Title: Killing Floor 2
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
Platform: PC, PS4
Concept and Execution
Killing Floor 2 is the long awaited sequel to the 2009 release, Killing Floor. At its roots, it is the same game as the first, but the sequel diverges enough to make it worthwhile. In the story of the first game, you played as a member of a team, that was contracted by a British biotics company called Horzine to control an outbreak of weaponized mutants/clones around London and the surrounding area. Needless to say, the team failed and the outbreak spread and the Zeds spread across mainland Europe. The events of Killing Floor 2 take place a month later here we are in the events of Killing Floor 2, where the players find themselves going around Europe to clean up Horzine’s mess.
In the first game, the class system consisted of several different archetypes (referred to as “perks”), and this is consistent between the two games. However in the second installation, they added three new perks: Gunslinger, SWAT, and Survivalist. Gunslinger and SWAT are offshoots of classes from the first game, which I will go into in a moment. Comparatively, Survivalist is a brand new perk that is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in that it shares abilities with the other perks, but isn’t as any other perk in that given field. Each of the perks that carried over from the first game still retain their same play style and feel and the new perks bring in something new and exciting. Here’s a rundown of each perk, and what it does:
Berzerker: You use melee weapons to hack and slash at Zeds; your high mobility allows you to go against the biggest enemies with ease.
Commando: You are the eyes of the squad being able to see cloaked enemies and all enemy health bars. You use accurate Assault/Battle rifles as your weapons.
Demolitions: You just like to blow things up. You can effectively deal with large groups of Zeds and can deal high damage to the big ones, but can’t effectively deal with in-your-face enemies.
Field Medic: You keep the team alive. You can kill weaker enemies if needed, but aren’t intended for heavy combat unless you sacrifice some healing potential. Your grenades when thrown release an area-of-effect heal as opposed to your direct heal medic darts.
Firebug: You are the pyromaniac: great at crowd control but lacks high damaging weapons to effectively deal with large Zeds. Crisp ‘em up real good.
Gunslinger: You shoot lead at Zeds with your pistols, often with one in each hand, and are extremely mobile. Your large weapons can easily assist in taking down large Zeds and your lesser ones can easily put holes in the smaller ones.
Sharpshooter: You utilize precision weapons and focus on headshots in order to deal high amounts of damage to Zeds, and you have the ability to stun and easily decapitate. However your arsenal lacks in the close range department.
Support: You use shotguns to hose down rows of Zeds with a high capacity of firepower. With every level you get, your shots get more penetration power and can easily go through three or four enemies at a time. You also are able to quickly weld doors shut and repair broken ones to working condition.
Survivalist: You are the middle ground between all these perks, never excelling in one specific area but able to benefit from each in your own way. You can use any weapon or skill set, basically replacing a lacking role in the team.
SWAT: You are the member of the squad equipped with submachine guns and have the highest fire rates of the team, able to easily clear out small enemies and can assist in taking down large enemies with your crippling leg shots.
Another difference worth mentioning between the first and second game is that in the first game, each perk was leveled 0 to 6, and at each level you would get a bonus to your damage and other perk-specific attributes. Each perk was powerful and had the capability to deal high damage and deal with any foe in their specific way. By Level 5 a perk was granted a bonus starting weapon beyond the 9mm and either a different weapon or ability at Level 6. In the sequel each perk has levels 0 to 25. Starting at Level 5, and again every 5 levels, you are given a choice of skill to apply to your perk. These can be changed at the end of a wave. These perk options give a lot of flavor to each perk; they allow for many different ways to play each perk, and provide an appropriate way to address any given situation. Each perk gets a bonus to their weapon damage that increases with each level. One complaint that I have is the inequitability of these bonuses: seven out of ten perks get the same damage bonus, with the exception of the Firebug, Medic, and Survivalist. It makes sense that the Field Medic wouldn’t gain bonus damage, considering the role, but the comparatively small damage boosts given to the Firebug and Survivalist are more objectionable. The Survivalist in particular suffers from this by getting nearly half the damage buff as the seven perks, as it makes it harder for them to keep up with the other perks as the game gets progressively harder. This decreased damage bonus is apparent even in the lower levels when other perks can easily out-damage the Survivalist with comparable weapons. However, this almost is offset by the fact the damage buff is applied to all weapons as opposed to a specific set.
