Disclosure ‐ A big thank you to Tripwire Interactive for supplying us with beta access!
Killing Floor 2 puts Left 4 Dead to shame.
Killing Floor, the hugely-successful 2009 zombie shooter (which currently still holds a higher number of concurrent players than the recently released Evolve) debuts its long-awaited successor this month. Killing Floor 2 is set to enter Early Access through Steam on April 21st, the game is currently in a “polished beta”, which I have to agree is quite polished. So, is it any good? OK Games got a hold of the early beta and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Killing Floor has come a long way since its early days as a mod for Unreal Tournament back in 2005. Now in 2015, the sequel which has been 6 years in the making is almost upon us. The wave-based survival shooter lets players face hordes of ‘Zeds’ either alone or with a team of up to 5 other comrades in a large variety of maps and game modes. Players face waves of undead enemies that increase in both number and difficulty each wave, ultimately culminating in an epic boss battle. Between waves, players have access to a small store trader that changes location on the map after each wave to discourage camping. You can purchase more weapons, armour and refill your ammo supply with in-game ‘dosh’ earned by killing enemies. You can even share said dosh with your team mates if you choose to do so by throwing it at them. LOADS-A-MONEY!
Now I must admit I have not actually played the original Killing Floor (although I do recall picking it up during a Steam sale), so my impressions come from a player completely new to the series. As mentioned, the game is still in beta so I’m giving it a pass for any small technical hiccups I encounter. Although I must admire the efforts of Tripwire Interactive, giving players the chance to beta test the game before it goes into Early Access is a great way to ensure early adopters of the game are getting a well-tested and polished build. If only more Early Access titles adopted this same approach..
Jumping in, the game’s menus are simple and easy to navigate. Players can configure their classes, perks, character customisations and game settings pretty easily both from the main menu and in-game.
Killing Floor 2 currently offers 4 unique classes to choose from, each with a different role, perks and a variety of weapons. Each class can select a number or perks upon ranking up, the currently available classes are the Berserker, Commando, Support and Field Medic.
- Berserker – The Berserker is a heavily melee-orientated role that offers some pretty cool crowd-control abilities and can wield a ridiculous sledgehammer capable of using explosives, with a decent selection of firearms also.
- Commando – The Commando is the go-to gun glass, for those that are fond of anything that pumps lead. The Commando has the most options when it comes to fire power, but specialises in rifles.
- Support – For those that would rather not act as a meat shield, the Support class is there for those that prefer to help in other ways, such as weld doors to keep Zeds from overwhelming the team but also provide some decent fire power through a wide variety of shotguns.
- Field Medic – A literal life-saver that you better be thankful to have, a role that is often overlooked and under-appreciated in the first-person shooter genre. The Field Medic is essential to surviving the ever oncoming hordes in one piece, their guns double as healing devices and can offer team mates some extra armour and buffs while also helping to keep Zeds under control. Thanks, doc!
What really makes Killing Floor 2‘s class system unique however is the fact that classes don’t come with a predefined character model assigned to them like most other shooters do, this means you can pick a character model, customise it to your liking and then play as any class you want, which is pretty damn cool.
Customisation in Killing Floor 2 is also still in early stages, there are currently 7 different character models to choose from, each with an individual voice actor, outfits and accessories. From a trash-talking Punk Rocker to a bearded Reverend who seemed to remind me a lot of Half-Life 2‘s Father Grigori. I decked my Reverend Alberts out in a stylish white suit and matching Fedora.
Using the game’s online matchmaking tool, I was quickly dropped into a game with a team of other players about to start a match. After selecting my stylish Reverend Alberts, I went with the Commando class first to get a feel for the game without being too much of a burden on my team. The match starts and we spawn in the middle of what seems to be the cluttered city streets of Paris at night, damaged cars litter the streets and a burning Eiffel Tower catches my eye in the distance. Already the level of detail in this map is impressive. Killing Floor 2 looks rather nice running at ultra settings, textures look sharp and the lighting sets the tone beautifully. The production value overall is s huge step-up from that of its predecessor, Tripwire have obviously pumped some serious money into development and it has paid off.
The countdown timer in the corner of the screen reaches zero and we’re warned of the Zeds appearing on the radar. I equip my starting pistol and aim down the sights, getting a feel for the weapon then popping off a few rounds into an approaching Zed’s face. Its head explodes in a spectacular manner but it continues to come at me. “Well shit” I think, rather unconventional but a cool touch none the less. I empty a few more into its chest and it finally drops. The gun-play feels tight and responsive, aiming and firing feels perfectly fluid. The gun sounds are satisfying and being able to carry a decent number of guns always gives me a nice number of options for any situation. After getting a feel for the gun-play I switch to my melee weapon which happens to be knife to give melee combat a try, parting a few Zeds from a few of their limbs and heads. The gore system in Killing Floor 2 is absolutely fantastic, after only a few minutes and 1 wave down with still 6 more to go, the level is already painted in blood spatter, covering the walls and pooling on the ground under the piles of corpses. We all follow the convenient blue arrows on the floor which lead as back to the trader where I use some of the dosh I’ve earned to replenish my ammo and purchase some kevlar for added protection. The window for trading closes and we’re informed of the next approaching wave. The banter between the characters is fantastic, making light humour of being trapped in a zombie-overrun Paris fighting for our lives, Killing Floor 2 has no intention of taking itself too seriously.
