Insert Disk collects Killing Floor for the PC.
Today’s retro game review is Killing Floor for the PC. This retro gaming classic is a fast and frantic team shooter with a strong emphasis on team work. Kill the specimens, collect cash, upgrade weapons, kill more specimens and repeat. It a simple but fun shooter for those that enjoy a horror theme.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. I say retro game review but I’m using the term rather loosely today so that I can cram in another horror themed episode in to the season. It’s all first person blood and gore today as we take a look back at Killing Floor for the PC.
First person shooters seem to be intertwined with a horror theme like overcrowding and cholera, they just seem to fit together. We perhaps have the original Doom series to thank for first person horror being made accessible to the masses. It plunged us in to a hellscape experience like no other, in return it became a phenomenon. The mantle of horror first person shooter was picked up by it’s spiritual successor, Quake. It wasn’t all out hell this time but another dimension of industrial gore and Lovecraftian monsters. Before you knew it horror was the go to theme of the FPS genre and there’s a good reason for this and that’s the killing. As the player you’ll typically need lots of disposable bodies to slay but without the connotations of nationality or political attachment. Zombies and monsters in general are a fantastic tool for this as they provide a generic wave of meat for the grinder. An endless supply that you really feel no sympathy for. In short you need an enemy that we all agree needs putting down. I’ve heard it said that in games of this nature you need a common enemy. Invariably that turns out to be zombies, Nazi’s and on occasions Zombie Nazi’s.
Killing Floor falls in to an interesting period for the genre. In November 2008 a co-operative survival game called Left 4 Dead was released and really put horror themed first person shooters back on the map. Players could not only play as the survivors but also play as the infected in certain vs. game modes. They game was released in physical format but the digital release by Valve on the Steam platform undoubtedly made it one of the first truly successful games of this type. Roll forward the clock to May 2009, just 6 months after the initial release of Left 4 Dead and we saw the release of Killing Floor. A game that at first glance shares a lot in common with Left 4 Dead. Naturally comparisons between the games were made upon it’s release. Both games were:
Co-operative horror survival.
Set largely in a post-apocalyptic urban setting.
There were mechanics such as healing team mates.
and enemy with specific attacks.
On the surface you could most definitely be forgiven for thinking that Killing Floor was simply a cash in on the popularity of Left 4 Dead. This may have some truth in terms of the games release date but this is most definitely not the whole story. Tripwire had seen the benefit of publishing through Steam and they had instant access to where there potential customers were. However, a generic copy of Left 4 dead would surely fail, especially as Left 4 Dead 2 had already been slated for a November 2009 release. When you look deep at the games you realise how Tripwire carefully sidestepped the “me too” approach to their release. Interestingly Killing Floor refers to their enemy as “Specimens” whereas Left 4 Dead went with the title of the “Infected”. It’s a common gripe with fans of both series that the enemy are often referred to as zombies in reviews. I won’t get in to this here to much but zombies are typically a specific type of reanimated corpse rather than a body that has simply been manipulated. Think of zombies as the undead rather than simply infected or something that has been experimented on.
So, how does Killing Floor play out? Well, the first big difference is the focus on character class system. Including, Field Medic, Support Specialist, Sharpshooter, Commando, Berserker, Firebug and Demolition. Each of these classes has their own perk. So a sharpshooter may fare much better with ranged weapons whereas a Commando will have stronger abilities with automatic weapons. Secondly, the game throws in an upgrade system for each class via an experience mechanism. The more you use a certain class you will unlock certain targets. In return you’ll be rewarded by an upgraded perk. It’s a neat little mechanism to make you want to both specialise but also spread your class gameplay. Typically gamers will not invest too much time in all classes, particularly the medic. However, it’s a satisfying moment when a single player can drop a health drop that rescues the team. Unlike Left 4 Dead the action is very much based on all out survival by brute force. Left 4 Dead has more of a story feel, almost like being in a B-Movie horror travelling from A to B to complete a level. This goes out of the window with Killing Floor. Having been based on an Unreal Tournament 4 mod the game is all about the action and arena survival. Let those bullets fly and watch the chaos as you team up with 5 friends on the standard servers.
This focus on action really shows in the weapons available. Altogether over weapons and tools to get you stuck in to the action, anything from hand pistols, grenades all the way through to automatic rifles. Of course you’ll need to buy these. At the end of each wave it’s your chance to find the shop and upgrade if you have the cash. This is where the perk and class system come back in to play. Certain weapons will have a discount based on your rank and character class. If you have all the money you need for your upgrade its possible to share your money within the group, giving other members of the team a chance to upgrade quicker and in return give the group a better chance of survival as the rounds progress. There are other mechanics such as Zed time that act as a slow motion mechanism. This really allows players to get in those all important precision headshots. Killing Floor also comes in to its own when it comes to it’s sense of humour. This feels very different to Left 4 Dead and the humour here is far more raw. The range of various British accents spouting various taunts and one liners give the game a real feel of multi-player fun. The emphasis here is on fast paced action and a rather disposable style of fun. It very much delivers that dive in and shoot something experience but adds in a certain level of strategy at the same time. Typically the first wave of a campaign will have you shooting the zed’s, the lowest form of specimen. You’ll be able to handle these by yourself for the most part. By the time you go up through the waves though you’ll need to buddy up with the other players and not stray too far. You can even weld doors closed to keep out the horde to buy your team some time. In the end tough, they will be coming for you. Encounters can be very chaotic and the pressure is really on to work together as a team to get out of situations where you find yourself penned in by the specimens.
The game ends in an all-out battle with the Patriarch, a level boss that is as tough as it gets. Typically players will lay mines to get the killing off to a good start and then pile in with assault rifles. Get it right and you stand a good chance of victory. Get it wrong though and expect massive damage to your team. For a survival horror co-operative experience Killing Floor really is a great bet for a Halloween get together. It managed to walk that fine line of being a decent first person shooter for experienced and less experienced players whilst delivering an enjoyable experience with enough depth to keep you coming back for more.
Killing Floor is often heavily discounted on the Steam shop, partially due to a sequel being the main focus for sales. It’s often sold at a bargain price and well worth the purchase if you like what you see here. So if you’re after a cheap, easily accessible horror survival shooter then you can’t go far wrong with Killing Floor. It’s the ideal Halloween game for those looking for quick treat.