2016 has been an interesting and infuriating year. It is the year that has brought us a multicoloured Brexit, a President elect that may be as stable as a two-legged table and enough air-time for Farage to make even the strongest stomached of us lose our digestive fortitude. It’s a year that has given us reason to want to lose ourselves in games, and to shoot stuff cleanly in the face in those games. In what seems like a prescient arrival, Tripwire’s ,Killing Floor 2 has finally arrived on Playstation 4 in a cacophony of gunfire and giblets.
Killing Floor 2 has been on the cards for a very long time, in fact the first email I have from Tripwire talking about the game is dated all the way back to 2011, when the world was a much simpler place. That time in development, early access, the beta tests etc have all been worthwhile asKilling Floor 2 delivers a fantastically entertaining, and incredibly bloody, gaming experience.
In many way Killing Floor 2 seems somewhat at an odds with Tripwire's work on the brilliant Red Orchestra and not what you would expect. Where one throws you into a tense hyper-realistic World War setting where you can bleed out in a shallow trench, the other has you unloading countless rounds of ammo into the biologically mutated Zeds. Tension has made way for instant gratification and I can’t help but stress how much fun it is.
If you come to Killing Floor 2 with any desire for a story, or a gripping narrative that ties the twelve levels together you may as well exhale loudly, incensed with rage because any real sense of a story is thin on the ground. In a wonderful symmetry the game sees the European Union thrown into confusion as it falls victim to a biohazard experiment that, not surprisingly, gone wrong. Areas of Europe are now falling under the attack of a variety of genuinely horrible clones, and it must be stressed they are absolutely not zombies they are Zeds. Cue the music for your ragtag team - up to six of you can play together - as you race to save Europe and its civilians from the hordes.
Killing Floor 2, not to do it a disservice, is essentially a very well fleshed-out horde mode. Each game will begin with some time to prepare the area, for example you can weld doors shut and try to funnel Zeds into a choke-point, or you can simply all set up covering individual access points. Depending on the chosen map length you will see yourself facing anything up to ten waves of the biologically challenged, with each wave increasing in difficulty on the last and finally you’ll face off against a boss Zed.
As you mow your way through the waves of the ‘totally not undead’ you’ll accrue both experience and cash, much like life in general. In between waves you’ll be able to leg it to a pod where you can purchase new gear and get ready for the next wave. The range of death-dealing instruments is quite staggering and you’ll have an absolute blast finding your chosen weapon of choice. There are many design decisions that help make Killing Floor 2 so much better than it probably should be, and a lot of them are there to make the experience as pain-free for the player as possible. For example, when you run to the pod to tool up you have limited time to make your decision, if you can’t be bothered, or if you want more time welding doors shut simply select the auto-upgrade selection and let the game decide for you. It doesn’t always get it perfect but if you are the type of player that can’t be bothered with fiddling the Killing Floor 2 has you covered.
Similarly even the ability to select what length of game you want is seemingly obvious, but also welcome. It really is possible to jump in, have a quick game and be done in 15 minutes which is a luxury that a lot of games never afford you. Being smart and economical with a player’s time is one thing, but it would be for naught if the gunplay was not up to scratch, but again Killing Floor 2 come through with aplomb. Controls are tight, with each weapon providing it’s own handling that conveys its own sense of weight, there is a lot of fun to be had just delving into the vast arsenal at play and taking the time to master your favourite weapon.
Beyond the weapons you’ll have a vast selection of class-types to experiment with: when I say ‘class’ Killing Floor 2 refers to them as ‘Perks’ and each Perk comes with a skill-tree ripe for unlocking. Slightly confusing terminology aside in practice it’s all quite familiar; support, medic, beserker etc. As you push on you’ll unlock new abilities to assist you and your team, and again Tripwire have done a great job of making you feel like the game keeps refreshing itself, pushing you on to unlock more and discover new ways of playing.
Adding a huge dollop of longevity cream to this bloody trifle are the difficulty settings, providing a little bit of magic to the proceedings in a way that transcends the expectations that, “it’s just a bit harder.” What you’ll notice as you up your difficulty is that the Zeds start to not just soak up more damage, but they begin to act a lot smarter. For an example let's take the Siren, a lanky, skeletal female that deals a huge amount of damage when she screams, if you are caught in her radius. On simpler settings you’ll hear her coming, she will likely take a few steps and scream and repeat this until you take her out. On higher difficulty settings it is not unusual for her to sneak up on a player unannounced before dealing damage, and given that her attack ignores armour it can be devastating.
You will feel like you are learning the game again as you move up the difficulty levels, Zeds suddenly protecting their face, stopping a headshot and the potential for life-saving Zed Time. “Zed Time?” I hear you ask. Let me indulge you with one of the best mechanics in the game. Simply put Zed Time is slow motion, it gets triggered when someone dispatches an enemy under a certain condition (I feel it’s a percentage of headshots), and it gives you three seconds of monochromatic mayhem. When Zed Time kicks in, it happens for all players simultaneously, and it can make the difference between life and death. There have been few gaming moments this year that have beaten being absolutely pinned by a horde for someone somewhere on the map to trigger Zed Time, giving you valuable time to ring off a few beautiful slow motion headshots to thin the crowd. It’s also a fantastic way to admire the horrific beauty of Killing Floor 2
The main gripe with Killing Floor 2 is that if you are thinking of buying it for the single-player experience don’t bother, or at least don’t make that your primary reason. With little depth and the removal of human co-op Killing Floor 2 becomes the game that you feel it could have so easily have been, a hollow experience with a few tricks up its sleeve. So far the community online seems to be fantastic, I have yet to experience anyone griefing and you’ll find players giving you money to buy things between waves more often than not. For a game so focused on dealing loud death at people the core players are extremely welcoming, even in your early hours of play.
In many ways there is very little to say about Killing Floor 2, you could perhaps write a review on a postage stamp. But this holiday season, if you want to forget about the world, join up with a few friends and fight monsters in an absolute bloodbath then look no further.