[page=They're coming outta the walls. They're coming outta the @#$! walls!]
The team retreats, laying out a suppressing fire in all directions. The horde is moving closer, swarming in from all sides of the street. You fall back into a police station, slamming the doors, welding them together frantically, praying you have time...
This is Killing Floor, a semi-tactical squad based shooter where trying in vain to survive an endless horde of the undead is all in a days work. To be honest, there are only four maps, the zombies look all too similar at times, and there are a couple of bugs that seriously need ironing out before it can be called a fully stable release.
And quite frankly? It's awesome.
The premise is simple enough: During the middle of a post-apocalyptic zombie invasion, you and a team of grunts decide to make a final stand against the hordes of the walking dead, until either the damned stop walking or you stop shooting. Killing Floor 2.0 is basically a round of Invasion from Unreal Tournament 2004, just with a splash of George Romero to give it a bit of spice.
When the game begins, I'm standing in the middle of a street, tossing a knife around as if it impresses the guys around me. I'm carrying a pistol, a medical-injector, a miniature welder, and my trusty shank, as if that were enough to protect me from anything tougher than stubble. All of us twitch. All of us wait. And then, with an alarming musical cue, a wave of zombified destruction pours upon us from all sides, forcing us to flee and take shelter, watching each others backs with the simple hope that we might see the end of the day from somewhere other than a gutter. If we can survive the wave of enemies, we are given a brief rest period to fortify our positions, run for cover, buy additional weaponry at the mystical shop, or wet ourselves in fright. Then, it begins again. And again. And again. On and on until everyone lies bloody and ruined, or until we survive ten rounds and hold these creatures of the devil at bay.
The moments when Killing Floor 2.0 works the best are when you and your buddies are surrounded, forced to run, and have to take shelter somewhere in hopes of recouping your losses. Picture this: My team mates and I are spread out across the street in a line, liquefying anything that even looks in our general direction. We reload at separate times, keep our cool, and prepare to deal in lead. Someone beside me dies. We turn as one, noticing for the first time that an entire horde of zombies has gotten in behind us, swarming us like bees. We run for it, sprinting for the nearby doorway of an abandoned police station. Gunshots rip out behind us. Someone is holding them off while we run. I enter the building and jump behind a desk, reloading again and readying myself to cover the guy who stayed behind, but my squad mates have shut the door and are welding it shut, hoping to hold the zombies off for just a few minutes longer.
"What about him?" I ask.
"He's toast," They respond.
Seconds later he was dead, the doors burst open, and our last stand began.
These are the situations that make this game work so well: when you have to change tactics on the fly, recover your losses and make split second decisions that may or may not keep your team alive. Will you fight it out in the open, risking open assault from the sides, or will you confine yourself to a bottleneck with no escape? These are the kind of questions you have to ask yourself to survive. Unhappy with the situation? Pull out your welder and lock off corridors to prevent the zombies from temporarily sneaking up on you. Using the environment to your advantage is your choice, but hope you haven't just cut off the only line of escape for your team.
[page=Remember: short, controlled bursts.]
And believe me when I say, this is a team game all the way. That medical-injector in your inventory will need to be used not only on yourself, but on the people around you as well. Eventually, you are going to have to reload your gun, and when you do, you'll appreciate having some backup to cover you. On your own, you can survive for a decent amount of time in the easier game modes, but Killing Floor 2.0 demands cooperation. People who run off on their own to play hero die horrible deaths, but a careful team can survive just a little longer.
If you last long enough to finish a round, you can take a trip to the mystical looking shop hidden in every level. When the wave of zombies ends, a door somewhere opens up, allowing you to purchase weapons, grenades, ammunition, and other basic supplies until the timer runs down and you are teleported back into the fray. Much like the purchase period at the beginning of a Counter-Strike match, this prevents people from resupplying at will throughout a match and camping the store. But, on the harder modes, the time you have to get to the shop and restock your supplies is woefully limited, to the point where you have to remain in eyesight of the door at the end of a round, less it slams in your face.
This creates something of a problem. The shop can be difficult to find for first time players, but once you know where it is, it isn't any easier to return to it at the end of a match. Your character moves rather slowly with all of his gear on, meaning you can't sprint across the level to make it in time. The shop is also never in the most defensible of positions, so sitting right at the door through a given wave can be a bit more difficult than you prefer. You could always just remain in the general area, but what about when there is one zombie left, roaming free in the level, preventing that door from opening until someone shoots it? Thankfully, ammo occasionally spawns around the level and a single trip to the shop to max out your cache of bullets is typically enough to last you quite a while, as long as you make your shots count.
