Killing Floor 2 is the gory follow-up to Tripwire Interactive's slightly-less-gory Killing Floor, the squad-based first-person shooter that pits you and others in a Deathmatch-style arena with some of the more horrific nightmarish creatures. However, with this release, they've decided to go the controversial Steam Early Access route. With so many people feeling burned by developers that make big promises, but only actually make frustrating games with sporadic updates. The fan base established by Killing Floor is a loyal one, and Tripwire Interactive seems to have rewarded their loyalty so far in what I've seen of the Killing Floor 2 Alpha. (As this is a Steam Early Access Alpha, the final product may/may not resemble the game being reviewed here. As it stands, this is a review of the current build.)
Killing Floor 2 is a co-operative first person shooter that hosts up to six people fighting off wave after wave of vicious creatures. There are currently three playable maps in the game, four classes, and eight characters that have some minor aesthetic customizations available. On first view of the trailers, it can be expected the game strives to be compared to the fast-paced and visceral experiences of nightmarish settings like Team Deathmatch kings Doom and Quake, with the “They’re coming right for us!” shades of the Left 4 Dead series.
But is it fun? Oh, yes. Undoubtedly. But how good is it in this limited Early Access state?
At this stage of the game's development, content is still somewhat thin. I can't criticize them for this, if you're playing Killing Floor 2, you're testing it for the benefit of the developers. There's no story elements added to the game, so even though have some experience with this game's predecessor, I have no idea what all these mutant freaks are, or how they got to be the way that they are... All spikey and grabby. Still, in a game like this, a storyline isn’t exactly necessary.
One of the most touted new features of KF2 is the engine that can maintain an incredible amount of on-screen viscera. Shredded limbs and pools of blood will accumulate and turn the map into an absolute mess by the time you've completed the final wave. It's quite a sight.
Every wave after the first starts with a trip to the Trading Pod. This is where you can swap out your weapons for upgrades, fill up on ammo and grenades, and even switch your class. There are several pods throughout every level, so the round often begins in a different area, although there is no section of the map restricted for future waves.
The level design is crucial to this sort of game, and if the levels aren't interesting, then you've simply created a shooting gallery with lots of blood. While the levels serve as a fun arena to run around in, I wouldn't say they are complex or terribly original. Right now, the most you can alter your surroundings is by welding doors shut. This limits the number of spots that monsters can come through and surprise you, adding a bit of a twist on the old formula of “kill everything until dead.” In the meantime, the fact that enemies can simply continue pouring in adds a thrill to every level.
The way enemies are dispersed throughout certain choke points can mean that the game pushes you around to areas of the map you don't want to go. It can create the “Oh shit, I'm getting cut off from the group” moment that forces you to either fight through waves of creatures to get back to your friends, force them to send out a rescue party, or be torn apart. Not counting that last option, neither seem like a great choice, but both end up with their own intense finish to a round.
I would love to see more nuance to the game beyond its excellent gunplay and frantic teamwork.
Adding ways to change the environment the players are operating in seems like a natural way for the game to go. They can add more guns and maps, but the kind of additions that Killing Floor 2 might need most have to do with simply giving players more to think about. I envision a new class coming along that has traps they can lay down or perhaps a load-out that features a turret. Those would be nice, but par for the course as far as shooters go, and would bring even more “Team Fortress 2 mixed with Left 4 Dead” comparisons, but I can hope! The maps themselves are where Tripwire Interactive has the most opportunity for improvement, as many of them can easily feel recycled with little variety, aside from the detail.
(Reviewer’s Note: I want to see things really change from one wave to the next and make all this chaos mean something. If I blow up that gas tank in round one, how about it rips a hole open in the wall next to it so that I've accidentally created another entry point for monsters? Or how about a map that has rooms you can set on fire every few minutes, torching any creatures within. I just want to have more on my mind than running and shooting.)
Although, to be fair, there are few games that have made running and shooting as nerve-wracking and satisfying as Killing Floor 2, and one of the most integral parts of a shooter is the ability to utilize ambient noise to survive. While there is a soundtrack, it tends to limit itself to eerie musical stings for maximum scare effect and pulse-pounding (albeit stock-sounding) industrial/metal fare when the combat ramps up. As with any Survival Horror-style FPS, the most effective sounds are the ones that keep you alive or when squad members toss items your way, which can get a bit irritating in how repetitive you’ll hear someone say “Got any cash?” On the instances it’s not trying to scare you, all sound takes a backseat to paying attention to squad commands and coordinating your reloads with team-members.
Right now, group success is based mostly on their headshot count and ability to communicate and stay together as a team, so as a team-building and team-centric shooter, it wins hands-down. I don't expect the game to ever have highly strategic elements, but it would certainly be nice to see players have to coordinate a bit more than the usual “You cover that door, I'll cover this door.” The game doesn't often let you stick to that simple strategy, but it's a common one nonetheless.
I've had nothing but fun playing Killing Floor 2. The high level of difficulty is refreshing, and has me excited for the content they could add that would provide real depth to the game.
A handful of new monsters with interesting abilities to change up gameplay and some more map variation and we just might have a fantastic game on our hands.
If you want to get in on the Killing Floor 2 alpha, I'd be a fool to discourage you. At $30, you are not getting a tremendous amount of content at this particular time. What you do get is access to the framework of what I believe will one day be a fantastic co-op shooter; one that scratches an itch that's been untouched since I played the Left 4 Dead series. They've got a hefty amount of content to release before they can start entering L4D territory, but I just can't wait to see what they do with such a fun foundation.