One thing that is definitely in the game’s favor is the developer decision to allow significant community mod support. Over half of the hosted servers are chock full of community maps. Some are completely new to this game, some are remakes of maps from the original game, or even maps from other video games (like Facility from Goldeneye, or Block Fort from Mario Kart). There’s even a map that is entirely made to look like cucumbers. I believe this allowance of community support has led to the long life span of the first game and will hopefully attribute to a long lifespan of the sequel.
This game also introduces an intriguing game mode called Versus Survival, which expands the normal six-person survival mode into a six-on-six game where one team plays their normal roles and the other team plays as Zeds. As a Zed you gain control of all their abilities, such as a spinning attack or latching ability, but are easily distinguished from fellow Zeds. It is quite a unique way to play the game and one that can lend to many fun and intense moments. This mode is best played with audio communication, to allow for the best coordination with your teammates, be they friends or strangers
Concept and Execution Score: 22/25
In Killing Floor 2 perks progressively get more powerful as you climb the ladder from Level 0 to 25, and with every 5 levels you get an option for your perk similar to passive feats/abilities in other games. For instance at Level 20, the Commando can choose between higher damage and less recoil, or 100% increase in magazine size. Most of these options are unique – but some are shared between multiple perks, such as faster reload speeds or higher damage. I think the inclusion of these perk options is superior to the previous system, in that it allows for more ways to customize your role in the squad. There are at least ten ways to play (one for each perk), and several setups within each of those to allow for different playstyles. However, there is the possibility of finding a perk setup that you find particularly useful and adopting that as your main way to play that perk. This can be especially pertinent with higher levels and difficulty, as there are some perk options that I feel are constructed in such a way as to limit themselves in utility with the higher challenges, and some options can be rendered obsolete by simply learning the content and countering the challenges by skill alone.
One neat thing with the melee options in this game is that there is the option to parry enemy melee attacks with your weapon by using the alternate fire option. This will allow you as a Berserker (usually) to skirt taking damage from lesser enemies that can whittle away your health and armor, or to deflect and highly reduce the incoming damage from Scrakes and Fleshpounds that would otherwise chunk your health to nothing flat. I think this really enforces the Berserkers role as primary tank in the squad.
Mechanics Score: 23/25
It seems that Tripwire really invested a lot of time into crafting the environment of Killing Floor, with regards to detail and design. The atmosphere of this game isn’t gritty like the first one, instead opting for a much more realistic setting. The surfaces of objects look just like they would in real life, including when they are covered in…let’s just say liquid. The first few seconds of being in a level, everything is pristine, as if everyone had departed only moments ago, leaving everything behind. However, before the first wave is over the floors, walls, and ceilings (yes, ceilings! You can get blood onto twenty foot ceilings) and bits of your enemies will remain scattered throughout the map. Tripwire also put several minute details into the game that are not immediately noticeable, but add to the overall intricacy of the game. Firstly, when Zed Time (similar to bullet time in The Matrix) activates the world slows down by a large amount, including all of the animations. One of the most spectacular things to look at in this window is the guns themselves; Tripwire animated the guns at 200 frames per second, which means that in Zed Time you can see the barrels, optics, and actions all moving as the weapons cycle.Similarly, the brass bullet casings ejecting from the weapons are visible (regardless of being in ‘Zed Time” or first-person, and even when looking at another player) and have physics, allowing them to hit the ground and bounce, complete with sound effects. The reload animations in third person are also impressive: they’re not only unique to each weapon, but actually match the weapon type. I give major brownie points to Tripwire for putting these kinds of detail into their game, where others often fall short.
