I’ve always felt like the competition game developers and publishers are put up against results in consistent and reliable innovation. Everyone – at least at the talented studios – is always trying to outdo one another. Somewhat occasionally, we come across a title from a team that seems hungry. They might be smaller and somewhat unknown, but they know what they’re doing and they’re eager to impress.

Tripwire Interactive is about to fill that role.

After playing through plenty of hours of the beta, I can confidently say it. Killing Floor 2 is a major step forward for this particular sub-genre. There are a number of reasons why, and perhaps this list of “Key Features” directly from Tripwire is the best way to lay them all out. I’ve listed them below along with our responses to the points.

Visceral Gore – Killing Floor 2 ramps up the gore with a proprietary, high powered persistent blood system bringing new levels of fidelity to the genre. Players will send entrails, severed limbs, and blood flying as they wade through hordes of enemies. But they need to watch out! If caught, enemies will rip them, and their entire party limb from limb

Here’s one of the first things we noticed after jumping into a round, and it’s probably the most difficult to properly sell or do justice to without the use of visual aid. Regardless, I can confirm that this isn’t just some fluffed up talk coming from an overzealous PR rep or copywriter. I’ve never before experienced such a realistic and satisfying gore system. Tripwire calls it M.E.A.T (Massive Evisceration and Trauma). Unload a few rounds into some of the tougher Zeds’ heads and you’ll notice chunks of flesh, skull, and brain flying off of the specimen. It is terrifying to have a Scrake bounding towards you – his shimmering white skull now fully exposed – even after you’ve taken several well aimed shots at his head.

They’ve also changed the way blood splatters appear on the ground and walls. Blood is rendered directly into the map’s texture so it stays for the duration of the game. The whole effort results in a crescendo of violence and gore that should satisfy even the most jaded types.

6 player co-op or solo play— A multitude of varied playable characters await for players to choose from as they enter the fray in online co-op mode or solo mode for those willing to brave the horrific specimens alone

The number of Zeds that populate each wave increases intelligently with the number of players on a team. If you’ve got a full stack of teammates, expect chaos.

Terrifying Zeds – New enemies and fan favorites from the original game are back with expanded and smarter artificial intelligence, dishing out powerful attacks, working as a group to weaken the player’s party and pushing the challenge level and fear factor to new levels

Again, this isn’t baseless PR hype. The artificial intelligence is vastly improved. I can recall one situation in particular that stood out to me. I had welded a door shut (one of the sliding glass doors in the lab) and watched several Zeds pile up on it. They were hammering away for a good 20-30 seconds before probably 6 out of 8 of them stopped and found another path into the room I was occupying. The damn things figured out that they weren’t getting in that way and that they could find another route to get to us. Impressive!

Unique Blend Of Weaponry – From modern militaristic assault rifles, brutal improvised makeshift weapons, classic historical guns, and off the wall “Mad Scientist” weapons, Killing Floor 2 has a unique blend of killing tools that will satisfy any gamer

Throughout the beta, I favored shotguns. I couldn’t put them down for anything else because they were so satisfying to utilize. I was very pleased with the gun audio in general. Gunshots reverberate off of walls and just sound more guttural than they do in most other games.

Expanded Perk System – Perks from the original game have been reimagined with more added to the fold. All perks now progress with meaningful talent choices that amplify different play styles, giving players a progression path that is expansive and full of rewarding milestones

We have to withhold full judgement here, as they (probably wisely) held back a considerable amount of content in the beta. Still, from what we saw there was enough evidence of a deep and rewarding perks system with a ton of important choices to make.

Brutal Melee Combat – Killing Floor 2 reinvents melee combat completely. Players now have control over the type of melee attacks they can perform, enabling them to deliver bone-breaking crippling attacks to Zeds

I’ll have to let Luke take over for me here, because he’s had a decent bit of experience with the melee-heavy Berserker class, but my limited play-time with melee weapons was entertaining. Pressing the “reload” key with a melee weapon usually triggers some kind of supplementary, showy animation (spinning knives around in your hand for example).

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Luke “Yogzula” VanTrieste : I could not be more pleased with the foundation of Killing Floor 2 I got to experience during my time with the beta.  If you are a fan of the original Killing Floor you will absolutely love the second installment.  I wouldn’t say that with much confidence about any other game, but I am in this case.  Killing Floor 2 stays very true to the roots of the original game.  John pointed out the addition of improved graphics, audio, animation, etc. while keeping the feel of the original enemies intact.  I want to focus on the improvement of the AI.

