More and more, games are being released that feel like stripped down versions of the final product, cut into pieces and released piecemeal as part of a season pass. Objections predictably arise when games like Star Wars Battlefront come with a $110 pricetag, and it seems like the days of a complete $60 AAA budget title are behind us. Many multiplayer shooters now are glorified $60 demos that bank on the season pass purchase to shore up profits from a player base that naturally declines over time. It’s a bullshit system, and one that I frankly have decided not to support any longer.
Given how much press and sales these larger exploitative titles get, it’s extremely important to recognize when a title does something right. With the release of the Rise of the Patriarch content pack later this month, Killing Floor 2 will have seen its second free major content update since its release in April. It’s coming just a few months after the previous Incinerate ‘N Detonate pack, and this time delivers a new boss as well as new maps and a Perk. Apparently, the people at Tripwire Interactive were fond of my last few treatments of their title (or at least fearful of my substantial wrath), and once again gave me the chance to preview their new toys. I’ve always enjoyed my time with the title in the past, and having the superiority complex of your typical PC gamer, I quickly snatched up the chance to experience something before the rest of the plebes.
On release, my only problem with the game was that there were only four Perks spread across six players, making for some awkward overlap. Incinerate ‘N Detonate addressed this by adding the hard hitting Demolitionist and crowd clearing Firebug. It still fell short of the seven Perk roster of the original Killing Floor, a discrepancy that has now been balanced out with Return of the Patriarch’s Gunslinger Perk. Though it bears similarities to the Sharpshooter Perk of KF1, the Gunslinger is the first KF2 Perk that isn’t a direct remake from their previous title. Aside from the shared ability to wield two pistols, the two perks fill completely different roles.
While the Sharpshooter was, well, a sharpshooter, the Gunslinger serves as a midrange specialist damage dealer. The Gunslinger’s entire loadout is pistols, all of which can be dual wielded. They start off with Dual 1858 Revolvers, a six shot old west pistol that packs more of a punch than most starting weapons. There’s a tradeoff to single vs dual wield, with the increased firepower of two guns generally outweighing the increased accuracy of a single iron sight pistol. If you buy the second pistol, you cannot go back to using it in one hand unless you sell one, so be ready when you upgrade your gear.
One of the things I liked most about the Perks introduced in Incinerate N’ Detonate was the differences in specialization. Killing Floor 2’s base Perks all serve a set role, with the Perk selection giving benefits towards providing that specific function. Berserkers could chose between hitting things harder and having more health, but at the end of the day were still just smacking things with hammers. Gunslingers are different, and have to seriously balance a tradeoff of power and speed. Picking between the devastating 500 Handcannon, midrange .50 Desert Eagle, and rapid fire M1911 Pistol is all the choice you might see starting off, but it quickly becomes more complex as you level up the Perk.
Generally, dual wielded pistols are a novelty. There’s only so much variety you can get when your entire arsenal is various iterations of one or two of a sidearm. The Gunslinger makes this decision more meaningful with its Skills, which make you choose between becoming a precision damage dealer or an endless hail of bullets. The first skill unlocked at level five makes you pick between moving faster while aiming down the sights and faster weapon switching with automatic switch when a clip runs out. Level ten has you pick between dealing a flat 20% more damage, and an increasing damage buff up to 75% for consecutive headshots. It continues like this up the ladder, until your final choice between 3x faster fire and unlimited ammo in Zed mode.
What this means for players is that they can effectively fill a number of roles. Precision means killing the big baddies, with the Handcannon tearing through even the Fleshpounder efficiently. Faster weapon swaps make up for the low clip size and long reload time of the more powerful revolvers, allowing you to either dish out maximum damage on one target or clear out more weaker Zed more effectively. Combined with the variety offered by the various pistols and their one vs two handed styles, it allows the Perk to be molded fluidly into the style of your choosing.
Getting into the minutia, there are some little things that make the Perk both more and less enjoyable. The ability to purchase each gun individually is nice, as the cost barrier for the game’s higher level weapons can often be prohibitive. Since each dual wielded version is just the cost of buying the single one twice, it eases you into the higher tier weapons better. It might not be initially apparent, but guns also sell as single units. This might sound like a bit of a nitpick, but it doesn’t immediately explain this to you, and a couple of times I messed up my inventory this way. Also, since ammo pickups provide you with only a single clip, they end up being practically worthless for Gunslingers. Each drop will only give you around six bullets for your revolvers, requiring you to carry one of each weapon to make hunting down ammo worthwhile.
For eight months, Hans Volter has been the single big baddie to overcome during the climactic finale of a Killing Floor 2 match. After a long wait, we finally have a new foe to overcome with the return of the Patriarch, KF1’s endgame nemesis. They have mercifully given him a makeover, as he previously looked like something out of a 14 year old’s “badass monster drawings” notebook. The new patriarch is a hulking beast, more reminiscent of Resident Evil’s Tyrant than Herbert West after a bad transporter accident.
Fans of the original will recognize a lot of his moves and playstyle. Preferring to keep at range, the Patriarch is more likely to bombard than bludgeon. While Volter used easy to avoid gas grenades to flush out foes, the Patriarch employs a much more direct missile barrage. It makes cover a temporary option, and movement crucial to avoid damage from his assault cannon fire. To shore up his melee weakness, he constantly spawns hordes of weaker enemies to clog up the frontline.
As in the original, he can become temporarily invisible to heal and move to a more advantageous position, making his fight feel much more like an aggressive hunt than Volter’s kiting match. While Volter’s ranged skills were much easier to dodge, the Patriarch’s melee grab is his weak move, providing the best time to deal damage and reposition. I only fought him as a Gunslinger and Berserker so far, but he feels less challenging than Volter. I’m sure his array of moves and endless hordes of spawned zombies scale into higher difficulties very well, but I won’t pretend to be able to speak to the effect of how it plays on Hell on Earth mode.
Return of the Patriarch also introduces new maps, Farmhouse and Black Forest. Farmhouse was my favorite of the two, offering a small manageable map with plenty of satisfying chokepoints. Black Forest is much more open, necessitating more area coverage and mobility to filter the hordes. While both are fine and functional, neither felt as unique as Incinerate ‘N Detonate’s twisting Catacombs. They certainly aren’t bad, but I doubt the title would feel incomplete without them.
Along with that, there’s a new character and hats, which I don’t care about. They also added in some kind of cosmetic shop at some point, which I also don’t care about.
When I first covered Killing Floor 2 back in June, people were critical of the slow content releases. With only two major updates in the eight months the game has been out, some might feel like there isn’t rapid enough return to invest their time. I find this notion troubling. Killing Floor 2 is a $30 Early Access game, that releases good and finished content as it is developed. This isn’t Evolve, rolling out the gate with an anemic roster 1/3 hidden behind a paywall. This isn’t Battlefront demanding $50 for the privilege of experiencing the rest of their game. This is a game that rightfully says, “hey there, we aren’t done, but check out what we have so far. This is all part of the full game, so it’ll all be introduced in the future free of cost. Because obviously, we want to sell a complete package, and of course you should give people a full game when it is done with all the content. What kind of terrible monsters would dream of doing anything else?”
When Incinerate N’ Detonate was introduced in September, I said it made the already enjoyable $30 package well worth it. Return of the Patriarch continues this trend. It’s great to see how far this title has come, with receptive patches and a genuine desire to deliver on promises. Each content pack has introduced not only just new stuff, but unique stuff that makes the game feel fresh and compelling. I look forward to what this title has to offer in months to come, though I already know what I’ll be saying about future updates. It’s already worth it, and will just become a better deal over time.