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Co-Optimized: Killing Floor

This week's Co-Optimized brings us to the horrific world of Killing Floor, where up to six players come together for the admirable goal of killing monsters for money. Helping humanity survive is a nice Perk too, but it's mostly about the shooting.


There's nothing like the thrill of competitive multiplayer, but sometimes it's better to kick back and play alongside your friends and family instead of against them. With Co-Optimized, we highlight and discuss games that are best played together.

With the Early Access release of Killing Floor 2 next week, it's only right that we shine a spotlight on the darkened corners of Killing Floor itself. This is a wave-based cooperative shooter where a team of up to six players fight to survive against incoming hordes of monsters. Although it's tempting to compare it to other cooperative horror games like Left 4 Dead, especially since there's a fat monster that pukes and explodes, it's actually quite different. Firstly, the monsters in the game (referred to as "Zeds") aren't zombies. Well, not exactly zombies, anyway. They're escaped bio-weapons made from genetically altered human clones. So, they're all generally humanoid, but with a few extra enhancements, like a sword or a chainsaw for an arm.

Zeds will come pouring in to a map, and it's up to the players to figure out ways to engage them. First they have to choose a Perk (aka a class) that provide weapon damage and/or action bonuses. Medics get a discount on body armor and provide better healing. Sharpshooters get a damage bonus for headshots, Commandos are great with automatic weapons and can see stealth creatures, and so on. There are seven different Perks, and players are free to switch among them between waves. Perks level up as you use them to kill specific monsters, upping your killing potential. The downside is that reaching the upper levels can be a serious grind, especially when you have to kill hundreds of a rare type of specimen.

You don't necessarily need to have one of each Perk to win a match, but variety is always welcome. For example, a Berserker (melee) can run in and grab attention while a Sharpshooter helps pick them off. A Medic helps heal while a Commando helps spot the stealth creatures. Or everyone can just run wild with Demolitions and blow everything up. There's no right way to do things as long as the killing gets done. The more monsters you kill, the more money you earn.

Although much of the game can be spent with six people pretty much doing their own thing, cooperation plays a key role in later waves, when the big creatures come out, and everyone needs to combine their firepower. There's also quite a bit of multitasking, as teammates work to quickly seal doors and guide the monster mob's path into traps like a kill zone or mines. Plus, generous players can give money to teammates in hopes that it will help them survive a bit longer. However, there is a slight competitive element to this cooperative game, since you can only buy armor and ammunition between waves, players have to race to pick up whatever is free on the level.

Players can only carry a limited amount of equipment due to weight restrictions. Different Perks can relax that restriction a bit, but the game isn't one where you can have everything all the time. Everyone has consider their Perks, how much money they have on hand, and whether or not they can survive one more wave using what they have, before buying a new weapon.

Depending on the difficulty, players can look forward to up to 10 waves of monsters that increase in both variety and number. Zeds range in difficulty, with the Fleshpound being among the most difficult to kill. It has grinders for hands and goes into a rage when it takes too much damage, which greatly ups its killing ability. All of this leads to a final confrontation with a boss monster called the Patriarch, which is armed with a large array of powerful weapons.

Although Killing Floor has been around since 2009, it has received a huge number of updates, which added equipment, new Perks, Perk Levels and an objective based game mode. Also, let's not forget about the annual events that occur every summer, Halloween, and winter. Even without the special events, there is a huge collection of official maps, and a great wealth of player made maps to try out. Last year, a total conversion mod called Toy Master released, designed with the help of KF originator Alex Quick. It turns all the monsters into warped toys that are out to kill you.

Killing Floor 2 hits Early Access next week and is expected to release in full later this year. Until then, why not gather up some friends (or strangers will do), jump into Killing Floor, and start popping some Zed heads?

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