Tripware Interactive’s Killing Floor debuted 15 years ago today, and was subsequently brought to retail by the then-growing Iceberg Interactive. The publisher had been choosing their titles wisely, and in Killing Floor they intended to attract more of that market that pays attention to such things; the core gamer. It was a shrewd move, as what was seen at the time as an also-ran eventually spawned a hugely successful series. Killing Floor 2 followed in 2016, eventually accompanied by a VR spin-off. And a true third title was revealed in August, 2023.

As with all Killing Floor titles, the comparisons with Left 4 Dead are inevitable. However, Killing Floor has also taken inspiration from everything from Quake III: Arena to Zombies (also known as Zombies Ate My Neighbours) from the 16-bit era. From Resident Evil’s Mercenaries Mode to the Unreal Tournament series. The latter of which being responsible for the game’s origin, birthed way back in 2004 as a mod for Epic Games’ then leading franchise.

Still, Left 4 Dead was the most direct current competitor around back in 2009. And even now remains the brightest shining example of the subgenre. That subgenre into which Killing Floor so easily fits is the co-operative survival-based FPS.

Killing Floor screenshot

Zombies or Monsters? They all Take Bullets

Up to six players can engage in warfare against the hordes of grotesque genetic experiments. While some bear particular similarity to those featured in Left 4 Dead – the Boomer and Killing Floor’s Bloat being a prime example – there are many more horrid disfigurations you’ll meet within a single map. The Stalker is aggressively quick whilst remaining incredibly quiet. The Gorefast’s speed increases as he approaches a player, making him a panic-inducing sigh. And the Fleshpound can take an incredible amount of damage and will charge towards you once enraged. There are numerous more enemy types, ranging from spider-like deformities to huge end-of-wave bosses Each requires a distinct set of tactics. It’s lucky then, that the player is readily equipped for near-every eventuality.

Offering a greater traditional multiplayer FPS experience than Left 4 Dead’s near-linear Campaigns, Killing Floor features a now typical levelling and perks system. A player can choose between various Class types, earning experience with each wave played. Once reaching new levels, new perks are granted. These range from statistic boosts to discounted weaponry from the in-game Trader. The variety between Class types presents a cohesive team-based focus, simply as different players will be skilled in different areas. There are no arguments about who should be wielding the door shut and who should be covering them when you’ve got a 20% bonus to your wielding speed.

Killing Floor screenshot

Killing on the Floor

With each of the maps divided into waves, players have the opportunity to buy weapons, ammunition and armour from the Trader who appears between each rush of enemies. Not only this, but the Trader also acts as a mid-wave target destination. This encourages players to move their team in co-ordination during combat. Cash is earned through survival and downing enemies (in sterling, as the locales throughout England provide). It can be spent on any items available to your chosen Class, or ammo for weaponry found within a level.

Killing Floor is a pleasing looking game, yet a clear trade-off has been made between depth of field and character model detail. The horizon may not stretch as far as could be hoped on a number of maps. But this, of course, does often intensify the experience. The game plays at a much quicker pace than Left 4 Dead despite the greater reliance on pre-devised tactical manoeuvres. Due to this Killing Floor’s cast of grotesque deformities can often be more horrifying than Valve’s colourful everyday zombies.

Killing Floor is Not Dead Yet

A particularly well judged and executed game, Killing Floor teases further greatness with the addition of an SDK. This allows players to create their own maps and mods. A nigh-on guarantee of a long life in the Steam community. Killing Floor is such an immediate experience that it does seem almost foolish to have overlooked a console release. But of course, the sequel rectified this issue on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. An expertly balanced series of fire fights across some hauntingly familiar English locales, Killing Floor is designed for groups of friends to meet fright with fun. And in that measure it has no equal. The sequel made the series a widely recognised success, and Tripwire Interactive has grown substantially in its wake. Let’s hope the forthcoming Killing Floor 3 brings more of the same.

Categories: Games