Seven things I wish I’d known before playing ‘Back 4 Blood’

How to survive the hordes of Ridden

Back 4 Blood is finally out, and the full version of the zombie-slaying co-op shooter comes with several hurdles to overcome.

While on the surface Turtle Rock Studios’ latest might look like the spitting image of Left 4 Deadit’s actually a different beast and requires a whole new set of skills. Don’t have these? You’ll die a whole lot. With that in mind, we’ve done the research for you, dying ridiculously to bring you seven things you need to know before starting Back 4 Blood.

Read on, and hopefully, you can avoid making the same silly mistakes. If nothing else, maybe you won’t teamkill your friends as much as team NME did.

Skip Recruit difficulty


Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock Studios

Many players who jump in to play Back 4 Blood will probably start on the Recruit difficulty. However, this difficulty mode presents so little challenge that it can make the game a tad dull. Recruit is best used for getting through the story without any stress. As players progress through mission new starting points will be unlocked, meaning if you want to smash through the story it’s easiest to do in Recruit. The Recruit difficulty also offers an excellent place to test out decks and weapons and learn the game.

The Survivor difficulty settings are where the game gets most of its meat. The enemies need to be prioritised depending on their threat, and a horde can spell disaster for a run. If you don’t have the cards, certain obstacles can be frustrating and deadly. Bring friends and communicate to achieve the best chance at success.

Nightmare difficulty is the game’s endgame. This mode will test your skills and decks with minor increases in things like trauma resist will be the difference between success and failure. Take care when entering here.

It’s a roguelike

Back 4 Blood beta screenshot
Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock.

The main gameplay loop of Back 4 Blood is its card system. The cards you get can vastly increase your chances of survival once they start to stack together in the right ways. To unlock these cards, you have to clear levels to earn supply.


As with all roguelikes, your progression will be incremental. Typically you’ll push through several levels on a run before failing and heading back to Fort Hope. Here you grab a few cards, tweak your deck, and venture out again to push through a few levels more.

The game’s levels aren’t properly random – certain paths will be closed off, special rooms full of loot can appear in different places or pathways can include horde-summoning birds and alarmed cars – and the real changes will come from the corruption cards, which will throw you constant curveballs that will make each run feel slightly different.

This makes it hard to plan for what is coming up because you never know when the game will throw an Ogre at you while also covering the map in dense mist. You’ll gain more corruption cards as you slide up the difficulties. Most importantly, they will let you know which targets should take priority. If you’re going up against traumatic Crushers, they should be taken down immediately, even if it means taking a few hits from general Ridden.

Mutations are far more common than L4D‘s Special Infected

Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock

Mutations are bigger and meaner than most of the Ridden you’ll encounter. There are several types and each has its own ability designed to mess with your run. You should expect to see lots of them. Thankfully once you spot one it should die quickly, faster if focused down by two players. If they are left alone, they can become devastating hit point ravagers. This becomes more problematic once you begin to stack up corruption cards. Multiple mutations with corruption card bonuses can become a true test of how to prioritise incoming targets, especially when they spawn in groups.

It is often worth bringing a sniper rifle to put shots into the weak spots that most mutations have. Hits from sniper rifles deal large amounts of damage and stagger mutations to give players a chance to gain distance.

Ammunition diversification

Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock Studios

Ammo can quickly become a scarce resource, but there are ways to mitigate it. If you make sure that weapon types are distributed among your team, you’ll have an easier time sharing resources. One player on a shotgun will probably end up with plenty of unused assault rifle ammo to hand out to a teammate, and vice versa. Communicating your ammo needs is the easiest way to avoid someone running out in a clutch moment and dashing off to find bullets, which will get them killed.

It’s also essential to bear in mind what secondary weapon your teammates are using. If everyone has pistol ammo based sidearms, then the player running a submachine gun primary will have a more challenging time staying topped up on ammo. The worst-case scenario is when someone ends up with both a primary and secondary using the same ammo type, leaving them without a backup when they run dry. Avoid this.

Stars are greater than attachments

Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock

Weapons come in all varieties, and each has an associated star level which determines its base stats. Each attachment you find or buy will increase the star level and improve various stats. However, don’t be fooled by that nice red dot and rad suppressor. A new gun can easily surpass a fully kitted weapon that started at low stars, even if it’s missing all attachments. The base star level improves with each rarity increase, meaning your white tier M16 will be much worse than a blue tier one. Also, keep an eye out for red attachments. These reduce stats and make the weapon slightly worse but replacing it solves the problem. Expect to swap weapons often and always prioritise stars over attachments.

Trauma is the source of all problems.

Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock

Taking damage in any game is a bad thing. But it is double bad in Back 4 Blood. Not only does your health decrease, but you will also gain trauma. Trauma is indicated by the hash marked section at the end of your health bar. This caps the amount of health you can have and is hard to remove.

The best way to avoid trauma is to avoid getting hit. Keeping distance from groups of small infected and quickly deal with mutations. If you see a retch ready to spit acid at you, then start moving immediately as it is likely to hit the spot you were standing in. Make sure you check corners for Sleepers and other threats. Any small injury can quickly add up to a lot of trauma.

Once trauma has been gained, it is crucial to clear it where possible. One option is to upgrade your healing items until they can remove trauma, but they don’t clear very much. Pain meds can temporarily raise your health into your trauma level but won’t remove it. First aid cabinets are dotted around the map, which can heal you and remove some trauma. These can cost money depending on your difficulty but are extremely useful.

Items beat everything

Back 4 Blood. Credit: Turtle Rock

Players can gather several items throughout the game, and most of them can solve problems for you. If you need to get rid of mutations in a hurry, bring a grenade. If you are having trouble with large groups of Ridden, bring a Molotov or barbed wire. Grab attacks getting you down? Bring stun guns. Toolkits can also gain you access to stashes with money and gear, as well as allowing you to skip certain horde events.

Players can upgrade every item from the store. These upgrades improve the damage, healing, and other features of the items. Upgrades also give certain items a chance not to be consumed when used, which will save you money throughout the run. You can even increase the number of items you can carry, which means you are less likely to find yourself empty-handed in an emergency situation.

Back 4 Blood is available now on PC on Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.

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