Beat zombies to death with their own limbs in Killing Floor's VR spinoff

I'm a man of simple pleasures—like cutting off a zombie's arm with an axe and then beating it to death with its own bloody appendage. Killing Floor: Incursion, a separate VR spinoff of the popular horde mode zombie shooters, is full of simple pleasures. The unique experience of shooting guns using Oculus Touch controllers is as exciting as it first was, but there's something pretty special about slicing a zed's head off with an axe and then batting it with that same axe into another shambling assailant. Incursion struggles with the same problems most room-space VR shooters contend with, but I left my demo at San Francisco's Game Developers Conference elated and sweaty—flailing an axe at virtual zombies will do that to you.

Incursion is a very different game from the first two. Gone are the wave-based hordes that slowly wear you down until that final terrible moment of death. Instead, Incursion feels like a much more distilled version of what makes Killing Floor great combined with some earnest choices that don't pan out nearly as well as the killing. Because, let's be honest here, killing is kind of what these games are all about. And in that regard, Killing Floor: Incursion has some good killing.

The demo started with me and my co-op partner in a room looking for "corrupted code" we had to shoot in order to open the door and press onward. By grabbing a flashlight attached to our chest, we could flip on a special blue light that would reveal the orange pustule of code that was otherwise hidden. To my disappointment, this Easter egg hunt would be repeated several times through the demo.

There are a lot of great things about Incursion, but the puzzles aren't one of them. I appreciated the way they broke up the action as my teammate and I navigated a series of twisting tunnels and crypts. But whether it was shining a light to shoot corrupted code concealed on the walls or ambling about looking for skulls that would open doors, these moments always felt like an unsatisfying detour from the combat.

After wrapping up one of these puzzles, warnings would blare in my headphones that enemies were approaching and I'd bristle with excitement over the upcoming bloodshed.

Incursion brings a level of fidelity to the undead encounters that made each fight a real joy. For one, I love the physicality of the guns at my disposal. Strapped to my virtual chest were two pistols that were the bread and butter of my arsenal while an axe and shotgun could be grabbed by reaching over each of my shoulders. As someone who spent an unwholesome amount of time playing 'soldier' with friends as a kid, it's a satisfying kind of fantasy to unholster two pistols, hold them sideways, and unload into a group of mutants. Retrieving my trusty axe and then sweeping it across bunch of zeds, sending each of their heads soaring through the air, is equally as wonderful.

Aiming with gun sights instead of on-screen crosshairs makes for more of a challenge, but after a while I was beginning to pop heads from meters away without much issue. At one point I had an axe in one hand and a severed sword-hand in the the other. While in reality I probably looked like I was losing it, inside of VR I felt like Geralt of goddamn Rivia.

Gruesome detail makes the violence extra thrilling. Dismemberments, exploding skulls, and gouts of blood were a common occurrence, and it's to Tripwire's credit that Killing Floor: Incursion is one of the best looking VR games I've seen.

Picking up a severed arm after a fight, I took a moment to turn it over with the Oculus Touch controls and examine every gory detail. Every object that I could interact with in the environment was governed by physics, including severed body parts. Picking up a skull and seeing its slacked jaw wobble as I turned it over was especially great. Even better, you can screw with your co-op partner by throwing the head at them during a quiet moment in the story.

Because the zombies rush to you, Incursion adeptly sidesteps one of the bigger problems with VR shooting games: moving. Using the common standard for room-scale VR movement, I'd point where you point to where I wanted to go and then snap to that spot almost immediately. It lacks precision and feels clumsy, but in combat I rarely had to use it as the best tactic was to back into a corner and blast away.

Sadly, the final boss encounter was frustrating primarily because it forced me to keep moving so often. A massive brute would rush in, and I'd have to quickly teleport away. But not only did I have to wrestle with how clunky the teleport movement can feel at times, but also that I couldn't see a damn thing if the monster got too close.

Even though Killing Floor: Incursion doesn't break through the barriers holding VR shooters back, it's still one of the most memorable VR games I've played recently. Cutting up and using zeds' own limbs against them is just too much fun. Killing Floor: Incursion won't be a long game, only four to six hours, Tripwire's John Gibson estimates. That's not very long but if it means beating zombies with their own limbs for a bit longer, I'll take it.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.