Tripwire Interactive’s sequel to their highly successful Killing Floor game back in 2009 is playable on the PC via an early access version. With only a short time having passed since it appeared, the community of players supporting it has grown to include not only fans of the original, but also new players who are looking for something beyond other zombie-themed FPS titles like Left 4 Dead. So far, The Killing Floor 2 does not disappoint. The game has pretty impressive visuals and yet does not require much hardware power to run (though we still recommend a good rig for when the full retail version comes out). And as expected of an Early Access release, there are still a lot of unfinished features and missing content. Continue Reading
Release Date: 21st April 2015
Available on: Linux, PS4, Windows, PC Download
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A Close Look at Killing Floor 2’s Early Access
Getting Early Access to a game is a double edged sword. For one thing, you get to play it immediately –ahead of a lot of people who are waiting for a retail version. But at the same time, you are also part of a massive group of players who are bug testing an alpha-build (more or less) of a game –but instead of being paid by the developers, you will be the one shelling out money for the experience. Of course, games released this way are a lot more playable in order to justify the price tag, and Killing Floor 2 provides a substantially fun multiplayer experience even with all the missing bits and pieces.
What is the Killing Floor 2?
Killing Floor 2, or just basically, KF2, is a first person action game that pits the players against angry hordes of mutant zombie monsters. This game is a sequel (which is why there’s a 2 on the title) and so it already has a lot of fans starting in. But what makes this Early Access game so appealing and actually fun to play is the fact that it does not feel like an Early Access game at all. The visuals are polished with cleverly laid out user interfaces and great in-game graphics and animations. The combat is superb –even on random public matches, it is easy to ride on the flow and get a good feel of the game (but expect to get your newbie backside ripped to shreds early on). And this title has some serious depth –even with the limited amount of content already available there is already a lot to explore and experiment with.
How it Plays
Playing Killing Floor 2 is a pretty straightforward experience; it loads up fast and allows you to skip past any unnecessary splash pages before getting into the action. The game lobby presents players with a wide range of games to join. There’s a very active community of players so finding a room to start in should not be any trouble at all.
Once a game starts, you will be tasked to fight off waves of zeds. In between each wave, you can use your credits to buy weapons that will make the succeeding waves easier (well, not really, as the next wave of zeds will be even tougher). Most importantly, your character will grow –and with growth comes perks. Perks are permanent and will not disappear after a game, and this is what makes the late game content of KF2 so great: with a good set of perks, the higher difficulty rooms become so much more manageable.
Cooperation in combat is a big thing. The waves are designed in such a way that solo players will not survive the game unless they have incredibly great gear, loads of perks, and ridiculous skill. So basically, if you cannot play well with others, this game will force it on you on pain of death. Voice chat certainly helps with making quick strategic calls and while it is not required, it definitely gives players a big edge when playing on crazy level difficulties (if you see a room with Hell on Earth, don’t even think about trying it unless you have a ton of hours already put in). Once the later waves come and the Scraves start appearing, you will learn the tactical value of running away. Back pedaling (or kiting) and circle strafing will not help you with these big baddies.
Plenty of Gun Action
There are a wide range of guns in the game, and by wide we mean a lot more than a recreation of all the nice things on display at the local gun store. Killing Floor 2 is set in a fictional world in a different era, and thus players are given access to guns of very different origins. From the the more conventional firearms, to the slightly exotic (like flamethrowers), to the completely fictional Eviscerator which launches spinning blades of death. There are even more weapons that are going to be added to the game, as well as non-projectile based ones such as the katana.
Melee is particularly interesting as it is more than just bashing the closest enemy with the butt of your gun. Parrying is incredibly effective –it even works on the incredibly dangerous boss monsters. While it does not completely negate damage, it can do so to a limited degree (and taking anything less than 50% damage is a pretty big bonus in itself). More importantly, it actually pays off to try and master how it works as it provides players with a good way to survive when get tough.
And things do get tough. Enemies will flank and you combine their attacks in order to take you down effectively. Those big guys with chainsaws? Sure they’re very dangerous and need keeping an eye on, but the smaller ones will take this opportunity to also take you while you’re distracted. So you have to know how weapons behave. Take reloading for example –this is not something that finishes in a split second and you need to keep track of how many shots you have left on your clip. Changing weapons also takes time, also, doing either will slow down your movement speed for a bit. So it pays off to try and get a feel of the flow of the battle –the last thing you want to be is that guy who can’t run from a Flesh Pound fast enough since he’s in the middle of reloading.
