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. Regardless of how you feel about the potential of Left 4 Dead 3, this is not that game. Here is how Back 4 Blood is different from Left 4 Dead.
The Survivors (Cleaners)
Cleaners are the human characters players 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, with more on the way with the game’s three post-launch expansions. However, only four cleaners will be played at a time.
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 has perks that help them stand out from the others. For example, Karlee can sense danger around corners and point it out to her teammates. They also have a signature secondary weapon, but that can be swapped out at anytime. For some, it will be a melee weapon. Others will have smaller firearms.
The Infected (Ridden)
In Left 4 Dead, 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 seen have unique, horrifying designs and feature variants that change up how they attack you and act while on the field.
An evolved Game Director
Like Left 4 Dead, Back 4 Blood has a feature built-in that will slightly change your experience every time you play. The Game Director, as it is called, is an evolved successor to the AI Director. The AI Director in Left 4 Dead would mostly change medkit and weapon spawns throughout the map and little else in the past. For Back 4 Blood, the Game Director affects a bit more. Not only does it decide item and enemy spawns, but it also plays into the Card System present in the game. It plays Corruption Cards that change how the environment, enemies, and other factors play out through each level.
The Card System
Adding onto the end of the previous section, at the start of each game, all Cleaners choose cards to benefit both themselves and teammates in the upcoming match against the AI’s Corruption Cards. These boosts include bonus damage, extra ammo, faster reloads, and much more. This is an entirely new system completely foreign to Left 4 Dead, making it feel more like a rogue-lite rather than a straight up FPS.
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. 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 or is better in some other way.
More story and background
In Left 4 Dead, we never had any idea how the zombie outbreak started, just that people got sick from a flu. With Back 4 Blood, we know exactly what started the outbreak as well as have deeper backstories on our playable characters. We know which ones have lost loved ones and how they feel about the situations they are being put into. There may not be many cutscenes in the game, but you will find out a lot by listening to what your characters have to say.