Some of you might have thought that I was going to do Team Fortress 2 as an online review. But even I’m not that predictable. A huge reason behind my choice to not cover TF2 is also that it recently turned Free to Play, so there is literally no risk aside from a wasted download in at least trying it for yourself. That put the game that was actually the second game I ever owned on Steam ahead on the priorities list.
Title: Killing Floor
Release Date: May 2009
Genre: First Person Shooter
Overall Grade: B- a cheap niche title that still updates with free content and has an active and ongoing development going on. That being said the difficulty level and grinding for perks can and will turn off a lot of people. Might be worth a try if you enjoy Left 4 Dead and don’t mind getting your ass handed to you, a lot.
Zombies, Zeds, the undead, the living impaired. Whatever you want to call them, the main point of Killing Floor is turning as many of them as possible into bloody piles of hamburger whilst not having the same unfortunate fate visited upon yourself. It’s a lot easier on paper than it in in practice, trust me.
There is a story here, but it’s absolutely bare bones. Mad scientist creates some bad juju, and now it’s time to shoot, stab, explode, burn, snipe, and otherwise gain victory through vicious and delicious violence.
One of the first things you’re going to notice about KF is that the game is almost the antithesis of what most would call a “graphical powerhouse”. Running off a modded Unreal Engine 2.5, if you’re coming in looking for silky smooth visuals and hi-def gore, then you might want to go elsewhere, because you’re really not going to find any of that here. The game isn’t going to give you eye cancer or anything, but the visuals are never going to be impressive unless you get a time machine and hop back at least a couple of years. That being said the design is well represented, with all the Zeds you fight being visually distinctive and the environments capturing that suitable sparseness of a post-outbreak war zone.
In terms of audio, you’re getting stuff on par with the video: industrial metal pours through the background; music that will put some in a killing mood but that others won’t be able to turn off quickly enough. There is voice acting, but for the protagonists there’s only two actual VA’s both of which are heavily British (which makes sense because the game is in the land of double-deckers and lifts) and also almost comically awful at times. It might not be as cheesy as “Fill your dark soul with light!!” but listen to this for a minute and tell me that it’s quality and not QUALITY. There’s a chintzy charm about it, but again it’s nothing to really write home about.
Now, the gameplay itself is where this game shines. Presented as surviving waves of Zeds that you must exterminate to eventually make it to The Patriarch - the mad scientist turned hulking monstrosity behind this entire thing - and it’s up to you to determine how best to survive through each wave. You can run and gun, or try to buckle down and control an area and let the shambling masses come to you.
Of course, some of these masses aren’t really shambling at all. It all starts out easy enough with the Clot, a slow clumsy thing that doesn’t do much damage but that does have an annoying grapple ability. From there though you start getting Gorefasts, which are limber gents with swords strapped to their deformed arms, Sirens, whose screams cause explosives to fail and do massive damage that ignores any body armor you might be wearing. And there there’s the big guys: the chainsaw wielding Scrake, who gets faster and more aggressive the more damage he takes, and the Fleshpound: best described as “Oh God, run!” this cheerful thing has meat grinders for arms, can take a ton of damage, and is easily capable of one shotting a team member after it flies into a rage upon taking too much damage.
Killing Floor offers a variety of baddies and places to fight them, but what it offers in spades is a challenge. Expect to due quite a bit, even with an experienced team. Finding a bunch of people that you can actually depend on is essential, or learning to be some sort of self sufficient super player could also possibly work. I admittedly was luck enough to be introduced to the game by a friend, and so I had a group of capable players backing me up from the start.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though. Since I mentioned that even with a good team the game is quite difficult, with a bad one it becomes a completely frustrating mess. Losing people who wander off and take stupid risks becomes grating. There’s also the double-edged sword of the perks system. Perks are the levelling system of KF, and range from the automatic based Commando, to the melee intensive Berserker. Each of these perks can be levelled to give greater damage with the chosen weapons, better weapons off the start, and other benefits. The only problem is that levelling up a perk takes a long time. Millions of damage or kills, and then sometimes secondary requirements as well. While I’m not saying that a person with only low level perks can’t contribute to a group, it’s definitely something that might turn off a lot of players not interested in grinding in order to be a fully useful member of the team.
Those that do stick it out, find a good group and their niche in it will be rewarded with a game where winning is tremendously satisfying and can be something to brag about in a lot of cases. That being said, this game isn’t for everyone, so if you have your doubts you might want to wait until they offer a free trial, which they do every couple of months. Get together with some friends and see if the game is to your tastes; if nothing else you’ll be able to quickly discern whether this is your type of title, or if your lust for murder is better fulfilled elsewhere.