Wave based survival first became big with mainstream audiences in the early 2000’s with games like Gears of War and Call of Duty. The question was can this game mode exist as game on its own. We got that answer in 2009 with the first Killing Floor, developed and self published by Tripwire Interactive. Now after roughly a year in early access Killing Floor 2 has released version 1.0. What remains to be seen is how much has the series advanced in the 7 years since the release of the first game.
Set on the European continent after the outbreak of the Zeds, cloned beings created by the Horzine Corporation have crippled the EU. Taking places mere months after the first Killing Floor, this game has the player fill the role of a survivor trying to stay alive in a post collapse Europe as you fight your way through waves of Zeds. After each wave refilling ammo, shields and purchasing better weapons hoping to stay alive.
There are currently two game modes as of the game leaving Early Access: Survival or VS Survival. Survival is the standard wave based mode which was brought back from the first game. As you survive waves the enemies get tougher and more numerous, to balance that the survivors get access to better weapons and armor. At the end of each wave you gain XP and money based on key factors including: how well you did in your role, how efficient you were with ammo and how many Zed kills you got. VS Survival is survival with a twist, other players take on the role of various Zeds. Like Survival the game ends if the survivors all get killed, however if the survivors make it to the boss wave, they fight a boss that is controlled by another player.
As various waves are completed the enemies become more varied and more difficult to kill. Starting with basic zombie type Zeds called clots moving up to the sirens which can scream to nullify grenades and explosives and fleshpound which have grinders for hands and go berserk. Each of the bosses has their own phases that trigger when they get to certain health values. The Patriarch will run away and heal, while Dr Hans Volter will drop smoke grenades and try to grab a player from behind. If successful he will drain life from the player to heal.
There are currently 10 classes in Killing Floor 2: Berserker, Commando, Support, Field Medic, Firebug, Demolitionist, Gunslinger, Sharpshooter, Survivalist and Swat. Each class has its own niche or unique mechanics. Whether specializing in locking down rooms as the support, healing as the medic, fighting in melee range as the berserker or doing a little bit of everything as the survivalist there is something on offer for everyone. Classes have perks that unlock every 5 levels up to level 25, each level there are also bonuses that increase various stats with each class feeling entirely unique from each other class.
This is a fairly simple premise seen in a lot of other games whether in Call of Duty’s Zombie Mode or in Left 4 Dead. The key difference being that wave based survival is all that is on offer here. Also unlike Left 4 Dead there are no objectives; you survive, upgrade and repeat until you get to the boss wave which is a super powered Zed.
The controls are tight and responsive with no noticeable mouse acceleration. The base key binds are a bit unusual with things like M3 for block and iron sights set to toggle. Luckily the keys are fully rebindable with alternate key bindings as needed. Again not much on offer here, no parkour or fancy gimmicks, Tripwire has taken the basics and refined them.
From a visual standpoint the game looks visceral and gory, just the kind of thing you would expect from a post apocalyptic horde based shooter. This game takes the blood up a notch by using a unique way of building environments. They have rendered a layer of blood and then rendered the environment over that layer. Basically when you kill a Zed you get persistent gore because when the blood splatters it erases a texture instead of adding blood to the object. Tripwire make good use of Unreal Engine 3 to deliver decent visuals that will run on low end hardware with the minimum specs being: Core 2 Duo E8200 2.66GHz or Phenom II X2545, 3 GB of RAM, GeForce GTS 250 or Radeon HD 4830.
The sound design for the Zeds is excellent whether the scream of a Siren or the grunt of a Fleshpound the sound puts you on edge. The most divisive element of the sound design will be the music, the only thing on offer here is industrial metal. The nice thing about the soundtrack is that the song changes every time you complete a wave, hearing 20 minutes of the same track could get old fast.
The game performs like a dream on most hardware sets out there. Tripwire were able to leverage the scalability of the Unreal Engine to deliver performance for nearly any gaming setup out there. The game consistently stayed in triple digit framerates with a few dips, but never below 60 FPS.
Ultimately it’s a simple game, with a simple premise and it wears that on it’s sleeve. This does however mean that it’s a game that doesn’t have staying power. Fun for a few rounds with some friends but not something that would be played in a marathon session. This game is an example of taking the basics and refining them to their peak, if you are unsure of this game then wait for a sale at that point it will be hard to pass up. The game is currently $29.99 or your regional equivalent on Steam or a 6 pack for $149.99. This game gets a final verdict: try it, what it does it does well, there just isn’t a lot of content on offer right now.