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anglebender [Celluloid 05.17.10] review apocalyptic horror video game

GENRE – Cooperative survival horror first-person shooter
PLATFORMS – Windows (XP & Vista), OSX (Leopard, Snow Leopard)
DEVELOPER – Tripwire Interactive
PUBLISHER – Tripwire Interactive/Valve's Steam
RELEASE – May 14, 2009
MSRP – US$19.99



I wanted to write a review of this last year when it was released as a standalone on PC, and I'm sure more than a few readers of this website have tried it, but bugs may have driven away most potential diehards. For those who were disappointed by stability issues before the first big patch that most games have shortly after launch, I'd suggest you give it another try. It's one of the best survival horror PC games out there, and since it's now available for Macintosh with both platforms being able to play on the same servers, the amount of specimen slaying will now increase.

Trailer after the break.

They're not actually Zombies per se, they're escaped experiments from Horzine Biotech- they don't want to eat your brains, they just want to kill you. But since it walks like a zombie and growls like a zombie, it's a duck. No, this is definitely an apocalypse, so semantic disagreements are extremely unproductive. The player is part of an extermination squad sent to slaughter the specimens at various locations, sometimes in an office building, sometimes in a warehouse, sometimes at a farm. They hurl themselves at the players in successive waves in an eager attempt to kill them.

Besides the fact they didn't rise from a graveyard and don't desire the taste of gray matter, there's a few others things that set Specimens apart from the usual zombie, namely a few of them have missile launchers for hands. This might make you say, “But if they use weapons then they aren't zombies.” I'm sure it will listen to your reasoning and stop attacking you, instead sobbing in a corner about its defeated purpose.


Single-player mode for games like this constitute a good simulation of what the online game is like and allows you to familiarize yourself with with the layout of the maps. That might be a good thing to do unless you enjoy being lost while hunted by zombies. Since the specimens come in waves and always from the same place, the gameplay dynamic resembles the casual gameplay style of “tower defense” (Plants vs. Zombies, Defense Grid) but with a team-based FPS twist. It's odd an odd mix of gameplay styles, maybe that's why I find it so compelling.

It's a hallmark of first-person shooter games to have crosshairs centered in the player's view. There's usually an option in the game's menu to deactivate the crosshair (some people enjoy walking their shots from the hip in shooters I suppose), but Killing Floor has no option whatsoever for a crosshair. There is an assault rifle with a dot scope, but unless you understand how to use iron sights (right-click to aim down the barrel), you're going to have a lot more fun with Killing Floor in melee combat because you don't need to aim a chainsaw.

Killing specimens yields cash, in British Pounds, that you may spend at a Trader that pops up at various places across the map between waves. There are seven classes to choose from and they level up with time. Each class specializes in something useful for dispatching zombiesque monstrosities, such as the Berserker who knows how to swing an ax better than the rest, or the Commando who gets damage bonuses from machine guns. All of the team niches are filled by a class, so teamwork is useful but not essential because there isn't any friendly fire except from pipe bombs when triggered by a specimen, which is an obvious bug. There also aren't any player controlled zombies, so if you want that I'd suggest either game of the Left 4 Dead series. Killing Floor is non-competitive in that players are not killing each other, only the highest kill count is what is you strive for.

Multiplayer and map setting options are diverse enough, but if you ever get bored with them you can make a server (even for just yourself) with a specific number of waves and specify which types of specimens are in each wave, how much money players start with, and a bunch of other settings you can twiddle with. This amps the replay value considerably.

The interface seems a bit clunky, but it's something you gradually grow accustomed to. The actual in-game's HUD is very sparse, however. There's a display for your hit points and ammo, and that's about it. A wide field of view without information overload in your peripheral vision. The display characters use a typeface and color that makes them stand out against all the gore and viscera, which is what a good display should do.

Sometimes you or someone nearby will make a near flawless headshot and trigger a brief period of slow motion bullet time known as “Zed Time”. When this happens, everything will move slowly and the sound becomes muffed like you're underwater, then everything snaps back into real time. It lasts for only a few seconds, but it's enough time to target a few more candidates for more Zed Time. I've been on a few servers where several really good players keep it in slow motion most of the time. If you've ever played any of the “Max Payne” games, this will be familiar.

But Killing Floor sometimes crashes in multiplayer when changing maps a little bit more than half the time. It might be latency or cache size, but I usually circumvent this issue by hitting alt-return just before the map changes and staying in windowed mode until the map loads, then alt-return back. I also have an exception path in my anti-virus software mapped to my Killing Floor directory just to be sure. I still get the occasional hang, but then I just alt-tab out, reboot it and rejoin the server. Unfortunately, little work-arounds like that are a bit much for the casual gamer, so they might eventually give up and play Plants vs. Zombies instead.

Yet, I keep coming back to play it even though it's nuanced and quirky. I keep coming back because it's fun.


Every level seems to have its own character and mood- “Manor” is rustic and moldy but “Wyre” is very autumn-like with the dead leaves blowing around. Only a few maps takes place mostly outside, and those happen to be my favorites. Cramped corridors and hallways with intricate debris placement seem to be the mainstay. It all combines to make for a very immersive experience. The blood sprays from decapitated specimens seem a bit too thin, but when there's 10 of them dieing in a similar fashion it can be very spectacular, especially if a flamethrower is involved. The Unreal 2 engine is still pretty after all these years, but it's starting to show its age especially with the lack of physics simulation.

The game has a constant film grain effect running throughput and it really lends to the mood, but it can be distracting a times. There never were moments where I asked myself, “Was that something moving in the distance or was that a chunk of film grain?”, but you can't diminish or deactivate the film grain effect, so you get used to it and you begin to ignore it.

The character models are great, but they all carry the theme of “British army”, which isn't a bad thing, it's just repetitive. I'd suggest getting one or both of the DLC addons, they're inexpensive and add some diversity, but aside from new character models and a few weapons, there aren't any new maps included.


If you enjoy thrash metal and grindcore, you might enjoy the score, but it sounded like a garage band which might endear some to this title, but all I hear are cymbals and the same three guitar chords. It beats bagpipes and flutes, that's for sure.

Since this takes place in Britannia, all the squaddies all have a cockney accent. They are “chatty Kathys” in that they are constantly letting you know they are reloading their weapon. I was constantly hearing someone say “RELO-EEN!” It took me far too long for my American brain to process it as “reloading” as in “pardon me, I'm replacing the magazine in my weapon, please be a chap and cover me as I do so.” Because it's the same one-second voice over with very slight delivery variation, it gets to become part of the background noise and gets ignored. It's like the game's film grain effect: you can't turn off. You can mute the sound effects, of which the voice-overs are a part, so you had best learn to ignore it or play it with the sound turned off. It uses the same two voice actors: a British guy and some American dude who was apparently caught by the apocalypse during a military cultural exchange. You hear the same British fellow far more often than the American, and he sounds similar to the Gecko from the Geico commercials.

Communication is very important in team-based shooters. You can hit a key to ask other players for money, so sometimes morons will start hammering the “I need some money” key like a woodpecker on a pine because they think it's funny, but the voting feature works so they get kicked and forgotten within a few seconds.

This is most definitely not a “casual” game, yet since I've been playing first-person shooters most of my life, it has become second nature to release scattershot into the faces of countless adversaries. It becomes like a mantra, the trance inducing qualities of which are something I find to be very cathartic. Ohm.

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Pierre (12 years ago) Reply

Hey I play this!

Good to see it finally available for Mac. (Medic/Flamethrowerer FTW!)


LordOfFlies (12 years ago) Reply

Yeah i have put way to many hours into kf. Its so worth the 20$ people!

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