Gun loadout combinations are plenty, and it pays off to study the various options out there. Experimenting on your first time is expected, but it try to be conscientious of the choices you make when playing with others; if you play badly because of a bad combination of guns, it will affect the gameplay of the other players so it makes sense to do a bit of research beforehand.
Getting Into the Rhythm of Action
There’s a counter on the screen telling you exactly how many enemies are still available in the current wave, and it slowly trickles down in number as you and your team literally create a gorefest of zed bodies. This is a game where you have only one thing in mind: kill to survive.
This is not just a matter of the game having only one gamemode at the moment –the whole beat or pace of the game is reliant on the players being able to create a steady flow that keep everyone alive and the enemies slowly dying. Simply put, the longer the waves are alive, the more chance they get to get into the right positions to overwhelm players. Thinning out their numbers strategically will do wonders for surviving the last few waves –as will tactical decision making such as knowing when to weld doors shut or who to give your excess money to.
The medic-pistol is a much recommended item to put in your secondary weapon slot as it makes hard waves more survivable. Not that we recommend switching weapons in the middle of a busy firefight, but it helps when the entire team is able to support one another during dangerous moments. While players will respawn in the next round if they die in the current, they will lose any weapons they previously obtained (this also means that any extra money you are carrying around should be donated to anyone who dies).
TWI created a very visually-inclined game –everything you do has a graphical representation. You shoot a zed with a submachine gun and it staggers, you hit it with a stronger weapon and you can literally stop it from taking a swing or bite at you. But there’s more to just basic enemy animations too –depending on where and how you damage an enemy target, they react accordingly. The game has layered the zed models with unique gore meshes –which means that if you shoot a zombie in the arm, then bits of that arm’s flesh will get blown off and show the mass of tissue and muscle inside. It is not yet a perfect system, but it certainly looks amazingly beautiful from a graphical perspective.
The stages also get its share of battle damage. While you will see bullet holes on walls and such, much of the scenery will later get washed with tons of blood from enemies. Unlike most games, the gore does not disappear once a certain threshold is reached. The bodies will pile up and so will the blood and guts from enemies you have blown up, burned down, of chopped in half. This game will literally show you what a killing floor looks like by the time the scrakes start arriving.
One of the biggest things that players fear about the whole “early access” label is that they are paying for an incomplete experience. This is hard to balance. Literally, anything early access is already an incomplete game, but what makes the experience different is that feeling of polish that only a few developers manage to serve up. TWI does right by anyone trying the game out before the retail version. Sure, no all weapons are available, some character classes are still upcoming, and there’s a lot more perks to unlock outside of the ones already here. The good news is that even with all of that still on the development queue, you can jump into the game and not feel like anything is missing at all.
Now, for those of you who have never played an “early access” game, there is one little thing you should know: you are not a bug or beta game tester. Of course, the developers would certainly appreciate it if players provide feedback on what they are seeing. But it does not mean that TWI is going to upload every single bit of progress they make on retail development straight into the Early Access. There are several loud members in any early access game community that are always demanding or complaining about the lack of content or updates. Fact is, any new content will have to go through a lot of internal testing on the side of the developers before the early access folks can try it. After all, they cannot simply hand over a majorly buggy update to people who still paid money to play a game –be it a work in progress or not. The good thing is that TWI is pretty impressive with the content they put up –most of the updates to the Early Access version has been pretty much spotless and very playable.
The Verdict: Early Fun
While we cannot give a rating to an early access title, theirs is still an obvious question that needs answering: is it worth it? Right now, TWI’s Killing Floor 2 is not exactly a full priced game since it is not a retail release. Still it is a lot more costly than a simple mobile app or even a big DLC so making this purchase is not a simple decision to make.
The key points here to consider are that the game is pretty limited to only one game mode (which is cooperative multiplayer), three stages, and limited character classes. This will get improved as time passes (supposedly concurrent with a planned end of 2015 release date), though it will also mean that you have to be patient. The patience is helped by the fact that the limited content is still plenty of fun to play. The game looks and feels finished –from a visual and gameplay sense. It plays well to know that this is already fun and addictive and that experience will get even better. The fact that the current community of players are asking for more content instead of fixes to what’s present means that KF2, as it is, is already enjoyable.
If you are looking for a good multiplayer experience for the next couple of weeks and then on a slightly intermittent basis (depending on whether you find people to often play with), then this is a good thing to go for. But if you want something that has a ton of content, and is basically a game you can immediately dedicate hundreds of your hours to, then you will want to wait for the retail release.
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Killing Floor 2 is developed by Tripwire Interactive.