Available on Steam and PS4 (tested on PS4 Pro)
If you watched last month’s PlayStation Meeting you’ll have most likely seen this game without even noticing. Sandwiched in between heavy hitters like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect Andromeda, Killing Floor 2 was the bloodsmeared, fast-paced shooter that, if you blinked, you definitely missed.
Created by the gun-loving folk at Atlanta’s Tripwire studios, this upcoming gory co-op shooter tasks you and five friends with annihilating wave after wave of the undead. Yet while its premise isn’t anything out of the norm, Killing Floor 2 finds itself in the unique position of being one of the first games to take full advantage of the PS4 Pro.
After releasing Killing Floor 2 on Steam Early Access last April, Tripwire announced it’d also be bringing the completed game to PS4 at the end of 2016. What it didn’t anticipate, however, was that only a few months from launch it’d also be asked to port the game to Sony’s new console too. “It was kind of difficult,” reveals Tripwire's art director, David Hensley. “In order to get the 4K rendering to work, we had to learn a brand-new render technique that only the PS4 Pro uses. There wasn’t a lot of time, just a few months – it was a challenge just getting the game communicating correctly with the hardware.”
With its wealth of PC development experience and Killing Floor 2’s PC version already in the bag, if any studio could manage it, it was Tripwire Interactive. However, although Sony was confident that the studio could deliver, trusting the entire team with sensitive information on its new console was another matter entirely. “In a studio of 45, only five of us were allowed to work on the project.” Explains Hensley “We were so sworn to secrecy that we couldn’t even tell most of our colleagues. We were NDA’d against our own studio.”
Yet stress and secrecy aside, this was Tripwire’s shot at the big time. With Killing Floor 2’s release date perfectly aligning with the PS4 Pro’s, it was now set to be the second game available that supported the platform. Suddenly this relatively unknown studio went from adding the finishing touches to its little-known PC title and its PS4 port, to taking centre stage at a worldwide console reveal. “There were a lot of late nights, but Sony’s tech support were really helpful. It was literally only a matter of days before the PS4 Pro event that everything managed to come together,” says Hensley.
After seeing Killing Floor 2 in action on the PS4 Pro however, it’s safe to say that Tripwire’s hard work has paid off. Playing the game on a huge 4K HDR TV, the difference between the base PS4 version and its Pro counterpart is like night and day.
What first struck me about playing on a PS4 Pro was how vibrant everything looked. At last month’s PlayStation Meeting, Sony certainly tried its best to explain the benefits HDR brings to gaming, but seeing it in person really is believing. Where the game’s dimly lit corridors oozed a grey haze on the base version, they burst with colour on the Pro. Different coloured lights reflect onto smoke, creating a sea of blues and reds around every corner, injecting an eerie and beautiful sense of contrast into the murky, gothic interiors of the catacomb map I played.
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HDR really breathes new life into Killing Floor 2’s maps, and it’s great to see a technology that can further highlight the tireless and beautiful design work that goes into video games. Still, while it’s a big part of the bump in fidelity, it’s not just HDR that’s making Killing Floor 2 look so stunning.
Taking advantage of the much faster GPU and additional memory available, Killing Floor 2 on PS4 Pro showcases high-res textures that you’d expect to find on a game running at Ultra level on a PC. While much has been made of PS4 Pro’s lack of native 4K resolution, the 4K upscaling on show looks noticeably better than the 1080p output that console gamers are used to, combining with extra anti-aliasing to create a razor-sharp picture.
Interestingly, it seems that the benefits of moving to PS4 Pro are more than just a large bump in visual fidelity. After sprinting through the map and blasting through a horde of unsuspecting undead, I also noticed that the game felt smoother to play too. With it averaging around 45 frames per second on the base PS4, the frame rate feels like a pretty consistent 60fps on the Pro.
Killing Floor’s gore system really shines on the Pro, too. Tripwire's unique M.E.A.T. (massive evisceration and trauma) system allows enemies to be mutilated in up to 22 different ways, leaving their blood permanently splattered across your surroundings. Killing Floor 2 on PS4 Pro is the most beautiful virtual bloodbath you’ve ever seen.
After expecting the PS4 Pro to do little more than bring games up to PC gaming standards, I found myself coming away incredibly impressed by what 4K upscaling and especially HDR can do for gaming.
Killing Floor 2's gameplay was a pleasant surprise too. Seeing the trailer at Sony’s conference, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another generic multiplayer zombie shooter – and after playing it last week, in many ways, that’s exactly what it is. Yet, what that footage can’t show you is how weighty, satisfying and just darn right its gunplay feels. In doing away with the 10-hour campaign and double-figure mode count, Tripwire has spent the past four years focusing on what really counts in a shooter – the shooting.
Every gun has been motion captured to get the perfect reload animations, and Tripwire has even gone as far as to motion capture every enemy's reaction to being hit. Each shot you fire makes the guns wiggle and strain. Every bullet that hits a zombie – or "Zed", as Killing Floor calls them – sees them fly backwards realistically, clutching at the wound. These small touches make you really appreciate the impact of each shot, making you feel like a bona fide badass.
Killing Floor 2 consists of two modes – one that's essentially Left 4 Dead, a six-player co-op survival mode that sees you facing off against hordes of the undead, and another which is a versus survival mode, seeing one team play the humans while the other embraces their inner Zed.
I only got to try the co-op survival mode and, while it's basic, the quality of the shooting made the game feel like a blast. After getting a certain number of headshots the game slows down to a satisfying super-slow-mo crawl. With your bullets flying all over the place and the Tripwire team taking the time to animate the gun’s reload animations at 360fps, the barrel flexes and shudders before your very eyes.
It’s fun and silly class-based action, but offers only two modes, so it’s difficult to tell whether Killing Floor 2 will have the staying power to justify the £30 price tag. Still, with a bullet-shaped hole where Left 4 Dead used to be, Killing Floor 2 could be the perfect replacement on the PS4. And if you’re looking for a beautiful, savage showcase for your brand-new PS4 Pro, this looks like it’ll be just what the horde ordered.