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Review: Killing Floor

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Adults - 18+
Genre: First Person Shooter / Horror
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2009
Review Published On: April 28th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Experience gained for your Perks is automatically saved, regardless of whether you win, lose, or leave. However, there is no way to save a game in progress, as this game is designed to be played in small rounds rather than as a larger campaign.

When playing alone, you can pause the game by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This is an extremely graphic game, with gore and blood pretty much everywhere. Some of the enemies are also nude, though this is usually treated as a source of horror.

Screenshots

[view screenshot]
Chainsaw vs Axe

[view screenshot]
Let's not get too close to each other

[view screenshot]
Baking Baddies



Game Overview

Killing Floor, as you might expect from the name, is a rather violent game in which one to four players fight large numbers of quasi-human monsters in an arena like setting. Actually, calling it a "game" almost feels like a stretch considering that there are no campaigns, no level progression, or "story mode" like you'd find in most first person shooters. This isn't all that unsurprising either, as this game originally started life as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004.

But, while there's no proper "story mode" in Killing Floor, it does have something of a story to explain all of the carnage. In this alternate timeline, the British government, like so many other fictional governments, thought it'd be a great idea to create some genetically engineered super soldiers. They contracted this project out to a company called Horzine, which produced several promising prototypes. Naturally, things went sideways in a hurry, and now Europe is overrun with violent specimens. It's not helping matters that one of the scientists began to view the specimens as his "children"; once they were in harm's way, he experimented on himself, becoming the extremely powerful and insane Patriarch.

Playing the game is also very simple. To begin, one player (the "host") selects the game's map, what rules are in play, and then waits for their friends to connect. Alternatively, if the host is playing alone, then they just select their starting Perk and start the game. From this point onwards, the players use their skills and weapons to survive against multiple waves of the renegade specimens. There's a short pause in the action between waves, during which the players are strongly encouraged to visit the Trader for better weapons, fresh ammo, and other supplies. When every normal wave has been cleared, the Patriarch himself spawns in for one final confrontation.

Defeat the Patriarch, and your team wins the game. There are no penalties for failure in this game; if you lose, just start another round and try something different this time.

Now, earlier I briefly mentioned the fact that players have what are known as "perks". In Killing Floor, your Perk is basically your current character class. Each Perk has its own gameplay style, in-game benefits, and related weapons. They also gain experience through specific actions, which makes the game slightly easier the more you play using a specific perk. For example, take the Commando Perk. Players using this Perk can see invisible enemies, carry more ammo, and gain many benefits when using assault rifles. By contrast, players using the Berserker Perk are more resistant to damage, can't be grabbed by specimens, and are much more agile than other players.

There's also another benefit to the Perk system that's worth mentioning: players aren't limited to a specific role when they choose their Perks. Every player is able to create a barricade by welding doors shut, and everyone can heal themselves or another party member. Also, while Perks make it easier to use certain types of weapons, you're allowed to wield anything you want. There are even a few "non-Perk" special weapons for players who want to get fancy. The biggest "perk" though, is that your Perk experience levels remain with you, even when you lose, nor do you need to be actively using a Perk to gain experience in it, so you're always rewarded for playing the game.

But, there is a massive downside to all of this. Killing Floor is extremely graphic, even when compared to games like DOOM. It's definitely not suitable for children, nor should adults with more sensitive stomachs consider it. Fans of First Person Shooters who can handle large amounts of gore will probably enjoy this game, but I'm not sure who else would.

Points of Interest

Multiple playstyles
There are a total of seven Perks to choose between, each one catering to a different role in the group. Importantly, since everyone can heal or help create barriers, there's no need for a dedicated healer or support party member. This lets everyone get in on the action.
Lots of maps
By default, this game provides over thirty unique maps for players to enjoy. These range from the Horzine buildings where the outbreak began, to the ruins of Santa's workshop, and even into the depths of Hell, providing plenty of places to explore, fight, and die inside. There's also a Portal-themed map left over from the massive Portal 2 cross-promotion campaign, and if you can hold the specimens off long enough to open a securely locked door, there's something extra special inside for you.

If this isn't enough, you can also download maps made by other players from the Tripwire website.
Extra customization
The Host can enable various "Mutators", which are changes to the game's base rules. By default, Killing Floor comes with a nice selection of mutators to choose from, but you can also make your own or download mutators made by other players via the Tripwire website. An example of a Mutator is the "Clotbuster" mutator, which changes the spawn rules so that the only specimens that can spawn are Clots.

Unfortunately, as nice as this sounds, using custom mutators can prevent Perks from gaining experience. This is a nice compromise to prevent abuse, but it can keep fun ideas from getting much traction -- players prefer to level up their Perks, so mutators without this ability don't get much of a chance to shine.