Another thing that I found fun about the game was its unpredictability. In any given wave your squad could be tearing through Zeds, not letting them get anywhere near you, or you can be in a state of chaos and panic, with the Zeds constantly swiping at you taking pieces of your armor and health away. Given the right circumstances and map this game can be either a walk in the park or be a nightmare of swarming enemies and flying bullets. Personally, I find it exhilarating. Killing Floor 2 employs a system dubbed M.E.A.T. (Massive Evisceration And Trauma), which refers to ways in which you can slice, dice, chop, mince, and slice (again!) the Zeds. M.E.A.T has evolved from the simple five point system of the original game to a twenty-two point system with ninety unique animations that play whenever a creature is struck, which can lead to a unique sequence of encounters every wave. This makes for some pretty entertaining events. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as sending the biggest Zed tumbling through the air with a rocket and having it land flat on its face, then fumble in getting up. It never gets old, no matter how many times it happens.
Each map is wonderfully crafted; and is unique in layout and flow. The developers did an excellent job in capturing different landscapes and environments. Whether it’s the streets of a derelict Paris or the underground Horzine cloning facility, they have created an environment that is engaging and beautiful. This is also true of many of the community-made maps; I have seen many community maps that were excellently detailed and well-laid-out, which gives me hope that there will be map makers out there set on positively contributing to the community for a while to come.
Atmosphere Score: 25/25
Killing Floor 2 has no dedicated story mode/campaign, and it doesn’t need one. The story, or lore, of the game is captured on a game to game basis and is dependent on the player’s desire to explore the maps and become immersed in the world. If you only play in one specific area of a map, the game world is very small. Begin exploring more maps and more areas and the lore blossoms into quite the adventure to be had.
Killing Floor 2 is one of the most replayable shooters I have experienced, which I can mostly attribute to the perk leveling system and wonderful flavor of maps shipped with the game. However, while the perk leveling ladder is a beneficial facet, it can also be a curse. In many regards, leveling up in Killing Floor 2 is much easier than it was in the first game but at a certain point the time needed to level up scales exponentially, making higher levels very difficult to obtain. This mostly depends on the difficulty played, buut in general, the first eight or nine levels seem to go by quickly, the following seven or so taking a little more time, and then a steep upturn – just the two levels beyond that take even longer still. Once you get to the end game, near the cap of twenty-five, it really becomes a slog. If you contribute to the objective and defeat the boss you can get almost a third of a level of XP, which sounds fine, but keep in mind – each game on the second highest or highest difficulty can take upwards of forty minutes. Or your squad might not survive the entire game, forcing you to play from the beginning again. So to reach the cap from level twenty, it can take hoursof grind, especially if you are focusing a specific perk. This can be tedious, but doesn’t hurt the overall enjoyability of the game.
The diversity in gameplay options is categorically one of Killing Floor 2’s best attributes. The fact that it boasts another three perks versus the original is amazing in itself, but the fact that those ten perks account for way more options than other class-based games like Battlefield (with four classes) or team Fortress 2 (with nine) is icing on the cake. If you aren’t happy with the way a perk is playing out in the current game, you can change perks after the wave and quickly fill a needed role in the squad. Each perk has its own charm, and it can be quite fun to switch between each wave you play.
Despite the pleasant variety of perks and specs, I found it disappointing that each perks only has access to three weapons aside from the starting one. Most perks have only four on perk weapons, including the starting one, which are all priced the same, per tier, across the nine perks. Unfortunately, some of the weapons given in a class aren’t necessarily useful to justify their initial price point. While some of the weapons will be picked up by players just hoping to try something new, many of them end up underused. I think all weapons should have a place: whether it’s in the early waves of a game, as a mid game weapon, to use against bigger enemies, or just as a weapon to have to take up the few remaining blocks of weight you have. Despite the occasional under powered weapon, many of
them are good. As previously mentioned, there are enough variations between the perks that playing one for a while and moving between them will kindle an affection for some types of weapons (I know I frequently return to Commando, Support, and SWAT).
Entertainment Value Score: 20/25
I have owned this game since it released on Steam Early Access in April 2015, and I must say it has come a long way. They started with only four perks and a handful of maps, and now they are at a full release with ten perks, twelve maps, a multitude of weapons, and already many community made maps floating around. The sky’s the limit for Killing Floor 2 and Tripwire, in my opinion. I am excited to continue playing this game and see where it goes in the future.
Overall Score: 90/100