Has Killing Floor 2 been improved by its updates?

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Update Night is a fortnightly column in which Rich McCormick revisits games to find out whether they’ve been changed for better or worse.

Gaming’s greatest gun is still Doom’s double-barrelled shotgun. We have to all say that, right? For my money, though, slots two, three, four — all the way down to about 15 in the list of Top However Many Shootiest Guns in Videogames — belong to Killing Floor 2.

Tripwire’s co-operative zombie survival shooter has so many great guns that it’s difficult to put them in order. I think my favourite is the Desert Eagle, a brick of a gun that removes zombie heads in the same way that plastic explosive removes a drain blockage. Or maybe it’s the AA12 automatic shotgun, a weapon that looks like a child’s drawing of a gun but is capable of belching out 20 shells in a few seconds, creating a plume of flame that looks like a dragon sneezing.

KF (3)

Except no, wait, my best is the new Stoner 63A machine gun, with its raspy, whiny cadence, its ridiculous vertical kick, and its ability to hose the legs right off a zombie in just a few bullets. Shoot the Stoner in a crowded hallway, and you’re not just hoping to kill something; you’re going for distance. The gun turns zombies into their constituent chunks, then propels those chunks up the nearest wall, letting me kick arms and heads and who-knows-whats around like horrible leaking footballs.

The Stoner is one of Killing Floor 2’s newest weapons, introduced for free in March as part of “The Descent” content pack. The pack was one of three major updates to the game since its launch last November, and added a new map in addition to new weapons. The Descent also brought a new mini-mode (Holdout) that made some minor tweaks to Killing Floor 2’s standard hold-out-against-waves-of-enemies approach.

Rather than allowing players to set up their preferred killing fields in one corner of a map, Holdout stages force them to move between smaller rooms, hopping down elevator shafts to move between enemy waves. It’s a small tweak to the existing formula, but Holdout does address some of the stagnation problems Killing Floor 2 had at launch. Games can run long — a full 10-wave session can push an hour on harder difficulties — and spending that long in the same space can get tiresome. That’s especially true when players simply fall back to their favourite choke points, doomed to simply repeat the same exercise four, seven, or 10 times in a row, depending on server settings.

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The Descent’s new map instead forced me to improvise, and to scout out defensible positions in the short space of time between waves. The map’s set in the catacombs under a zombie-spawning Nazi scientist’s manor, and it has the kind of knick-knacks you might expect from such a location: flayed corpses, rusted medical equipment, and vat after vat of mysterious green goo. The Descent also has a more coherent sense of forward progress than vanilla survival mode stages do, but it’s a shame that it’s the only map so far to take advantage of the Holdout ruleset.

Of the two other new maps, Nuked is a more standard survival stage, while The Tragic Kingdom adds a few fun tweaks. Introduced during Tripwire’s Summer Sideshow update, it’s a circus-themed affair, and is packed with traps that players can trigger by powering up a generator, allowing them to lock Zeds in cages, zap them with electric shocks, and skin them with a spinning carousel.

Three new official maps won’t be a huge draw for players who sampled Killing Floor 2 at launch, though. Luckily, the community has picked up some of the work, creating a whole host of levels that run from utilitarian to weird as hell. A lot of these are inspired by other games: I painted Princess Peach’s castle red with the blood of my mutant zombie enemies, I returned to castle Wolfenstein for what must be the twentieth visit, and I held out against wave after wave of Zeds in a recreation of Resident Evil’s Spencer mansion. As with Team Fortress 2’s mapping scene, it feels like some of the weirdness of early-2000s PC gaming is alive in the KF2 community: a good thing.

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KF2’s new weekly challenge system works better to keep players coming back. These challenge missions guarantee cosmetic item drops, but only if you survive some of the game’s hardest enemies, each souped up with special modifiers that make Zeds tougher, faster, and stronger. These challenges are as close as Killing Floor 2 gets to an endgame for advanced players, and require a co-ordinated team willing to fail a few times first. In guaranteeing loot, they give KF2 players a reason to return on a regular basis, but they do also strip out some of what makes Killing Floor 2 fun in the first place: the punch of its weapons.

