The Good: Nearly endless zombie-killin’ action
The Bad: Also mindless and pointless
The Ugly: And highly repetitive
Comparisons between Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead are inevitable. Both FPS games featuring zombie hoards even have several types of similar zombies in common: the ordinary zombie, the fat zombie who spews toxic gunk, the weapon-wielding zombie. But whereas L4D consisted of packs of essentially human zombies, KF zombies can be strange creatures with cloaking fields, ones that run on all four legs like rabid dogs, and huge boss zombies with chain guns and rocket launchers. Just about the only thing you don’t get is a zombie that flies, or at least I haven’t seen one yet.
KF is a very simple game, perhaps too simple, and is essentially a highly modified reconstruction of the popular Unreal Tournament mod of the same name. An accident at a genetics research facility has released zombies, er, mutants (or maybe they’re mutant zombies – the game calls them specimens) upon the populous and… that’s it for the plot. There’s almost no plot at all and the game has neither opening movie, closing movie, nor cutscenes. What little story you get is told to you with text during the loading screens for the maps. As such, as a story, there really isn’t much going on at all. The game bears more than a passing resemblance to Unreal Tournament’s Invasion, only with zombies instead of aliens (or were those demons?) and with different maps, weapons and locations for the combat.
Players begin by selecting one of six perks (sniper, flamethrower guy, medic, etc). You gain experience in your specialization by using the skill or weapon associated with that perk and gain levels which gives you a bonus for that skill in the future. You can gain experience in any skill (a sniper is welcome to use a flamethrower, and I’m pretty sure will still gain levels in it), so I’m not sure what role selecting a perk has. It does have the effect of pushing you towards one weapon, which I think most FPS players possess anyway.
You can choose to play alone, which I highly recommend against – there’s just no fun to running around capping zombies alone. Online through Steam or on a LAN you can join up to five other players in repelling waves of enemies. Each wave is just that, a well-encapsulated number of enemies (the number remaining is shown to you in the HUD), at the end of which you are awarded money for your success which you can use to buy weapons and armor and ammunition. Whoever hosts the game has a whole bunch of knobs to turn with regards to how many waves, how many zombies per wave, what kind of zombies in each wave, etc. Those knobs go from ridiculously rolling in money and weapons easy to having to make every shot a headshot or you’re zombie vittles hard. In all my years of gaming I’ve never died so quickly as being run over in a hallway by more zombies than I had bullets in my guns.
Upon joining the game you must wait until the game is between waves before you can actually start playing, and then you begin with very little money and only a standard handgun. The point I’m trying to make here is that it can be difficult to jump into the middle of an existing game because you’re going to have high level enemies coming at you and nothing to defend yourself with. Other players if they have some to spare can throw you money. To be fair I’ve had that happen to me in the majority of games I’ve joined.
Cooperative play is a strong component of the game. Though I’m not talking about complex military strategy, it helps if your group organizes sort of naturally, everyone covering a possible direction of approach and watching out for each other while they reload and heal. Inside buildings you can weld some doors closed to restrict directions of attack, and your group is more or less free to pick where they want to set up what defensive lines they are able. Somehow among the many, many coop online games that I’ve played, KF seems to, either through the mechanics or the level design, lead to better overall player cooperation than I’ve seen in other games, and at the harder difficulty levels you probably could not survive without it.
Ultimately though, the sort of plotless killing gets old, or at least it did for me. L4D felt like you were trying to go somewhere and do something. KF fails in that respect and instead feels like just a bunch of deathmatch games with the computer controlling one side. There are only six maps and something like eight enemy types. The game is sort of a mod of a mod, and it feels like a mod. It’s a fun diversion for a couple of hours, but that’s about it. The first time I played it I played for about two hours, and by the end of the two hours I had had enough. The next day I did a couple of more. The third time I went to play it, it was a serious toss up between Killing Floor and some C&C3 map that I’ve played about 100 times before, and if I weren’t doing a review, I would have gone with the C&C3. That’s not to say that killing floor is bad, but it is so very limited that I expect most people will very quickly tire of it.