Between levels in the campaign or rounds of Versus, you get to pick one or more cards from your deck. These cards give you upgrades such as an extra 20% accuracy or an extra grenade slot for the entire team. While this is a fun mechanic that gives the game a bit more replayability, we got more excited about the ”bad” cards the game also hands you at the start of a level. These cards include a random special sidequest, but can also modify the game by upgrading enemies or i.e. adding weather changes to a level. This way, Back 4 Blood adds roguelike elements to the campaign, making it a lot more fun to play the same level again.

Where the graphics look nice and smooth with loads of detailed models, and having great sound design, the real game-changers are, in fact, these types of roguelike changes compared to the Left 4 Dead franchise. Where you normally would get to choose between about three different weapons to shoot with when arriving at a safe point, Back 4 Blood actually goes for an approach where you get to gather guns, and upgrades for them, in the field as you go. There’s an ever-changing shop that uses campaign currency that you can find while playing or completing sidequests, and there’s a bigger variety of guns and upgrades than expected. These types of changes could be what Left 4 Dead was actually missing. On top of that, the zombies are less fast, and the game gets a slightly more ‘realistic’ feel to it compared to the ravaging speeds that i.e. chargers had in Left 4 Dead. Some tweaking to the bullet trajectories and zombie A.I. or general (spawn) behavior might be needed, but other than that, we are very curious to see what the final result of Back 4 Blood will be.


So far, we enjoy what we are seeing in Back 4 Blood. The campaign feels more beefy and fun to play compared to its spiritual predecessors, and the new roguelike mechanics that introduce a bigger variety in levels seem like a great idea. Aside from some required changes that the Beta needs to undergo to get rid of bugs and such, we only wonder how much gameplay the game will actually deliver when it’s a finished product. Not only for the Campaign and the Versus mode, but also to make sure the roguelike elements keep you on your toes.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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Back 4 Blood - Preview, 7.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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1 Comment

  1. | Draft of Darkness – Review
    August 29, 2021, 01:46

    […] a game roguelike elements. We’ve seen this in Fights in Tight Spaces and even in the Beta of Back 4 Blood. Deck-building is a fun element because not only does it prolong the replayability of games, it also […]

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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