“I’m enjoying this whole not dying thing”.
The second wave commences and every now and then something triggers everything to go into slow-motion ala ‘bullet time’ in Max Payne. The colour palette changes to a pale grey and I start to notice just how great all of the Zeds look in action at a quarter of the speed. The slow-down mechanic at first sounds like something that would get annoying after a while, but the extra time to line up those important head shots and spot that cloaked enemy in your peripheral vision is quite useful and a nice change of pace, breaking up the intense action. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a zombie’s head explode or a torso being cut clean in half with a katana in glorious slow-motion. Though it did feel rather frustrating if triggered right when you’re reloading and you’re forced to watch yourself reload your gun at a snail’s pace instead.
Our team trudges on through the rest of the match until we reach the 7th and final wave, the boss. A brief cutscenes introduces Hans Volter, a rather hilariously cliché mad scientist with a thick European accent. He wears a gas mask and appears to have filled-syringes for fingers.
The fight begins and Hans is detonating explosions of deadly gas all over the map that are difficult to avoid. He constantly switches between various weapons including a high-powered machine gun that absolutely tears through my armour, I’m low on health now and struggling to avoid this bosses attacks. Our Field Medic does his best to keep me topped up but soon I find myself cornered with the boss quickly approaching. He picks me up and appears to be healing himself while draining my health, I’m dead. I watch my comrades who are luckily a lot more experienced than me fight on and after what feels like an intense few minutes finally down the boss. We’re returned to the game lobby and exchange a few ‘GGs’. Overall I’m seriously impressed, if every game is half as fun as that was, I’m sold.
After playing a few more matches, each class plays quite differently and there’s something there for every player and every mood. I spent a little time with each class and enjoyed every one of them, though I felt Support could use a few extra utilities as other classes are also capable of welding doors, my role didn’t feel quite Supportive enough. The Berserker especially is a lot of fun, charging around the map wielding an explosive sledgehammer and caving in zombie skulls is a ballsy yet risky play-style, but you might want to stay in close range of your Field Medic.
The variety and design of the different enemy types also really stand out, each one has a different tactic and different abilities. There was your average ‘Bloater’-type Zed that would slowly waddle around the map, spewing a vile-liquid on any player that got too close and would explode into a comical display of guts upon death. Another Zed called a Siren would wail this unbearable scream that would disorientate any players within it’s radius, resulting in a shaky screen. One Zed had a chainsaw for an arm and would devastate any player foolish enough to get caught in its path. Enemies will come at you from all directions, keeping your eyes open and your head on a swivel is essential to watching your surroundings where enemies are always crawling out of places you’d least suspect.
On a few occasions I jumped into some games already in-progress, this time with a few players using the in-game voice chat who were clearly American. I pulled up the scoreboard to look at my ping and sure enough it was a little high, fluctuating between 200 and 250ms. But to my surprise, my higher latency had no affect on the gameplay. My movement felt as smooth as ever and there was never any noticeable lag while fighting the large number of enemies. I held my own and my higher latency never held me back, which is ultimately a great thing, allowing more players from more regions to play together unhindered. I did run into one issue a few times where the final enemy of a wave would be difficult to locate, resulting in the flow of the game coming to a halt as all the players would run around the map looking for the last Zed who had gone into hiding. I think adding a marker to the last remaining enemy could easily fix this issue though.
Performance-wise, Killing Floor 2 appears to be really well optimised. Running on a high-end PC (an i5-4670 @ 3.40GHz and a GTX 780 if you wanna get technical) at 2560×1600 with all graphical settings maxed, I maintained a steady 50-60fps with minor stuttering only when sprinting across the map which I could certainly live with. The current beta build feels and plays extremely well, having experienced no bugs at all during my time with it, albeit a few random disconnections during a couple of matches.
I definitely plan on picking this one up.
Whether you’re a new or returning player to the Killing Floor series, Killing Floor 2 is not going to disappoint. If you’re a fan of zombies, wave-based shooters, hell.. shooters in general, this game is a must. Play with friends for maximum enjoyment, but the online matchmaking is still always a blast, especially with a friendly and cooperative group. While content may be somewhat limited as the game enters Early Access, you can rest assured that you’re in for a hell of an experience and a polished game that is only going to get better. Killing Floor 2 is a buy.
Killing Floor 2 is also heading to the Playstation 4 if you prefer consoles, but for now you can expect the game to hit Steam on April 21st.