The original Killing Floor started out as a mod for Unreal Tournament 4 in 2005, but it eventually got enough traction to get picked up by Tripwire Interactive for an improved retail release in 2009. The first-person shooter threw wave after wave of zombies, or “Zeds,” at players, who were tasked with working together to survive the onslaught before regrouping to take on a final boss called the “Patriarch.” The game certainly had its flaws, like terrible voice acting and a ton of repetition, but it was that same repetition that gained it a cult following.
This week sees the Early Access release of Killing Floor 2, which, judging from that numeric character, obviously implies that the game is a sequel. But after spending a good chunk of hours spraying bullets at the zombie horde, this writer is here to say that the game could just as easily be called Killing Floor HD or Killing Floor Remastered, like all of those PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports the industry seems so fond of lately.
In short, Killing Floor 2 is indeed its own game, but it’s not shy about reusing all of the same concepts that made the original so successful. And that’s both good and bad.
For players who are already used to Killing Floor, Killing Floor 2 is simply a better looking version of what they’ve been playing for 10 years. The zombie guts are more vivid, and the shooting mechanics feel more polished.
The original Killing Floor allowed players to pick from 7 different “perks”, which are essentially classes that change how the player took out the zombies, and the same concept is present in Killing Floor 2. Commandos use assault rifles, Berserkers fight in melee range, Support hangs back with a shotgun, and Field Medic keeps the rest of the group alive. One thing to note here is that while Killing Floor 2 will eventually surpass the original game with at least 10 perks or classes, the Early Access version only ships with these four. Tripwire has said other perks in the future could include a Sharpshooter or a pistol-focused Gunslinger, among others. The Early Access version is also significantly scaled back in the number of maps and the variety of zombies that it offers, but that too, will only get better over time.
The weapons in Killing Floor 2 feel fantastic. There’s genuine kickback on the assault rifle, smashing a zombie in the face at melee range is incredibly satisfying, and even the sound effect that plays when a player gets healed seems right. Given that the weapons are essentially what make or break a game like this, it’s good to know that Tripwire is off to an excellent start.
Tripwire Interactive also put years of work into the game’s gore system, bragging that the Zeds can now be mutilated in 22 different places. Another advantage of modern technology is that all of the gore that gets splattered from each wave stays on the ground long after the zombie is dead and gone. Watching each level slowly get painted red is somehow both sickening and amazing.
But the best part of Killing Floor 2 is what the developer calls “Zed mode”, which is basically slow motion. Every once in a while, in the middle of a dozen zombies, the game will allow players to catch up with the chaos around them by slowing everything down. The first time it happened, this writer thought his computer was freezing. It’s that slow. But the slow motion gives each player the opportunity to take a deep breath, and start taking out zombies with head shots. Pivoting a shotgun around in a circle for three, four, five quick headshots while everything moves slow as molasses feels incredible. More importantly, it can help the team recover and survive the wave.
When all of the waves have been taken out, Killing Floor 2 stays true to its predecessor, unleashing a final boss. Hans Volter is a 100-year-old Nazi evil doctor because…well…of course he is. He also bears a strong resemblance to our old friend, the Patriarch. The Patriarch himself is supposed to be the true final boss of the game, but as of right now, it’s Hans Volter’s show.
Unfortunately, it’s this switch to the final boss fight that ends up bringing down the rest of the experience. Killing Floor 2 throws more and more zombies at the player with each successive wave, and it ramps up at a pretty good pace. But then, the final boss is essentially just the good doctor, and the strategy changes completely.
The doctor can quickly take a player out from long range, causing the group to constantly duck for cover. But Volter will also target a specific player and run at them. If he connects, there will be devastating melee damage, and an almost certain death. This changes the game from one where the group stands its ground and sprays hundreds of bullets right into the face of the zombie onslaught, into a game of keep away. Party members will take turns kiting Hans around the level while the others shoot at him from afar.
The switch up in strategy between the waves and the boss fight is honestly quite jarring. Maybe Tripwire will do something different with future fights, but the battle with the Nazi doctor came across as tedious and boring compared to what came before.
Finally, while taking into account that the game is still in beta for a reason, players should be aware that a number of bugs are sometimes quite visible and still awaiting a fix. Zombies and even the final boss get caught on certain objects, the game’s servers have not been especially reliable so far, and the frame rate can sometimes have a mind of its own. That’s par for the course for Early Access, but considering that Tripwire is offering a Digital Deluxe version for extra cash, it’s something that potential buyers should be aware of.
All in all, this early version of Killing Floor 2 is an enjoyable experience for fans of the first game or other similar games like Left 4 Dead and Dying Light. But it doesn’t really try to do anything different from what came before, so those who didn’t like the first game, or are just allergic to zombies in general, might also pass on this one. Tripwire has its work cut out for it squashing all the bugs in the Early Access, but if that can be accomplished while also maybe doing something to spruce up the final boss fights, Killing Floor fans could easily have a title worth sinking another decade into.
Killing Floor 2 is in Early Access on PC and Linux. It’s also in development for PlayStation 4.