No, Back 4 Blood is not permanently free or playable on PS4 without an active PlayStation Plus subscription. While it was temporarily included as a PS Plus game earlier this year, it now requires a paid membership. Read on for a detailed look at the co-op zombie shooter and whether it‘s worth buying on PS4 today.
Back 4 Blood comes from Turtle Rock Studios, the developers behind the critically acclaimed Left 4 Dead series. After Valve took over the franchise, Turtle Rock moved on to new projects before returning to the co-op zombie formula with Back 4 Blood in 2021.
Given the heritage and anticipation, expectations were high for Back 4 Blood to deliver a next-gen successor to the beloved Left 4 Dead games. But did Back 4 Blood live up to hopes on PS4 and other platforms? Let‘s dive deeper.
Initial Release Reception
Back 4 Blood launched in October 2021, garnering fairly positive reviews with some recurring critiques. Here‘s a snapshot of how major gaming publications assessed the PS4 version:
IGN: 8/10 – Great co-op shooter held back by repetition and lack of enemy variety.
GameSpot: 8/10 – Nails the co-op combat but lean campaign and clumsy progression.
Polygon: 7/10 – Strong successor to Left 4 Dead formula but needs more innovation.
Critics agreed Back 4 Blood excelled at moment-to-moment co-op combat, with satisfying gunplay and frenetic horde attacks. But the initial scope felt limited, especially in enemy design.
According to NPD Group, Back 4 Blood sold 1.5 million units globally in its first two months. This suggests commercial success, though likely below bandwagon hits like Call of Duty.
Ongoing Content Expansions
Turtle Rock has consistently updated Back 4 Blood over the past year, responding to feedback and expanding scope. Major additions so far include:
New playable cleaners – Heng, Sharice, Dan, and more bringing fresh abilities.
Expanded card system – Additional cards to customize your deck and runs.
New campaign chapters – More environments and missions beyond the initial release.
Christmas event – Special holiday theme with gear to unlock.
Difficulty options – More tweaks to tailor challenge.
Offline mode – Enable progression without Internet connection.
Quality of life fixes – General polish, stability, and accessibility options.
This post-launch support shows Turtle Rock‘s commitment to improving the game over time based on player response.
Financial Success of DLC
While major expansions have been free so far, Back 4 Blood does include a in-game shop selling cosmetic DLC.
According to Turtle Rock, revenue from cosmetics exceeded $5.5 million in the first three months after launch.
The optional skins have proven lucrative, likely funding ongoing development. This additional monetization also keeps the entry price lower rather than selling premium editions.
Gameplay Critique and Praise
Let‘s examine Back 4 Blood‘s gameplay itself, both where it succeeds and falls short.
Flexible difficulty – The AI director tailors each run based on your skill and teamwork. This stops missions from becoming too routine.
Card synergies – Customizing your deck with tailored card combos allows diverse builds.
Gunplay feels punchy – Weapons pack a satisfying oomph, especially spraying down hordes.
Communication is key – Playing with mics improves coordination in hectic moments.
Characters lack distinction – The cleaners differentiate in abilities, but not much personality.
Repetitive environments – Locations like abandoned small towns become familiar quickly.
Friendly fire issues – Casual players may find the high friendly fire frustrating.
Unreliable matchmaking – Quality of random teammates can be hit or miss.
While not revolutionary, Back 4 Blood executes the co-op shooter fundamentals with finesse. The card system adds replayability, but greater enemy variety would help.
Playing Solo with AI Teammates
Back 4 Blood supports 1-4 players, so you can play solo with AI filling out your squad. The bots hold their own in combat and respond to pings.
But solo loses some magic without the camaraderie and unpredictability of human teammates. Playing with friends on mics is the ideal experience.
That said, solo is great for learning mechanics before going online. And it may suit players who dislike random matchmaking or don‘t have co-op partners.
Comparison to Left 4 Dead
Let‘s address the elephant in the room – how does Back 4 Blood stack up to Left 4 Dead 1 and 2?
On the positive side, Back 4 Blood has superior gunplay feel, deeper progression via cards, and bigger set pieces. The expanded verticality with ropes and ladders is a nice evolution too.
However, Left 4 Dead still wins in terms of pure map design, memorable moments, musical score, and distinctive characters. Back 4 Blood‘s cleaners never reach the charm of Bill, Louis, Zoey and Francis.
And small touches like closing safe room doors as hordes approach are still satisfyingly cinematic in Left 4 Dead after all these years.
That said, there‘s plenty of room for both franchises to co-exist. Back 4 Blood iterates the formula enough to stand on its own legs rather than just retreading.
Verdict: Worth Playing on PS4?
So after digesting all this, is Back 4 Blood worth buying and playing on PS4 today?
If you enjoy co-op shooters and liked Left 4 Dead, the answer is yes. The moment-to-moment gameplay still delivers, even if the initial content was limited.
Just don‘t expect a revolution. Back 4 Blood refines the Left 4 Dead foundation rather than completely transforming it.
The PS4 version holds up nicely and the free upgrade to PS5 is great for forward compatibility. Ongoing expansions also continue improving the experience.
For the best value, watch for a discounted sale. That reduces the burden of the PS Plus subscription requirement.
So in summary:
Pros: Satisfying co-op shooting, card progression system, regular free updates
Cons: Repetitive environments, lack of enemy variety, unreliable matchmaking
Ideal Player: L4D veterans seeking more co-op zombie action
Back 4 Blood absolutely scratches that horde shooter itch. Just don‘t set expectations astronomically high and you‘ll have a bloody good time cleansing the apocalypse with friends.