25 May

The year-old budget title Killing Floor has been an unlikely antidote to my recent bout of games fatigue, probably caused by the relentlessly competitive nature of everything else I’ve been playing recently (when you feel a burning, genuine sense of betrayal when a teammate helps themselves to your care package in Modern Warfare 2, it might be time to do something else).

Unlike the similarly co-op zombie-perforating Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor is a defence game. A defence game filled with rhyming slang and the insult “plod”. Dumped in a a number of decent-sized areas of post-zombpocaplyptic London, murdering stuff for money to spend between waves  is only slightly more important than planning your last stand (as well as thinking up tactics on the fly) – which doors do I weld to most effectively stem the tide? Do I spend my cash on body armour or save up for a better gun? Shall I heal myself quickly or wait for the guy with the heals-boosting Medic perk to do it for me? Oh God they’re breaking through the door, can I re-weld it without getting my back torn off? Successfully staging a strong defence is not only immensely satisfying, but allows for the team-based element to shine, as one man keeps the doors secured whilst the others keep zombies off him. One of the game’s greatest pleasures is clearing one area of monsters and turning to face the rapidly deteriorating welded door, waiting tensely until it breaks from its hinges and whatever was behind it is hit with a volley of gunfire. Ace stuff.

A Flesh Pound, not exactly renowned for their refusal to pound your flesh.

Despite being mostly slow and having no self-preservation instincts whatsoever, the ghastly selection of zombies here really is horrifying. The basic footsoldier, the Clot, can be made a mockery of with a pistol headshot, but soon you’ll be too busy backpedaling from the ones with a chainsaw grafted onto their arm whilst dodging the corrosive vomit of a different breed whilst simultaneously trying to listen for the female specimen that can turn invisible that you won’t notice the small group of Clots appearing from nowhere and helping themselves to my skin. Who’s laughing now?

The tools of the humans are just as intimidating. KF absolutely nails the importance of sound design in weaponry, leading me to desire the DLC-added SCAR mk17 rifle like a Clot does my flesh. In single-shot mode it’s accurate and efficient, but switched to fully automatic it sounds and feels angrier than the grotesque things being minced by it.

One thing I feel is a little out of whack is the Patriarch, the hippy-haired final boss of each round. How’s this for unfair – he has the best range attack in the game (a minigun/rocket launcher combo where his hand should be), a cloaking device devoid of trade-offs, three opportunities to run off and heal himself (on top of having an obscene amount of health), and can appear in front of your face out of nowhere and kill you with two swipes. With a possible six-man team against one of him this might not sound imbalanced, but the swiftness with which he can mow down a decent team is bewildering. He’s far too fast and strong for even the best guns in the game to take down on the first attempt, and after than the cloaking/unavoidable melee bullshit begins. I know the wholesale slaughter of gaming’s most irritating Cockneys (only two voice actors are shared between over a dozen different characters and skins) has the potential to be cathartic, but having half an hour’s work easily undone by one oversized and overpowered scientist-bastard at the very end of the round is a rubbish way to end a game.

Killing Floor is a cheap, unpolished, immature, sometimes frustrating team shooter. I can’t coast through it like I do even on the harder difficulties of  Left 4 Dead 2, and this is just one of several reasons why I love it. Guv’nor.


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