Back 4 Blood: a beginner’s guide to solo mode

Back 4 Blood is the heir to the co-op zombie killing throne left vacant by the Left 4 Dead series. It’s best enjoyed with friends, but if you want to hit it solo, we have a few pointers.

Back 4 Blood is almost exactly what you would expect it to be. Taking its cues from its spiritual predecessor Left 4 Dead, this first-person shooter is all about doing chaotic battle with a neverending horde of the undead. And on this adventure you will be joined by a crew of three other characters.

Who’s in charge of these characters, however, is up to you. While it is undeniable that Back 4 Blood has been designed with four-player online play in mind (the title does include a ‘4’), a solo mode is there for players who for whatever reason prefer to experience games by themselves.

In the context of Back 4 Blood, solo mode means that you will be accompanied on your adventure by a team of bots. The game starts with four player characters available, and the rest of your squad will be made up of the three characters you didn’t select.

Each character has a relatively minor bonus that gives them an advantage at performing a specific squad role. For this reason, unless you just love reviving teammates, steer clear of ‘Mom’ in solo mode. Other than that, your choice of character is pretty insignificant when you take into account the game’s ‘Deck’ building mechanic.

back 4 blood
Image: Back 4 Blood / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Deck building in Back 4 Blood

Character skills and bonuses in Back 4 Blood are explored through a deck building system. It works in a similar way to gear bonuses or level progression in other games, and you start earning them rather quickly in the game.

Card bonuses can be as simple as improved overall health and stamina, or slightly more nuanced in how they work. Which ones are best will come down to each player’s style of play, but when in doubt, stats are a safe (if uninspired) choice.

The most powerful cards generally come with drawbacks. For example, a card may decrease reload time by 50% but make you slower at aiming down your weapon sight. This is perfect if you love to wade into battle with a shotgun and shoot from the hip, but less so if you prefer to take out enemies from a safe distance.

Still, keep in mind that leaning hard into a specific playstyle will likely result in better performance than a more generalist approach. Back 4 Blood was designed for squad synchronicity, and that means that the deck system rewards building around a particular role.

deck build game
Image: Back 4 Blood / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Don’t trust your team

Just to clarify – this hint is for solo runs. If you are playing with other players online, scrap this point entirely, as cooperation is critical in that form of the game.

However, when teamed with bots you should be aware that you are by far the most important member of the team. During my solo playthrough of Back 4 Blood I was continually shocked at the stupidity of the rest of my squad; I’m surprised my controller survived my experience watching as the squad’s one surviving member calmly walked around the detritus of a battle as the rest of us cried out for heals until we eventually bled out.

So if given the option of risking your neck to revive a bot or focusing on your own character, just keep your hero instincts in check. These fuckers aren’t worth dying for (and after an hour listening to their painful one-liners I’m sure you’ll agree).


Shoot the weak points… or don’t

Larger enemies in Back 4 Blood have weak points that are marked by slightly glowing tissue/growths. Tallboys for instance should be shot in the area towards the back of their swollen arms.

If you can’t get a clear shot, don’t sweat it – unload into them and they will still go down, albeit a little slower.

tallboy weak spot
Image: Back 4 Blood / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Don’t get attached to items in Back 4 Blood

Resources, items, and weapons come and go in Back 4 Blood, and thus shouldn’t be hoarded. Be sure to pick up copper when you notice it, and be sure to spend it on better weapons and restocking between missions. You should also keep an eye out for ammo, as there are sections of the game where you will have a lot of blasting to do.

You will find new weapons pretty regularly, and experimenting early on is a good way to get your head around what kind of playstyle you want to commit to. Also make special note of the item level displayed in the top right part of weapon box. Go for the higher level weapon unless that weapon has poor synchronicity with your current deck of cards.

back 4 blood ogre
Image: Back 4 Blood / Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Take out special enemies fast

Special enemies such as Spitters, Tallboys, and Exploders should be prioritised as soon as they appear. Their damage output is much greater than regular enemies, and if left to their own devices they can do a real job on you and your squad (of AI idiots).

As a general rule don’t allow them within striking distance, although I realise that is easier said than done at times.

And most importantly, have fun!

Back 4 Blood doesn’t have a super polished solo campaign that tells an interesting story. It’s been designed from the ground up for cooperative play, and that really shows when playing the game by oneself. The best antidote to that, at least in my opinion, is to not take it too seriously.

Run in guns firing and if the horde takes you down in a blaze of glory, then so be it. The levels aren’t very long, so it won’t take you much time to get back to where you were.

My final piece of advice is to treat the solo mode of Back 4 Blood as training for the online experience. No matter what you do in solo mode, the mechanics are built around multiple players helping each other. Without that critical element the game grows stale fast, so get your confidence up and find a few players online to adventure with.

And if possible, a group of friends that will appreciate the humour in hearing you squeal in a fit of panic that “the big one’s got me!” Because that is truly when Back 4 Blood shines its brightest.