Very few things in the video game industry have been as pervasive and tenacious as zombies and first person shooters. Decades have come and gone, tropes have been used and reused, yet both are just as prevalent today as they ever have been. While some might argue that Zombies especially have outstayed their welcome, Killing Floor 2, developed by Tripwire Interactive makes a very good argument as to why they can still be a mainstay for this medium.
Killing Floor 2, is a rather enjoyable FPS. There is no real story here, not in the traditional sense that is portrayed by exposition, rather an environmental form that lets curious players fill in the mystery that created these horrific zombie creatures. A type of human mutation/genetic warfare style creation has unleashed these beasts to feast upon mankind and your one and only goal is to decimate the hordes. The game can be tackled via solo, offline play or online with 6 players cooperatively. The levels are individually themed maps that are played in wave and difficulty based combat. Played in either 4, 7 or 10 waves and with 4 difficulty levels, the game has loads of options to fit any most player styles.
Before each match players can select one of 10 classes called Perks that define their play style. Everything from a run and gun Swat class or a slow and methodical Sharpshooter class, many styles are available to play in any situation. Every kill earns in-game currency called dosh, and XP which levels up your perk. Which perk levels up depends on which weapons you use, so if you start off playing as a Gunslinger, dual wielding two revolvers, and then on wave two decide to switch over to a Demolition expert and explode some zeds, you can do that and you will also level up both perks at the same time. As perk level increases you unlock new abilities which further make you more powerful. Becoming more powerful in level will allow you to more easily play on harder difficulties which helps give more life to the game.
Speaking of content, this game is ripe with it. Killing Floor 2 has 10 perks, 12 maps, 14 characters and loads of weapons. There is no shortage of content. Each perk can be leveled to 25 and all of the characters have several outfits to unlock and ways to customize your character. All of the characters are different, and with their unique back story there’s just enough to get you to somewhat care about them. What is really endearing to me is the dialogue that they will spit out while playing. Things about their past, or random comments about the weapon you’re using, they are often times funny and very fitting for the situation. Now to talk about the maps. They are extremely large for what I would consider to be normal. Granted, nowhere near the size of full Battlefield 4 maps, but felt just large enough to learn the layout quickly, but without feeling monotonous. The levels are varied really nicely and they often feature both indoor and outdoor locations with many layers to them. Even the forest location had train trestles and old, decrepit cabins (a la Blair Witch) to run around in.
Thinking about how you want to survive each wave is not as much about being a good shot as it is thinking about your environment and working closely as a team and sticking together. Holding together in a basement of a claustrophobic cabin can be at times better fortified than every man for himself spread across the map. Barricading doors and welding them shut can help keep the hordes out for only so long, but maybe you have someone on your team that has a demo perk which can arm the door with explosives when it is breached. Clever things like this are included which really helps to flesh out the combat. Enemy type is also varied, which ranges from the weak, roaming zombies, to the massive Flesh pounders, which can take a LOT of bullets to take down. Upgrading weapons, purchasing body armor and ammo, and buying new weapons can only be done at the Pod which only opens for about 1 minute once each round has been cleared. This gives players a tactical approach to how and when they buy certain items and how to spend your money. Killing Floor 2 really encourages players to think on their feet and to improvise as the game can easily throw you curve balls. I remember one of my first times playing solo, I thought I was being clever locking a slow trudging, brute of a zombie into an old cabin. I ran in there, went up stairs and waited for him to slowly follow. I then jumped down to the first floor, ran out the door and welded it shut behind me. That was the last zombie of the wave so I thought that a good time to do my collectible searching. Well sure enough I see my plan laid to waste as the creature bursts through the side of the house, boards flying and myself dumbfounded at its strength. Fun surprises like this keep coming the more I play.
Now when it comes to a zombie filled first person shooter, the atmosphere is key to relay a feeling of dread and dismay to the experience. I’ll have to admit that Tripwire has really pulled it off. The gore is one of the best I’ve seen in a game. The gibs and tendrils of viscera build upon each other; snow, floors and ceilings become littered with dark, red blood; and it can completely fill a room. Thankfully there is a gore slider so it can be toned down for the more faint of heart. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a little biased when it comes to this games soundtrack. It is filled to the brim with aggressive, industrial and melodic metal. Bands that I’ve loved and listed to for years such as Demon Hunter and Living Sacrifice and talented musicians such as Bruce Fitzhugh and Rocky Gray all lend their artistic talent to what is one of the best soundtracks in any game. This is no orchestral soundtrack by any means, rather just raw, unafraid metal, the tempo and beat of which make for a perfect zed slaying good time. The full soundtrack can either be played instrumentally or with their original lyrics, so the partnership with the artists becomes very evident with this freedom to listen as one chooses.
Playing Killing Floor 2 on my 4K TV and PS4 Pro has been a very good experience. The frame rate remains high quite often, though not staying locked to its 60 FPS target. Best I can tell from my eye the game will never drop as low as 30 FPS, so it will always look nice and smooth. The added benefits to Pro players is mostly the higher resolution of 1800p which is checkerboard rendered up to 4K. I’d be lying if I said I was fully offay this technical wizardry, but from my understanding this technique enables true, pixel to pixel alignment with the resolution of your TV resulting in a much higher quality image. 1080p users don’t have to feel left out as playing on a Pro with a full HD screen with still render at 1800p and then down-sample to your screen, resulting in a super sampled image. This effectively adds nice anti-aliasing to the image, reducing jaggies and shimmer. Standard PS4 players don’t have to feel left out as you will still get the targeted 60 fps gameplay, just with a lower resolution. There is even an Field of View slider for those that are interested.
I don’t have a lot of complaints with Killing Floor 2, although as of this writing the PS4 in-game store has been down so I cannot test it, but there appears to be a microtransaction system built in. Leveling up in game will reward you with crates which contain random, super rare loot. You can unlock these crates with a key that can be purchased for a few dollars. This inclusion is sure to make a few angry, but at least it’s optional and there for those who wish to partake. I also wish that Perks were called “Classes” and that “upgrading your weapon at the pod” really meant an upgrade rather than the option to purchase new guns or ammo being the only choices. Either way, this minor wording gripe is nothing to take away from what is a largely positive experience. While playing wave based gameplay for a few dozen hours may not be for everyone, the content that is included is solid and the gameplay is tight, so I do recommend this game. There is even a versus mode which can pit players 6 vs 6, zombies and humans against each other, similar in concept to Left for Dead and that my friends, has been a lot of fun.
A PS4 review copy of Killing Floor 2 was provided by the Tripwire PR team, and the game is available now on PS4 and PC.