Thoughts on Killing Floor
Killing Floor clearly didn't have any Hollywood scriptwriters on board to supervise the story. There aren't any painstakingly choreographed scripted events to further draw me into the universe Tripwire Interactive has presented here. The game isn't running on the latest technology, in fact, to put it simply, it's dated. There's absolutely no new ground being broken and the setting isn't remotely unique. To top it off, the entire game is based off of a mod that released for Unreal Tournament 2004 in 2005. So now that I've managed to make it sound like an atrocious piece of budgetware, let me explain why it is everything but.
Killing Floor is the second game from Tripwire Interactive, the winners of a previous “Make Something Unreal” contest for their fantastic mod Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 which they then tooled into a retail product after having won an Unreal engine license. Killing Floor was available for pre-order via Steam for $15 in the US, after being advertised as having a recession friendly price point. This is one of the first things that makes Killing Floor an exceptionally worthy purchase. The amount of value packed into this download exceeds that of many full priced games, not to mention it's got a near guarantee of continued support from the developers and maps have already begun to pour out of the community. I've logged about 12 hours into the game myself, so I'm quickly approaching a dollar per hour and beyond of value.
The game itself is multiplayer co-op only. There's no competitive Counter-Strike like options here, which is fine because it'd feel cheap and tacked on. The idea is that you and up to five of your friends are assuming the roles of disaster response troops comprised of the British Army and police force. You're being called in because the generic local evil corporation has accidentally unleashed their fleshy creations upon the unsuspecting public. The plot isn't intricate, there's really nothing built on it, it exists merely as an explanation as to why you're hauling ass through various locations in England slaughtering monsters by the hundreds.
The primary game mechanic at work here is the perk system. This system presents six different options to select that will modify the way in which you play the game. There is an option to support just about every class based multiplayer archetype, ranging from Medic, to Support and beyond. Each of these perks will modify your stats, giving you increased run speed, more damage with specific weapons or the ability to see cloaked enemies farther out than the rest of your squad. They also level up over time, lending a sense of consistency to the game. The perks really do start making a difference once you move onto higher difficulty levels and higher levels of the perks themselves, having a medic is suddenly necessary where previously it had been merely something that was handy in previous games. It's a system that works really well and adds much needed depth the game would otherwise be lacking. There were a few bugs at launch but these are issues that were quickly addressed, to the credit of Tripwire.
Content wise the game seems sparse at first, there's really only eight enemies you'll fight over and over again on the five included maps with the same ten weapons. The only part of that equation that even begins to wear thin are the included maps, and this really hinges on personal preference. The maps range from an open rural farmstead, full of fields just daring you to wander off from the rest of your team to a top secret underground Biotics Lab, a labyrinth of narrow halls and dimly lit rooms. All of the maps offer plenty of variety for defensive positions, different doors to keep welded as you funnel the enemies into the direction you've got the most control over. But once a spot is found that works well for you and your team it's rather uncomfortable to leave.
The time spent between waves of enemies consists of booking it to wherever the trader appears, selected at random from four or five locations on each map. The trader offers you a way to get rid of all that cash you somehow earn from killing zombies on an assault rifle, a couple different shotguns, chainsaws or even a rocket launcher. There's no shortage of firepower here. The weapons in the game are a strong point, there's a sense that you're firing a a weapon more than capable of knocking something clear across the room, or spewing out rounds at a lethal rate. They all feel solid, they sound meaty and mean, there's no pop-gun syndrome being suffered here, your ears might bleed a little, but you won't be able to accuse it of having weak weapon sounds. Alongside the strong weapon fire sounds is the recoil and knock back. You can't fire so much as a pistol without briefly losing your target in the iron sights and having to readjust. Sure, you can just shoot wildly, but there's heads to be torn off and ammo to be conserved.
The enemies are fairly standard fare, some might even accuse Tripwire of creating enemies derivative of Left 4 Dead. I'd have to agree if it weren't for the fact that the original mod had come out a good three years prior to the release of L4D. There's the required shuffling infected, zombie, monster things that want nothing more than to grab you and hold you while their larger brethren pound on your face. There's a rotund bloat that spews bile on you if you get backed into a corner and explodes with a meaty pop when killed. The enemies all have a lot of character, the required strategy to take them down based on their attributes is learned pretty quickly through just playing a few matches. However, the final enemy you'll encounter at the end of a match, the Patriarch was a let down. He can go invisible once he's injured, he can heal himself and seemingly zip from one end of the map to another at will. Once I was unlucky enough to be on the business end of his rocket launcher during his small intro cutscene, where I was murdered without being able to see my character at all, just look on horrified as my health went from a hearty 100 to nil. The finale of every match just doesn't fit the tone of the rest, which could have been intended but I didn't find to mesh too well.
Killing floor isn't a game that's going to win a ton of awards, but it doesn't need to. It's not a flagship title for the studio and it's not breaking any ground that hasn't been broken time and time again. It just takes elements and combines them into a very solid and well constructed package for a pretty incredible price. The crowning achievement here is value more than anything else. There's a couple dozen hours of fun, at least, to be had by you and your friends. It's easy to hop on with just one buddy, or everyone you can bother on your friends list and you'd be hard pressed to not have a good 30 minute gaming session of laughs, shouts, jeers and being eaten by monsters. I can safely say this was the best money I've spent on a game that wasn't heavily discounted. Don't let the ludicrous comparisons to L4D sway your decision, they're two very different games with very different styles. You'll be better served spending your $20 here than nearly any other game you could get for that price.