Monday, December 17, 2012

Killing Floor Twisted Christmas 2012

Christmas is just around corner, which means there's another "Twisted Christmas" event for Killing Floor. The folks at Tripwire Interactive have been holding these Twisted Christmas events annually ever since 2010, and it's always fun to get free content updates for one of your favorite multiplayer games. This year's event features a return of the usual Christmas-themed specimen skins, the chance to get all of the old Twisted Christmas achievements and character skins, a new map, three new weapons, and two paid DLC skin packs. 

The gimmick this year is that, after besting Evil Santa in his own lair, and then a year later in his ice cave, Evil Santa has set up a new base of operations on the moon. You follow him all the way to his moon base to fight Christmas specimen in low-gravity. The update itself is pretty good, but honestly, it's beginning to feel like Killing Floor has jumped the shark. I've been feeling less and less excitement about Killing Floor events lately as each one continues to add controversial, game-changing content and marketing policies. My full run-down awaits after the jump.

The New Map

The new map is called "Moon Base" and actually isn't very Christmas-y, save for a couple of Christmas trees scattered around the map and a handful of snowmen desk figurines. So, in terms of being a Twisted Christmas map, it's kind of lame, but that doesn't really matter much since the map itself is pretty cool. It's an original idea (at least, for a TWI stock map) that looks fantastic and has a fun design. I don't know how I feel about the low-gravity effects of the map, since in some regards it makes the game easier (crawlers jump kind of lethargically now and are less of a threat) but also makes the game harder (crawlers float all over the place and trip you up a bit easier), but the low gravity is really fun with shotguns, since the recoil can send you flying all the way across the room.

The New Weapons

The Schneidzekk Medic Gun

The Schneidzekk Medic Gun is basically just like every other medic gun in the game already. It boasts a higher rate-of-fire and supposedly a higher damage-per-shot, but actually seems to do less damage than the M7A3. It only weighs 3kg, has a fast dart recharge rate (like the MP5), but costs a hefty £1300 at rank 6. Overall, kind of meh.

The Dwarfs!? Axe

The Dwarfs!? Axe is a new melee weapon for the berserker, acquired either by accumulating 40k total gold in the free-to-play version of Tripwire's Dwarfs!? game (getting the "Not a Warhammer" achievement), or by buying Dwarfs!? for $9.99. Getting this weapon is really gimmicky and the cross-over kind of annoys me, but I'm not terribly impressed with the weapon either. Its biggest advantage is that primary-fire attacks knock enemies back, but I just don't find it that fun to use, not to mention its slow attack speed.

The Zed Eradication Device, aka the ZED

To get this gun, you have to find all 16 pieces of it scattered across the Moon Base map. Once you get the achievement, you have permanent access to buy the ZED in any match on any map for £2000. It fires plasma shots, has a radar device that shows specimen positions, and it has an alt-fire that slows specimens and debuffs their damage resistance.

When the ZED was first announced on the Twisted Christmas 2012 page, people were quick to worry about it being over-powered, but it's actually not too bad. The primary fire does pathetic damage in a 6-man HOE match, hardly sufficient to be used as a weapon. The alt-fire is a nice option for medics and possibly for commandos or support specialists, and the radar is really only useful for calling out priority targets like scrakes, fleshpounds, or sirens before you get a visual on them.

The New DLC Packs

After releasing the very controversial community weapons pack as paid-for DLC, which introduced four completely new weapons to the game, two of which were completely unique weapon types that had no free counterparts, TWI received a lot of criticism from dedicated fans, because it went against TWI's original promises to only release cosmetic DLCs. This time, TWI have released the entirely cosmetic Golden Weapons Pack, which is just a $7.99 reskin of the AK47, M79, Combat Shotgun, and the Katana.

While I appreciate that they're not charging for gameplay-altering content, the weapon skins are still kind of annoying to me. Golden weapons are kind of cliche at this point, what with numerous recent games featuring golden weapons, but it's especially annoying that, if you don't own the DLC pack, the weapons are still listed in the trader menu every time you go to buy guns. You have to scroll past useless, greyed-out "DLC" tabs every time. So if you don't own the Community Weapons DLC pack, either, then you've got eight useless slots wasting valuable space in the trader window, and you can bet your ass TWI will be releasing more of these in the future, meaning the trade window is going to become even more cluttered.

