Based on version 2.5 of the Unreal Engine this is a game utilising old technology, produced by a small team and released without any substantial single-player component (despite a story mode being present in the original mod). On paper it doesnít look all that promising, but then poring over the gameís feature list and technical specs doesnít really capture the raw excitement and visceral thrill that comes from shooting a corridor full of warped fiends in slow motion, with pounding industrial tunes blaring out at full volume as your allies make wise cracks about the enemy's parentage. Killing Floor revels in its gore and low-rent humour with an irreverent tone so utterly infectious you canít help but fall in love with it.
The enemy specimens are truly horrific in appearance, thereís simple zombies and engorged bile pukers as has become commonplace these days, but these are supplemented with more interesting types such as the straight jacket bound witch who screams out a disorientating sonic attack, the blood soaked, chainsaw wielding Scrakes, their faces hidden by Hannibal-esque face masks, and the particularly ugly Flesh Pounds, which are bound with a blindfold and have had their arms and innards replaced with spiked, vicious-looking constructs of rusted metalwork. By themselves, some of these larger creatures can be enough to give players pause for thought, but when the game throws entire swarms your way things become really rather heated. Such ghastly visages are accompanied by over the top levels of violence and gore, with headshots sending recognisable fragments of brain matter flying, leaving the enemy staggering around headless for several moments before collapsing to the ground. Should one of the team pull off a particularly skilful shot, time slows down and players get to appreciate this viscera in all its glory, cracking off round after round as brain and body parts scatter all over the screen. Itís a technique that works fantastically well and always looks awesome, even if youíre just reloading, and these moments create an excellent ebb and flow to what is an otherwise relentless pacing.
|For those unfamiliar with Nuneaton, this is pretty much a 100% accurate portrayal of the scene outside Wetherspoon's on a Friday night.|
During the heat of battle the game plays some dark and threatening tunes that work perfectly with the grimy, dirty surroundings and nasty, scratchy filters overlaying the visuals. This isnít sophisticated game-making, itís thrash guitars with furious drumming and it works to a tee in the context presented here. Sometimes it takes games like this to be reminded that thereís more to this hobby than epic storylines and art house wannabes. Itís the gaming equivalent of the video nasty, with absolutely nothing intellectually or emotionally rewarding to offer beyond white-knuckle thrills and an in your face attitude, and in this manner it encapsulates a purity of experience that makes for an almost flawless experience.
There are a few balancing issues between some of the different classes, each of which grants bonuses to their specific weapons as players earn experience across games, but due to the co-operative nature of the title these arenít exactly game breaking. The increasing difficulty levels also help to ensure that as players level up the game retains its challenge, with the Suicidal setting keeping even the toughest of teams on their toes.
Between rounds, players have access to a black-market trader who can provide them with weapons and armour, paid for using money earned from dealing damage to the specimens. This ensures that players are rewarded, regardless of who happened to score the final kill shot, which helps to avoid aggravation and disharmony within the team. To prevent players from just camping out the same old sections of the map the developers keep them moving by constantly cycling the location of the trader, a crucially important facet that helps to keep the team on their feet and forces them to dash from any safe zones as the end of the round approaches, or risk being left without sufficient time to re-arm before the nasties return.
This setup works particularly well on the Farm map Ė one so large that players have to start running across the night-laden fields long before theyíve finished clearing out the roundís clones if they want to arrive with enough time. As the team split into small groups, sprinting through the corn, stopping to cover each other, guns blaring in the night as the creatures close in from all around, you canít help but feel your heart rate pounding. And for a minute or two, itĎs like youĎre right there in the film Dog Soldiers, as the men sprint through the forest, blasting away at the beasts on their tail.
The map design on the whole is excellent, with a good variety of different styles. Offerings like the Horzine Offices and Biotics Lab feature layered, tightly interconnected and claustrophobic environments that see players welding strategic doorways shut and trying to funnel the AI into killing zones. In such levels proceedings can rapidly spiral out of control should any player fail to hold their allotted section and this keeps the game tense throughout. Conversely maps like West London and the Manor may be far more open and set during the daytime, with long sight-lines and plenty of space in which to manoeuvre, but players can still be caught unawares by creatures leaping down from overhangs or by the cloaked stalkers sneaking down side streets whilst the teamís Commandos, who are able to pick these monsters out, are kept otherwise engaged. Tripwire Interactive have provided a lot of aftermarket support and, besides releasing regular balancing patches, have increased the titleís map count from the initial five to eighteen, ensuring a lot of variety is on hand to players.
In amongst all this horror and gunfire you also have a game that doesnít take itself all too seriously. Thereís plenty of schoolboy-grade innuendo and humour as the players jibe with each other and the trader character. All the voice over artists are British and while it may not be sophisticated or clever the little, snappy one-liners are so full of charm and character that you canít help but become endeared towards the game. These brief, light-hearted interludes add a lot to the character of the game and provide a nice counterpoint to the scores of specimens being unleashed upon the players on a near constant basis.
|Despite the aged engine Tripwire have made effective use of some very nice lighting effects and post-processing filters.|
Killing Floor is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The character designs are excellent, the maps have a rich ambience and the fire-fights are hectic. While features such as the ability to weld doors shut and the different character classes add a degree of depth beyond just lining up the next shot. The seamless integration of the slow-motion leads to games that sport many dramatic, movie-like moments and the camaraderie and level of team work between players is superb. In Killing Floor, Tripwire Interactive have served up one of the finest co-operative experience around and, while it may not have the fanciest of lighting models or the highest polygon counts, itís a must buy for PC-based shooter fans.