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You need to play this underrated zombie shooter before it leaves Xbox Game Pass

A massive Ridden in Back 4 Blood.
WB Games

All of us have gaming opinions that go against the grain or zeitgeist around certain titles. Oftentimes, it’s because your personal opinion on a title is negative — I was like that with Sonic Frontiers — but it can go in a more positive direction. For me, a game I’m a very positive outlier on is Back 4 Blood, a Left 4 Dead successor developed by Turtle Rock Studios and published by WB Games.

Although Back 4 Blood got decent reviews from critics, the public’s general response toward the title is more mixed on platforms like Steam. Fewer people are playing it than Left 4 Dead 2 on PC at this point. I’ve always loved this game, as I enjoy the variance and replay value it introduces, as also think the different playable characters and level design make this one of the most enjoyable co-op shooters of the past several years.

It’s been available on Xbox Game Pass since day one, but that won’t be the case for much longer. As someone who still finds Turtle Rock’s latest a great time to play, I highly recommend checking Back 4 Blood out before it’s taken off Microsoft’s gaming subscription service on April 15.

Back to Back 4 Blood

Hunters in Back 4 Blood.
WB Games

Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead games are some of the best co-op games ever made and garner tens of thousands of players on Steam to this day. Back 4 Blood was Turtle Rock’s attempt to revisit and revitalize that formula after the ahead-of-its-time asymmetrical multiplayer game Evolve. The elements that make the Left 4 Dead games great are still present at the core of Back 4 Blood.

The zombies, or “Ridden” players, go up against are memorable; the game is funny and even more hilarious with friends. Both the shooting and melee combat feel great, and much of the level and mission design is much more varied than what we see in many modern cooperative shooters. An all-time favorite multiplayer moment of mine was sacrificing myself to a horde of Ridden, so my team had the time to blow up a boat and beat the level. Like Left 4 Dead, an AI game director works in the background to modify encounters.

Back 4 Blood comes highly recommended from me for all those reasons, but the game gets much more divisive in the areas where Turtle Rock diverged from Left 4 Dead. It has different playable characters, or “Cleaners,” as the game calls them, each with unique passive gameplay bonuses and starting weapons, adding a bit of a hero shooter layer to the game. More importantly, it embraces roguelite design by splicing in a card system that will shake things up alongside its AI director.

Card menu in Back 4 Blood.
WB Games

Players have a deck of active cards. Originally, these had to be picked one by one at the start of each level, but now, players have access to the full set of buffs from cards in their deck from the start of the campaign. While your weapon loadout will likely change from level to level depending on what level you scavenge, this change to how Back 4 Blood’s card system works allows players to tailor the play style of their characters between runs for different kinds of experiences.

What hasn’t changed is that the AI game director pulls out corruption cards at the start of each level that adds specific gimmicks to that playthrough. That can be as simple as adding in a new enemy type that isn’t normally then to event cards that can do things that lay a thick fog over the level. Even now, over two years since Back 4 Blood’s launch, this card system still adds immense replay value to the experience, as no two playthroughs of a level ever feel quite the same to me.

Not everyone felt that way about the card system, though, as some found it confusing and a frustrating layer of progression put on top of what could otherwise be a solid linear co-op game. This game also got a lot of flack at launch for not having an offline mode. I’ve always thought Back 4 Blood’s core was fantastic, though, and during its period of active post-launch support, Turtle Rock fixed many issues with bug fixes, the addition of an offline mode, and that card system tweak. Post-launch support for the game has since concluded, so you’ll be getting the complete package when you check the game out now, too.

The Hag in Back 4 Blood.
WB Games

Add in all the new modes, systems, and cleaners that have come to Back 4 Blood since launch, and the game is in a better place than ever. Although Back 4 Blood has not achieved the classic status of Left 4 Dead in the public’s view, it’s still my preferred zombie game to return to because the cleaner I choose, the deck I play with, and the corruption cards pulled make level playthroughs feel wholly unique each and every time I do them.

Any game you have strong feelings about, positive or negative, is worth a revisit at some point so you can see how both the game and your feelings about it have evolved over time. My thoughts on Back 4 Blood remain as positive as ever, so if you wrote this game off when it came out because of its always-online nature or card system, I recommend you revisit it. There’s an amazing co-op shooter core with satisfying gunplay and level design that’s always been here, and the kinks in the card system have been worked out since the game’s launch. You can currently do this with Xbox Game Pass, but that won’t be the case for much longer.

Back 4 Blood leaves Xbox Game Pass on April 15. If you want to own the full game, Game Pass subscribers can buy it at a discount on Xbox or pick the game up on PC, PS4, or PS5.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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