Back 4 Blood review for Xbox Series X/One, PS5/4, PC

Platform: Xbox Series X
Also On: PS5, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Developer: Turtle Rock Studios
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Back 4 Blood is the newest 4 person co-op shooter available for just about every major platform out there, developed by Turtle Rock Studios, the team behind the original Left 4 Dead. It?s fairly obvious, and clearly intentional, that Back 4 Blood is meant to be a spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead as well, and for the most part, that lineage shines through. There are certainly some differences between the two series, but if you?re at all familiar with L4D, then you?ll be pretty well acquainted with what Back 4 Blood brings to the table.

Namely, a whole lot of zombie shooting. Like, a whole, whole lot. You?ll take control of one of eight playable characters, all with their own specific weapon and subweapon, along with some minor character traits that contribute to your four person team. You?ll set off on a number of online campaign missions spread out across 4 acts, where you?ll have objectives to clear, enemies to kill, and challenging map sections that?ll see you holding off waves of mindless brain-eaters streaming in from every direction. 

There?s a remarkable amount of challenge, even at the lowest difficulty, which may be the initial thing that puts off new players with no prior L4D experience. I was pretty surprised at how tough certain missions on ?Recruit? ended up being, but as I played I learned a lot of that just comes down to understanding maps and being a bit more careful in how you approach encounters. Even then, with an unbalanced group of random teammates, you can run into a number of problems, and without any sort of rewards being gained for failed attempts, Back 4 Blood can feel a little unforgiving at times. 

One of the major ways in which Back 4 Blood sets itself apart from Left 4 Dead, or other co-op shooters even, is through the card system. You can build a deck of 15 cards, which work like a skill tree of sorts, allowing you to pick perks you can bring into a campaign run like increased health, damage, and move speed along with more unique effects like health gained on melee kills, and so on. At the onset of the game you?ll have access to a starter deck, but as you complete missions in the online campaign you?ll gain supply points, which can be used to unlock rewards that include new cards. From there you can start to build custom decks, and in a way you?re essentially designing your own classes which is kind of neat. The only real drawback to this system is that it can take some time to get enough cards to make a big impact, and it may take even longer to get the cards that you really want thanks to the way the ?Supply Run? system works. 

Supply Runs are where you go to spend your supply points earned, and you?re given three different runs at one time. The runs seem to be themed in a way, but they?ll include a number of unlockables that you may not care about or have much desire to unlock, but it?s necessary to clear those items to get to the ones you want, or to unlock additional supply runs that may contain the stuff you actually desire. This isn?t nearly as bad as randomized loot boxes, but it can be frustrating if you?re wanting to build a great sniper build but can?t get access to awesome sniper related cards when you want them. 

One other negative I?d point out with Back 4 Blood is that while there is an option for a solo campaign where you can play with bots, that campaign doesn?t net you any rewards or achievement unlocks whatsoever. For the solo campaign you can build a deck with full access to every card, which I suppose is the tradeoff, but for those that don?t have a dedicated group of people to play the game with, it?s worth pointing out that you?ll lose a fair amount of progression by sticking to this mode. It does allow you to unlock additional acts and chapters which at least carry over into your available starting points for online campaigns, but that?s about it. This would be a little less frustrating if I had more luck getting random folks to join my in-progress online campaign runs, but often I found that I was better off starting a new run from a later starting point. With crossplay enabled you?d think there would be more people joining random games, but for whatever reason I had almost zero luck when attempting to get people to join my incomplete or already started runs. 

With those complaints out of the way, I will say that despite those issues I?ve mostly enjoyed my time spent with Back 4 Blood. Blasting away at zombies is certainly fun, and I really enjoyed the variety in both map design and objectives presented. The maps are generally pretty open and offer rewards for exploring if you want to be thorough. Sometimes objective locations could be a bit more noticeable, but again, once you?ve played through a map a couple of times it?s not that hard to figure out where you are going. Playing on an Xbox Series X, the game has run smoothly for me, and while I?ve had some matchmaking issues, once in an online game I?ve not encountered any noticeable server issues since launch. And again, while I have had trouble getting people to join my in-progress runs, I?ve had pretty much no issues matching up with people via Quickplay or by starting a new campaign run. Back 4 Blood also adopts the ping system popularized by Apex Legends, and that works out really well here too. 

So while Back 4 Blood isn?t quite a slam dunk when it comes to other co-op shooters on the market, it?s still a pretty fun zombie killing time that will be easy for people to pick up and play but may take some time to get acquainted with maps, objectives, and what can often feel like a steep difficulty curve. I?m sure there are multiple things that can be ironed out as the development team focuses on bugs, servers, and difficulty balancing, but out of the gate it?s a fun enough experience for sure, and worth checking out. Also worth noting that this is a Game Pass title, making it sort of a no-brainer if you?re on an Xbox platform. 

Note: Warner Bros. Games provided us with a Back 4 Blood Ultimate Edition Xbox code for review purposes.

Grade: B