Killing Floor 2 doesn’t exactly get points for originality. In a day and age filled to the brim with zombie-slaying survival games, it doesn’t try very hard to distinguish itself from other titles. You get dropped in a level, slaughter a few hundred Zeds, restock on ammo, wait for the next wave, and then repeat the whole thing over again.
You’d be forgiven for asking, “How is this anything but a poor man’s Left 4 Dead?” Well, the answer is that this has a whole lot more gore, metal music, and Sean Connery impressions. And that’s not bad. In truth, Killing Floor 2 actually plays more like a co-op version of Doom. It relishes in totally unabashed and self-indulgent carnage as you dismember your way through a funfair of freakish monsters to the sound of heavy guitar riffs. This is a loud game and it wants to remind you of that every step of the way. A good chunk of the time, this results in an undeniably entertaining spectacle.
You’ll already be pretty familiar with the ins and outs of this game if you played Killing Floor 1. For all intents and purposes, this is largely the same game, which is both a good and a bad thing. Blitzing your way through zombies in bullet-time is still as exhilarating as it was before, but something is missing. While Killing Floor 2 retains the fun shooting mechanics of its predecessor, the original never boasted a great deal of variety to begin with, and unfortunately, not much has been done to expand upon the concept. Rather than innovate on the gameplay, Tripwire Interactive has chosen to refine and fine-tune it.
In many ways, Killing Floor 2 feels like a remaster of the first game. The aesthetics dazzle a lot more (even on the ageing Unreal 3 engine), the controls have been tightened, the gunplay carries more punch, and the sound design stands out a lot more. From the very first moment of starting a round, this is a much more fluid experience that’s ironed out a lot of the technical kinks of the first game.
Of course, you’ll still blow heads off the same returning cast of Zed monsters on a wave-by-wave basis, from the standard cannon fodder, to hopping crawlers, bloated vomiters, chainsaw-wielding Scrakes, screechers and invisible girls. Fighting off these ugly monstrosities by the droves generates cash that you can spend on weapons and equipment at a trade shop. To its credit, Killing Floor 2 offers a hefty arsenal of guns to choose from. Whether you want to light up Zeds with grenade pistols, katanas, microwave guns, flamethrowers, chainsaws, dual magnums, crossbows, or a trusty shotgun, there’s something for everyone.
Things can get incredibly hectic in a flash, so you definitely want to upgrade to better guns as quickly as possible. There’s also a surprising amount of teamwork involved. Playing the lone wolf isn’t a viable option, which becomes especially apparent once you reach the boss battle on the final wave. Healing each other, welding doors shut, and achieving the right synergy of classes are all vital for success, and those moments of cooperation as players scramble to survive are where the game truly shines.
As in the first game, players can specialize in one of 10 classes (referred to in the game as Perks), a couple of which are new. Each class grants bonuses in a certain weapon class, and as you level up, you even unlock new skills to specialize in. This helps add a little bit of depth to what is otherwise a very simplistic game, but even with this, Killing Floor 2’s greatest downfall is its shallowness and consequent lack of longevity. As good as the gunplay feels, there’s a sore lack of content, and it only takes a couple of rounds to realize you’ve already seen everything the game has to offer. After having been stuck in Early Access hell on Steam for some time, it’s disappointing to see that more wasn’t done to differentiate the game from both its predecessor and other competitors on the market.
Aside from the main Survival mode, Versus is the only new addition here to the game modes. Like Left 4 Dead 2’s own versus mode, it lets players take control of the Zed monsters, which provides a much needed breath of fresh air, even if it’s not exactly without faults. Brutalizing human survivors as the stronger Zeds is a blast, but too much of the time is spent playing as the standard Zeds, who die all too quickly for the experience to be fun.
After a few hours of play, each round was starting to play out roughly the same way every time. Not to harp on about Left 4 Dead, but that game had tons of reasons to come back. Unlike Killing Floor 2, it had a vast slew of game modes, not to mention its Mutations, which drastically altered the conditions of each map (like turning every enemy into Tanks). If that wasn’t enough, there was even the intense modding community, which went as far as recreating the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
On the flip-side, Killing Floor 2 only has its two standard modes going for it. There are additional difficulty levels to add some replay value, but with the game already being challenging enough on the easier difficulties, it adds more frustration than fun into the mix. This is especially true for the boss battles, which abruptly introduce an absurd difficulty spike at the end of the round.
Quite a few of my sessions ended in a frustrating anti-climax as the Patriarch (who is considerably less emo this time around) crushed my squad’s hopes of winning. This wouldn’t be bothersome if not for the fact that battles feel way too protracted. It would have been nice to see signs of bosses weakening as the battle rages on, but as it is, the fights last too long and the attack patterns quickly become repetitive. It doesn’t help that, aside from the Patriarch, the game only features one other boss – the eccentric Dr. Hans Volte, a disheveled Nazi scientist with an exo-suit who is equally hilarious and creepy at the same time.
Before long, though, you’ve heard all of the funny quips, and the whole experience begins to grow stale. There’s nothing wrong with mechanically simple arcade games, but Killing Floor 2 is virtually screaming for additional content to break up the monotony that sets in far too early – something to elevate the game beyond a temporary fix that will make players yearn for returning to the mayhem.
Provided you have a regular group of friends to play it with, the core gameplay of Killing Floor 2 is still entertaining enough to warrant picking it up during a sale. Like any great theme park attraction, though, there are only so many times you can go through that exact same ride before its thrills wear off. It is no doubt a competently made game, but until more content is released for the title, it’s best to hold off on a full-price purchase.
A fun, gory mess
A competently made shooter with excellent gunplay, Killing Floor 2 shies away from greatness by being scantily clad with content.