Left 4 Dead is one of those core Valve properties locked away for far too long. When both games in the series were released, they were genre-defining experiences, but that door has remained shut for well over a decade. Enter Back 4 Blood, a game developed by Turtle Rock Studios, formerly known as Valve South, and the first Left 4 Dead game developers before becoming an independent studio in 2011. Given they are no longer connected to Valve, they cannot use the Left 4 Dead IP and set out to make their own series. Back 4 Blood could easily be the game that Left 4 Dead 3 fans have waited for over a decade. Regardless, this is a different game, so there will be changes. Here is how Back 4 Blood differs from Left 4 Dead.
The survivors (Cleaners)
Cleaners are the human characters players will take control of in Back 4 Blood. At launch, Turtle Rock has promised eight different characters to choose from, equaling the total available in both Left 4 Dead games put together. However, only four cleaners will be played at a time. Cleaners appear to have certain objectives to take down the hordes of Ridden, rather than the typical fight for survival of the humans in Left 4 Dead.
In Left 4 Dead, while survivors looked different and had little personality quips, they were, by and large, the same. There were no differing gameplay aspects or real reasons to choose one over the other. Back 4 Blood is looking to flesh out human characters. For starters, each cleaner will have a perk that will help them stand out from the others. They also have a signature secondary weapon. For some, it will be a melee weapon. Others will have smaller firearms.
The infected (Ridden)
In Left 4 Dead 2, the infected were basic zombies, brought on by a flu-like illness that mutated. The cause of the apocalypse in Back 4 Blood comes from a dug-up parasite that infects its host and turns them into monstrosities. While they may seem familiar at first sight and no doubt inspired by the infected in Left 4 Dead, these are a new force. The special infected we have been shown so far have unique, horrifying designs that have us excited for what else is on its way.
A (hopefully) evolved Game Director
Like Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood has a feature built-in that will change your experience every time you play. The Game Director, as it is called, is hopefully an evolved successor to the AI Director. The Director would mostly change medkit and weapon spawns throughout the map and little else in the past. For Back 4 Blood, the Director should affect much more. Turtle Rock has stated that the Game Director will change modifiers, the overall environment, and more. While the changes in Left 4 Dead were significant for their time, Back 4 Blood needs the Game Director to be the next big thing to push everything forward. If it does the bare minimum, it could feel underwhelming.
A whole new boosting Card System
Further adding to changing the game experience is the Card System being introduced in Back 4 Blood. At the start of each game, all cleaners can choose up to eight cards to benefit both themselves and teammates in the upcoming match. These boosts include bonus damage, extra ammo, faster reloads, and much more. However, cards are not only for helping cleaners. The Game Director itself will play Corruption Cards as well to make things even tougher on you. This is an entirely new system never thought of in Left 4 Dead, showing Back 4 Blood is willing to try new things while bringing back many other familiar aspects.
Weapon pick-ups and attachments
Also making a much-needed change from a decade ago is the weapon system. In Left 4 Dead, weapons were always as you found them. You could attach a laser to it in some campaigns to improve your aim, but what you saw with them was usually what you got. This has been wholly written over in Back 4 Blood. For starters, weapons can now have attachments, which you find in the map, and you can actually aim down the sights, as opposed to always being stuck firing from the hip unless you had a sniper.
Weapons have a new star rating system to let you know how good they are in a fight. If a gun has more stars when you pick it up, it has more attachments and could potentially put out more damage, but that will depend on the weapon equipped. Keep in mind that the Game Director is always changing what you can find in a level, so the weapons and attachments you find in one game will be different.
More story and background
While we have yet to see it as of this writing, Turtle Rock promises a more in-depth story than Left 4 Dead. In the reveal trailer alone, we saw more backstory in Back 4 Blood than we ever saw in the former games. In Left 4 Dead, we never had any idea how the zombie outbreak started. Right off the back with this new game, we know the source of the Ridden and where the outbreak began. It appears that Turtle Rock is committed to bringing not only a great gameplay experience but also a deeper world with characters that could potentially show more of their background. With no actual clues yet where the story will go, we are stuck anxiously waiting.
These are only a few early examples of Turtle Rock Studios doing things to help differentiate Back 4 Blood from Left 4 Dead while still honoring what came before. With the Closed Alpha running this weekend, we will return to update this article with any relevant information that stands out to us as we play.