Back 4 Blood Review: Bots, Bugs, Badass

Mom, just go home! We've got this!

For a few years, it seemed like everyone was throwing out zombie survival games: State of Decay 2, Dead Island, 7 Days to Die-developers were obsessed with an oncoming undead apocalypse. Then, we had a bit of a lull in the industry. With the world in the throes of a terrifying and mostly unknown virus, that theme felt closer to reality than ever. Maybe the developers could sense our morbid fascination, but slowly but surely interest in the genre started to surface again. Out of the woodworks comes Turtle Rock Studios’ (creators of Left 4 Dead) newest title Back 4 Blood, scratching that zombie itch in the form of its star creatures, the “Ridden”.

There are multiple types of Ridden in Back 4 Blood. This isn't even the ugliest.

You don’t scare me!

Back 4 Blood distinguishes itself as a cooperative first-person shooter by, well, taking it back to the basics. You choose from a list of eight player characters called Cleaners that are immune to the parasites that have corrupted the Ridden. Each Cleaner has a few special abilities and strengths, such as Holly that benefits greatly from her increased stamina and prowess with her shotgun and bat. For a while melee was definitely the way to go, and Holly was my absolute favorite to play, but melee damage was nerfed a bit in one of the more recent patches. Booo. Still, it’s a ton of fun to play! For someone that frequently panic shoots and wastes ammo, I prefer to be up in front of the fight and take on the horde with melee. Thankfully, there isn’t any durability in Back 4 Blood, so as long as I don’t drop it, my nail bat will never run out of killing juice. 

Holly is the best cleaner. Prove me wrong.

Holly is the best cleaner. Prove me wrong. 

An unexpected mechanic that determines how the level plays out is the “roguelike” card system. Each level allows the Cleaner to choose which cards they would like to “play” for their character, allowing them to test out different builds or cater their abilities to a new, mutated boss type. Not only can you customize your character’s playstyle, but the game throws new cards at you every round to keep things interesting and challenging. From new and terrifying Ridden types to special rules like car alarms that trigger hordes and ominous weather types, every level has new cards drawn that are sure to keep your playthrough interesting and encounters challenging. 

Take all the stamina and melee cards. You won't regret it.

Take all the stamina and melee cards. You won’t regret it.

My favorite of these randomly drawn cards is probably the weather type. I enjoyed going back to a previously played map only to see it at nighttime or covered in torrential rain. That kind of scenic change is such an easy and effective way for developers to keep map levels fresh, and I found myself wishing that more games would implement the same tactic.

At its core, that’s basically Back 4 Blood. Well, there’s one more feature that has weighed heavily on my mind throughout my playthrough, and that’s the AI and the state of singleplayer. Back 4 Blood excels when you can get a group of friends together in a voice call and just mow down hordes of zombies. It’s fun to explore the maps for goodies and secrets, while freaking out together when someone accidentally trips over birds and alerts a new wave of enemies. Having to scurry to cover and call out ‘incomings’ is a blast.

A lineup of NPCs from Back 4 Blood.

Mom, PLEASE. Just, stay behind me!

What isn’t fun, is your party NPCs getting stuck in cover, getting themselves killed, or being completely useless during a tense situation. There is a system in place that lets you recover an NPC or player by rescuing them while they’re captured, but this gets really old, really fast in higher difficulties. And it does get really difficult-really fast.  The bots function at their most basic level on Survival difficulty, but if you’re playing by yourself with a party of bots on any higher difficulty, you’re just going to have a bad time.

Try out all the guns at the shooting range.

Don’t know which gun you like best? Try them all out at the shooting range!

I will give them their due, I enjoy having the bots call out hard-to-see ammo caches or item pickups. Even loot goblins like myself can get so wrapped up in the action that I miss things. In addition to communicating well, the bots are pretty liberal with their goodies and tend to prioritize the player when it comes to handing out ammo candy.

So, despite all that, is it Back 4 Blood really worth it? Absolutely! Back 4 Blood is one of those games that you don’t have to particularly worry about grinding, which is incredibly refreshing. Between grinding for in-game currency for dungeon gear in FFXIV, and trying to level up my weapons in Dauntless, it’s nice to have a game I can jump back into with my friends at any point in time and just play. It’s fast-paced, creative, and just all-around good fun. What’s not to love?  The game has been out for a while, but that just means that the  developers have had more time to listen to feedback and start fixing some of those bugs that have been bothering players.  Looking to try it out for yourself? Head on over to  Steam to snag Back 4 Blood on PC for $59.99.

  • Diverse characters
  • Fun maps
  • Easy to jump back into
  • Interesting and dynamic card system
  • Challenging!
  • Terrible bot AI
  • A little expensive right out the gate
Written by
Avid lover of all things fantasy and stylesheets, Emily spends her spare time trying to balance her affection for both technical and creative writing. One day she'll get there, but until then, she'd rather lose herself in the wonderful stories to be found within tabletop games and rpgs.

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