If I had to choose one word to describe Killing Floor 2, it's gruesome. It's a cooperative, zombie-killing shooter that aims to produce realism in its weaponry and environments, but all of that is buried under the blood and gore of the monsters you kill. There are many interesting things about the game from the preview I saw recently, from a huge number of animations for each gun and each enemy, to a deep perk system that makes you strategize and pick a combination of abilities to play with. But I barely gave these promising elements a thought, because, in this game, gratuitous violence masks what otherwise seems to be a good, competent shooter.
Developer Tripwire claims that it's putting a lot of effort into making better, more varied guns and melee weapons. From my short look at the game, the team is on the right track. Guns are precisely modeled to be nearly identical to their real-life counterparts in both appearance and behavior. Separate gun parts move independently of one another, so that when you look down a gun's sights, the barrel sways differently than the body. Buckles on the sides of guns jump around as you fire.
And the levels are beautiful. Water reflects light from street lamps as sparks fly and lights flash. Each level has its own story to tell: one shows you how the monsters are created, another presents a decimated and abandoned Paris filled with hints of the people who lived there before.
However, these levels literally get covered in blood. When you shoot an enemy, its wound trails crimson until it dies. Unlike other games, this blood never fades. For the entire game, the pools of blood stick around, growing bigger and bigger until the ground and the walls are nothing more than canvases of red. Instead of looking upon a visually impressive, dynamic level, you're looking at a sea of blood.
This is just one part of a brand new gore system that Tripwire has implemented in Killing Floor 2. Called the M.E.A.T. System (Massive Evisceration And Trauma), it aims to make each shot brutal and destructive. Instead of five points of dismemberment as in the original Killing Floor, KF2 features nineteen. A monster's head has five places alone where it can be fragmented, and if you're accurate enough, you can blow off pieces of the skull to expose the brain. If you opt to use a shotgun instead of a precision weapon, you'll be greeted with even more gore. Raking a zombie with shotgun shells can tear it in half.
And there's no need to try to keep zombies alive if you want to see their bodies break apart: dead bodies can still be fully dismembered. The developer even showcased one instance in which a shotgun blast launched a monster up into the air, and then using slow motion the player juggled the body by shooting it, breaking it apart before it hit the ground.
The evisceration was so pervasive that it seemed gratuitous. I couldn't focus on anything else, even though there seems to be a good game in Killing Floor 2. Without the M.E.A.T. system, the game is a cooperative shooter with stunning levels, lovingly crafted guns, and a deep perk system. Tripwire has also overhauled enemy AI to give each creature type unique abilities that change with the difficulty you're playing on. Shooting looks good, environments are beautiful, and the enemies are appropriately scary.
With the extreme violence, it seemed like almost more of a circus show, a display of the twisted and broken anatomy of these monsters. Tripwire has a good foundation for a game in Killing Floor 2. Now, they have to prove that they can balance the gruesome violence with the rest of the game when it launches this year for PC. As it stands now, painting a level in blood only made me forget about the entertaining game underneath.