Recommending Killing Floor is ultimately difficult. It feels dated, plays like a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 (who’d have thought?!) and hasn’t got the polish you’d expect off a modern retail title. I have had quite a lot of fun with it. It can be enjoyable, it really can. But it’s neither particularly deep, nor do I see it having much lasting potential
You and five of your mouthy British mates are dropped in an open location infested with the hordes of the damned, instructed with thinning their numbers. You do this for a little while, and the “trader” – an arbitrary, unexplained and frankly irritating game play facilitator – opens up shop somewhere in the map allowing you to buy more powerful weapons before more of the blighters appear. Plans are hurriedly drawn up, doors are sealed and you have to hold out and defeat the horde once more. Rinse and repeat for a pre-determined number of rounds and you eventually come across the “Patriarch”; the monstrous biomechanical fiend who is responsible for Z-day. Killing him wins you the game. That is more or less what encompasses the whole game.
The tools you have at your disposal are largely standard fare, including pistols, shotguns, axes or flame-throwers, the latter of which is perhaps mostly useful for setting yourself on fire before jumping out of an office window. Maybe that’s just me? You also get a welder, which allows you to block off most doorways, funnelling the nefarious legions into (theoretically) more manageable areas. You can also select one of 6 perks which upgrade the more you play, allowing you to become gradually more and more powerful or useful in different areas (such as simple weapon usage, to better healing) depending on the perk you choose. The weapons are great fun to use by and large. The ballistics model makes for a genuinely kinetic experience, especially when “Z-time” (bullet time, basically) kicks in: observing the weapon animations and ballistic trajectories like this is a joy to behold.
The zombie hordes have various means at their disposal, from the lowly shuffling Clot, to the lethal Fleshpounds. Each brings a new attack type to the table in order to disrupt your plans, such as the Siren’s wave attack that not only makes your brain explode but also distorts your vision, impairing your ability to fight the horde. Such is the effect of most enemies to be honest. They do damage and prevent you from fighting back adequately if you let them get too close and not a huge amount else. They also more or less simply make a bee-line for your gaggle of survivors rather than really doing much to outwit your squad; it plays a lot like tower defence in first person. You’ve got the option of adding UT style mutators to mix up the gameplay, and you can customise waves, but it all feels rather superfluous, and doesn’t really increase variety in the gameplay so much as it stretches it thin. Stylistically they’re more House of the Dead than 28 Days Later. This might well be a good thing depending on your preferences, but it slightly irks me really.
My biggest problem with Killing Floor though is that it genuinely does feel a few years out of date. The lighting’s pretty nice, but nothing spectacular. The animations seem genuinely behind the times, and there’s no real feedback when hot lead connects with decaying flesh, disappointingly. Not all of this is technology related either – to be fair they’re using the UT 2.5 engine (though you could, I suppose criticise this too.) The locations, with a few exceptions such as the London level are pretty generic affairs, and unless new levels, whether official or fan-made come out soon I can see myself getting very bored of them, very quickly. They really don’t have any sense of progression to them, and moving from one location to another (basically dictated by where the trader miraculously teleports to) only offers slightly different tactical situations – only differing in the number of routes enemies can come from and the number of doors you have to weld. When the hordes finally arrive, there’s not a huge amount of room for tactics besides deciding who covers each angle. It’s just not that involving.
Special mention also has to go to the piss poor interface. It’s truly atrocious across the board. It’s not only technically inept in the case of the server browser (we’ve had endless issues connecting, hopefully they’ll be sorted soon), but in game it helps contributed towards a dated feel – basically it’s very, very ugly; particularly the trail that leads to the trader between rounds ripped straight from UT. On a game mechanics level, revealing the number of Zs remaining was a bad choice in my opinion. It serves only really to damage immersion, and makes rounds very, very predictable. I’d have liked it if there were no ammo counters telling you how many clips you have remaining as well, which would strip some of the interface bloat down and add to the tension.
Despite my issues with Killing Floor, both stylistic and games mechanic in nature, it is genuinely quite a lot of fun from time to time. Locking down doors and planning defensive angles, all in a frantic half-minute or less is a brilliant experience when it all comes together. I’ve enjoyed going back to it repeatedly just because it handles quick decision making on defence so well; though this is counteracted by the limited number of maps. Once you’ve played it for a few rounds you basically know all you need to know about winning it. The perk system perhaps also helps increase replayability, allowing you to take on increasing difficulty settings, keeping the challenge fresh even if the mechanics themselves don’t really change much from game to game.
But can I recommend Killing Floor? Depends. If you honestly can’t get enough of zombie-bashing in a world where the genre has become the new Second World War, then Killing Floor offers a fun, albeit dated experience. At £15 it’s not a huge financial risk, though I myself would wait for it to inevitably come down in a sale in the coming months. Maybe consider waiting to see if Tripwire or the community improves on the level of content if you’re really interested. But honestly, I was barely interested in it enough to go and grab some screens for this review before publishing. Which is probably a more damning statement than any other criticism I can make.
Sorry Tripwire, but I’ll be giving this one a Miss.