Preview: Killing Floor 2 Hands-On Impressions
It feels like it has been years since I was at Tripwire Interactive’s gameplay reveal for Killing Floor 2. Though it was only last August, it looked smooth and functional so I felt the Early Access release was right around the corner. Of course, that’s not what happened. We’ve had more than half a year to sit on our hands and deny them the sweet pleasures of Killing Floor’s ridiculously satisfying gunplay and wonder when we’d get a chance to blast some Zeds. Tripwire’s official forum has been impatiently clamoring for even the smallest morsel of information, and I myself was getting increasingly frantic, wondering when there would be something new to see. But the river (or hourglass, or flat circle) of time kept flowing and finally, I’ve had a chance to play the much-hyped sequel.
After a brief chat with John Gibson (President), Alan Wilson (Vice President), Bill Munk (Creative Director), David Hensley (Art Director), and Jared “Yoshiro” Creasy (Community Manager) about everything from the state of the forums to their obvious excitement about their upcoming release, the journalists attending the event were led to a room full of high-end gaming rigs. The room was dimly lit solely by the red LED lights on the towers that were about to take us to a crimson wonderland. Before we were able to jump in, Gibson had a presentation for us. He’s aware that some fans are concerned that Early Access isn’t the right fit for Killing Floor, and had a lot to say about that:
Early Access done right. Some people put out some really cool stuff, some really interesting things… also there have been some really bad cash-grabs, or buggy pre-alphas, or “hey I’ve got this crazy idea please give me money.” That’s not this. We want to release a really polished beta for Early Access. We wanna show people, hey, put this thing out there, get feedback from players, so that you can tune it, turn it into something really polished. Don’t just do something before you’ve found the fun.
It only contains a subset of the full release content. So we’ve taken a portion of the game and really polished it up. But the goal is really finding the core gameplay, the core fun…so when you play it, you know, you’ll see this is really similar to KF1 with some cool things added, and that’s really what we wanted to do. We wanted to nail that KF1 core gameplay loop fun, and as we go through the year, we’ll add more things on top of it.
So what’s in the Early Access build? 3 Levels, 4 Perk Classes, 27 weapons, 11 Zed types, 8 playable characters including a female character, one boss character, (NOT THE PATRIARCH)…we’re also going to be shipping with a Mod SDK, supporting custom level customization.
So after EA, what are we gonna do with the game? Well we’re not just gonna walk away. Anybody that’s familiar with Tripwire knows that we support our games for a very long time and I think even just late last year, 5 years after release of the original, we’re still putting out new maps, new free content. So eventually we’ll be adding 6 additional perks for a total of 10, new levels, over 50 weapons, additional boss characters (in the full version it will be random, we won’t know who the boss is), more game modes, one of the things we saw with Killing Floor 1 was people really, they wanted to us to expand into beyond what they call the survival mode. New monsters, new playable characters, add more support to the SDK for mods and total conversions…One of the most important things is we’re gonna incorporate early access player feedback. One of the things we’ve noticed with our previous games is that no matter how finished we think the game is, even after running it in beta, we’ll put the game out and we’ll get all this feedback from players like “Would you try this?” “Could you tweak that?” “This is too easy.” “This is too hard.” And usually what happens is six months after we release the game, we put out the definitive version that has all that tuning and tweaking and weeks of changes that the fans wanted. And we’re like, THAT’s what Early Access is for, that’s how we’re using it.We’re gonna use that Early Access period, to really dial that in, and by the time the full version comes out, we’ll have all that feedback incorporated.
Encouraging stuff! If all goes well, I think Tripwire’s take on Early Access could possibly add some much-needed validity to the program. I later asked some more questions about their plans as far as scheduling goes, and the team told me that they have an internal schedule, but aren’t planning to release content updates every couple of weeks or anything that structured. They chose the four perks available in Early Access (Medic, Support, Berserker, Commando) because they wanted to be positive that they were balanced from the beginning, so that every time they add a new perk or weapon, it’s an addition to the existing game and not a complete rebuild of the system. If the fifth perk they add takes a week to balance, they’ll finish it and move on. If it takes a month, so be it. By way of player feedback, everything can be just how Tripwire and their fans want it to be. Still not sure if we’ll be seeing nipple rings on the Bloat, though.
