Oh if there was a match made in heaven, it would be you and I, Killing Floor 2. We’d skip and dance and laugh. I’d relay the time you made me so anxious with your last-stand tension that I had to take a break or risk a panic attack. Then, with a smirk on your face, you’d spray the air with enough guts to make a butcher queasy. Oh, how we’d dance with you on Medic and me on Gunslinger, spraying bullets wildly at the horde. So… why do I feel empty inside?
Killing Floor 2 is a wave-based co-op FPS by Tripwire Interactive. One that has a marvellous simplicity to it. You pick a class, pick a character, stumble on a level and kill an instructed amount of beasts. Then you skip on to the trader to buy new gear. This repeats until you hit the final boss, where upon killing him you win. Then again, is it simple or is it me being so used to this formula since man invented Killing Floor that it fits me like a glove? Hhhmm, I should break these steps down further.
There are 10 perks/classes to pick and choose from. Each one distinctive to nudge towards a particular play-style as they give bonus damage to “perk weapons” (weapons designed around the class) as well as other little quirks. From the madcap mad-dash Gunslingers who spray down enemies with two handguns at a time all the way to the methodical door-welding shotgun-firing Support. It really allows a lot of options of how to compliment your team and for personal play style. Plus, there is the option to pick a new class between rounds if something isn’t clicking.
This customization extends into levelling. There are the familiar quirks that get nudged up a bit. Although as well as this for every 5 levels you get, up to 25, you pick a perk between one of two choices. Again, able to be changed between rounds. Each one a potent injection into your 10 distinctive perks. Which in turn avoids that troublesome quandary of levelling being just vaguely pushing numbers up.
Well, I say 10 distinctive perks. I should say 9. I guess that was cheeky of me.
Tripwire, wanting to unveil Killing Floor 2‘s full release with one more addition, wanted to go for a Jack-of-All-Trades class called Survivalist. The problem is next to the other 9, Survivalist is a vague after-thought of a class. No perk weapons? Random chunks splattered here-and-there from other classes like a Frankenstein class? Nothing at all unique to it? While it is an option for the indecisive, it ends up out-performed and awkward next to more focused classes.
So then it’s onwards to picking a character. Each one with their own voice lines, color configurations and accessories. With further customization if you want to fork cash out for microtransactions. While more realistic, and wouldn’t come as much of a problem, these characters strike me as disappointing on a personal level. As I remember the hammy and cheesy cockney accents of Killing Floor, sadly now amiss. The closest attempts not quite to the same levels as before. It isn’t much of a flaw, but fans of the original title may breathe a defeated sigh in remembrance.
Then it’s into the fray, fighting for your life. Which it nails excellently. There is a thick tension of desperation from round 1, as you are quickly swarmed by various mobs with differing abilities. Even the basic beasties can trip you up, grabbing you tightly to a spot. It is for this reason you best stick together, sharing the burden of survival onto everyone as you can be surrounded at the drop of a hat.
Where it becomes more of a wear is the lack of a release of this tension. “Kailan you filthy dog-botherer, you said earlier you stumble on to the trader to buy guns, this sounds like prime-time release.” Except no, because every second is precious. You still feel a strong dose of urgency as you dash in, sell what you hate, buy what you love, stock up on ammo and maybe have enough time to regroup at your favorite spot of defense. There is never quite that release, those precious 5 seconds to just breathe. Just constant tension. Which left me having to quit to take a break after two games, as my nerves were left just jittery and tired at that point.
Although while we’re on the subjects of traders, we should talk about guns. Depending on your class, you’ll have a very clear arc to go with. Except, well, perhaps personally there is a bit too clear of an arc on show. You’ll always want to strive for the more expensive guns, as weapons progress in power depending on cost. There’s never quite those tactics of perhaps going for a cheaper gun for some reason. Although in light of how little time you’ll have with the trader, it might be best there isn’t a tactical approach to things.
Due to the “go expensive or risk decimation” approach, it leads to a frustrating situation where if you die during a late-game wave there isn’t much point staying in the game. Upon dying only your equipped weapon will drop. At best it is a frustration only if you’re the type to weapon cycle (e.g. as a Gunslinger, SWAT or another class that has a weapon switch speed increase) as you’ll lose every other weapon you were carrying. At worst, said weapon is stolen by your team-mates to be sold and you have to shoot a boss with your 9mm if you’re too poor to afford better. So at about wave 7 onwards, it tends to work out better to just move onto a new server.
Which, when navigating for a new server, you may be tempted to dip your toes into the PvP mode. Where one side plays the survivors, and the others play the monsters. With the monsters’ side randomly allocated to an enhanced beastie until they get killed. This ends up creating this randomized state where you may be the juggernaut Fleshpound (or even the end-boss) or the basic vulnerable Clot. You may spend an entire PvP match watching your friends destroy the enemy team, as you keep getting your head blown off as the smaller species.
This slow wearing down of the human team either accumulates in their survival or death. Then the team switches. After that round, scores are compared to see who scored the most. Except these scores are kept secretly, silently, making the big reveal of who won less a nail-biting climax and more an empty thud of “oh.” Combined with how the monster selection works, it feels a bit rushed, simple and unsatisfying. Those wanting a PvP experience out of Killing Floor 2 should stay clear.
Before we stretch on into the conclusion, we should talk about the graphics. Those beautiful gory graphics. If you’re able to crank your graphics settings way up, I’d recommend doing so. As every dismembering shot, every beheading, every tearing of the flesh, leaves the body parts scattered on the floor like a human mosaic masterpiece. A thick trail of blood on the floor showing where a fight once was. Maybe it was a victory, a small one perhaps, or maybe it was a demise.
Each bloody art-piece telling its own tale. Tripwire spent a lot of time on gore mechanics in Killing Floor 2, and it shows in a beautiful gorefiend way. As though you’re recreating the Braindead scene with the lawnmower over and over again with firearms and melee weapons.
Killing Floor 2 gets an 8/10. I spoke earlier that the game felt a bit empty. This wasn’t content wise, and it is chock filled with content where it matters. More I kept having to ask myself: am I having fun? Which is such a strange question for me as it ticks every box I could want it to. I was ready to turn this review into a covert wedding proposal, with a double-barrel shotgun as the ring, a gown made of dosh and The Patriarch as the priest.
Then I began thinking of Killing Floor, which I think 200+ hours shows I had at least some fun with it. It was flawed, but it still was a hell of a time-sink for me. Then I began to remember two parts. The first was the levels were smaller, making the trader easier to get to and rounds over a lot faster. This allowed the tension to be released a lot more frequently than Killing Floor 2 ever did. There was also the cheesy cockney accents of the cast in Killing Floor that lent a lovely characterization. Something now gone. Now Killing Floor 2 is just an ongoing tiring tension ride with little personality. Both factors that hobble it from the 9 rating I wanted to go for.
Yet, it has an 8 because amongst all the wealth of content and the tiring tension, it is fun. It isn’t complicated. It isn’t philosophical. It isn’t thought-provoking. Just point the boom-stick at what you hate, squeeze the trigger and feel your lips creep up into a devilish grin as the monsters scatter into bloody remains. And let’s face it, what’s more fun than making a bloody mess?