Why It Could Work - Killing Floor: Calamity

Killing Floor is one of arguably one of the greatest zombie slaying games of all time. If not for its gameplay or fun factor, then at least in the sales department, and the fact that it is still one of the most played games on Steam, despite releasing as a free mod in 2005 and then re-released as a standalone game in 2009. Tens of thousands of players are still regularly connected to it. And it is still printing money.

So from at least a financial sense, it makes sense to bring that experience to other platforms. In this particular case, the Ouya.

Tripwire Interactive, developer (sort of) and publisher of the retail version of Killing Floor, have given the go for Dwarfs!? co-developer, Robin Flodin's team, to work on a top down shooter edition of the classic zombie slaying experience, Killing Floor: Calamity.

But wait! One may shout. Why is it top down?

I honestly consider this a bizarre choice, as well. KF was a highly praised first person shooting game, and the departure from that formula seems incredibly drastic, even if it is a spinoff. However, bizarre doesn't have to inherently mean "bad." Just "different."

So I'm going to explain how its possible that this seemingly largely different game may be (or may not be) the horrifying success that spawned it.

How It Can Survive

What really matters is how different KF:C (you read that right) is from its "predecessor." Team Fortress 2 was a massive departure from the original Team Fortress, and not only in its visual aspects. Not many fans of the original were all too happy with the changes, but it was still, undeniably, an entry in the Team Fortress series. All the defining features of the game were still there, minus the grenades, and even though there was a lot missing, TF2 added in a whole lot more to make it interesting.

As long as KF:C retains its defining features, then it is sure to be a success, though possibly not on the Ouya platform. For the record, those defining features aren't the gunplay. Sure, the gunplay sets itself apart from a game such as CoD: Zombies in its more realistic control (it was worked on by the makers of Red Orchestra). Things like no crosshairs, but high accuracy regardless of aim, realistic sniper scopes where only the scope zooms in and not the whole screen, or even the gun bobbing way more if you move while crouching. But Killing Floor defines itself with a number of other things.

Why It Could Work - Killing Floor: CalamityZooming scope! So real.

First, the specimen, which are totally not zombies, come in various reanimated corpse forms and have a number of different ways to pry your skull open and eat your brains. There is the Husk, which lights you on fire from a distance. The Scrake, which rapidly attacks you with his chainsaw. The Siren, whose screams are so loud they actually cause grenades to explode. And the iconic Fleshpound, which... I don't even know what it is.

Why It Could Work - Killing Floor: Calamity

Imunna hug you.

Bottom line is that these specimen are all equally lethal, despite the fact that some are more powerful than others, and immensely so. It all amounts to how well you can manage them as well as your own team. Focus too much on a Fleshpound and a weak Gorefast can take you down while your back is turned. Focus on taking out a Siren and a Bloat can cloud your vision and digest you with its own vomit. It's all immensely balanced in a bizarre way. More importantly, while waves get harder, it only gets harder by throwing crazier combinations of specimen at you, rather than attacking you with artificially stronger zombies as in other games. CoD: Zombies being only one of the many others out there.

Anyway, second is the perk system. That is, the class system, which gives every player an edge with a specific weapon or tool. Initially it is a subtle difference. Later, they become different entities. What this does is create a whole new dynamic to the game. Each player can become unique, because they're not limited to what weapons they can use. Just what weapons they can use best. Later on the game becomes more about managing players and resources than managing bullets in different locations on a specimen's body, especially on harder difficulties. Couple that with the fact that certain player classes work best against certain specimen, and particularly suck against others (except the "jack-of-all-trades" Commando), and you get a whopping amount of tactics to an otherwise casual shooter.

Why It Could Work - Killing Floor: CalamityThe right man for the right job.

The best part is that both of these features are in the Calamity edition, and there's quite a tad more to it. Calamity features active skills depending on the perk you select, mapped to the Y button. That is, that's what the screenshot seems to display in the HUD.

What these skills do is still a mystery, but I can safely assume that perks will still largely make an impact in the same way Killing Floor on the PC already has.

Most importantly, the specimen remain entirely untouched. The Siren still has ear-popping screams, the Scrake is still an augmented lumberjack, the Fleshpound is still that... thing.

My most anticipated feature is one that Tripwire has made absolutely no comment on; modding. Yes, modding. The Ouya is an entirely hackable, moddable device. Killing Floor is one of the most modded Steam games this side of Half Life 2. It's a perfect match. Imagine, downloading new mutators, modes, maps, and playing it on a console. It's a feature that fell off the face of the Earth after UT3 for the PS3 made an (incredibly well-functioning and successful) attempt at doing so, and I'll tell you right now, if KF:C supports this, I'll actually go out and buy an Ouya. Right now.

How It Can Be Wiped Out

There are a number of things worrisome about the game as well, birds eye view aside

First, in the screenshot, there doesn't seem to be a "weld" function. There is a grenade button, of course, there is a syringe key, duh. Then there's a... back button. Presumably, it's the dodge key, but the game never had dodging to begin with. Then the intriguing "skill use" button. What there seems to be lacking is any way to weld doors.

It's not so much the lack of welding, itself (though the thought is pretty terrible as it was integral to the survival of your teammates in the game), but the fact that it brings into question just how big these maps are, exactly. It's hard to tell anything about the game from a single screenshot, but it looks as if the survivors are fighting off the specimen horde in a closed space rather than an open level. Granted, it's an Android title, and a casual spinoff at that. But just how much more casual is it going to be? Will this result in a lack of looking for the trader, or finding a good spot to hole up? That's half the fun of the game right there, gone.

Second, how will the Sharpshooter class work? If you can't actually aim in a top downshooter, what would one have to do to get headshots?

Third, what if the casual version of the game takes away from the game's biggest departure of other zombie games in the genre: actual teamwork? Reviving players only goes so far, and frankly Killing Floor doesn't even have that. What it does have is a bunch of other things; gun and cash sharing, dual team door welding, class based co-operation, and team healing. I lost count of how many times I tossed over awesome weapons to a pack mule (Support Specialist) so that I may carry another heavy weapon, instead. Or just tossing guns and cash over to a new player who needed it. There was just so much incentive to actually work together instead of hoard money, as good guns only went so far without the proper perk, and even then there weren't that many weapons. Will KF:C have this, too?

It should also be mentioned that KF:C has four players instead of the usual six. But this is sort of a non-issue: Killing Floor was always at its most hectic and fun with three players. Besides, can you imagine six players fighting for screen dominance on a top down shooter? It's hard enough with two people.

Why It Could Work - Killing Floor: CalamityShut up! Shut up! Make her shut up!

Even with these issues, KF:C is sure to be a good game in its own right. But it has to be more than that; It has to be Killing Floor. It has to draw a line to its changes somewhere. It has to define the experience as Killing Floor. What it promises is remarkably close. What I see so far is, surprisingly, a lot different. I'm very likely reading too far into a single screenshot, but hey, that's all we're given to hype over. Here's hoping Killing Floor finds a new home on the world's first Android home console, and that it's the smashing success, financially and in quality, that Killing Floor was.