Killing Floor 2 is about cleaning up hordes of unruly test subjects with bullets, fire, swords, and anything else destructive enough to remove a mutant’s head, and doing it all with friends. It’s still hacking its way through Early Access, and since Tyler wrote about it in April, the team at Tripwire has continued working on the guns and gibs. Last week, I got to play Killing Floor 2’s next big update, which is coming to players in December and brings back an old friend: the Patriarch.
Killing Floor 1 fans will remember the Patriarch boss, who seems to have put on some weight and mutated a few more times since then, but is otherwise mostly unchanged. He’s a huge bullet-sponge: fast, powerful, and with a tendency to run away and heal just when you’ve almost got him.
“He will come at you in those first couple of minutes with his basic attacks,” Tripwire Interactive vice president Alan Wilson told PC Gamer. “Once he’s taken a bit of damage, so long as he can get away, he’ll disappear, stab himself with a healing syringe in a quiet corner, and cover his retreat by throwing a bunch of lower-level monsters at you. We want it to be a mix of [fighting and] ‘damn we’ve lost him’—because if you keep up with him and keep piling damage on, you can actually kill him there and then.”
To test out the Patriarch, I joined Tripwire and smashed through KF2’s two new maps: the Black Forest and the Farmhouse. The Black Forest is heavily wooded and crossed with running streams and creeks. Railroad tracks and a lonely mountain cabin break up the woodlands and create chokepoints for mutants to swarm through. As time goes by and the bodies pile up, the woods get darker and darker until flashlights are a necessity.
Along the way, I admired the gun animations and behaviors—heavy and believable, fun to spray at mutant heads, or carefully aim and steady—and the work Tripwire has done to iterate on KF1. “We’re doing a sequel to a well-beloved game, so we can’t depart from the core formula,” said Wilson. “Basically: mutant freaks; if you see anything that looks fucked up, shoot it, burn it, chop it to pieces; general mayhem; have fun, look cool while you’re doing it. Going KF1 to [Red Orchestra 2] to KF2, we’ve done a lot of work at the engine level with weapons, weapon feel, sound, all the rest of it.”
The update’s second map, Farmhouse, is straight out of every horror movie you’ve ever seen. I was a little disappointed to see the map’s similarity to the farm finale area in Left 4 Dead, but the genre cliches instantly set a familiarly creepy tone, and lend themselves to the design of a fun map—mutants come swarming out of the dense corn field, and the barn, hayloft, and farmhouse add vertical space. “If it’s an homage to anything, it’s an homage to every single creepy horror movie that ends up in an old farmhouse,” Wilson said. “The sort of place that everyone jokes, ‘when the man comes out with a chainsaw, you run away. Don’t go and hide in a small cupboard.’”
When the Patriarch finally lands at the end of a game, he’s a towering pile of flesh and circuitry. He absorbs a lot of damage, sure, but that’s par for the course with Killing Floor bosses. Patriarch is in many ways the same character from KF1, but he’s learned some new tricks. When he spots players hiding from his rocket launcher attacks, for example, he turns the launcher into a mortar and lobs rockets up and over players’ cover.
His invisibility power is back, too, but he uses it in more interesting ways. Rather than simply a tool for retreat, the Patriarch uses his invisibility to attack unpredictably. Now when players lose sight of Patriarch they can’t be completely sure: did he run away to heal, or is he about to pounce on them from behind?
More importantly, however players beat Patriarch will be a very different approach from how they attack Hans, the current final boss in Killing Floor 2. Any map will have a 50/50 chance of spawning Hans or the Patriarch, and that uncertainty is part of Tripwire’s strategy for giving players an ongoing tactical puzzle.
“It’s going to be interesting to see now, how players will form new teams,” Wilson said. “They’ve worked out how they like to handle Hans. Now they have to work out how to handle the Patriarch, but they also have the challenge that they don’t know which one is coming at them. If they gear up to fight Hans and the Patriarch comes at them, they could be up shit creek… How do you strategize for an end boss when you don’t know who it is?”