Last week’s challenge upped Zeds’ health, reach, and physical size, ramping the difficulty up to “suicidal” in the process. The rules were harsh, but rather than exhilarated, I just found myself frustrated that my trusty double deagles weren’t making a dent on some of the tougher enemies. Killing Floor 2’s joy is in the physicality of its guns: their kick, and their targets’ reactions. Increasing health bars prices those reactions out of easy reach, meaning you’re stuck shooting bullet sponges that don’t flinch until you’ve wasted an entire clip on their buffed behinds.

The boss stages of these weekly challenge runs are particularly painful. Killing Floor 2 only shipped with two bosses — the Patriarch and Dr. Hans Volter — and none have been added in the months since, meaning players have to put down either a teleporting bullet sponge with extra powerful weapons, or an invisible bullet sponge with extra powerful weapons.

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Instead, the intervening months have seen Tripwire add a suite of cosmetic items. Many of these come in crates that drop through play, but need to be unlocked with keys bought for real money. Those items include new clothes and hats that can be worn by the game’s characters, but I was far more interested in the weapon skins on offer. After all, Killing Floor’s guns are its characters.

Even within then easy categorisation of pistols, shotguns and assault rifles, there is delightful variance. The AK47 and the SCAR are both reasonably accurate assault rifles, but one goes “dakkadakkadakka” while the other goes “tsst-tsst-tsst-tsst. Both have their applications, and both feel so chunky, so powerful, and so pleasurable to shoot that I’ve just had to describe them in text by approximating mouth gun noises.

KF (10)

Not all of the new weapons are direct hits. The twin flare pistols, introduced in the Descent pack, are less enjoyable than most of their regular-bullet-firing friends, and the same can be said for most of the flame weapons. Sadly, the woosh-pfff of Killing Floor 2’s flamethrower fuel has nothing on the boom-ping-ping of a shotgun or the ratatatatat of an assault rifle.

But as long as those weapons are available, then Killing Floor 2 remains worth diving into. It doesn’t have the persistence, the promise of drops, nor the ever-shifting metagame of some other online shooters. What it does have is some of the greatest guns in gaming — and for an FPS, that’s more than enough.

28 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    It’s pretty hard to get excited about COOL GUNS the day after a massacre.

    • mehteh says:

      I can understand if are connected to the massacre, but if not, is it really that hard to put real life aside?

    • DarkFenix says:

      Is it? I’m finding I can still get excited about imaginary cool guns, I’m finding just as much pleasure in committing virtual massacre.

      Were you in Vegas being shot at? Someone you know? If so, my sympathies. If not, why should it affect your recreational activities in the slightest?

    • Premium User Badge

      Mahaku says:

      I concur, especially the COOL GORY DETAIL EFFECTS… poor timing indeed.

    • aepervius says:

      If you were personally concerned, my condolence.

      If not : There is always a mass shooting, a massacre or an ongoing war, civil or not, somewhere in the world. Are you suggesting that we all stop all entertainment all the world over every time ? And how long every time ? Did you ask the same for the Roynga massacre ? I could take even more example from recent news. If you start stopping the world or discussion, then pretty much soon *no* entertainment verging on violent subject can be done. You are giving the power to the insane guy doing the massacre. You let the world, news, games, film, theater, series or anything be led and constrained by them. You want to world in such world ? I don’t.

      • Agnosticus says:

        Well said, mate. Wanted to post just about the same!

      • syndrome says:

        I don’t know about you, mate, but whether I want to world in a world ultimately shouldn’t matter, because worlding is tough to imagine as a verb.

      • CitizenX3639 says:

        Agreed. I cant tell you how many times when I travel reading the newspaper or watching the news of guess what? A murder. happens all the time and it been escalated by 24hrs of #fakenews and these social media of nothing but hate.

