Killing Floor Review - September 28th 2009

Killing Floor may have started out life as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod, but there's little about Tripwire Interactive's latest release that hints at its amateur-origins. Its ultimate rival is Left 4 Dead; can the game from the smallest origins compete with the big boys?

It always makes you feel somewhat dirty to constantly compare a new release to the best game in its genre, but with Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead the associations are unavoidable. The premise is slightly different. Instead of fighting through a linear level towards safe houses and then to a final extraction point with Valve's epic showdowns, Killing Floor places you in an open level, more akin to World at War's Nazi Zombies mode (though much larger maps). You fight, with as many as five allies, against waves of enemies - most of which are far more deadly than those in Left 4 Dead.

Between each wave you have the opportunity to purchase weapons, ammunition and upgrades from a female trader. While the levels are open and the waves dynamic, you are constantly aiming to get to the trader, much like a safe-house (though obviously you are not at risk between waves anyway). The game spins you around and has you fighting through the same areas in different directions, as the trader beams across the level in different directions that you have to fight towards. You are only given a limited amount of time to purchase items, so getting to the trader before the wave ends is advisable - no backing into corners to fight off the horde here.

There is a cracking atmosphere to the game.

Compared to Left 4 Dead the number of both armaments and enemies on offer is impressive. It's still not as many as you might expect from a full price game (bear in mind that Killing Floor is a cheap game, however), but is generally much better value than Valve's counterpart. Some enemies are suspiciously similar to Left 4 Dead, but the overall combination is much more effective. You don't get the staggering oafs that pose absolutely no threat, merely serving as cannon fodder. You constantly have to watch your back and that of your team mates and deal with absolutely every threat. The first time you encounter each new breed of enemy is a genuinely terrifying experience, as you try to decipher its patterns (many of which are entirely unpredictable) and work as a team to take it out. The levels feature nooks and crannies for the horde to emerge from; one in particular, a corn field, feels much like Left 4 Dead but with far less predictable (and more terrifying) routes that the enemies take.

These enemies are all as gruesome as you would expect, backed up by the game's story. It is set in England, and so should instantly get big kudos from us. After an experiment at a London science lab, the contaminated have developed a taste for human flesh. Knowing each enemy wants to take a bite out of you is much more threatening than just an innate desire to kill. The story is pretty thin in fairness, (though Left 4 Dead is no novel), and lacks the little touches of Valve's polished setting, but at least it's there.

If you get into this position, you deserve to die.

There are rarely lulls in the action mid-wave, where you feel safe to wander around melee-attacking female zombies stuck in a broom-closet staring at a wall - this horde is intelligent and lusting for blood. As such every upgrade, as well as buying new guns and ammunition is crucial. The game features an arsenal including dual hand cannons and pistols, RPGs, an axe, a chainsaw, a crossbow and a flamethrower, as well as plenty more-conventional items - essentially it's got an arsenal to rival Valve's sequel, let alone their original zombie-slaying fest. Every zombie killed nets you a bit of cash, which you can then use at the trader's shop between waves. You can also sell weapons, as you can only carry a certain amount of weight (an RPG for example will pretty much leave you with just that, and a melee weapon).

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Tripwire Interactive
Tripwire Interactive