Released On: August 29, 2017 Genre: First-Person Shooter, Horde Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: Tripwire Interactive Publisher: Tripwire Interactive, Deep Silver, Iceberg Interactive
As one of the only people in the world who had yet to trying Killing Floor 2 in any of its previous iterations, it seemed only right that I go into this review without any of the perceptions or bias that would be inherent by having played or spent extensive time observing the game before. I’m a big fan of cooperative horde-based games, but I was largely unsure of what to expect from the game I’d hear out of the mouths of so many of my peers.
If you’re like me and this is your first venture into the series, Killing Floor 2 is a horde/wave-based first-person shooter where the sole goal is to kill Zeds and survive. There are two main modes for Killing Floor 2: a PvE Survival and a PvE/PvP hybrid aptly named VS Survival. I mostly stuck to the traditional PvE mode, which is the bread and butter of the game, and in many ways was much more refined than its competitive counterpart. The PvE Survival mode in Killing Floor 2 is separated up into several tiers, depending on how many waves of Zeds you feel confident enough to tackle. For the most part I stuck to the 4-Wave rounds, because none of my Classes were exceptionally strong as I was bouncing between them trying to sample the buffet.
While the gameplay in almost every round soon devolves into a bloody catastrophe, each Class brings their own unique combat style to the fray. You level up Classes by gaining experience from the two game modes using Class-specific weapons, and use that to unlock pass Perks which compliment each Classes’ playstyle. As per my usual style, I found that using the dual-wielding Gunslinger was quite to my liking. Classes have their own recommended weapons which will work well with their passive Perks, and while you can utilize another Classes’ weapons, you will not gain experience towards the one you are using.
The enemies in Killing Floor 2 are the things that regular zombies’ nightmares are made of. Fleshpounds, Spiders, and terrifying abominations whose name I dare not utter (mostly because I don’t recall ever having been informed in the game) easily top my list of things that I would not want to encounter. Your best bet in Killing Floor is to find a suitably defensible area and then hunker down for the round. You can close doors to block off the most direct entry points for Zeds, and then weld them shut for an extra layer of defense. Luckily headshots and grenade kills give you a brief reprieve in the form of slowed down time, which allows you to daisy-chain additional kills to your rampage.
In between rounds, you can access a Trader which allows you to restock on your ammo, as well as purchase armor and new weapons. Even though you are limited by a weight capacity, you can face off against the horde with a veritable arsenal of weapons. Killing Zeds earns you currency called Dosh, which is typically flowing freely by the second or third round. I never found myself wanting for a gun or ammo after the second round, because even if I didn’t have enough currency someone was usually throwing it at other players using a handy “make it rain” ability.
The final round of each match ends with a boss battle, either against the mad scientist Volker or the monstrous Patriarch depending on which difficulty you select. I was a little disappointed that there were only two bosses to face off against in Killing Floor 2, but each of them at least provided a unique combat experience, with the Patriarch being the much more difficult of the two.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to talk about the fantastic music of Killing Floor 2; my favorite compliment to the core gameplay is easily the soundtrack. Heavy metal through and through, with some killer blast beats and bone-crunching breakdowns. Including some stellar groups like zXnthetic and Demon Hunter, Solid State Records provided the perfect music to shred through hundreds of zombies and abominations to. It was a great move on Tripwire Interactive’s part to team up with the label to create their OST, and something I’d love to see more of in future projects.
There is a fair amount of customization in Killing Floor 2, but it’s exclusively cosmetic. You can unlock or purchase characters skins, weapon skins, emotes, cosmetic items such as hats or masks, and other similar accessories. It would have been nice to see additional weapon or loadout customization, or anything that changed the active gameplay a little more, but there is still a fair amount of aesthetic gear to unlock.
After I had finally built up my Zed-slaying confidence, bolstered by the destructively epic soundtrack, I decided to test my mettle against other players in the VS Survival mode. While enjoyable in a turbulent sort of way, I found that it played almost exactly like the PvE mode. It felt very reminiscent of my experiences with the PvP multiplayer from Dead Space 2; a frenetic activity which seems more enshrouded in chaos than governed by strategy. The Zed characters did not feel balanced, and many rounds ended up with an entire team of Fleshpounds or Suicide Crawlers because a “rush” strategy was often more viable to the Zed team than a strategic assortment of ability types. This isn’t to say that the competitive experience wasn’t fun; just that at the end of the day, I found the core PvE mode to be a far more enjoyable experience than the PvP.
The matchmaking system suffers from several issues, namely that lobbies seem to have an issue populating fully, and in many cases players would leave before new ones arrived, creating a perpetual cycle of half-full lobbies. You can start a game with only two or three people though, and the game does a solid job of adding in players throughout the round so you typically have a full team by Round 2. I did experience a couple full game crashes during the initial matchmaking, which forced me back to my Xbox home screen. It’s hard to say where the fault lied for these, but I have heard other players experiencing the same issue on the Xbox One release.
While it is a relatively simple concept at its core, there is a fair amount of customization around the edges which adds much-needed replay value to the game. While the gameplay got repetitive fairly quickly, much like playing Call of Duty: Zombies continuously, the malleability of the various play styles is what kept pulling me back into more rounds. This is the danger of creating a game that is not only solely-multiplayer, but which contains a siloed and somewhat restrictive game mode.
In addition to the two core modes, there are additionally weekly modes which unlock premium gear for your characters. The first week was Bobbleheads, which instantly transported me back to playing GoldenEye on Nintendo 64 and provided a goofy sidestep from the traditional PvE with some worthwhile rewards. There is only a single difficulty here however, so I had to level up my Gunslinger Class before I was able to successfully complete it.
While the gameplay certainly gets repetitive after sustained play, numerous Classes and loadouts to utilize, and a wealth of cosmetic upgrades provide a decent amount of content for the pricetag. There are a lot of horde-style games out there, but not as many IPs which have been developed with this sole-purpose in mind. Killing Floor 2 both benefits and suffers from having put all their eggs in the horde basket, but if you’re looking to sink into some wave-based PvE that is where the game shines. When it comes down to it Killing Floor 2 is just silly fun, and if you have a couple friends to play with, the experience is a blood-soaked riot.
Final Score: 7/10
While the gameplay gets repetitive after sustained play, Killing Floor 2 is an entertaining slaughterfest with a group of friends.
The review copy of this game was provided by Tripwire Interactive.