On July 5th, Tripwire Interactive kicked off the second annual Summer Sideshow event for Killing Floor, their popular zombie co-op shooter. This update features a new map, new weapons (sort of), new achievements, and a return of the unique "circus sideshow freak" skins for each type of specimen. As cool as it is for TWI to put on these themed events and to continue releasing free updates for a three-year old game, this one just doesn't seem as cool as previous ones have been, and certain gameplay changes have imbalanced the game significantly. Continue reading for my opinionated review of the 2012 Summer Sideshow Event.
The new map -- Hellride
The new map, Hellride, is a "tunnel of love"-style ride for the Abusement Park freak circus, with guided cars taking riders through scenes of Heaven and Hell. It begins at the pearly gates of Heaven, depicting images of angels, clouds, and doves, with words like "love" projected onto the walls. Then it goes through a twisty tunnel into a star-filled room with severed body parts littering the ground, before descending into hell, where you're treated to images of demons, bats, and lots and lots of fire. The car doesn't actually ride the tracks, though it would've been pretty cool to have a map play out a bit like a rail shooter.
I like the idea behind this, because it's thematically tied to last summer's Summer Sideshow event -- you can even see the entrance to Hellride while playing the Abusement Park map. But on the whole, I find this map a little boring to play. The main part of the level -- the ride itself -- is a little simple and drab when you really think about it. If they wanted to depict Heaven and Hell, there's a lot more vivid imagery and scenery they could've come up with, but instead it's just random angels and demons that are just kind of there. I can't imagine this being a particularly exciting or interesting attraction to actually ride.
Besides the ride areas, you can also go into the backstage hallways, which are especially boring because they're basically just generic, claustrophobic hallways. And because the specimen spawn points are absolutely crazy in this level (I think every single spawn point is a vent in the ceiling that has stuff just falling right on top of you -- sometimes in places where there aren't even vents), you pretty much have to camp those boring hallways, because the main ride area is just too chaotic. Compared to last summer's Abusement Park, which featured a ton of unique environments with a really cool concept, Hellride is just kind of mediocre.
The new weapons
With this summer update, TWI made some tweaks to the popular IJC weapon pack and made all of the weapons official. The IJC people have put a lot of great work into developing that weapon pack, and I imagine it's a great honor for their weapons to now be an official part of the game. But in the process of making the weapons official, TWI made most of them even more imbalanced than they were previously, which will undoubtedly make the game a lot easier, even in the hardest difficulties. In general, I like all of the new IJC weapons a lot more than I like TWI's previous weapon expansion, but they really do need some better balancing.
This is the one weapon that I think TWI balanced properly, because it was really over-powered in the regular IJC pack. It used to be able to one-shot crawlers with a bodyshot, off-perk, had a fast reload speed, and practically zero recoil. Its damage has been reduced so it no longer one-shots crawlers, and has a slower reload speed with a little more recoil. They also dropped its weight from 3kg to 2kg, making it a pretty solid sidearm for any perk with a few extra weight slots to fill.
The M99 AMR
The M99 was ridiculously powerful in the default IJC pack, but now it's just absurd. In a six-man Hell on Earth match, it can one-shot scrakes and two-shot fleshpounds, and it now has an insanely fast rate of fire, giving sharpshooters plenty of room for error. Used to be that it fired really slowly, balancing the super high damage values a little, because if you missed your shot you could be really screwed. I might be happy with this one if they just made the reload a bit slower.
The FN FAL ACOG
The FAL is basically superior to the SCAR in every way -- it does the exact same damage per shot, with the same magazine size, but with a faster rate of fire, less recoil, and a better scope. This makes sense, considering it costs more than the SCAR, but it's a little much for a commando to be able to carry both a FAL and a SCAR, while still having 3kg of extra weight capacity to carry an MK23 or some other light-weight sidearm. I like using the FAL a lot, though.
