From A to Zed
HIGH A well-balanced and well-implemented class system.
LOW Graphical glitches abound when the action gets fierce.
WTF Exactly why are we doing this again? Plotless games are so passe…
Just when people thought the zombie game craze had died down (with the WWII craze ready to start up anew) along comes Killing Floor 2, a multiplayer-focused series that began its life as a mod for Unreal Tournament, and blossomed into a standalone affair. PC and PS4 gamers have enjoyed the title since 2016, but Xbox One players had to wait until now.
In this speedy, Left 4 Dead-ish FPS, players are tasked with conquering map after map and wave after wave of increasingly difficult super zombies (called Zeds, to make them different, apparently). Like a Horde Mode on meth, Killing Floor 2 doesn’t try to bog down gamers with meaningless things like ‘story’ or ‘purpose’, choosing instead to bombard them with unrelenting action, hoping they don’t ask for clarity along the way.
Yes, the premise is simple – aggressive Zeds have somehow taken over a nameless part of Europe due to a biotech mishap, and a mostly-silent protagonist shoulders the burden of solving this problem with a flurry of ammunition. The game features three distinct game modes:
– Survival, a six-player co-op mode which asks players to – shockingly enough – survive 10 waves of zombie killing machines.
– VS Survival, 6-on-6 teams deathmatch.
– Weekly, the most creative mode that keeps things fresh by changing the rules and scenarios every week.
Despite the intriguing nature of a weekly game update – and admittedly, it is a novel way to increase replay value of a fairly limited title – the basic Survival mode is far and away the most entertaining option. Though it follows standard Horde Mode tropes, the interesting variety of Zed types and balanced difficulty increases make this a great way to get some mindless zombie killing done in small doses.
What is perhaps best about this mode is its ability to keep players interested in leveling up without ever becoming too grindy or redundant. Even though there are only a handful of Zed varieties – a somewhat stock assortment of spitters, four-legged nasties and other archetypes ripped from the zombie playbook – they offer enough diverse qualities to keep gamers glued for countless rounds.
The key to Killing Floor 2’s replay value is its deep class system. With 10 unique classes including munitions experts, sniper/sharpshooters and even pyromaniacs, there’s a lot more to try here beyond standard class types. And, having this variety makes the usual bruiser and medic types feel even more unique.
One would think having so many character types might convolute the primary goal of the title, but well-orchestrated teamwork turns the onscreen chaos into a symphony of communication and survival. It doesn’t ALWAYS work, but the teams I watched streaming their live matches on Stitch showed considerable skill in making each class bring something to the table.
Another unique element is how earning XP is dependent on the weapon the player chooses to use. For example, a sharpshooter can pick up a demolitions-focused weapon during battle, allowing players to then add XP to that class if and when they decide to switch character types. Before long, gamers will notice their overall leveling is balanced and growing across the board, adding further incentive to keep playing each mode. Even better, XP and leveling perks are distributable across teams, so cohesive units can share the wealth and raise their skill levels at the same pace.
It needs to be specified that there’s a limited single player mode, but it’s by no means a proper campaign, nor does it adequately prepare players for the realities of multiplayer battle. The bots are mostly mindless, and the class system differences aren’t as significant without proper human engagement. As a practice mode, Killing Floor 2’s single-player is adequate, but it’s hardly a reason to buy the game.
So, everything I’ve laid out so far would be moot if the game didn’t play well, but thankfully, Killing Floor 2 is a fast, rapid-fire shooter that doesn’t get too caught up in its own mythology, or try to be anything it’s not. Fans of arena shooters (such as its spiritual predecessor Unreal Tournament) will feel right at home. The shooting is responsive and fluid, and weaponry has a nice heft to it, as does the weapons’ impact on Zeds. Unfortunately, there are only two bosses in the entire game, and after a while, Killing Floor 2 does begin to feel redundant.
There are also some technical concerns. When the action becomes hectic in later rounds, I found texture clipping and jagged animations to crop up fairly often. It wasn’t bad enough to take me out of the moment, nor did it affect my performance, but it was disappointing for a title with only three modes. The game also touts “destructible” environments, but other than a handful of exploding lights and some well-timed set pieces, I rarely encountered any meaningful interaction with the maps.
Of course, no modern game would be complete without microtransactions – in fact, for certain add-ons and bonuses, players will need to do just that. As users progress, chests become available as a reward for earning XP. However, the only way to open these chests is by laying out very real money – a black mark on an otherwise fair and democratic upgrade system. For what it’s worth, the items available in these chests are not integral to gameplay, they’re just cosmetic enhancements. In other words, nothing worthy to my jaded eyes.
For gamers looking for depth and meaning behind their entrail splattering, Killing Floor 2 is not a prime choice. However, for players looking to spend some time in a silly, gory zombie shooter that doesn’t let storytelling get in the way of bloodshed, Killing Floor 2 is a good a throwback that’s welcome on the Xbox One.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Tripwire Interactive. It is currently available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the multiplayer modes, which and the game was not completed (I did not reach max level for each character type). Approximately 2 hours were spent in the limited single-player mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Mature. This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of civilians and mercenaries fighting a zombie outbreak. Players use firearms, explosives, flamethrowers, and melee weapons (e.g., swords, buzz saws) to kills waves of mutated zombie creatures. Battles are frenetic with realistic gunfire and large explosions; certain attacks are highlighted by slow-motion effects. Large blood-splatter effects occur frequently as zombies are decapitated and/or dismembered; several environments depict large blood stains amid mutilated bodies. Some zombie creatures are depicted partially nude with exposed buttocks (no genitalia is shown). The word “sh*t” is heard in the dialogue.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: Unfortunately, gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing are at a disadvantage with Killing Floor 2. Though there isn’t much in the way of dialogue, I could not find a subtitles option in the menu system. Likewise, after playing with the volume down, I had much more difficulty hearing approaching enemies. The game is playable under these circumstances, but would be much better with tactile feedback or onscreen prompts for deaf or hard of hearing gamers.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers several preconfigured control schemes, but individual buttons are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.