EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Ewan Wilson
previewed on PC
It doesn’t seem difficult to get to the core of Killing Floor. Developer Tripwire has been transparent about its nature as a pulpy splatter-fest shoot ‘em up since the game’s beginning as an Unreal Tournament mod. This is a first-person shooter where the brains of mutant/zombie “specimens” can be caved in in eight different ways. Enemies have 19 points of dismemberment and every pint of blood spilled permanently stains the map. This might be Killing Floor 2’s marketing material, but it’s not what it’s all about. The dismembered limbs and fountains of bodily fluids are the aesthetic, but at its core is a combat loop lasting mere seconds.
Killing Floor is a co-operative affair. Shambling, disfigured specimens assault you and up to five buddies in increasingly difficult waves. Maps are tight murder spaces made up of distinct rooms; each with several entrances, doors and stairwells. Each room is a place to hold out, to weld doors shut and to ride the wave as best you can. The waves hit gently at first. You are encouraged to hack at the “Zeds” with knives and the butt of guns to save your ammunition and build up “dosh” for later on. Dosh, for those who don’t know, is a brilliant British word for money. It can be used to buy better guns, more ammo and body armour at a 3D-printing terminal at the end the wave. When you have “loadsa” the stuff you can doll it out to your mates.
At Killing Floor 2’s centre is its juicy combat loop. You have made it to the later waves just holding out in one dark room. All the lights are busted from shrieking Sirens and the walls are slick with blood. Up until this point you have been doing your bit, guarding one of the entrances to the room and popping Zed heads with surgical precision. The next wave hits hard, big bulky bruisers kick down the welded doors behind you and all hell breaks loose. Before you know it you are overwhelmed, the smaller specimens – bobbing and weaving, jumping, even invisible – are everywhere. The position is lost.
It’s now that Killing Floor 2 asks you to make a decision. You only have a split-second; aided by the fact you have just triggered the game’s slow-motion “Zed Time” by nailing a headshot from across the room. For a short interval the carnage becomes manageable, everything becomes desaturated – everything but the sprays of crimson blood. You realise the position is indefensible so you decide to run. The slow-mo sequence gives you just enough time to line up your last shots and make a break for the exit. More Zeds grasp at you and you can hear something big breathing down your neck. You are totally spent. Fearing death, you have almost taken your hands off of the keyboard when suddenly you catch a glimpse of a man with a hammer. The last Zeds between you and some breathing space collapse under the explosive weight of your buddy’s attack. Together you run, and with a bit of luck, you will make it through the wave.
All together the above sequence probably lasts about 30 seconds. Thirty seconds of fun. It’s a loop that will be repeated time and time again with only slight variation. You can play around with different perks: the assault rifle wielding Commando, the shotgunning Support, the vital Medic and the melee-focussed Berserker (the guy with the giant hammer). You level up, becoming more effective as you do. You can then challenge yourself on higher difficulties: Suicidal and Hell on Earth. At the end of the last wave you’ll even face a boss; Tripwire has some tweaking to do here.
Killing Floor 2’s core is rock solid. More perks and more maps will make space for even more intense cycles and scenarios. Enemy AI may be swarm-like, but the fact there is such a variety of unique Zeds keeps you thinking tactically. The moment to moment gunplay is great. Gory dismemberment and decapitations might be marketing-ploys, but more plainly it’s just great feedback. There is weight and impact to the guns and each and every bullet fired. The melee combat is equally satisfying, and there is even a chainsaw-gun that fires bouncing sawblades. There’s not an awful lot of subtlety to Killing Floor’s splatter-fest. It looks and feels great, and if there are any brains to be found, it will be amongst the groups of co-operating friends.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.