People already use the acronym HSG for the Hunting Shotgun, so calling the former KSG an HSG with a suffixed numeration is bound to cause some confusion eventually. Besides that, the HSG-1 seems to outshine the default Shotgun in nearly every way. It does a little less total damage per shot, but it still kills every specimen short of FPs and Scrakes in the same amount of shots as the regular Shotgun, while boasting a 50% larger magazine, shooting five extra pellets, letting you control the spread of the pellets, weighing 2kg less (allowing you to pack an MK23 in addition), and having a faster reload time from empty to full. Granted, it costs about three times as much as the regular Shotgun, but 300-some dosh is still extremely cheap. I like this gun a lot, but it almost seems too good to be true.
I never used the M7A3 much back with the IJC mutator, so I'm not sure if anything was changed significantly. Regardless, it's a fairly solid weapon for medics, dealing enough damage per shot to actually be useful for killing trash mobs effectively, and the display for the magazine and dart recharge is pretty cool. Combined with the MP7M, the MP5M, and the MK23, medics can now have three healing guns for a constant stream of darts and a crap-ton of ammo for clearing out trash. Still, in some cases it might ultimately be better to skip the M7A3 and instead take a Lever-Action Rifle.
Other gameplay tweaks
Besides the five new weapons, the update also brought a small number of gameplay tweaks. Most notably, the Sharpshooter's bonus to reloading speed now applies to the Crossbow, which makes it fire insanely fast -- about a bolt per second. This buff to the crossbow, combined with the M99 and the MK23, makes the Sharpshooter the over-powered perk of choice again. It almost makes the demolitions perk redundant and inferior, when sharpshooters can put down big targets even faster than before, and without creating a cloud of smoke for teammates.
After many, many months, TWI also finally corrected the weight of the 44 revolver, which always displayed a weight of 2kg, but used up 4kg of capacity once you actually purchased it. This is a great blessing, because it's finally a useful weapon again. However, it's a little ridiculous how much firepower a Sharpshooter has carrying a Crossbow, an MK23, and a 44 revolver. If you're packing an uber fast-firing crossbow, I'm not sure you should be able to carry two strong pistols, also.
Tripwire have also put a stop to the infamous "chainsaw tactic" for the patriarch. Used to be that players could also switch to berserker, buy chainsaws, and just surround the patriarch, using collision to prevent him from escaping to heal and just pounding him into submission in a matter of seconds. Now, when people get in close, the patriarch does a strong AOE attack that can kill an entire team of berserkers in just a few seconds. As nice as this is, because it means patriarch fights will actually require some coordination and effort now, I always thought the chainsaw rally was a viable tactic.
Though, to be honest, it did get a little boring once everyone started doing it all the time, simply to guarantee getting the map achievement. And if the idea was to remove the "cheap" tactic for killing the patriarch, then TWI introduced another almost equally cheap tactic with the M99s, because a group of M99 sharpshooters can down the patriarch almost as fast and as easily as the chainsaws could.
It was still totally possible to fail with the chainsaw rally, though.
Other than that, the circus specimen skins are a little annoying due to wonky hitboxes making it harder to headshot certain specimen. Husks, in particular, are a pain to shoot at any range, and sometimes end up taking me as many as five bolts to kill one on the other side of Mountain Pass. It's nice to have a bit of variety, though, just for a change of pace, but I'll be glad when they're gone and we can go back to slightly more regular hitboxes.
In general, I don't find this Summer Sideshow event as unique or interesting as last year's, since it's basically just a rehash of last summer's event to give players a chance to get the limited time achievements again. Having already been there for the first one, and being an end-game player who's accomplished basically everything there is to accomplish in the game, it's just not a particularly exciting event for me. Some of the new weapons are fun to use, but they've definitely made the game easier and could use some more tweaking, and the Hellride map isn't nearly as cool as it potentially could've been. I'm already kind of bored with it, and I don't imagine I'll ever have a particular desire to play it.