By Marshall Lemon
Zombies are everywhere in video games these days, but that doesn't make fighting them any less fun. Yes, it’s a little cliched at this point, but it’s simply thrilling to face down infected hordes, rush to secure key locations, and keep enemies at bay while your ammunition slowly dwindles. Tripwire understood this with Killing Floor, a zombie game which tapped into that primal survival instinct and was an absolute blast with friends. For the sequel, that same spirit is alive and well, and marks the first time PlayStation 4 players will be able to jump in on the action.
Killing Floor 2 takes place a month after the original game, after Britain's outbreak has spread across the European Union. These deadly zombies - sorry, “specimen clones” or zeds - have completely overwhelmed military forces and governments, leaving small pockets of survivors behind. In a last-ditched attempt to regain control of Europe, Horzine Biotech is offering bounties to civilians and mercenaries willing to secure zed hotspots, exterminating every hostile creature they encounter.
Killing Floor 2’s gameplay revolves around the same survival mode of the original. Up to six players arrive at a location to slaughter zed hordes, earning money for each kill. Once the wave is destroyed, a trader shop opens somewhere in the map where players can purchase weapons, replenish ammo, or obtain new armor and equipment. After about a minute, the trader shop closes down, and a more challenging wave arrives to test your team’s limits.
Which isn’t to say Killing Floor 2 is all mindless violence with no strategy. The map is filled with doorways which can be sealed using a welding tool, slowing enemies down and forcing them to break through first. The purpose isn’t so much to halt zeds as redirect them, funnelling enemies into choke points where they can be wiped out en masse. Of course sealing doors isn’t without risk - weld too many and you might not have an exit if the zeds become to much for you. But leave too many open, and you might be grappled from behind and have to melee bash from their grasp.
Then you have the various zed types to worry about. An impressive variety of specimens were on display at the PAX East PS4 demo, from the slow-moving Cysts and Clots, to the sprinting Gorefast. You’ll encounter common video game zombie types like the Bloat which vomit bile and explode upon death. Others will break past your defenses, like the invisible Stalker only noticeable as a red outline, or the Siren with a piercing audio attack that disrupts your vision. And that’s not getting into the heavy zeds with chainsaw arms that deal massive damage while distracting you from the greater horde.
Killing Floor 2’s greatest challenge, however, are boss characters which arrive upon completing the final wave. For this demo, it was Hans Volter, a Nazi scientist mutated in the outbreak. Volter is fast enough to catch up to sprinting players, wields a high-powered rifle, and has a nasty habit of throwing grenades into the fray. Meanwhile, other zeds continue to spawn nearby, disrupting any attempt to focus on Volter alone. But the worst part? Volter grabs nearby players, pulls them to his face, and absorbs their health, completely refilling his life and forcing you to start from scratch. Even with a full team, Volter is a challenge to put down. Guess who was playing solo for the PAX East demo?
Still, I certainly put in a strong effort. After putting down multiple waves single-handedly, I poured as much ammo into Volter as I could. He refilled his life three times - apparently the maximum number - before I ran out of ammo and was reduced to swinging at specimens with my knife. Eventually, the inevitable occurred as lowly Cysts and Clots surrounded me, dragging me to the ground with sheer numbers.
Next time I’ll have to bring some friends.
Killing Floor 2 is out now for PC early access, and launches for PlayStation 4 in 2016.