BeyondUnreal's two-man review of Killing Floor:

hal: I spent a good deal of time attempting to form a clever synopsis of the story arc of Killing Floor; an account of mutant clones belched forth onto the streets of London from the bowels of Horzine’s Biotech labs. Then I realized action, not story, is what this game is all about. Oh the story’s there if you care to read about it in the profiles of the available characters and sift through clues strewn about the remnants of The Queen’s country, hinting at the fate of the populace; it sets the stage, but it has no bearing on the gameplay.

Killing Floor has been tweaked and polished since it last saw the light of day as an Unreal Tournament 2004 modification, though if you’ve played the mod you’ll know exactly what to expect here. You assume the role of one of up to six of a mishmash team of British Army and Special Branch police and hit the streets with just a knife and pistol and a mission to cleanse the area of specimens. Each kill nets you a bit of cash, which can be used to buy ammo, new weapons, and armor in preparation for the next round. Depending on the difficulty you’ve selected, you’re faced with an additional four to ten incrementally difficult rounds, culminating in a showdown with the Patriarch - a boss that seems impossibly overpowered the first few times you encounter him.

The infected are a tough lot, so take them down quickly or you’ll become overwhelmed. Unlike other recent “zombie games”, the creatures you encounter in Killing Floor aren't lightweights that start off in sprint-mode; they shamble toward you menacingly, soaking up a ton of damage before finally giving up the ghost. The Fleshpound is equipped with a chest-mounted “rage-o-meter” that turns from yellow to red as he takes damage, at which point he will beat his chest, howl, and then chase you down like a dog and pulverize you… and frankly, anything in his path as well. Gorefasts and Scrakes have cleavers and chainsaws, respectively, mounted to their arms and have similar reactions to your presence. The Witch and Bloat fill the area-effect roles in the roster, followed by the lowly Clots and Crawlers that serve mostly as swarmers and gun-fodder. Easily the most annoying of the bunch are the naked, nearly invisible Stalkers that seem to delight in skulking upon you from behind. Specimens are not above a little infighting either as it is not unusual to come across a handful of them engaged in a brawl. It’s a wild and fearsome bunch and though some serve a similar adversarial purpose, the variety is nice.

To assist you in managing the fauna, an assortment of arms are at your disposal, including a pair of handguns, rifles, and even a few fun items like the flamethrower and chainsaw. By default the right mouse button will raise your iron sights (that’s right, no crosshair) and increase your chances of hitting a headshot (thus relieving the specimen of its head and making the world a safer place). All have a satisfying tactile and auditory punch and are quite capable of producing mutant giblets. Each player is equipped with a rechargeable medkit for administering a health boost to yourself or, more effectively, other players. Rounding out your assortment of default gizmos is a welding torch that comes in handy whenever sealing door between you and a mutant seems like a pretty good idea. Occasionally a random ammo pack or item will spawn, but for the most part, you’ll have to rely on the services of the Trader, a cheeky tart that sets up shop in random spots around the map in between rounds. Why and how does she do that? The answer to the first question is to prevent you from holing up in your favorite spot by keeping your squad on the move. But how? No one seems to know and she’s not telling.

You’re perfectly free to choose any weapon you can afford or carry within your weight limit but you’ll enjoy bonuses if it is appropriate for your role. The Berserker, for instance, gets a price break on the chainsaw, buffs in weapon speed and effectiveness, can’t be slowed down by clinging Clots, and is resistant to Bloat bile. There are five levels for every class that bestow ever greater benefits as each is attained. Some of the perk requirements are simply a grind, demanding that you use a specific weapon to attain a number of kills, but all can be advanced regardless of the class you choose. Healing another player, for instance, counts towards advancing the Medic, while welding doors does the same for the Support Specialist. All the classes work together pretty well as each excels in a particular aspect of the game, though any high level character with his favored weapon can be a one-man wrecking crew. All classes can activate an interesting Killing Floor feature – ZED Time - initiated by braining a beast in a particularly nasty fashion, the game slows to a crawl for a few seconds, allowing you and your team to line up another headshot or two. Given that anyone on the team can kick off ZED time without a warning, you’ll find yourself taking advantage of that time to further your own spree… or something much more mundane like turning around or reloading your weapon in achingly slow motion. More often than not, it’s helpful, but sometimes you’ll wish you could just bypass it altogether.

Hotshots and loners are likely to succumb to the hordes and become just another snack. To help you keep up with the others, an icon floats over the head of each team mate and displays name, class, perk rank, and armor and health status, though distance and walls will cause it to quickly fade from view and you’ll find yourself all alone. Losing contact breeds a certain amount of anxiety because there’s really no other way to track your team. Some will love it for the fear factor, but it is somewhat problematic for a player wanting to join mid-game. You are allowed to spawn only between rounds and it’s not always possible to reach them before they’ve accessed the trader and moved on. A simple compass pointing to the nearest friendly would have been helpful.

