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Will The Descent Update Bring Players Back to Killing Floor 2?

As we’ve already reported, the goretastic co-op zombie FPS Killing Floor 2 saw a significant free update on both PS4 and PC on Tuesday. Content highlights include two maps plus associated achievements, two new weapons, and, perhaps of most interest, a new “sub-mode” called Holdout. But is The Descent update actually any good?

Well, the new guns are a lot of fun, though hardly game changers. We’ve got the Spitfire Revolvers for the Firebug (and also the gunslinger) and the Stoner 63A for the trigger-happy Commando.

The Spitfires are basically a reskin of the Flare Revolvers from the first Killing Floor. They’re a low-tier weapon that can be dual wielded, and spit out exploding rounds that set zeds alight. Magically, despite the model still showing six chambers, they can hold 12 rounds each with the “high capacity fuel tank” skill. And with their high rate of fire, quickish reload and good potential for staggering, they’re great for dealing with the trash at most ranges. They certainly feel more useful than the incendiary shotgun. That said, I can’t see the Spitfires doing much to increase the popularity of the Firebug perk on harder difficulties. Shame, because the Bug could really do with some love.

The Stoner, despite sounding like something devised by a drug addict (well, it was originally developed in the 1960s!), is actually a light machine gun featuring a huge magazine and ammo capacity. With the right perk configuration, we’re talking a massive 188 rounds from a pool of 600. This combined with its blazing fire rate, means it’s great for crowd control or mag dumping into the faces of the big boys. The downside is the spread, recoil, low damage, long reload time and no optical sight. It’s very gratifying to use, but it lacks punch and I still much prefer the precision and clout of the SCAR-H and AK-12 combo.

Will The Descent Update Bring Players Back to Killing Floor 2?

In terms of the maps, the community-made Nuked is brilliantly atmospheric. Circular in design, it centres around the bewilderingly-intact “Nation of Texas” embassy and the fallout shelter beneath it, in presumably what is supposed to be the smouldering ruins of Paris. It’s an apocalyptic urban setting populated by atomic-flattened buildings and burning debris, all shrouded in dense smoke and a ghostly orange glow.

Nuked is neatly divided into relatively open spaces above ground and narrow twisting corridors and choke points down below. It has nice old-school (i.e. Killing Floor 1) feel to it. But the real fun is outdoors where the occasional nuke goes off in the distance followed by a menacing mushroom cloud on the horizon. I guess someone somewhere is taking drastic measures in a last ditch attempt to contain Horzine’s endless swarm of deranged mutants. Obviously no one told our ragtag bunch of mercenaries, as none of them thought to bring radiation suits. Anyway, it’s a good stuff.

However, the more exciting map, at least in principal is The Descent. That’s because it’s the first one built for the new Holdout sub-mode. Essentially, Holdout is a minor variation of the standard Survival mode. Instead of a single large map, you now have to tackle sequential chambers. You still face 4, 7 or 10 waves and similar numbers of foes, but after clearing each wave you drop down a hole to the next level where you’ll have chance to head to the trader pod before the new round commences.

The key difference is you’re fighting the zeds in much tighter spaces, with virtually no scope for kiting or tactical retreats. It certainly offers a tougher challenge as you can get overrun very quickly and you can’t put off dealing with scrakes and fleshpounds like you can on normal maps.

Will The Descent Update Bring Players Back to Killing Floor 2?

The Descent starts off in a previously unseen courtyard within Volter’s Mansion. After completing the first wave you descend to an immense hidden complex underneath the original secret laboratory (does that make it super secret?). It’s a mishmash of labs, workshops, dungeons, libraries and industrial plants – all overgrown and gloomy adorned with spiral staircases, rusty walkways, giant meat grinders, vintage contraptions, toxic goo and molten steel, cages, spikes and mutilated bodies. Basically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Tripwire and it looks great.

It’s also fun to play and I like the idea of Holdout, but maps have to be built specifically for it, so it’s not something you can try out on the old ones. And in that sense, it’s a big disappointment. Also, I’m not sure randomising the order of the rooms adds anything to the experience or challenge. It’s probably a big ask and not going to happen, but I’d love to see procedurally-generated chambers instead.

Overall, it’s a descent update (geddit?), but not enough to keep you playing beyond getting the achievements for the new maps, which shouldn’t take veterans long. The hugely underwhelming and poorly-implemented Versus mode still desperately needs attention from the devs, and without fixing this or adding some interesting new game modes into the mix, it looks like the dwindling player base will continue to peak and trough with the intermittent release of new content packs.

Methinks Killing Floor 2 spent far too long in Early Access and now most people have already ranked up the perks and got all the achievements, leaving them little incentive to play. Hopefully some of the upcoming seasonal events will breathe life back into what is a joyously-insane yet polished tactical co-op shooter.