ON TO THE GAMEPLAY, LADS. We started off with level 1 perks in Burning Paris, which is the map that you’ve probably seen if you’ve been following pre-release footage for Killing Floor 2. I chose the Medic perk first because I was dying to see how the modular weapon upgrades were going to work. I was immediately struck by how much faster everything is; not only is there the new sprint function (no more pulling out that knife to run faster), but Zeds are much faster than before and can quickly overrun you. This is especially apparent when you realize there’s no longer a warm-up round where everyone has pistols. You start with your perk weapon and the action is much faster because of it. Half of my squad died in the first couple of waves despite my super awesome medic grenade skillz. The medic weapons were interesting in that they don’t do much damage, but instead are better at staggering approaching Zeds. A later chat with Munk revealed that the addition of a stagger ability has made designing weapons much more…interesting. The whole squad was wiped before I got to try the new assault rifle, but the Shotgun was a fun combination of slightly-higher-than-average damage and stunning capabilities.
Our next match took us to the snowy Outpost map and boosted us to the max level of 25. I decided it was time to try out the Support perk in all its glory, and mainly chose perk skills that would increase my damage. Though I was mainly a Sharpshooter player in the first game, I spent plenty of time Support so I was interested to see how the sequel had improved the feel of the weapons. The M.E.A.T. (Massive Evisceration and Trauma) gore system is a disgusting delight to behold when you have a double-barreled Hunting Shotgun at your command. The snow was red and meaty every time I stepped outside, and halfway through the match I had a brief chance to check out the carnage before I headed to the trader. Since the new tech in Killing Floor 2 allows persistent blood and destruction, our squad had clearly left a trail of entrails everywhere we went, which is a nice touch. Support remained as effective and satisfying as ever. Our squad was able to clear all 7 waves and reach the new boss, who Tripwire wants to keep secret until the release of Early Access. I won’t give anything away, except that you’ll have to forget those tactics you used on the Patriarch before and get ready for something different! The boss was a fun new challenge and I look forward to fighting it on higher difficulties.
Speaking of higher difficulties, our last match took us to the redesigned Biotics Labs map but amped the challenge up to Hell on Earth mode. This time, I was a Berserker. I started with my Tactical Shovel and chipped away at Clots and other trash enemies while everyone else did the heavier damage. By the time the second wave came around I had the Shotgun Sledgehammer and holyshitthatweaponisawesome. Even though the Zeds had more health, the secondary fire (which hits enemies and ejects a shell on impact) was chewing through any specimen I could get close to. Having directional attacks, blocking, and parrying abilities at my disposal breathed new life into the Berserker perk and I can see myself playing it all the time. The katana was available as an off-perk weapon, but I’m pretty sure that whatever the unannounced Dragon perk is will be utilizing it.
My time with Killing Floor 2 confirmed a few things that make me very happy. First, if you know how to play the first game, you’ll be right at home here. Though there are a few changes like the sprint, weapon bash, command wheel, and quick weld, if you’re good at the first game you’ll be great at this one. Tripwire has nailed the feel of the KF1 but also added to it without making it feel watered-down somehow. The weapons, be they gun or blade, feel as chunky as ever and there’s a sense of weight that few first person games can replicate. Second, though I liked the music I had heard in previous trailers, I wasn’t sure how well it would fit in-game. Every song I heard meshed well with the atmosphere and even had a cool pop-up bubble showing the name of the song and band playing whenever the track changed. Nice touch. Third, the M.E.A.T. system runs beautifully. I was concerned that with the large amount of projectiles and limbs flying through the air that the engine wouldn’t be able to handle it, but that didn’t seem to be case. Our mileage may vary when it’s on our own personal rigs, but I’m not too worried about it now. Finally, and most importantly, it’s fucking fun. Simple as that may sound, it’s one of the first things to go in plenty of sequels. Tripwire hasn’t lost sight of what people liked in the original; instead, they took those concepts and turned the dial up. Every perk feels unique, especially with the addition of perk skills, and each one is a blast to play as.
Though I didn’t have much time to delve into Killing Floor 2, from what I’ve seen it’s hitting all the marks that I was hoping it would. And soon, everyone else will be able to try it out: it will be available on April 21 for $29.99 (US), ₤19.99 (UK), and €26.99 (EU). Be ready, and be excited.
BUT it wouldn’t be a Relyonhorror.com Killing Floor 2 article if I didn’t tell you the weird stuff you probably won’t hear elsewhere. It looks like Reverend Alberts will be voiced Dwight Schultz, who played Howling Mad Murdock in the original A-Team! That’s a cool little bonus. I also found out that though there’s only one female character at the moment, they used a female motion capture artist for her so it’ll be easy to add more along the way. No more painted nails on the male model like in the first game. There will also be a filter to turn off the gore, which will probably be Germany’s default mode. And here are some bonus shots I took during the event:
There are your graphics settings. Nothing special, but it makes it feel more real and tangible to me.
Electric weapons? Who’s gonna get to play with those? Nothing available yet, but still intriguing. And…is that a submachine gun all the way on the right? Interesting…
[Full Disclosure: I was flown out to San Francisco on 04/02/2015 by Tripwire Interactive to attend this event.]