Killing Floor 2 Early Access Review

Blood on the kill floor.


GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

It has been quite a while since I played the original Killing Floor. But I still remember the excitement of the hunt, the joy that came with the perfect headshot, and the blood--oh, so much blood. Killing Floor 2, now in early access, continues that tradition, but adds more customization options, better weapons, and more blood than ever before. And so far, Killing Floor 2 has the potential to be one of the finest multiplayer co-op shooters to come around in a while. Here, every day is a fight for survival in a destroyed world--a ruined land where headshots reign king.

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Like its predecessor, Killing Floor 2 is all-out, intense human-on-zed warfare. You and up to five other players fight against multiple waves of vicious zombie-like zeds, whose sole purpose is to rip you and your meatbag allies to shreds. The game starts off at a disarmingly moderate pace during the initial waves… but the calm doesn't last long. The first round starts with weaker zed forms meandering slowly toward their prey, sluggishly crawling over ruined cars, tables, and snow-covered crates. They're dispatched easily with a well-aimed headshot, so long as you stay at a distance from the clutches of stalkers, and avoid the blood-coated blades of more powerful gorefasts.

But the action ramps up quickly. Soon, zeds march toward you en masse, crawling out of sewers, ventilation ducts, and other various openings, as if the very gates of hell had burst open. Faster, stronger zeds start to roam, shooting flames or crawling on walls, while rotund bloats spew noxious bile that blinds you as sirens split the air with ghastly cries. Making their return appearance are the most powerful of zed forms, the fleshpounds and scrakes, whose arrival is announced by a guttural roar guaranteed to get your heart racing.

You face a tough boss fight after completing all the waves.
You face a tough boss fight after completing all the waves.

You're not defenseless against this terrifying horde. Before each match, you choose one of four different perks (think: character classes), each coupled with a set of four weapon tiers. Performing certain objectives, such as using weapons associated with the perk, welding doors shut, or healing other combatants, earns experience points for that certain class. A choice of two skills gets unlocked at level five, and two more become available every five levels up to 25. Leveling up also grants perk bonuses. For example, with every level up, the melee-focused berserker character earns bonuses to his attack damage and speed, while the field medic is granted increased potency in the healing syringe and increased armor strength. Returning to Killing Floor is the trader, a mysterious weapons dealer, who this time can be found in futuristic pods. The trader pod opens up between waves, allowing you to purchase armor, weapons, ammunition, and grenades in exchange for dosh, the in-game currency earned by killing zeds. You're rarely without a means to protect yourself, though, even if your wallet is little light. Occasionally you can find guns and melee weapons scattered around maps, as well as crates of ammo and combat armor.

Regardless of which perk best suits your style, don't expect an easy ride: Killing Floor 2 is challenging, and it will take some mastery before you win your first game (it took me nearly three hours). Zeds are ferocious enemies; boldly charging into Killing Floor 2 without caution will quickly send you to the death screen, where you pay for your hubris by watching your allies play through the remainder of the wave. Even as your head-popping skills grow, zeds will still find a way to surprise you. Cloaked enemies suddenly appear to slash away at your life bar, and crawlers seem to love getting the drop on you--quite literally.

No Caption Provided
Zeds like to sneak out from the dark, so put that flashlight to work.
Zeds like to sneak out from the dark, so put that flashlight to work.

Special zeds are especially tough. Scrakes, hulking monstrosities with a chainsaw for an arm, and the fleshpounds, with spiked clubs instead of arms, know how to take as much punishment as they can dish out. I can't count the number of times I smiled upon a room of zeds I had just taken out, only to turn and see one of these horrors walking toward me. Worse, however, is Hans Volter, the boss you face after completing the final wave. Volter, a disheveled Nazi scientist strapped with armor with glowing green needles on his fingers, flings potato masher grenades and nerve gas bombs, and dual-wields a pair of nasty rifles. He can also blanket the area in a thick smoke screen, as well as grab you and drain some of your precious life into his.

Indeed, the game is difficult, but it's all fantastic; Killing Floor 2 is some of the best shooting I've had in a multiplayer co-op game in I don't know how long. The combat is punchy, fast, and incredibly satisfying. When the game slows for zedtime, its version of bullet time, you're able to appreciate the terrifying detail that goes into enemy animation and models as you slowly dance to the maelstrom of flying bullets and flayed body parts. Indeed, it's remarkable how enjoyable Killing Floor 2 is in its early form. I went for nearly five hours straight after I first started the game, spending much of the time with a big, stupid grin on my face. It has sunk its blood-soaked claws in me, and I refuse to shake them free.

Killing what? What floor?
Killing what? What floor?

Killing Floor 2 has only three maps available at the moment. You run and gun through a snowy military base, a laboratory with enormous vats of swirling blood, and the streets of a ravaged Paris--including a burning and partially collapsed Eiffel Tower. One tactic in the original Killing Floor was to find that "sweet spot" where you could funnel enemies into a shower of bullets, and there are some places in Killing Floor 2's maps where you can do the same. But enemy density often has you running from that safety fairly quickly, that is, unless you have some semblance of team cohesion. Regardless, I found the game to be much more fun when traveling in a group. Many of the maps are also exceptionally dark in places, enough so that you feel grateful for your rechargeable flashlight, lest you end up firing at the creeping shadows.

There are some issues with the game, which will likely be fixed as it moves through its early access lifespan. However, despite this, I was surprised to find only a few nagging problems. Normally, you're able to walk over small walls or railings without having to jump--a great way to prevent you from getting stuck and dying in a particularly embarrassing manner. Zeds can also traverse these small obstacles, but doing so will cause them to briefly pop up into the air. It's actually quite comical, and when it involves more than one enemy, the game looks like a zed edition of Whack-A-Mole. Lag occurs from time to time, but I found it to be thankfully rare. Beyond that, I would like to see more variety in available characters. Out of the seven you can choose from, there is only one female option: the mohawked Goth girl Ana. Hopefully there will be more choices for female characters later down the line.

Customize the look of your zed hunter.
Customize the look of your zed hunter.

As good as Killing Floor 2 now is, developer Tripwire promises there will be even more to relish in the coming months. New maps will become available, as well as more characters, weapons, and six additional perks. I feel it has become somewhat cliché in reviews of early access games to say a game has potential. And yet, I can't think of a game more deserving of the word. Killing Floor 2 has flown up my list of favorite games this year, and this isn't even the full retail release. Shooter enthusiasts: we have something special on our hands.

What's There?

Three maps, seven characters to choose, and four unique perks. It takes a few hours to get into the swing of things, but it’s hard to stop playing once you get into the motions. You can play with up to five others, though you’re not locked to that number. Some servers are allowing 32 players to jump in on the fray. You can also play the game solo if you wish.

What's to Come?

More maps, characters, perks, and weapons.

What Does it Cost?

$29.99 for the regular edition, $39.99 if you upgrade to digital deluxe version, both sold through the Steam store.

When Will it be Finished?

The developer says the game won’t be out of early access “until it’s done.” But, it is hoping for a full release by the end of the year.

What's the Verdict?

To put it plainly: Killing Floor 2 is awesome. Even though there is still plenty of development left, it’s shaping up to be one of the finest shooters of 2015.

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