A quick perusal of Steam-tracking sites indicates that players returned to Left 4 Dead 2 in droves following the October 12 launch of spiritual successor Back 4 Blood, so much so that the older game is now more popular than the newer one.
Helmed by original Left 4 Dead developers Turtle Rock Studios, the similarly named Back 4 Blood is considered by many to be a straight-up continuation to the company’s earlier co-op shooter. Back 4 Blood follows the winning Left 4 Dead formula, tasking a team of four players with traveling from Point A to Point B in long, involved levels filled to the brim with procedurally generated zombie hordes both mundane and special. The new game is okay, if maybe too complicated and stat-heavy by half.
Left 4 Dead 2, on the other hand, is so good that it continues to enjoy a robust community nearly 12 years after its original release. According to SteamDB, the playerbase dropped off a little bit after Back 4 Blood hit the scene but has since come roaring back, surpassing the newer game earlier this week. I’m no statistician, but looking at this chart, it’s almost as if Back 4 Blood’s release directly led to a resurgence for Left 4 Dead 2, with the former’s numbers dropping dramatically as the latter’s picked up speed.
As of this writing, 23,816 folks are playing Left 4 Dead 2 as opposed to the 17,474 logged into Back 4 Blood.
While a special Halloween sale dropping Left 4 Dead 2’s price down to just $1.99 for the weekend may have something to do with its recent rise in players, the last year as a whole has been pretty good for the game. GitHyp reports that Left 4 Dead 2’s playerbase has been more active throughout 2021 than any time in the last six years, though it should be noted that this weekend’s 80% off sale wasn’t the first it’s enjoyed this year.
Of course, this in no way accounts for consoles, where only Back 4 Blood is free for tens of millions of Xbox Game Pass subscribers.
Back 4 Blood was always going to live in the shadow of Left 4 Dead 2, a legacy that Turtle Rock was apparently comfortable leaning into when it came to naming its new project. That said, there’s no ignoring that something is just fundamentally off with Back 4 Blood. What could have been a wonderful continuation of Left 4 Dead’s legacy is instead saddled with a bunch of superfluous junk—like comparing stats between guns and deck-building—that too often brings the action to a grinding halt.
During my brief time with Back 4 Blood, I often found myself wondering why I wasn’t just playing Left 4 Dead 2 instead. I guess I wasn’t alone.