Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Killing Floor 2 [official site] has left Early Access now, and given that it'll be looking to bring the playerbase from the original into fresh pastures, there may be little point in revisiting Killing Floor the first. But I've been thinking about it a lot recently for reasons that don't necessarily involve actually loading it up and shooting a monster in the guts. Killing Floor makes me think about genre.
If you pay attention to my writing, you'll probably have noticed that I enjoy a bit of horror from time to time. Whether it's a visit to the psychological haunts of Silent Hill or the anxiety and tension that comes from being the prey in a terrifying hunt, games have attempted to tackle most of the broad sweep of the genre. Killing Floor stands out as something different though.
First of all, it's nasty. There's a certain kind of monster design that aims to alarm through its representation of grotesque gore. Killing Floor's mutants aren't just dangerous, they're sadistic - you get the impression that they're not just going to fuck you up, they're going to have a really good time doing it. Demons and zombies in games often lean toward a sort of heavy metal aesthetic, and there's some of that in Killing Floor's toughest enemies, but those lower down the chain are naked, wounded things. They look like they've suffered and some of the special event redesigns in particular are downright hideous.
A good monster design can make us ask questions about ourselves, and many of those that have endured are the distorted reflections of funhouse mirrors. They frighten us but they also make us think. Killing Floor's monsters aren't so high-minded. They're revolting, and they make me realise how rare it is to encounter an enemy that acutally repulses me. I don't want them to touch me, not because they hurt, but because...ewwwwww.
Killing Floor is grim, grotesque grindhouse horror, and I enjoy that it more or less stands alone as a solid example of that sub-genre in the gaming world.