And speaking of weapons, Killing Floor 2.0 does a commendable job of giving you an extensive arsenal, but always forcing you to think your purchases through. It is very tempting to buy the Bullpup machine gun and go to town mowing zombies down, but you have to realize that it burns through ammunition at an alarming rate. Of course, you could always grab the Winchester or the Shotgun, both of which have more than enough power behind a single shot than the Bullpup does, but you'll quickly find yourself desperate for reloads in between shots. Each gun has a wide variety of pros and cons, meaning once again that you and your team will have to work together to pull through the match. Because the worst thing that can happen is everyone having to reload at the same bloody time when thirty zombies are within reach of you.
At a glance, there doesn't seem to be anything exceptionally different between Killing Floor 2.0 and its previous release a year ago. There are still no variations to the basic match, only one game mode, and the game still plays out in the same four maps that were included in the previous release. Single player has even been omitted this time around, in favor of tightening up the multiplayer aspects of the title.
And tightened it is. Everything in Killing Floor 2.0 has been retooled, revamped, and improved upon. Take the levels, for instance. While each environment keeps the same basic layout as before, everything within it has been expanded upon. In the first release, the Manor level featured a large field that was perfect for zombie sniping, a boathouse, and a one-room abandoned home that you could barricade off with furniture. Really, this was the easiest level to win at, because all you had to do was survive long enough to get a high powered rifle, head out into the field, and shoot anything moving from a mile away.
Now, things are different. The manor is more than just an empty shell with a few doors: there is a second floor, a basement, a few separate rooms, and multiple exits both for you to leave by and the zombies to enter through. The field is segmented by large boulders, rock caves that you have to navigate in the near dark to survive, and weathered fences that block you in. Every trick that once existed for Killing Floor has been effectively sliced off, forcing you to change your strategies, to fight in tight claustrophobic corridors, and to defend, defend, defend.
[page=Drake, we are LEAVING!]
Each of the four levels that return in Killing Floor 2.0 now look far more distinct from one another, utilizing a much larger palette of colors and textures than before. If you found yourself overly taken with the Silent Hill-esque presentation of the first game, you'll be disappointed to know that Killing Floor 2.0 forgoes this for a more realistic version of the dystopian zombie apocalypse. Gone is the rust and grime that permeated every surface of the previous game. Now it actually looks like you are wandering around a real city, rather than a decaying nightmare. And really, the game benefits from this. I mean, I guess it isn't vital to see stained glass windows in a church, but it sure looks a hell of a lot nicer than an endless mass of rust.
There also seems to be an improvement to the sounds in the game, from the familiar haunting theme that plays through the menus, to a wider array of sound effects. Nothing says creepy in quite the same way as the team ready screen, where the environmental effects and zombie howls can be hear all around you, reminding you that this is a damaged world, pushed so far past the brink that it may not even be hanging on to the edge.
And the one thing that keeps it over the edge isn't the death and destruction that covers this ravaged world like a blanket, but the nasty bugs that lurks beneath the surface. There isn't anything in evidence that keeps Killing Floor 2.0 from being perfectly playable, but there are some real issues that need ironing out in the future. A few of the more memorable problems include: spawning temporarily without being able to move until the zombies kill you off, games not starting when too many players join a match and ready themselves at the same time, Unreal Tournament 2004 player models appearing in the match, specific zombies never showing up, and chat windows disappearing before a match begins.
Each of these nasty blemishes conspire to make Killing Floor 2.0 a much rougher title than it means to be. While not show-stopping, these problems definitely come up frequently throughout play, meaning that a patch in the future is a definite must.
But, on that same token, Killing Floor 2.0 is not for everyone. A single match of this mod is tough, unforgiving, and brutal. Nothing says frustrating like lasting several rounds, finally building up a small arsenal of weaponry, and then having it snatched from you by an invisible zombie that just happened to sneak up behind you and tear your head off. Patience is a definite must here, not only to look past the bugs, but to get the full enjoyment out of this mod. But, if you can persevere long enough to get into the thick of a fire fight, fighting and dying alongside your friends, desperately trying to hold your own against the horde to keep your team in the match for just one last round, you might begin to appreciate the true worth of this mod.