A blue flash out of the corner of my eye lets me know another zombie is right around the corner. The ammo counter on my wrist tells me I only have five rounds left, which puts me in at a serious disadvantage. Two rounds in the head of the monster right in front of me, two rounds in the spider creature at my feet, and sure enough that third zombie is fast on my heels. That's when I remembered I don't have to worry about ammo, I've got an axe in my back holster! I reach behind me as I turn to face my final opponent, and in one swing with a splash of blood the zombie has been relieved of his head.
Now, where is that hard drive I am supposed to be looking for?
Not your standard murder factory
The most important thing you need to know about Killing Floor: Incursion is how different from every other Killing Floor game this is. You are not playing a button mashing, jump-scare riddled bullet hell game here, at least in Single Player. That's because you're not sitting relaxed in a chair with a gamepad or mouse/keyboard at your fingertips. This is VR, and in for this particular review we were provided with a code for the Oculus Rift. That means there are a few different ways you can play this game. Out of the box, this game asks you if you're playing:
- Seated or Standing
- Forward-facing only (two sensors) or 360-degree (three sensors)
And these options make a huge difference in gameplay. Forward-facing only mode means you're supposed to use the joystick on the Rift controller to move left and right. In this game, the movement is happening in slight jumps instead of fluid motion. This matches the teleportation mechanic for foreward and backward movement, but will quickly feel limited when you try to rotate your body when it feels naturally to do so. This limitation doesn't exist in the 360-degree mode obviously, and the difference it makes in gameplay is incredible.
Not feeling exactly like a standard Killing Floor game in this situation is the best possible thing that could have happened to Incursion.
You don't need to use buttons for switching weapons, because you've got actual hands! You can reach for your holsters to grab your pistols, reach behind your back to grab your larger weapons, and reach for your pouches when you need grenades. You can look down to see everything on your body, but with one exception it doesn't take long for the placement to become muscle memory. That exception is the flashlight, which sits just left of center right next to the left pistol. The flashlight is hugely important to the game, but it is occasionally in the way when you're frantically reaching for your weapon.
Being able to reach out with your hands adds fleeting moments of realism to this experience. You actually reach up to pull the pin on your grenade before throwing it. The sniper rifle requires you to retract the bolt as you reload. Pistol whipping an enemy when you realize you're out of ammo, it all comes together to feel very natural. Unfortunately, it doesn't always go far enough and that can pull you out of the illusion instantly. The sniper rifle doesn't have a matching vibration to let you know it hit the back of the rifle, for example, which is a relatively simple thing that would have completed that experience.
Not feeling exactly like a standard Killing Floor game in this situation is the best possible thing that could have happened to Incursion. You can still be quickly overwhelmed by opponents and the game is terrifying in all the right places, but it's clear a lot of energy was put into customizing that experience for VR.
Trust no one, and pick up both axes
The story for Incursion is fairly straightforward. You are a soldier whose brain has been connected to a virtual world where you must save the life support systems of a computer system being attacked by a nasty virus. Each subsystem in this computer you've been connected to is represented by different environments, and you have to solve puzzles to save those systems while fighting wave after wave of everyone's favorite grotesque Zed army. Overall the story is about six hours of gameplay, with a contained story that does a good job making you question which of the other characters you interact with really should be trusted at all.
A big part of what makes this story work so well is the way you interact with the world around you. You never see another humanoid form that isn't a Zed until the very end, because everything communicates with you either through your floating robot companion or through these strange blackout-style visions. The floating robot lets you continue moving around the world, killing or exploring at your leisure. The visions overwhelm your senses and force you to pay attention. Each are balanced throughout the game, and create a welcomed theme by the end for making important decisions.
This game is a gloriously violent adventure that demands you stick around until the end. And you will.
At its core, Killing Floor isn't really about plot or puzzles. It's about spreading buckets of blood over every inch of the map until you're eventually overwhelmed by the horde and ripped to shreds. In this, I'm not sure I'd say Incursion succeeds most of the time. Enemies through most of the story tend to spawn between one and three enemies at a time, save for the boss fights. Throughout most of this game, it didn't really feel necessary to keep checking on my ammo count or make extra sure I had a grenade handy for when things got rough. Some of this is because playing in VR makes scoring head shots with the pistols super easy if you know how, but also because someone saw fit to give me two axes to swing at enemies.
Here's the thing about VR right now — there's nothing stopping my from swinging my arm from left to right no matter what is happening in the game. In a proper game, swinging an axe only hits one enemy, and then I have to swing again. In VR, you can wave your arm from left to right and hit all five of the Zeds in front of you, which is kind of an unfair advantage. Once you get to the halfway point in the game, it becomes possible to wield two axes if you so choose. This is downright cheating in VR, because you can decapitate just about everything the game throws at you before it has a chance to hit you. It's also visually satisfying in ways that make me question an extra trip to the therapist this month, but that's another matter.
The point is, don't expect the story to be quite as murderously difficult as other Killing Floor games. That gets saved for the Co-Op mode, where the enemies are ramped up and you have to make sure your cohort hasn't gone and gotten themselves killed.
Exactly what it needed to be
Overall, Killing Floor: Incursion exceeded my expectations. It's a gloriously violent adventure that demands you stick around until the end. The story mode featured more plot and character reveal than I usually get with a zombie shooter, and the story happens in such an isolated fashion that playing through it adds just enough to the overall Killing Floor story to justify its existence. The gameplay is great when playing with two Oculus Rift sensors, but truly shines when you have three set up. My only real complaint with the teleportation mechanic used in this game was the two times I accidentally teleported into a wall and had to restart the game. That shouldn't be a thing.
If you're a fan of Killing Floor as a franchise and have a friend willing to play Co-Op with you, Incursion is without a doubt worth the $40. If you're only in it for the solo campaign, you may want to wait until it's on sale.
- Terrifying in all the right place
- Quality story
- Intuitive controls
- Teleport mechanic isn't fully baked
- Not quite as immersive as it could be
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