Back 4 Blood Xbox Series X Review

Back 4 Blood isn't a repeat of Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve but doesn't live up to the expectations many were hoping for.

By Grayshadow, Posted 17 Oct 2021

Back 4 Blood is supposed to be a spiritual successor to the massively popular Left 4 Dead but fumbles multiple times. It definitely improves on certain dynamics to keep each run fresh but for every positive, there are multiple negatives. The alarming spawn rate of special infected, the removal of all single-play progression, extremely poor ally AI, and difficulty balance will make more players run back to Left 4 Dead or even Saber Interactive's World War Z. Back 4 Blood isn't a repeat of Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve but doesn't live up to the expectations many were hoping for.

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

Back 4 Blood takes place after extraterrestrial worm parasites called Devil Worms invaded Earth. Called The Collapse most creatures on the planet were infected and turned into monsters with little brain function called Ridden and now attack anything that isn't infected. Earth's last chance is Cleaners, non-infected humans who must cleanse all traces of the Ridden or lose the planet. This technically makes this a space invasion as you'll face mutated humans now riddled with these parasites.

The story follows 4 acts with varying levels in-between. You choose from 8 characters, 4 of which are locked through progression, each with a unique skill. Some are better at healing, others combat, and some are the defensive focus. Each character is well-designed and has unique personalities that are shown throughout the adventure. Your primary goal is to ensure the safety of your base of operations called Fort Hope while saving those outside the Fort. It's a large connective adventure that ends with a large Monster Hunter-like boss fight but leaves the adventure open for future stories.

The designers did an outstanding job in the visual design of the levels and enemies. The Ridden look fantastic and you can see how they have been altering the environment since the infection. Large parts are now cesspools for breeding the Devil Worms and the biomass of those who died are turned into nests. 

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

Cooperative play is a huge focus here as players must depend on one another to survive. Special infected are littered alongside the Ridden that mostly serve as ways to incapacitate those who stray from the group, requiring aid from the team. The issue is that the director, who manages the Ridden spawning and level layout, can often spawn 3-5 special infected at a time. Since the enemy is AI is quite good and most special infected have ways to incapacitate players you can easier end up dying because of this.

Unlike Left 4 Dead where the special infected were spawned at a reasonable rate here the game goes overboard to the point that they act like these creatures are common. You'll find them just littered around the environment or spawn in automatically after 1 is killed. This makes these encounters less tense and more vexing as all special infected can take serious damage before dying. Since the enemy AI is surprisingly good at organizing attacks, cutting off points, and just charging forward given their large health pools Unless you have an extremely well-coordinated team you'll end up dying a lot due to friendly fire especially with melee attacks. Some melee weapons swing side to side, making them great for striking allies who are captured by special infected especially the Stalker that captures allies from the back turning allies in human shields.

You would expect the developers to ensure that ally AI was equal to that of the enemy AI but you are wrong. The Bot allies in Back 4 Blood are just as basic as the Left 4 Dead's AI but somehow worse. Ally bots have great aim but a limited range of detecting enemies for some reason. They'll refuse to pick up more advanced weapons and when faced against Back 4 Blood's most powerful monster, The Hag, which kidnaps and if not killed will instantly eliminate the player won't shoot the creature until it captures the player. Oh, yea, The Hag will only target human players but the developers added the if killed you can take control of a bot character instead of ending the game. It's insane that the enemy AI can act efficiently but ally AI cannot perform even the most basic of actions outside of shoot, provide ammo, heal, and follow slightly behind.

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

The difficulty is somewhat of a fickle topic as skill various among players but Back 4 Blood has an awful time hitting that perfect balance. Playing on Recruit offers its advantages by removing friendly fire but the enemy AI still has near-perfect coordination and the special infection spawning situation is still present. The next option above Veteran is challenging as it adds friendly fire, limits supplies, and boosts enemy attacks. But due to the sheer amount of special infected you can easily get completely stunned locked not because of being foolish but because the Director simply spawns 4 special infected all of which capture all your allies at once. There has to be a balance here, either weaken the special infected so they don't require an entire clip to take down or reduce the amount.

