How 'Back 4 Blood' Ignores Players' Demands With Its Tacked-On Single Player Mode

Back 4 Blood technically has a single player offering for those who do not want to venture into public matchmaking lobbies, but it is far from a satisfying experience at the moment.

Before we rip into this lacklustre solo campaign, it is worth mentioning upfront that the zombie shooter is meant to be played cooperatively. The idea is to prioritize teamwork above all else so that you can effectively manage the undead hordes, rescue each other from danger, equip complementary upgrades, share your limited resources, and coordinate how you are going to achieve the various objectives.

This aspect of social interaction is one of the defining traits of Back 4 Blood and it cannot be replicated by playing alongside emotionless A.I. bots. There is just no substitute for that feeling of unease you only get by partnering up with strangers who you do not fully trust yet, and who might not trust you either.

If you are relying on somebody else —whom you have never met before—to watch your back, there is a palpable sense of tension. You can never tell what type of person they are going to be. Will they get into the spirit of things and watch over their allies, or will they just be looking out for themselves and ditch you at the first sign of trouble?

Then you have to account for the jittery newbies as well, who are liable to get panicked and make mistakes that could have severe consequences for the rest of the party.

Human beings are flawed, complicated and, most importantly, they are unpredictable. That is precisely what makes Back 4 Blood's multiplayer so invigorating. It's almost like a social experiment or one of those office team-building exercises—neither of which are much fun if you are doing them by your lonesome.

With all that said, to get the most out of Back 4 Blood it really needs to be experienced online. Yet that does not excuse it having a tacked-on single player option that might as well not be there.

Back 4 Blood Screenshot
"Back 4 Blood" is best experienced online with firends or even strangers, as it relies so heavily on teamwork. Warner Bros. Games

Back 4 Blood Does Not Support Single Player Progression

When Back 4 Blood's beta was released in August, gamers were already voicing concerns about how its solo mode did not track your progress or even record basic stats.

This puts you at a unique disadvantage if you are not into the whole online multiplayer thing. To earn any of the game's trophies, cosmetics or supply points, you must go through its story campaign with other people. So, if you have beaten the first act alone and didn't once hear that satisfying achievement notification sound, now you know why.

It does not matter how well you perform or how much time you sink into a given run, all of the best rewards are disabled for lone wolves, even though they are undertaking the exact same levels as everybody else. The developers, Turtle Rock Studios, do not even do a particularly good job of explaining this, which is why a lot of confused fans assumed there was some kind of widespread glitch preventing them from unlocking new characters.

Back 4 Blood Reeker
You will need to coordinate with the rest of your squad in order to take down the special breeds of infected. Warner Bros. Games

Suffice it to say, it's a very irritating design choice, especially if you planned on completing the story by yourself. Not everyone likes dealing with randomers on the internet, and you cannot always find a mutually agreeable time for both you and your friends to embark on a lengthy campaign.

To paraphrase @brentbrookhouse on Twitter, it almost feels like a punishment is being inflicted upon customers who just want to enjoy Back 4 Blood in their own way. It is also worth pointing out that some people may feel a little anxious about interacting with strangers online, or might not have any friends who are into gaming to begin with.

Good lord, can we just not make wanting to avoid miserable multiplayer experiences not something games punish? https://t.co/FC22m2gYym

— Brent Brookhouse (@brentbrookhouse) October 11, 2021

The Problem Has Not Been Addressed Since the Beta

Now that Back 4 Blood has officially launched, horror fans are irked to learn that the situation has not really improved much and that solo players are still being given the short end of the stick.

As pointed out by @thatoldgamerguy on Twitter, you will either have to suck it up and brave the horrors of public matchmaking, try to convince a friend to buy the game as well, or just settle for a fundamentally less rewarding experience.

Similarly, popular YouTuber SkillUp commented that this oversight makes Back 4 Blood "a very tough game to recommend," as it is not catering to a massive chunk of the community. Likewise, @GamesNosh called it an "utterly baffling decision" and @EliLikesRice went so far as to say that it killed any interest they previously had in the first-person shooter.

