Back in 2009, developer Tripwire Interactive dove into our favorite genre with Killing Floor, a cooperative horror game that pit a team of humans against hordes of terrifying monsters that were the result of failed genetic experiments conducted by Horzine Biotech. It had a Left 4 Dead meets Evil Dead vibe, a unique blend of B movie charm, gore and twisted humor.
Killing Floor was a hit, and its community remains strong to this day thanks in no small part to Tripwire’s wise decision to support the game with a steady stream of new content — much of it free — five years after its release.
In May, Killing Floor 2 was revealed, along with the promise that it would surpass its predecessor in every way possible. I had the opportunity to see the game in action at a live presentation held in San Francisco earlier this week, and while I didn’t get to spend any hands-on time with it, the demonstration successfully sold me on at least one thing.
Killing Floor 2 looks absolutely badass.
It took Tripwire, which also brought us the gritty World War II era shooter Red Orchestra, all of five minutes to pique my interest when they referred to their other major series as “realism” and Killing Floor 2 as “coolism”.
With this game, they’re focus is on three areas: Bullets, Blades, and Blood.
Killing Floor 2 does plenty of cool things, but it’s the time and attention that’s being invested into the smaller things, the little details, that really makes it shine. For example, each gun has four different reload animations, created using 200 frames, rather than the usual 30. They even brought in an expert at gun reloading — who knew that was a thing? — and captured the animations using motion capture. A tremendous amount of effort was put into making each gun look, feel and act realistically, and the end result really quite impressive.
ZED time has also been tweaked. For the uninitiated, this feature slows down time when activated, giving players additional time to set up the perfect headshot, ideal for popping ZED heads like the bud off a Dandelion. ZED time has a nifty feature that desaturates the world when activated, turning much of it black and white with the exception of certain colors, like red, which are made more vibrant.
Matrix fans should enjoy the fact that ZED time now turns every individual bullet into a projectile that moves in slow motion with a distortion wake behind it. Watching as a torrent of bullets whiz by in slow motion seeking soft flesh to annihilate is nothing short of spectacular.
Ranged combat isn’t the only system that’s being overhauled, as Tripwire is paying quite a bit of attention to the melee combat as well. The Katana was the only close quarters weapon they had available at the presentation, but it did a fine job at getting me adequately pumped to get in some ZED personal bubbles so I can proceed to go about ruining their day.
There will be certain skills that improve your character’s melee abilities (more on those later), including a Quick Draw Strike that strikes with the weapon as its unsheathed. If you prefer precision over blindly flailing about, there are directional attacks (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) so you can more easily remove a ZED’s arm from its torso, cut its head right off, or if you’re feeling particularly nasty, you can use a well-placed vertical swipe to bisect it from head to scrotum.
The melee system is surprisingly deep. There will be light and strong attacks, and even a block and parry system — they share the same button, so it’s all about timing — so you can open up a strategic can of ZED flavored whoopass, if that’s what you’re in the mood for.
As an unapologetic gorehound, my favorite system, hands down, is what the team affectionately refers to as MEAT (or Massive Evisceration and Trauma). According to the developer, gore is the most important visual feature in Killing Floor 2. I’m okay with that.
Now bodies can be sliced and diced into 19 pieces (for those keeping count, that’s 14 more pieces than in Killing Floor), they can be damaged and defiled post-mortem, and thanks to a combination of mocap and ragdoll you’ll never see a ZED die the same way twice.
All that sounds fantastic, but the thing that really stood out to me is a feature called Persistent Blood Rendering. This essentially means that all of the gore, viscera, and assorted red and squishy bits you just painted every wall, floor and ceiling with won’t disappear between waves. It stays there, like a glorious monument to your sins.
Proving this will never get old, one of my favorite parts of the demo came when a ZED’s head was blown off with a shotgun, after which it proceeded to walk around the room for a few hilarious seconds leaving a wake of blood behind it before it finally fell to the floor.
The ZEDs won’t be the only things you’ll be wreaking havoc upon, as the environments can also be destroyed. More than that, doing so can affect the gameplay. For example, bullets and explosives have been endowed with the ability to disable lights, so you’ll need to be careful lest you force you and your team to fight in the dark.
Thankfully, the new character progression will aid you in the event that you’re struggling to survive. Perk Passives will be returning, and they’ll be joined by a new system called Perk Skills. This unlocks a pair of skills every five levels — there are 25 levels in total — and you’ll only be able to choose one. This will help to ensure that every character on the team has a more diverse skillset that’s been tailored to fit each individual’s unique playstyle.
Some examples of these Perk Skills include Night Vision goggles, a “Callout” ability that lets everyone on the team know there’s a cloaked enemy strolling about, faster reloads, larger magazines, increased weapon damage, and even a shared ammo bag for each teammate to take from. Tripwire pointed out the fact that each skill has been designed to give you the option to help yourself or help your team.
In the first Killing Floor, each class came with a pair of specialties that had to be used in order to level the character up. For example, to level up a Support class character, you had to spend a lot of time with the shotgun and welding tool. To make this a bit less frustrating, Killing Floor 2 introduces something called Unified XP Earning so you only have to focus on one to gain XP for both.
Another very welcome improvement is that each class starts the game off with a weapon loadout fit for their abilities (Support class starts with a shotgun). This gives Tripwire room to make the initial wave of baddies — a “gimme” in the first game — more intense, since players start the game off with a more powerful weapon.
And when you’re ready to upgrade your arsenal, you can head on over to the new-and-improved weapon dealer that’s been replaced by a vending machine. It makes more sense and no one liked the weapon dealer anyway.
Not content to leave anything the way it once was, even the AI behavior has seen some substantial changes. Because we can all agree that giving enemies more health and/or greater numbers on harder difficulties is a bowl full of dull with a helping of lame sauce — now, every difficulty brings with it a unique set of abilities and behaviors for each ZED. As you move on to harder difficulties — four in total, with Hell On Earth being the most challenging — every ZED will get a new bag of tricks.
That’s my experience with the game. There’s a lot more to it though, and we can expect to hear all about it in the coming months. Tripwire has only showed off two of the game’s maps — Burning Paris and a remade Biotics Lab, which they explained will actually show us how some of the ZEDs are made — a handful of the weapons, and most of the ZEDs. We’ve only scratched the surface.
They did tease a new boss that isn’t the Patriarch, and when asked about the possibility of Killing Floor 2 coming to consoles — inspired by the presence of left and right bumper icons on the main menu — Tripwire didn’t confirm or deny it. I can’t say for sure, but I think there’s a good chance we’ll see it on consoles, it’s really just a matter of when. I imagine PC will be the focus, so a console release may follow sometime after its release. But again, they gave us nary a nod or knowing wink on the subject, so that’s all conjecture on my part.
I can’t say much about how the game plays or how the weapons feel, because I wasn’t able to play it for myself. But what I can say is it’s clear Tripwire cares about this game, they see it as a franchise, and they clearly have a lot of love for their fans. If you enjoyed the community created content the original game saw so much of, they’re making it even easier to create unique levels, stories, and even monsters this time around. Unsurprisingly, it was also confirmed that they plan to lend Killing Floor 2 the same longtime support its predecessor enjoyed.
If you enjoyed the first game, you’re going to love this. Killing Floor 2 takes everything that made the original so special and addictive, and amplifies it. Tripwire aims to blow us all away, and in that endeavor, I think they may succeed.
Full Disclosure: the studio paid for all travel expenses.