Back 4 Blood is missing Left 4 Dead’s sense of friendly competition

Left 4 Dead's scoreboards were the main event for my zombie-slaying compatriots, so why are Back 4 Blood's round summary so lacklustre?

Back 4 Blood's end of round scoreboard

My teammates and I have made it to the first safe room in Back 4 Blood – just about. While we pant and wheeze, the last member through the door is still taking pop shots at the final few zombies in the level.

It could be for the thrill – the satisfying smush of 5.56 rounds pummeling into zombie brains – or more likely, they’re hanging back to add to their kill tally. We drag them in and shut the door, ostensibly to guarantee our safety, but deep down we’re waiting for the end-of-mission scoreboard, which promises to answer the squad’s burning question: who won?

Our characters stand across the screen and we wait for the reams of stats and accolades with bated breath. Who will be crowned victorious? If not for killing the most infected, then for something – any kind of zombie-slaying feat. Who did the most damage to bruisers? Who got the most melee kills? Which clumsy oaf inflicted the most damage on their teammates or kept triggering hordes?

We can’t wait to compare every stat that comes up, but as the screen fades away and the next mission begins, we realise that Back 4 Blood isn’t going to answer us. The question of ‘who won?’ hangs in the air like the fallen teammate we left clinging to the side of a bridge (we were too busy trying to accumulate as many points as possible to save them).

Shooting a propane tank in Back 4 Blood

Instead, we’re shown a short selection of personal stats that can’t easily be compared. These include figures like the number of special ridden killed, who inflicted the most damage, or – for the altruists – who revived the most teammates. It’s a far cry from the gluttony of stats and awards doled out at the end of a mission in Left 4 Dead, and because no two people are compared across the same category, there’s no real way to see how your performance stacks up against those of your teammates.

Left 4 Dead's scoreboard produced rivalries devoid of toxicity; teamwork laced with a selfish desire to win

Granted, Back 4 Blood is a team game. It’s vital we work together to make it out alive. Hours go into building our characters, picking the right decks, planning which team upgrades we’ll buy, and which weapons we’ll focus our builds around. We’re a harmonious bunch for the most part: I opt for a melee tank build, whereas my teammates prefer to snipe or mow down the hordes with LMGs and assault rifles. We don’t even secretly swipe one another’s best weapons out of convenience.

That’s not to say that one of us won’t lone wolf it and run off ahead when the action actually starts. In both Left 4 Dead and Back 4 Blood, these individual forays typically end in chaos, and accusations like “Where have you gone?” or “‘Why have you run off?” are hurled at the guilty party as the level fills with more zombies than you’d face on a typical, more restrained run. There’s only silence on the other end, because the accusations are rhetorical; we all know they’re going for glory.

In Left 4 Dead we’d risk the whole run by intentionally blundering into a witch – all while theatrically making out that we were doing our best to avoid it – just to earn the Witch Hunter accolade for dealing the most damage to witches. When you enter a safe room in Left 4 Dead, accolades and stats such as General Defence (most kills) or Melee Fighter (most kills with a melee weapon) flash on screen.

Left 4 Dead's end of mission awards

There’s a sense of friendly competition that comes with it, and while the debate never slides too far into the accusatory, I love how it shines a light on our individual quirks and playing styles.

It’s disappointing that our efforts aren’t recognised in this way in Back 4 Blood. For veterans of Turtle Rock’s previous zombie-slaying masterpiece, reaching the end of a full stage feels anticlimactic by comparison, especially due to the co-op game’s brutal difficulty. There’s no sprawling post-match report that lets us hurl stats at one another, just some extra rewards for surviving the ordeal. Good job, us.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I miss the sense of friendly competition that Left 4 Dead delivers in each of its levels. It produced rivalries devoid of toxicity; teamwork laced with a selfish desire to win. Like Legolas and Gimli battling side by side at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, we can shout our kill count as we go, but there’s nothing quite like seeing it in writing, uncontested, for all to witness.

You can check out our Back 4 Blood review here if you’re still on the fence about Turtle Rock’s latest, or find out what the best Back 4 Blood cards are. And if you’re also keen for more L4D then here’s everything we know about Left 4 Dead 3.

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