This preview is based on an Early Access version of Killing Floor 2, so things might end up changing when the final release comes.
It’s a bleak night in Paris. The bustling cafes are abandoned, fires burn in the streets and the only thing that can be heard is the moaning of the Zeds as they feast on the bodies littering the streets. Then another sound disturbs the night: the pops and bangs of high-powered rifles. A shotgun blast here, a grenade explosion there, building to a crescendo of violence. Just as abruptly as it began, the night is silent again… until the next wave.
Killing Floor 2 is the successor to the critically-acclaimed co-op class-based shooter by Tripwire Interactive. Made with the new Unreal Engine 4, it’s prettier than its predecessor, more streamlined and a lot more fun – bringing mutant-shooting to the new generation with a bang (also a sizzle and a swish). The core gameplay remained exactly the same: A team of soldiers working together against a horde of hungry mutants out to get their pound of flesh, in large and non-linear levels. As with its predecessor, enemies get stronger on higher difficulties or with more players, equipment is purchased between waves and just about every feature you remember from the original game is here. Obviously, I felt right at home and with hundreds of Killing Floor hours under my belt, I opted to play as my old favorite, the Support Class.
Shotgun in hand (from the start, I might add, as each class now starts with their base weapon instead of just a handgun), I waded into a horde of Zeds… and promptly got my face eaten. There’s probably a lesson here about not starting a game on hard when you’re the lowest level possible. Second attempt went better, though – we made it all the way to the end boss before, again, facial culinary. Eventually we gave up and lowered the difficulty to “Normal”, being the easiest one, and finally cleared the level. Paris is now safe (ish). There’s a certain sense of achievement here which few other games manage to match – the feeling of a job well done. It’s the same feeling you get when repeatedly shooting that disappearing, poison-shooting, grenade-throwing bastard in the face with a 12-gauge.
After getting my first level, I took a moment to really look at how the perk system works. For Killing Floor veterans this will feel perfectly natural, but for everyone else let me recap. Instead of the old 6 levels, there are now 25. Ranks are also easier to attain now – you don’t need to weld if you don’t want to – and each rank adds a few percent to your performance. On top of it, every 5 levels net you a choice between two possible perks which can be swapped around freely whenever you have a moment, meaning that even with a team full of players of the same class, there’s enough room for variation to keep everyone happy.
Obviously, the essence of Killing Floor 2 is the Zeds. Things just wouldn’t be the same without those Horzine mutants trying to claw, slash, scream and pulverize you and your buddies. Having undergone a serious graphical face-lift, the Zeds of Killing Floor 2 are similar enough to the ones from the previous game to feel familiar, but still tuned-up to bring a whole new level of challenge. Apart from several new variations on the Clot (a welcome addition, since this is still the bulk of the horde) there aren’t any new arrivals – but the old Zeds have learned new tricks. For example, the Stalker is now much more agile and much harder to spot, and even if you do, she now possesses Capoeira-style moves, jumping and dodging out of harms way just to land a hit on you when you least expect it. The Zeds also use better and smarter moves on higher difficulty levels, so expect the game to never become boringly easy – even at level cap.
As this is still an early access release, there is only the single “Survival” game mode available. Level selection is also somewhat limited with just 3 maps that have released so far – the old and familiar Biotics Lab, along with two new levels: Paris and an abandoned snowy outpost. I’m happy to say that the ideas driving level design haven’t changed much, with multiple paths you can take and multiple passages you can weld shut. Class selection is likewise currently limited – instead of the 7 classes in the previous installment only 4 are currently available, although obviously more will come. Apart from Support, the other classes currently available are the Commando, Berserker and Combat Medic. Personally, I’m hoping the Demolitionist makes it back (and it probably will, considering there’s a currently-vacant “Explosive Weapons” category) but I guess time will tell. I’ll remind you that at Gamescom 2014 we were promised a grand total of 10 classes to play with. Combine that with the revamped perk system and you are going to have a LOT of variation in play style.
With new graphics, new levels and a new engine, the time I spent playing Killing Floor 2 so far has been a blast. A lot of “ease of use” improvements were made (like holding E in front of a door to quickly swap to the welder gun), a lot of wonky mechanics were refined, including the melee, and the sequel overall feels more tight and fine-tuned. After about 15 hours of playtime I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to what comes next – and you should too.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.