There are also a lot of different characters to play as, with more being available in DLC packages. You can also get fancy new weapon designs as DLC, but since none of these have real effects on the gameplay, what DLC you purchase is entirely your decision.
Objective mode
A few years after release, a new mode was added to the basic game. It's called Objective Mode, and it's pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Instead of dealing with a fixed number of waves, you're attempting to complete various objectives while holding your own against an infinite number of crazed specimens. It's decent enough, but honestly, it feels a little half-baked and out of place with the rest of the game.
Over 200 achievements
Yes, seriously. It's rare for a game to have more than seventy achievements, but there are a few, and this is one of the more extreme examples. Most of the achievements involve killing a certain number of a specific type of specimen using a certain weapon, which also explains why there are so many achievements. The more common achievements, such as those earned by completing a difficult game on a certain map, are also included. By the by, several achievements can only be earned during multiplayer games, so be prepared to bring some friends along if you want to earn them all.
That's about it
A glaring downside to this game is that it doesn't have much content. You set up rounds, you fight, you finish rounds, rinse and repeat. There's no lasting victory, no end to the story. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this one, but let's not pretend that it's more than it is.
No official support
While this game is still available for sale and has a sizable playerbase, it's now considered to be a "legacy" product by the developers. This isn't terribly surprising considering its age and the fact that Killing Floor 2 has been out for a while.

Concerns and Issues

Disfigurement
The results of performing genetic engineering on humans isn't a pretty sight. Several types of specimens are deformed or disfigured in realistic ways. For example, the Clots appear to suffer from microcephaly, the Gorefasts appear to have been skinned alive, and the Sirens have clearly had their eyes gouged out. The Patriarch is an extreme example, as one of his eyes dangles on a stalk and he has other growths come from his torso.
Nudity
Both the Sirens and Stalkers are going about their business in their birthday suits. This is actually not a good thing, as Sirens wear a sharp, barbed cage around their torso, and we can see that it's cutting into them. The Stalkers, on the other hand, are usually invisible, making it counterproductive for them to wear clothing. Note that both of these specimen types gain festive apparel during the seasonal events, so they are sometimes covered up.

On the extreme opposite end, Bloats are almost completely nude too, and this is a serious disservice to anybody who gets a close look at them.
Blood, gore, and dismemberment
All three are omnipresent in this game, as each level has already been destroyed by the specimens prior to the players arriving. Dead bodies and bloodstains decorate most of the levels, though they can't be interacted with. Killing a specimen can dismember them or otherwise cause some blood to spray about, and headshots may cause a specimen's head to just explode. On the plus side, the bodies of slain specimens quickly fade out of existence, so the gore doesn't pile up much more than it already has.
Cannibalism -- sort of
If your party is slain, any remaining specimens (excluding the Patriarch) will take this opportunity to feast on your remains. Whether or not this can be considered cannibalism is a matter of opinion; none of the specimens are entirely human, after all.
Swearing
The player characters are a chatty bunch, making comments and snide remarks as the battle progresses. If you want, you can even instruct your character to insult somebody of your choice (including other players). Of course, due to the setting, they'll swear using British phrases like "wanker" instead of the bad language we're normally used to hearing.
Flirtatious dialogue
The Trader has a number of different lines, many of which are on the playfully flirty side of things. Probably the best example is when she opens the store and says, "Come and get me, boys!" . Yet, her tone shifts drastically when it's time for the Patriarch to spawn. It's urgent and direct, as there's nothing funny about what's about to happen.
Holiday celebrations
There are a few seasonal events that appear in this game, notably the Twisted Christmas and Hillbilly Horror events. During these events, the specimens often get dressed up as evil holiday mascots, such as evil carnival folk or demented (secular) Christmas characters.
A visit to Hell
One of the maps that comes with Killing Floor is called "Hell", and it's fairly obviously based on the fiery pit itself. Demons and magic don't actually appear in this game, so the existence of a Hell-themed level is a bit of a non-sequitur.
Drugs...?
I'm not entirely sure how to count this, but I'm pretty sure it's worth mentioning. Each player has a special "medical gun" known as the Medical Syringe. This gun uses vials of a potent healing fluid as ammo, and to use it, the player injects their target with the gun's needle. When healing yourself, this is shown as injecting into your left wrist (directly through clothing), followed by replacing the vial.

What makes this "weapon" a problem comes from the way it depicts injections; people with drug issues (or who know people with drug issues) may not be very comfortable with seeing this done casually, especially because the player seems to get an uncomfortable "zing" from injecting themselves.