If you’re a gamer that despises down-time, be aware that dying or joining a server mid-game will include a bit of waiting. The number of specimens spawned is determined by the number of players and upwards of one-hundred and eighty can spawn in a round. Hope that the trader spawns close to you and that your new team is feeling generous or you’ll be sprinting to the shop with barely enough money and time to buy a little ammo, let alone something sufficiently powerful to help you survive the next round. It’s in their favor, of course, to ensure you’re armed well enough to contribute but when faced with the option of buying more goodies for themselves or throwing you a bone, not everyone will make the right choice. If you’re respawning, you can pick up the weapon you dropped when you died… if you can make it there in time and if someone hasn’t already picked it up and sold it. These are design choices that work when cooperation takes place, but will make you want to poke out your eyeballs when it doesn’t.

Killing Floor is based on a tweaked version of Unreal Engine 2.5 and though the team has done a great job with those tools, you can’t expect it to sport the latest bells and whistles of the most recent premier first-person-shooters. It’s priced accordingly too, at $19.99 via Steam, complete with forty-three Steam achievements. Even at the bargain price the game seems a little light on content – it initially ships with five levels, maybe a half dozen similar models and roughly double that number in weapon count. The Unreal Editor is included and quite a few custom levels have already been released. The sounds are chunky and satisfying; everything from the pop of your double-barreled shotgun to the squish of specimen heads converting from solid to liquid. The music is fitting, reminiscent of the metal tunes that populated the classic Painkiller.

The game has amassed quite a following and finding a game should be no problem for most. Still, certain quirks can make it the ultimate griefer’s playground. Alas, that kind of behavior is not uncommon in multiplayer games these days and at least one of those problems has already been addressed by the community in the form of a mutator. Tripwire’s track record of updating their games would indicate that those annoyances will soon be ironed out officially. Until then there’s always the kick-vote option. Still, despite the hardcore nature of some of the design choices, it’s the kind of game that grows on you and it gets its longevity through the non-linear nature of the levels and a class system that will have you playing “just one more” round to try to reach the next level.

At first glance, Killing Floor might seem like a Left 4 Dead clone, and it does share light similarities to that game’s Survival mode, but though it isn’t as highly polished (or as highly priced) it does add a few layers of complexity, gore, and brutality. If you’re looking for a little more grit and depth in your co-op monster-slaying and you don’t mind waiting for the extra content that Tripwire has promised then there’s a good chance you’ll get plenty of mileage out of Killing Floor.

Sir Brizz: Killing Floor is a game unlike another, really. The game has several "flaws" (probably more like design decisions that don't impress me) but the raw gameplay is exciting and the perks and achievements spice it up quite a bit. The story is logical but you don't need to know anything about what happened before to enjoy the game.

The first thing you'll notice is that everyone seems to kill everything faster and better than you do. This usually means that they have leveled up their perks while you have not. Each of the perks give you a boost to damage, recoil, cost of certain items and more, but perk leveling is not locked to whatever perk you decide to play with. You can weld, heal, do damage with weapons and more related actions to certain perks, and it will all affect your perk bonuses which makes perk leveling not nearly as much of a grind as it can seem. The Steam achievements are also mostly interesting things that aren't grinds which helps break up the game a little. One of the largest "specimens", the Flash Pound, can take a ton of damage but you get an achievement called "Too close for comfort" for finishing him off with a melee attack (like the ultimately satisfying chainsaw). Another achievement called "Hot Cross Fun" has you kill 25 specimens that are on fire with the powerful Crossbow. There are 43 achievements in total, and only a few of them involve grinding for more than 25 kills.

You can tell what level the perk your teammates are using is by the icon floating above their head. The number of stars next to it indicates the level they have for that perk. This helps you to know if, for example, you are near a level 5 Firebug who is going to pretty much steal kills from everyone around him so you can move to a different nearby area. But don't think that moving far off by yourself is a good idea in these cases. Despite the seeming ease with which you will be able to dispatch Clots, Bloats, Gorefasts and Crawlers, it isn't difficult for them to surround you and take you down when you are by yourself. Due to this, it makes much more sense to stick with your team, or only separate in groups and not go off by yourself.

With all of the entertaining aspects of the game, though, there are many things that could be improved in general. The voice communication is difficult to get a handle on. A system more like Left 4 Dead where each of your teammates is displayed on your HUD and you can see who is talking would greatly benefit the game. Additionally, a system to see which of your teammates is near death could increase the teamplay factor quite a bit. Communication is vital to game where going off alone is a bad idea, but Killing Floor doesn't do much to encourage teamplay aside from threatening you with death for trying to go stag on any of the standard levels.

Another complaint I had was that early on it was difficult to get into the game since it isn't easy to know what to do, what weapons work well, or what perks to start out with. For my part, I think that the sharpshooter perk is the best and easiest perk to get going with, but yet another complaint with the game in general is that the specimen head hit boxes are incredibly difficult to get a handle on. None of them seem to be "headshot" just by hitting them in the head, you have to hit them in specific parts of the head and their head has to pop off for it to be considered a headshot. Fortunately, some enterprising community members have compiled a simple guide for where to shoot on each specimen to land a headshot.

Overall, Killing Floor is an amazing deal in its price range. You won't likely find many games that cost so little but can eat up so much of your time. While the game takes a bit to get the hang of and get into, after a short time it becomes very addicting and the amount of fun you'll find in it is off the charts. I've even found lately that I will pick it over bigger more polished games because you can play it in spurts and still have lots of fun with it.


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