Time Played: 24 Hours

Last played: 3/19/2017

Killing Floor 2 – Don’t Call Them Zombies
(They prefer Genetically-Modified-Americans)

Killing Floor 2 is one of those games where you and a group of people, preferably your friends, fight off ever increasing waves of the zombies – I mean the undead – I mean genetically modified freaks… Like many of the other games of this type, all you really do is try to hold out as long as possible and kill Zeds – as they’re called in game. The more waves you complete the harder things get. If you’ve played a game like this before then you know the drill.

Killing Floor 2 distinguishes itself from all of the other “Horde mode” games by being really polished, and having pretty thrilling combat. Also it’s hilariously violent, so that helps a ton. Also I want to make a point now to mention the sound design, as this review focuses directly on the combat. The sound design in this game is quite good. Certain enemies announce their presence via unsettling sounds in the distance letting you know they have spawned and to prepare yourself. The various throaty moans, and sounds of pain, that the Zeds make really dial up the creepy factor; especially if you play with headphones on.

I don’t play a lot of horror games, but I also don’t usually shout when I’m frightened. Playing on a dark map with my headphones on has produced multiple, audible, “Oh F***!” moments out of me.

And to add to that, the cacophony of combat sounds very realistic and is actually somewhat deafening. Once all the Zeds start shouting and yelping, and your guns join in, it creates a real feeling of being in the middle of a gunfight.

Another element that adds to the realism is that the gunplay in Killing Floor 2 is pretty phenomenal. It might have some of the most lovingly articulated reload animations I’ve ever seen in a video game. I’m continuously impressed by how the weapons handle, and are treated in this game.

I find myself enamored with the beautifully animated reload animations. Sometimes even in combat! Tripwire even took into account if you have a bullets remaining in the magazine, or one in the chamber – and the animation will alter itself accordingly. An example of this being: if you have some bullets left in a magazine your reload animation will take longer, because your character will save the magazine for later – rather than wasting ammo by throwing it on the ground. Which can actually work towards your own detriment if you reload at the wrong time. Every second you’re not shooting is more time for the Zeds to close in on you.

There is dedication to realism in the animations that I don’t think I’ve seen in a video game before. And I’ve been playing them for my entire life.
I should also mention that this game is developed by the same people that made Red Orchestra 2, which is probably closer to a WWII ground combat simulator than it is to a multiplayer shooter. But that’s a different story.

The same attention to detail found in the animations is also found in the shooting mechanics. Each gun feels appropriate to what you expect from it’s real life analog. Although you might not like a particular gun, or classification of guns, they all handle wonderfully. Personally I love the shotguns. They even have a realistic spread, and work well at a decent range. You know, like a real shotgun. Tripwire even goes so far as to force you to use the guns iron sights on many of the base weapons – the higher tier weapons have ACOGs or Red Dot sights, which give a nice sense of progression.

You see, in Killing Floor 2 there isn’t a reticle, you have to actually aim. There is realistic recoil, meaning you can’t just fire randomly and expect to hit anything at range. And although they don’t go so far as to simulate magazines… Basically what I’m getting at is: The shooting is the best part of this game, and elevates it above being a standard wave based zombie defense into something a little more interesting. There are components to the shooting that feel like they’re trying to simulate real life, but don’t go so far as to be off putting. Killing Floor 2’s combat is a great mixture of fast arcade action that makes it fun, and a realistic grounding to keep it interesting.

Great guns are fun and all, but what about the things you’re shooting at? Those are also pretty great too, although I feel they could have done a better job in some areas of the enemy design. There are twelve different types of Zeds you will fight. Which provides enough variety so Killing Floor 2 doesn’t get dull too fast, like other games of this type tend to.  However in practice there are more like nine. Not a major difference… But three, arguably four, of the enemies in the game are functionally identical to one another. And although there is decent variety in how you have to engage with the unending Zeds; I can’t help but feel like there is another “archetype” or role that’s missing from their ranks.

There are only two monsters with a ranged attack, one of which is pretty rare, and only one with an area of effect attack. And all of them are terrestrial and have to attack you on a, more or less, level playing field.

I can’t help but feel like an enemy that could crawl on walls, or a rare enemy that could fly would add a layer of depth to the Zeds. As it stands, nothing attacks you from a different angle, all of the Zeds more or less move along the shortest available path to you. And I feel that this is a missed opportunity. Plenty of the maps have some form of verticality, and it’s almost never utilized by your opponents. There is untapped potential there.

Please note, however, this doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the game! I really enjoy playing Killing Floor 2, but I just feel like there is another layer that could only add to the player experience. Personally I can only play for about two hours, at most, before I need to take a break, as KF2 does tend to get monotonous after extended periods of time.

Aside from a little lack of depth, the biggest problem I have with Killing Floor 2 is its bosses. First, there are only two of them. Second I don’t find either of them to be particularly well designed, balanced, or fun to fight.

When you fight the bosses online it usually goes one of two ways: Either you hold them up by their legs and steal their lunch money, or you get so utterly annihilated that it would be funny if it wasn’t so annoying. When playing alone though both bosses are almost impossible on hard, let alone anything higher… While being insultingly easy on the lower difficulties. I’ve never managed to kill the Patriarch on Hard, and I’ve killed Hanz Volter one out of the two times he’s blessed me with his presence.

I’ve been told this game can be beaten on the hardest difficulty by yourself, so maybe I’m just mad cause I’m bad. But part of my unpleasant experience stems from the fact that the Bosses were designed to be fought with multiple people. Their mechanics being unchanged while playing alone. You can tell because some of their attacks are very difficult to dodge – as the game as no dodge roll or rapid movement mechanic – So you either have to somehow break line of sight, or just be lucky. In a multiplayer setting these attacks would, ideally, only affect one player while the others are continuously damaging the boss.

On top of their highly damaging and nearly unavoidable attacks, both of Bosses have ways of restoring significant portions of their HP. In multiplayer this is, obviously, countered by having four times the amount of damage being pumped into them at once. But alone there is little you can do to stop them from undoing all of your hard work.

And that’s just not fun, in fact it’s never been fun; and It never will be fun.

I find myself really enjoying Killing Floor 2 until I have to fight the Boss wave. Even online. I just don’t particularly like them. I don’t think they’re particularly compelling to engage with, I think they look stupid, and what little characterization they have grates on me. I feel like they kill the momentum that’s accumulated over the course of the match; and when you’ve spent the last forty-five minutes fighting through ten waves of enemies – dying because the asshole of a boss ran away to heal 90% of his HP while you’re out of ammo is not a fun way to end your play session.

Oh also they mock you when they kill you.

I really like Killing Floor 2. I do.

But the Bosses, and a small lack of depth, are a stain on an otherwise great game. I don’t play Killing Floor 2 a whole lot – and when I do I have a great time; especially so with friends… But for the love of God the Bosses suck ass.

Now this is probably because I also don’t like playing with randoms, so playing solo 75% of the time highlights their more un-fun elements… And that’s on me. But I don’t find it to be an invalid criticism of the game.

With all that being said: if you have a group of buddies willing to play, or you don’t mind playing with randoms, then Killing Floor is 100% worth the money. Otherwise, maybe wait for a sale if you intend to play alone.

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