Original Killing Floor zeds were dumb.  They would waddle toward you waiting for you to pop their heads open like meaty piñatas.  You may load up KF2 and think this hasn’t changed as they do the same here in normal mode.  However, if you’re feeling like you’re ready to put on your big boy pants and move up to hard mode you’ll notice the Zeds starting to move more quickly.  They are slightly more durable and also slightly greater in number.  This is true across all difficulties but fear not – the health scaling is minimal.  The scaling of enemy speed is where things become truly horrifying.  Not only do clots and slashers charge at you with much greater speed, so will the least expected of enemies such as this big fat monstrosity whom you may remember fondly.

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John and I managed to nearly clear suicide mode during our two days of playing but ultimately could not.  Here I will list my observations about new enemy AI for each specific zed I’ve encountered up to suicide mode.  Some of this may spoil your reactions in encountering these Zeds yourself so be warned.

Husks now unleash a flamethrower attack that they spray around wildly in front of them.  On suicide and hell on earth difficulties the Husk will also perform a suicide bomber attack when it gets close enough to a player.  On suicide difficulty this attack will nearly one shot any nearby player.  The animation for this attack looks really awesome too. The husk kneels down and surrounds himself in flame by charging his weapon.

Cysts are a new form of enemy.  They appear to be underdeveloped clots who behave more like clots did in the first killing floor.  They’re slow and mostly fodder.  They will try to grab you a lot and die rather easily.  Nothing too special, but more fodder doesn’t hurt.

Clots now work better as a team.  They will chain grab you and force you to look different directions as they pile onto you.  This makes things much more hectic if you’re caught in the middle of a reload, but if you’ve got a full clip it sometimes makes it easier to pop them all in the head one by one.  It’s a double sided blade for them in the most literal of senses against a berserker.  Decapitations galore.  The clots will also move much faster and they wobble around a bit more so landing headshots is a bit more difficult.

Slashers are a new variation of clots.  They move more quickly and bounce around more than clots do, making head-shotting them tougher than clots.  They behave more aggressively and instead of grabbing you they will slash at you, hence the name “Slasher”.  Slashers have made round one a bit more scary for those of us who have gotten used to the round as a warm-up where we practiced headshots on slow, stupid clots.  Clots may not clot at you but you can bet your dollars to doughnuts that slashers will slash at you.

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Bloats are as fat and gross as ever.  On normal and hard difficulties you might think “same old fat, slow, stupid bloat” as you run circles around one and then ultimately pile a few shots into its face as you’ve done so many times during the original Killing Floor.  Then you get cocky and move on to suicide difficulty.  In waddles a bloat and you see him.  “Heh,” you think to yourself.  “Stupid tub of lard creature,” you say in jest as you strap the velcro on your Air Jordans in preparation to run circles around and dunk on this fool.  Suddenly as the Bloat is within a few meters of you the game goes into zed time and zooms in on the Bloat’s face.  It has upon it, a shit eating grin.  Fear strikes your heart.  The camera pans down the Bloat’s fat, beautiful body in slow motion until it reaches its feet where you can see that – just like you – the Bloat is also wearing a pair of Air Jordans.  These are the unreleased edition that you couldn’t even get your hands on.  Before you even have time to crap your pants the bloat’s fat mass is barreling toward you like a freight train.  What happens next is too graphic for Multitoad and you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.

Sirens are perhaps the most annoying enemy of Killing Floor especially if you’re fond of grenades and other forms of explosives as her nightmarish screaming still disables them. The only notable difference I’ve noticed on suicide mode is that before she screams she will also jump into the air – making it harder to start unloading into her head.  She also seems a bit more durable. I always make killing these a priority due to how annoying they are to deal with once they get in close.

Gorefasts are animated brilliantly this time around and feel much more scary and threatening.  Once they get within a certain distance they will not only charge toward you but also jump aggressively in your direction while holding their bladed arm behind them ready to strike.  I feel like the animations were inspired by aggressive primate behavior, which you may not think sounds very threatening, but then you’ve likely probably never had an angry chimp chasing you down.  Additionally, that Chimp probably didn’t have a giant sword for an arm.  If I’m wrong and you have experienced such a horror I am so sorry.

Stalkers move faster and are harder to detect without a Commando.  They blink in and out of visibility while hitting you with roundhouse kicks and other forms of martial arts that couldn’t have been learned by anyone other than the Ip Man himself.  On normal and hard mode they will break invisibility by doing a flipping heel drop on your spinal column, and on suicide mode they’ll break invisibility with spin kicks and misty flips.  This makes it really, really hard to shoot them in their faces.  If you’ve played the original Killing Floor you know that it’s all about the headshots and these lovely ladies make that no easy task.  Having a commando to kill them before they’re on top of you will be essential on harder difficulties.

Crawlers are more or less the same.  They are the one Zed that can drop out of vents, off of buildings, or other hard to reach locations – making them a substantial threat in many situations.  They are low to the ground which keeps them below the similar headshot box of most other zeds and forces you to spend valuable seconds looking away from the action to blast one nibbling at your ankles.  On harder difficulties the crawler is by far the fastest enemy in the game and it’s very important that you clear them before they buy time for the bigger and scarier Zeds to get on top of you.