At this point, TWI really need to do something with the trader window. Currently, every single weapon is displayed in a single, long list loosely organized by perk. But KF is a game where you sometimes don't have enough time to buy everything you need, and sometimes miss out on a valuable purchase by mere seconds -- with the dozens of weapons that have been added since the game's release and all these new DLC weapon packs, it's just a bit of a hassle to navigate the trader window and could use some better organization. It would be nice if the DLC weapons weren't in the trader window if you didn't own them.

The Zed Eradication Device (ZED): alt-fire in action

The other DLC pack is yet another "premium" character pack, a $4.99 pack containing only a single character skin, that of the robot D.A.R. I used to buy all of the character packs, because they used to be $1.99 for four different characters, but ever since TWI switched to charging $4.99 for a single character I kind of lost interest. I already have enough different character skins, and all of these premium DLC packs are starting to feel like a shameless cash grab to me.

Other gameplay changes

The only other significant change I've noticed is the rather silly tweaks TWI have made to the berserker perk. One the one hand, they've tried to nerf the zerker by massively inflating the cost of his weapons (the axe used to cost £150 at base value, now it costs £1000), but on the other hand they've added the area-of-effect arc (which used to be unique to the scythe and claymore) to every melee weapon (including the piddly little machete) which makes all of the zerker weapons essentially the same with very minor statistical differences and greatly different costs.

A room in the new Moon Base map.

I don't even understand their motivation with raising the cost of the machete. At one point they nerfed the knife to make the machete a more appealing option for players, but people still never used it. Now that it costs five times as much, people are gonna be even less likely to use it. Either way, while it makes sense to raise the cost of weapons for the berserker since they don't have to buy ammunition and usually have a large excess of cash anyway, it's kind of bullshit how expensive the weapons are to buy off-perk.

For instance, when I play support specialist I always like to carry an axe for stunning scrakes and conserving ammo against incidental trash. It was great because it cost £150 and could easily be replaced if I died and lost it. Now it costs me £1000, almost as much as it costs me to buy an AA12, but since I never buy an AA12, buying an axe is literally the most expensive weapon for my loadout. I also like to use the katana when playing medic or commando, but that now costs an outrageous £2000. If you ask me, they should have left the prices the same (or at least, made them no more than 50% more expensive) so that players could still buy the weapons off-perk at somewhat reasonable prices, and just reduce the discount berserkers get so they still have to pay more than they were originally.

Killing Floor Twisted Christmas Specimen (Zed) Skins

This is just further evidence of how ineptly TWI have been handling the balance in Killing Floor. When everyone was complaining that the M99 was ridiculously OP, they raised the cost of ammunition to an outrageous level to the point that they basically rendered the entire weapon useless and obsolete, rather than balancing it properly. When everyone was complaining that the Buzzsaw Bow was ridiculously OP, they raised the cost of ammunition. Now they're just raising the price of all zerker weapons instead of making proper nuanced tweaks to the perk's performance.

In Conclusion

With all of these changes TWI have made to Killing Floor in the past six months, it's ceasing to be the game I know and love and becoming something else entirely. It's losing its tight cohesiveness in favor of excessive feature creep, simply adding more and more shit to the game without thinking it through properly and asking if it really belongs. I mean, there used to be a certain degree of realism to the weapons, with all the weapons being based on real-life counterparts -- and now we have a medieval fantasy dwarven axe and a plasma-casting space gun.

Besides that, TWI are demonstrating that they're getting incredibly lazy with their technique for balancing the game, not doing the game the proper service it deserves. Their business model for KF is progressively turning it into a nickel-and-dime free-to-play style game despite that it already costs $20 to buy. Among all of their products, KF has consistently been their most popular and biggest source of income, so it seems like while they're working on other major projects (such as the massive expansion for Red Orchestra 2, Rising Storm) they're just using KF as a cash cow instead of properly focusing on it.

Granted, you don't have to buy any of the recent absurd DLC to enjoy the game, but it's kind of annoying that they shove the DLC in your face constantly in-game, from the main menu advertisements to the greyed-out trader window listings. Even the free content updates have changed the game significantly, making it far less exciting to play and leaving me worried every time they announce a new update. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that they completely removed the whitelist, a decision that has simply done more damage than anything else. Whereas other events brought me back for dozens of extra hours, this year's Twisted Christmas event called me back for just 2.5 hours before I got bored or annoyed by everything.

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