Uncommon Ridden is separated into 3 categories with 3 different types and 2 bosses. Tall Boys are heavy hitters, Stingers are nimble, and Reekers are brutes that explode when killed. The Orge and Breaker are boss level Ridden that appear during specific moments. All the uncommon infected have glowing parts that showcase their weak point and hitting them will cause double damage but due to the game's high frequency of spawning these creatures, it's to call them especially infected, just uncommon or mutated.

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

Back 4 Blood does offer a wide selection of weapons, each with mods that can improve the weapons. You cannot transfer mods between weapons so swapping weapons carries great risk, which most of the time is not worth it considering the special infected rate of spawn you'll want to keep whatever weapon you've invested into. Weapons all have strengths and weaknesses and you can test them all in the firing range, along with any part and clear stats to showcase the tradeoffs and benefits for everything.

Where Back 4 Blood does shine is in its level design and dynamic options. The Director will shift the landscape base on player performance, alter key item locations, and corruption cards will add new variables. Some examples are more birds to alert Ridden, enflamed common infected, armored special infected, and fog to limit your view. Added to the mix is your own deck of cards that randomly choose from your selection. Each act allows you to select from a pool of random cards that you can build to gear yourself towards a specific class like healing, assault, or mobility. These all combine to create unique runs each time you play, unaware of what changes could occur.

The game does provide a sense of progression through supply lines. These items earned are used to unlock new cards and cosmetics from mobility, offensive, or healing tiers. You have the weapon and character skins but most are unremarkable. The character cosmetics vary but the full outfit options usually involve the default outfit with a new color palette and a distinct option. Depending on the difficulty of the campaign act you completed with net you supplies with tiers becoming more expensive the more you unlock.

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

The best way to play Back 4 Blood is multiplayer. Players can choose to create a run or join one in progress with options for voice, private lobbies, or crossplay available. You can dive into a match instantly provided you reached that point in the campaign in that difficult option. And if you want to make any progress you have to play the game online as the game locks all progress if you play solo.

This is such a weird decision to lock all progression if you play the game solo. You will not earn achievements, no supply points are earned, and all stat tracking is disabled. This decision is ridiculous, there's no other way to put this. Why even put in a solo option if you're going to restrict everything? It's such a strange choice that boggles the mind.

Swarm in Back 4 Blood's competitive option. Human players try to hold out as much as possible as a circle of insects slowly takes up more of the map and the infected players try to kill them as fast as possible. The team that lasts the longest after 2 rounds is the winner. Humans have access to a large selection of supplies that slowly get smaller as the circle closes and infected can boost their skills or the Ridden common infected by collecting points from attacking and killing humans. All upgrades and items carry over to the next round and these can become intense affairs as both teams try to survive and kill. This is the best part of Back 4 Blood and I wish they included a system like this for the campaign, with players taking on the role of the infected while humans players try to make it to the end.

Back 4 Blood,NoobFeed,Turtle Rock Studios,

Back 4 Blood is such as strange experience as it implements some great dynamic elements with the card and corruption system. On the other hand, the sheer amount of special infected makes them less unique and just more annoying, especially since most of them have abilities that can incapacitate survivors with the only option of freedom being an ally or a limited use stun gun. Swarm is a fun competitive option but that rush only lasts so long. And if you're unable to play online for any reason you won't be able to earn any supplies to unlock new gear or earn achievements. Back 4 Blood has some great ideas but does not capture the same thrills as many other cooperative zombie shooters.
 

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Back 4 Blood

65/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Games
Developer(s): Turtle Rock Studios
Genres: Shooter, First-Person Shooter
Themes: Cooperative, Horror
Release Date: 2021-10-21

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