    • Viral Frog says:

      I don’t think so, personally. I have family and friends (who are safe, thankfully) who live in Vegas. Two of whom would have been at that massacre had it not been for some extreme luck. I also would have been less than a block away at the time had I not cancelled my trip last minute.

      Anyway, that aside, I think it’s still very easy to get excited about the awesome guns in KF2. They may be modeled after real world guns, but the game is still not the real world. (Although I won’t lie, I couldn’t go near a single gun related game Monday and could BARELY bring myself to play any yesterday. But that’s more because I’m just mortified that this keeps happening in my country and nobody wants to discuss ways to reduce the frequency, not the fact that I didn’t want to look at/see guns.)

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        Nobody wants to discuss ways to stop it precisely because our culture fetishizes COOL GUNS to the point that even the mere suggestion that maybe not fetishizing COOL GUNS is enough to make RPS posters come out of the woodwork to tell me I should only be affected by tragedy if experienced first-hand.

        • klops says:

          I don’t fetishize COOL GUNS and I loathe the gun culture in the U.S. However, I do enjoy how Tripwire is modelling the guns in its games and can say that I like to shoot zombies with copies of real world guns in games.

          Those same COOL GUNS are used in games outside U.S as well. For example in U.K., where this site is based, getting a gun is hard for a private person and it is not ok to own assault rifles. Therefore I would not blame games or game articles for insane gun laws in a particular country or for a gun-culture preceding computers (well, neither did you).

          Of course, popular culture has an effect on us, so I get your point, but I would not be tiptoeing around violent games every time something horrible happens because of guns. Even if that horrible thing happened in the United States of America. I’m not doing that when something bad happens in anywhere else in the world either (see the already mentioned Rohingya massacre, for example). I also don’t expect RPS to do that.

        • Viral Frog says:

          I completely agree that our gun culture is out of control. I have my own thoughts on the gun regulation debate. (You’d think some of the people here want to crucify me because I own a gun and think that they should be more strictly regulated. It’s like, heresy or something.)

          BUT, at the same time, this website is run out of Europe, not the USA. The reader base is primarily non-US residents. The rest of the world is currently probably rolling their eyes at us over this massacre in Las Vegas because we keep letting it happen over and over again without doing anything. But just because our country is full of nitwits and has been stricken by the worst mass shooting in our history doesn’t mean they should cease their normal day to day operation.

          And just because our country won’t get its crap together doesn’t mean that we should let this tragedy just completely shut down our lives or our enjoyment of other things, either.

          I am almost 100% the other commenters aren’t trying to be rude to you. They’re just basically saying the age old adage that life goes on. This tragedy was extremely close to home for me, but I’m not gonna let it get in the way of what I find entertaining. I’m not gonna let it scare me into refusing to leave my home. I’m not gonna let it put me in a slump and you shouldn’t either. It sucks. It’s a terrible thing. It’s mind blowing and almost incomprehensible. It’s heart breaking. But you’ve gotta look forward, not back.

        • szarkam says:

          Good god… get off of your soap box. A post about Killing Floor 2 having cool guns has NOTHING to do with what happened in Las Vegas.
          You shoot monsters and zombies in an entirely fake/fantasy world; the only possible connection is one taken completely out of context for the sake of a) trying to make people feel bad or b) COMPLETELY improperly attributing any violence to video games (see numerous studies that support my position).
          If you read the news (ever), you’d realize that there are terrible things happening in many countries around the world, all the time. None of these events should stop people from enjoying cool fictional guns, with fictional creatures, in a fictional world, in a fictional game that is meant as entertainment.

        • stringerdell says:

          Its more that this kind of shocked statement only seems to crop up in the aftermath of a media frenzy over white people in america or western europe getting shot.

    • StevieW says:

      So, every time something shitty happens in RL, we shouldn’t discuss things that bear ever so slight similarities to the RL event?

      So, lets never talk about FPS’s again, cos people get shot ALL THE TIME.

      Driving games are out too, because I think someone crashed and died the other minute.

      Spaceship games – do we all stop playing for a week when a rocket blows up?