Annnnnnnnnd there goes any interest I had for #Back4Blood. There are legitimately no good reasons for disabling unlocks and achievements if someone wants to play solo and explore the game on their own. The ego on game developers lately has been ridiculous pic.twitter.com/XY8h8MGcso

— Eli (@EliLikesRice) October 8, 2021

All of this begs the question of why Turtle Rock even bothered to include a solo option, if they were so hellbent on discouraging you from using it. They were under no obligation to include it and there are already plenty of games out there (such as Fortnite Battle Royale and Dead by Daylight) that do not accommodate single player modes. It's an accepted model nowadays.

Polygon's Ryan Gilliam has made a compelling case for why the single player mode is not as bad as you might have heard, noting that you do get to benefit from a substantially better deck of perk cards. However, this does not really make up for the fact that achievements, trophies, characters and cosmetics rewards are all needlessly disabled.

To their credit, the developers have issued a (rather vague) update, in which they promised to look into the issue, but it is not a bug or a technical error that needs fixing here. It was a conscious decision to explicitly strip features away from the single player audience.

On a related note, Back 4 Blood is "Always Online" and will not let you play without an internet connection either. This is yet another blow against lone players, as they will be impacted by things like server downtime and network issue, even if they are not making use of any online functionality.

❗ Attention Cleaners! ❗

We have heard your frustrations about progression in solo mode and are discussing ways to address the issue. Thank you for your patience and feedback at this time - we'll have more news as we strategize on potential ways to make it happen.

— Turtle Rock Studios is Back 4 Blood🩸 (@TurtleRock) October 9, 2021

The A.I. Bots Are Useless

The Back 4 Blood community has found an unofficial workaround that you can use to earn rewards while still playing with bots. To do this, you need to set up a private lobby (and then not send out any invites), so that you are technically in a multiplayer match, despite the fact that there is nobody else around.

Yet this does not solve the biggest issue with Back 4 Blood's solo mode, that being the incompetent A.I. partners. Playing with bots here feels like you are babysitting lemmings that have absolutely no self-preservation instincts. As noted by Jason Rodriguez of Gamepur, "the A.I. has extremely poor navigation skills [which] can be a serious problem in missions where you're traversing rooftops or cliffsides."

The bots will often get in the way of your shots (and then have the gall to berate you for friendly fire), waltz around near precarious ledges, and stand in open flames just soaking up burn damage. Try as you might to marshal them out of harm's way using the ping system, they are just innately accident-prone. It is like they belong in an old vaudeville routine, not a zombie apocalypse.

Back 4 Blood Tallboy
You will often be reliant on your teammates to rescue you from grapples in "Back 4 Blood" , which can be irritating when the A.I. is not responsive enough. Warner Bros. Games

Granted, Back 4 Blood is not the only cooperative shooter to suffer from this problem (this year's Aliens: Fireteam Elite had similarly idiotic bots) but it is especially noticeable here thanks to the heavy emphasis on teamwork. You cannot rely on your A.I. partners to ever take the initiative; they won't assist you with any objectives, and they will squander healing items that ought to be used sparingly.

For this reason, tackling the harder difficulty settings on your own is more trouble than it's worth. As video game critic Neil Bolt pointed out, "solo play is a bit of a wash at present [because the] A.I. teammates are no substitute for real players."

All in all, it just seems that Back 4 Blood's single player component was an afterthought. It does not record your progress properly, it withholds rewards, you are forced to stay connected to the internet at all times, and the A.I. bots are just not up to the task of helping you. Hopefully these things will all be addressed in future updates because, right now, it feels like online matchmaking is the only viable way to play this game.

Newsweek has contacted publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to ask how they are planning to address the feedback about Back 4 Blood's single player. At the time of writing, there has been no response.

Back 4 Blood is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. It is also included as part of the Xbox Game Pass service.

Back 4 Blood Screenshot
Image shows a firefight in "Back 4 Blood". As you progress to the harder difficulties, the shortcomings of the A.I. bots will become more apparent. Warner Bros. Games