It’s been twelve years since Left 4 Dead 2 took over the cooperative gaming scene. For many of those years, fans have been frothing at the maw to get any news of a sequel. The same team behind that game has finally brought us another cooperative experience in Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to their previous work.

It checks a lot of the same boxes as the studio’s previous work did, but does it bring relief to the itch the old game left behind? Is the card system enough to keep runs feeling fresh? What are the infected like? What else is wrong with the experience? We’ll cover all that and more in the review below.

Heart of The Cards

The card system overall is pretty well constructed. Cards always get drawn in the order you place them in and you can create several decks to make playthroughs feel a little more unique. I have noticed that some cards seem to stack infinitely. In an early run, I had the last card in my deck as a stamina boost. I didn’t have a full deck, I only had about ten cards. Because of this, I was able to constantly stack that last card and had a x11 bonus for my stamina. You can unlock more cards by completing runs to get supply points that can be spent back in the main hub to unlock a plethora of items.

It wasn’t really horrible in the grand scheme. I think it actually helped to be a lower-level player without being overly broken. I was able to run and create needed distance from the infected. The only times I felt like the card system needed a tune was when the AI got really stacked hands.

Not a Difficulty Spike, A Brick Wall

Speaking of the AI cards. The game also chooses cards and stacks them against the player. I loved when the game would have something like really heavy fog happen. It made the game feel noticeably different and a little more horrific. The infected sprinting from such dense fog is actually scary.

I feel like Back 4 Blood suffers from its skyrocket in difficulty. That’s the biggest thing that I have noticed when comparing this game to Left 4 Dead 2. Both games could be absolutely challenging and railroad the player at times, however, I feel like Left 4 Dead 2 handled that scaling a little better. At the very least it was easier to get through the overall product than it is to get through parts of Back 4 Blood. A casual player, which is the base market for a game like Back 4 Blood, is going to struggle quite a bit at times.

My sister and I ran through Left 4 Dead 2 many times but the same can’t be said for Back 4 Blood. We got all the way to act three without a lot of issues, there were challenges and deaths sure but out of nowhere, we slammed into a wall. We died twice because of how weirdly the infected were deployed. We got hit with at the start of an area with an Ogre, then two Bruisers and died from them all rushing with normal infected. Then we died again. The run ends when you have no more continues so we had to start a new run and choose that spot as our starting point.

We barely managed to squeak by this time but it felt like the game hadn’t reset between runs. It felt so odd that the difficulty would spike like that on a new run immediately. We got to pick a few cards and buy weapons but they weren’t great they didn’t really have attachments. Overall we weren’t even close to where we were equipment-wise in the previous run, so it was kind of baffling that it was that difficult that fast. That kind of stuff would have been fine but we weren’t even on that high of a difficulty. Soon after that checkpoint, we died again and the run stopped.

We ended up screwing around in the firing range doing 1v1’s and that was way more fun than sprinting into a brick wall of difficulty hoping to breakthrough.

The Undead Nightmare

The infected in Back 4 Blood, for the most part, are great, and yes I am aware that they are called The Ridden. The common infected present a decent enough challenge while still feeling like a fodder enemy. If you aren’t paying enough attention their numbers can definitely get to you but at the same time you can pick up a desert eagle and for the most part pick away at a group. It’s when the special infected get involved that things can get a bit… hinky.

I mentioned my issues with Bruisers spawning multiple at a time and sometimes with Ogres so I won’t bring that up again. Even the Tallboys en masse really weren’t too difficult. I wanted to talk about the Hag (which qualifies as this game’s version of the Witch from Left 4 Dead). You are meant to ignore them and not trigger them at all. That was never explained to me which sure the game didn’t hold my hand and tell me everything, whatever. But there should have been something somewhere that said it was basically an instakill.

What I mean is, once the Hag is triggered it chases incessantly. Whoever triggered it has to run nonstop and can never stop or they will get grabbed by the Hag. Once a player is grabbed if the Hag escapes with them they die immediately. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal if there was seemingly any way to stop the Hag. I have had instances where multiple players were emptying clips into it and it just didn’t die. It needs to be killable. Especially if the lobby is set to the lowest difficulty.

That in itself is something that Back 4 Blood has struggled with. As it sits now it is a struggle to see the end of the game. We basically have to start a new run at every checkpoint because of the difficulty spiking every single time we get any progress. We hit a new checkpoint then die twice and have to start over again.

It is frustrating not even being able to progress because the game keeps spiking and resetting like this.  As I said earlier it feels like the curb my previous game had in difficulty never reset in between runs and I am just continually running into a wall.

To Clarify

Back 4 Blood isn’t a bad game, in the right circumstances with two to four players it can be a grand old time. The gunplay is fun, the game is hectic to play in a great way. The fact that there are actual cutscenes, a fair amount of customization, and that the game looks superb are all wonderful talking points. By and large, I still recommend the game.

The lack of care to players who have to play this game solo is glaring. The solo mode literally counts for nothing. You get no unlocks, no achievements. There is no point to this mode and it serves as nothing more than a glorified practice mode. Yes, this is a team-focused game, but it is a story-based game that gives the impression of just having the solo mode as a tacked-on thing. Just a simple box ticked in some imaginary list of demands or requirements. Not to mention the fact that regardless of how you play the teammate AI is horridly bad. Like, 86 year old trying to check their email for the first time bad.

Closing Thoughts

Boiling my experience with Back 4 Blood down to a few sentences goes like this. Back 4 Blood is more of the things that made Left 4 Dead such a stand-out game from the same studio. It struggles with balancing and the fact that it didn’t launch with a vote to kick option is a tad laughable. It completely bungled its single-player experience. The story threads and cutscenes are a welcome bonus that makes the entire campaign feel like a worthwhile adventure as opposed to four “mini-campaigns” from previous games. The card systems offer a consistent fresh feel to each area and playthrough. Despite its’ flaws it is one of these season must-play games.

Back 4 Blood Review
The Good
  • Feels Great to Play
  • Effort Towards the Story
  • Great for a Group to Play
The Bad
  • Lack of Care for Solo Players
  • Enormous Difficulty Spikes
  • Doesn't Feel Like a True Reset Between Runs
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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About The Author

Allen S
Editorial/Reviews Team, Manager

I started gaming when I was seven years old. I started my own game studio when I was twelve, went to school for game design. Now I work here and also on my own YouTube channel