As an uncompromising take on a tired genre, Killing Floor 2 is the best kind of messy.
Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), PC
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
After years of consuming dozens upon dozens of zombie movies, tv shows, games and books, I didn’t think the brain-eating undead could scare me anymore. I’d become so desensitised to their moans and groans, that they were more likely to elicit a yawn from me rather than a gasp. Then I found myself playing Killing Floor 2, backed into a corner with only a nearly empty shotgun for defense, helplessly hip-firing as dozens upon dozens of infected enemies charged towards me.
Killing Floor 2 takes the well-worn blueprint of the zombie wave defense mode, first popularized by Call of Duty: World at War nearly a decade ago, and gives it a much needed adrenaline boost, even if it doesn’t radically change the formula in the process.
As a first-person shooter, Killing Floor 2 is at the top of its game. Every weapon packs its own unique punch, and all feel gratifying to use thanks to the tight gunplay, including the more experimental types such as the brutal Eviscerator or the powerful Microwave Gun. This extends to the melee combat, too, which offers an equally viable and enjoyable means of defense, especially as these weapons are the best way to dismember the zeds, who boast several points of articulation which you can exploit for maximum carnage.
It’s a good thing these weapons are effective, as the zombie hordes of Killing Floor 2 are unforgiving in their strength, speed and numbers. They come hard and fast, giving you little room to breathe – let alone upgrade your weapons at the shop or fix up any entry points – during the 60-second breaks between each round. This sheer freneticism is what makes Killing Floor 2 ultimately stand out among its peers, as we haven’t had a zombie game this fast-paced or intense since Left 4 Dead 2.
What’s also commendable is that Tripwire Interactive didn’t play it safe by conforming to the typical four player limit in the game’s centerpiece online co-op Survival mode, but instead upped the player count to six. This seemingly small change makes a big difference to the dynamics of the action, especially considering that the diversity of perks, guns, cosmetic items and skills, can make for a brilliantly diverse cast of allies to fight alongside with. With six uniquely equipped players, Killing Floor 2 can often feel less like a wave-based arena and more like an intensive, highly cooperative raid that you’d normally expect to encounter in an MMORPG.
The real stars of the show, however, are the Zeds. These horrifically ugly abominations come in all shapes and sizes, and their aesthetic variety is accompanied with different forms of attack too. Sirens, for example, are banshee-esque creatures whose screams causes area of effect damage that ignores your armor defense and neutralizes any explosives. Scrakes, on the other hand, are faster, more powerful enemies who will often charge at you to render those less spatially aware completely cornered and vulnerable.
On top of these enemy types, the final round of Survival mode culminates in a boss fight. Though this represents a challenging and fulfilling climax, there are currently only two boss types available at launch. That saddens me, as Tripwire Interactive could have easily applied their knack for enemy variation here too, which would provide an even stronger motivation to make it to the end just to see who we might be up against.
If the moment-to-moment gameplay is where Killing Floor 2 raises the bar for its genre, the small, nuanced tweaks made to the systems underpinning the action represent moderate but sensible reworkings. Perks, the game’s equivalent of classes, can be changed or modified in between rounds, as a healthy team composition is often essential for making it through the tougher firefights.
Those with the Support and Demolitionist perks, for example, can provide frequently needed ammo, while the Field Medic is almost vital for keeping everyone alive against the more powerful foes. Managing your own personal economy is also a must, as purchasing new guns and refueling your health and ammo doesn’t come cheap. You even need to be aware of the weight and upgrade effects of each weapon, and taking all these things into account during the short round breaks isn’t an easy task.
Quick-thinking is thus an asset in Killing Floor 2, and the endless amount of micro-decisions you’ll be constantly making adds a healthy layer of strategy to the seemingly mindless carnage. Speaking of micro, Killing Floor 2 includes an in-game store that sells cosmetic bonuses for real-world money. While this doesn’t impact the gameplay, the only other way you can acquire these items is through hoping they turn up in the randomly generated in-game drops, so it still comes off as a rather egregious paywall and something that should be considered if you decide to cough up on the game’s asking price of $30 to $40, depending on your platform of choice.
On top of survival, Killing Floor 2 has one more trick up its sleeve in the form of a 6v6 PvP Versus Survival mode, wherein one team takes the reign of the Zeds themselves against the six human characters. This plays out in the exactly the same way as the main mode, however, and so it doesn’t feel like a new or different experience if you’re playing on the human side.
Though there is initial novelty attained from playing as the undead, especially as their aforementioned diversity gives plenty of options to mess around with, the mode itself feels somewhat unbalanced. This is because Versus Survival places the emphasis on the survival part of its title, as it still represents a wave based mode in which the individual advantage for scoring kills and making progress rests with the humans. Scoring a kill as a Zed against a half decent team of armed players can be difficult at best, near impossible at worst, and it quickly spoils the fun of zombie role-playing. At best, Versus Survival is a fun and chaotic mode with little lasting appeal compared to the competitive intensity of Killing Floor 2’s signature survival experience.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.