      Fighting games? Sorry, no more Tekken for me cos some idiot down the pub got his ass handed to him for being a dick and is now being fed through a straw – just wouldn’t be right would it?

      Sorry, but RL is, and can be, really really crap, but that shouldn’t stop us finding fun in things, no matter how ever so slightly related they may or may not be to the worse things that happen. Every single day.

    • Agnosticus says:

      OMG the site is called Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN!!!!111 How offensive! Plz have some respect…

  2. BoosterDuck says:

    Killing Floor 2 died for me when Tripwire added the cash shop in Early Access and made a garbage tenth class and kept the pyro worthless

    luckily for gamers, there’s been a plethora of quality first person shooters releasing so I don’t have to stick with KF2

  3. Viral Frog says:

    All of the KF2’s guns feel better than Doom’s double-barreled shotgun. The double-barreled in KF2, for example, is superior in every way to Doom’s.

    KF2 NEEDS new bosses in a bad way, though. I just hit level 25 on my Support and don’t think I can keep going on. I love the guns, the gameplay, the maps even… but I need more bosses to fight.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      I know what you’re saying, more bosses would really help, so would more maps.

      As for keep playing, maybe try another class, maybe one that get some really cool lvl 25 perks, like Berserkers “Move at almost normal speed during slowmo” or demos “explosions during slowmo creates big deadly green cloud”?

      • Evelyn98 says:

        I think new maps and guns don’t impact the game considerably. I don’t play it too much nowadays, I mostly catch up on the updates. This new content (coincidentally guns and maps) never really reinvigorates the game for me and I quickly lose interest. Personally, the core gameplay loop gets tiring pretty quick, even though I think it’s a good game. I think adding new enemy types would liven things up more than anything.

  4. Crusoe says:

    Since release? That can’t be what Rich means, surely..? You could at least be clear.

    Since EA release, KF2 has seen more than TEN maps added to the official roster (you don’t mention Prison, Zed landing, Containment station, Farmhouse…)

    Also, those are the ugliest images of the game I’ve ever seen. Three of them are from ugly unofficial maps, and I’d swear you’re running the game at medium texture settings.

    And there’s no mention of the enemy subtypes added, or the upcoming Halloween event.

    What the hell?

  5. david123 says:

    It would be just fine enough if the devs would actively develop the current maps according to the trends. Let’s say Outpost map. People either camp in the outside central area or outside of one of the side entrances near the garage and heavy machinery. The map would be much more fun if they added some blockage in the central area to make it less open… lets say a huge radar for example, or some big cargo containers to make it feel close quarters and the second place – they could add another spawn point right above the cliff edge facing the side entrance to the building and heavy machinery. Another bad maps are Catacombs and Infernal land. There is only one spot people camp. Just awful. I barely know the maps ouside those central areas. But this was already problem of the first game. Like the awful spawn camping in BioticsLab in KF1.
    I agree this game is great, but having so many exploitable spots on the maps makes me play just community maps and seeing people vote for Outpost and the likes makes me roll my eyes.

  6. haradaya says:

    Sod staying in one place all 10 waves. My friends and I avoid that at all costs because we all agree it’s just no fun. KF is the most fun when we’re all in a panic just barely surviving, but one of us pulls us through to the next wave. You wouldn’t believe how mad some randoms would get at our “running off”, even when it’s in groups. It’s clear that Tripwire doesn’t want it to be played in one spot either. They introduced the destructable lighting eventually leaving an area pitch black and undesirable.

    What’s great about KF2 is it seamlessly upgraded KF1’s experience for us.

  7. Moonracer says:

    I bounced off of KF2 because the pace felt so off from KF1. Admittedly I initially bounced off KF1 when I initially picked it up, so maybe it is time to give it another chance.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    Hey, lay off the flare guns! Those bad boys allow me to solo kite the boss on hard as a gunslinger by popping him a burning treat and RUN AWAY!

  9. bill says:

    Can we get Angels Fall First next? Assuming it has had some updates since launch…