Scrakes have inhabited my nightmares after playing the KF2 beta.  Step aside, Fleshpounds, we’ll get to you in a second. As it stands right now you’re just not as scary.  Scrakes are like Gorefasts on steroids this time around.  Not only do Scrakes look like complete maniacal serial killers, they’re also buff as hell and move much faster than you when they get angry.  The best strategy is to avoid pissing these guys off until you’ve got your whole team with you. Otherwise, you are going to die.  Once he starts to chase you it’s all over.  You can’t run, and you can’t hide.  I have not faced down a Scrake in hell on earth difficulty but my greatest fear is that they will no longer begin by walking towards you and will instead be in a constant state of full on sprint mode.   The terror that is the Kf2 skrake can’t be described adequately in words.  You will have to experience this nightmare for yourself.

Fleshpounds are still the head honchos on the block.  If Gorefast animations were inspired by angry chimps, the Fleshpound was inspired by King Kong himself.  This guy is bipolar and will go from hot to cold in mere seconds as indicated by his temper-tantrum tracking chestplate.  Yellow means aggrivated, red means pissed.  He is never calm so no other colors are necessary.  The thing that makes the Fleshpound scarier than he was in the original game is his tendency to jump around.  This makes him a harder target and a bigger threat to groups of enemies.  He’s not quite as quick as the Scrake but he’s much beefier and has larger area of effect.  I’d argue that he’s not quite as scary as he should be due to how slow he can be between raging.  I don’t blame the guy, he’s got two huge meatgrinders for arms that he has to haul around. Still, when he gives players such a long opening between attacks it makes him easier to kite and put a lot of gunfire into.  With that said, he’s still terrifying and you don’t stand a chance alone – especially if he’s not alone.

Hans is the new evil German Nazi scientist boss.  I’m not sure that Killing Floor has a lot of canon lore, but if it did I would pin this guy as responsible for the existence of the Zeds.  He could be much scarier to look at, though.  Something about him seems kind of cartoony and less gritty like the rest of the KF2 enemies.  I think it’s the bright green tubes and claws he’s got on his hands.  He’s not particularly interesting as a boss fight either.  In fairness, neither is the patriarch.  He’ll throw two different types of grenades and shoot machine guns at you occasionally.  Dodging these attacks is as simple as always staying close to obstacles and running around them.  His two other attacks consist of a life drain which is not avoidable and he will do it 3 times during a fight.  The other is a melee slice and dice style assault that’ll really mess someone up if they don’t get healed.

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My issue with the boss fights in Killing Floor is that they lack an element of horror or phases.  It’s all very one dimensional.  Everyone just stands in a circle around the boss piling on damage and if you’ve taken any damage you just run to cover and heal.  Rinse, repeat.  They are basically like giant bullet sponges without any real complexity in their behavior.  I say this now in hopes that we might see more dynamic bosses in the future or that some things with the current bosses get tweaked before release, but if not they aren’t any worse then the original Killing Floor bosses.  Everything else improved so much that it’s a shame the boss fights still feel somewhat flat to me.

That said, I also really hope to see new enemy types introduced.  We know there will be three new perks – one of which will specialize in electricity based weapons as indicated by the new weapon category.  The other two are hard to speculate on especially since we’re to assume they will share a weapon type with an existing perk – something that has not yet been the case.  As far as new enemies go I’m not sure Tripwire has made any clear statement that there will be any.  The Slasher is technically a new enemy but seems more like a mutation of the existing Clot.  What I’d really love to see is some kind of flying enemy that attempts to pick players up and fly off with them.  Think of something like jeepers creepers or the mutalisk from Starcraft.  I would also love to see a creature that feeds on the corpses of its fallen comrades to become stronger.  Some kind of abomination that grows in mass using the flesh of its allies.  It might add an interesting dynamic to the hunt as you’d want to prioritize and kill it as soon as possible.

I’m excited for the future of Killing Floor 2 and hope they continue to add weapons, perks, enemies (including bosses), skins, voice packs, etc. in the coming years.  I see this as a game I could keep coming back to for many years, just like many of us have for the original Killing Floor.  The zombie survival genre has been abused by many devs over the last decade and nobody has stepped up to do anything about it.  Killing Floor 2 will show them how it’s done.

Updated for accuracy – 4/20/15

2 Responses

  1. Whitemoon
    Whitemoon

    In KF1, the AI had Zeds dodge Husk rockets and siren’s screams also did only health damage.

    Also I apologize but I’m only being ‘that’ guy because I think it’s important that the article covers the truly new features.

    Reply

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