Killing Floor: Double Feature Review
To mark a decade of the Killing Floor franchise, developer Tripwire Interactive has bundled its two most recent games together on PS4 to provide an easy one-stop pickup for fans and newcomers to the series alike. 2016’s Killing Floor 2 is an online wave shooter with a different take on the zombie formula, while Killing Floor: Incursion, 2017’s virtual reality companion piece, is a standalone story which delights in being nasty. Ten years is a long time for a smaller studio’s franchise to keep going, so Jump Dash Roll has zipped up the hazmat suit and loaded the shotgun: let’s see whether there’s life in the old zombies yet.
Killing Floor 2
Standing out amongst a generation of popular Player vs Player titles (Fortnite, Apex Legends), Killing Floor 2 is designed to be enjoyed in Player vs Environment mode; you and a handful of others will team up to survive wave after wave of zombies (or ‘Zeds’, in Killing Floor’s parlance; corrupted human clones on a rampage) before facing down a boss at the end. Between each round you’ll have a short period of time to stock up on supplies before the next onslaught begins. A single trading post is then open for a limited period in a random location, which is a good gimmick: it encourages your party to keep moving around the level for each subsequent wave, unable to stay in a familiar or easily defendable zone for the duration.
There are a number of player classes (or ‘Perks’) to choose from, which tick all of the expected boxes. Whether you want to play support, medic, demolitions, or sharpshooter, you can find a playstyle that works best for you, but to unlock the special abilities for each (e.g. increased damage with certain weapons) you’ll need to level up a fair bit. Although your initial loadout equipment is dictated by the class you pick, your character can pick up any weapon which means there is a certain amount of flexibility if you find yourself out of your depth and want to fall back on the tried-and-tested boomstick to keep an enemy away. This helps to remove a little of the grindiness of the levelling system, as experience points can be gained in a class other than your current one, by using one of ‘their’ weapons in a match.
Even with the class system, unless you select the higher difficulties it never feels like the most tactical or innovative wave-shooter. However, that can’t be the point when dispatching so many grotesque creatures in such a bloody “pedal to the metal” fashion. Heads explode, limbs fly off, and by the end of a round you’ll see a level painted red with gibs and mush. The approach is different from the first Killing Floor, which seemed to put more emphasis on military survival in a horror setting — this game is faster, favouring more over-the-top violence and nonsensical settings, and is all the more fun for it (even if the weapons themselves are pretty standard issue). Although a demolished Paris and a wintry Krampus’ lair stand out amongst the two-dozen or so locations, a personal favourite is the ‘Monster’s Ball’ map. This level is a Transylvanian castle with boobytraps galore, decked out for a cheesy birthday party with balloons and disco lights, and an unseen host remarking on your progress and the features of his home (crackingly voiced by a cod-Vincent Price).
Despite having been around long enough to have had its tyres kicked and a number of resulting updates put in place, there are some small frustrations still present. Killing Floor 2 has a jump button which only a mother could love, and you’ll be unable to move if unfortunate enough to be closely surrounded by Zeds, which will generally result in you being torn to shreds before you can shoot your way out. That aside, I’m pleased with how quickly you can dive into an online match. Trying out the different difficulties and game types on offer I had no problem finding a session, and being able to join a team in the interval between rounds means any waiting is further reduced. The only mode which I had trouble finding enough players for a match was in PvP mode, but as this is an inessential afterthought to Killing Floor 2’s core gameplay — in which one team of players get to control the Zeds instead of human survivors — I never felt too hard done by.
Killing Floor 2 is a dastardly tribute to panic and blood, with little more nuance than driving a motorbike into a wall at full speed. The shallow but enjoyable core gameplay loop becomes repetitive once you familiarise yourself with the class system and enemy types, but the accessibility, imaginative locales, and thriving player-base means it remains a perfect game to stick on here and there for the sheer ghoulish fun.
Killing Floor: Incursion
Whereas Killing Floor 2 is highly enjoyable but limited in certain areas, its VR companion goes above and beyond. Killing Floor: Incursion is a fantastic virtual reality game which uses the technology to a full and terrifying effect. Even the plot serves to draw you further into the world — as a military recruit undertaking a virtual reality training simulation for taking down Zeds, there’s no barrier between you and the game as your own controllers are referenced in the opening training section. Soon after, the simulated program begins to behave erratically; spawning more Zeds and weapons than is usual, and requiring enemy AI and rogue pieces of computer code to be tracked down and destroyed across four different stages, each taking an hour or more to complete. With no support for DualShocks, on PlayStation 4 you’ll be using the PS Move controllers to move around. It’s still not as handy as a button or joystick, but the teleportation mechanic here is rarely required during a fast-paced Zed encounter, which eases up on the potential for motion sickness. Your hands are your sole interaction with the world, but with the amount of switches to pull, weapons to wield, and objects to pick up or fling, the one-to-one on-screen mirroring is reassuringly tight.
Killing Floor: Incursion’s physical inventory system is marvellous. When not in either hand, you have dual armpit holsters to store your pistols, two clips for grenades around your waist, a torch on your chest, and further shoulder straps to hold throwing knives or larger, harder to find weapons. The controllers vibrate to let you know when to make a fist and retrieve a weapon from your arsenal, and seeing my hand return from over my shoulder with a shotgun or fire axe made me smile every time. Having your items spread across your physical body instead of being pulled from an on-screen weapons wheel never gets old, and the frantic scramble to pull out a weapon when Zeds lurch out from behind corners kept me on edge as much as the dark and ominous locations. Killing Floor: Incursion may also be the first game I’ve played that has actually improved my posture, as your holsters are all positioned in relation to your headset in the real world — if you start to slouch the lower weapons can get a bit fiddly to access, so watch out for that if you’re susceptible to the same bad habits I am.
Despite being a gloomy and menacing world to enter, Killing Floor: Incursion is beautifully realised. Your torch will illuminate walls of peeling paint, murky sewer water, and swaying chain link fences; each asset having a level of detail which goes past physical appearance and on to how light and shadow will play off them. The Zeds are there purposefully to distract you from any easy-going appreciation, sadly. Not all of the staple enemy types have made the leap from the main series into virtual reality just yet, but the skinned monstrosities you do get to encounter are viscerally nasty up close and personal. At times the horde sparked in me the sort of revulsion which could only be soothed by a generous number of dismembering shotgun blasts.
It’s pants-wettingly good fun being mauled by these ghouls, and the interactivity with the Zeds leads you down your own personal journey into what you can stomach. Popping an arm off a Zed with a sniper rifle from a rooftop away is one thing. Slicing a Zed’s legs out from underneath it with a double-handed axe swing is quite another. Finding out that you can pick up a severed head, force your gun barrel into its flapping mouth, and then empty a clip into the brain was the moment which had me convinced: I may lose a bit of my humanity here, but the pay-off is just too much grisly fun to put down. With Killing Floor: Incursion, Tripwire Interactive haven’t just taken an existing game and forced it into a headset, but instead it feels as though the game has been built from the ground up for your immersion. Brutal and exhilarating, Killing Floor: Incursion is a must for VR-adopting horror fans.
Served by a healthy online community and a publisher who shows no sign of abandoning the series, Killing Floor: Double Feature is a great opportunity to get stuck into. Although these games were each originally available several years ago, now would be a good time to take a peek if you’ve been holding off — there isn’t any exclusive content for this new release, but it does mean that you can dive straight in with an online shooter which has been around long enough to prove it isn’t going anywhere, and a fantastically gory VR nightmare — for the price of a single game.
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