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Archive for July 20th, 2009

Voodoo Farming #6 (07/16/09): It’s Not What You Think

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Welcome to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture. Remember that you can e-mail me questions, ideas, etc. at ihmhi6@gmail.com or you can leave comments. They might just show up in the “Reader Mail” section that I’m including in every issue.

Last week, I mentioned that I would be reviewing a zombie game that I have been playing a lot lately, and asked people to venture guesses.

Leon Says:
July 9th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Zombie game on a PC? Gotta be L4D. If you’re doing solo play and want a challenge, up the max zombie spawns to 300, set it for permanent panic event and then trigger it. Now that’s a zombie rush.

Captcha: speeds peated – what I did the first time I saw a tank in L4D

Nope, not L4D. I do own it and I will be reviewing it in the future for its sheer popularity, but I actually haven’t played it all that much since I’ve been through the game. I’m not terribly fond of it, especially because the Campaign mode has a severe lack of “pick up and play it for 10 minutes before work”. As the difficulty goes up, the length of the campaigns goes into the hours mark.

ThandraK Says:
July 13th, 2009 at 11:31 am

I’m going to guess that it is not L4D, but rather a cheery little thing involving Plants.

(decay National. Well, that fits.)

I’m actually interested in buying Plants Vs. Zombies and checking it out. I’ve reached the point in my research where I’m actively buying zombie games that I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased as readily. (Hence why I own Left4Dead and the game I’m reviewing today.)

Those two guesses, while admirable, were wrong, because the game that I was talking about and that I’ll be reviewing today is Killing Floor.

Doubles as a possible advertisement for the South Beach Diet.

Killing Floor is a game very much in the spirit of The House of the Dead. I was a serious fan of those games (along with Time Crisis). When THOTD 3 came out and I couldn’t dual wield the guns (pump-action shotguns), I was truly dismayed at actually having to… ugh, cooperate with someone else. Dammit, I tried though. I got pretty decent at pumping the shotguns on my legs or the arcade cabinet, but eventually the pressure got too high and I couldn’t survive.

I am not a huge fan of co-op games, at least with people I don’t know. The games that have “working together” as a major component are the easiest to grief. You don’t see very much of it in an arcade because if someone kept purposefully shooting the survivors in THOTD I would pistol whip them with the little plastic light gun or strangle them with the cord.

Online, however – safe behind the anonymity of the Internet – people are free to act like jerks. That’s why I typically only play co-op games with people I know, because one person acting like a jackass can ruin the game. KF is no different.

Threat Level:

Killing Floor bears the distinct honor of being the first game on VF to get a 5/5 Threat Level, and damn it all if it doesn’t earn it.

Left4Dead has four player co-op. KF has six-player co-op. I am definitely one of those “more is better” kind of people, so naturally this game appealed to me a bit more than L4D.

You fight waves of monsters (referred to as “specimens” – more about that below). In-between rounds, you visit a trader who sells you weapons. This game definitely has the “Kill Stuff > Buy Guns > Kill More Stuff > Buy Better Guns” Counter-Strike element. Speaking of guns…


Hoo boy, well, the easiest way to do this is to show you the weapons in the game:

This must be what Wal-Mart is like in Texas.

There is a wide variety of weapons available to you (CHAINSAW FUCK YEAH), ranging from a machete to a rocket launcher.

KF has “Perks”, which is their fancy name for Classes. There are six classes: Field Medic (armor, speed, and healing bonuses), Commando (Bullpup, reload speed bonuses, can see life bars on enemies), Support Specialist (shotgun bonuses, can carry more stuff in general, better grenades and more of them as well), Sharpshooter (pistol/rifle bonuses), Berserker (melee bonuses, damage resistance), and Firebug (it’s all about fire – fire hurts you less and hurts enemies more, simple as that).

Each of the Perks has weapons that fit with them, and most players are going to develop a favorite. As you meet certain requirements with Perks (x number of damage, x number of enemies killed, x number of headshots, etc.), you level up those Perks for greater bonuses. A Bullpup in the hands of a Level 5 Commando is way more effective than one in the hands of a Level 3 Field Medic.

For new players, I definitely recommend with going for the Support Class. Your grenades do more damage (and grenades are your basic “panic button”), you can carry more stuff (more ammo, and you can try out multiple different weapons to see what works for you), and it’s damn hard to miss with shotguns. You’ll see a lot of people playing Support in Normal difficulty.

As you get to Hard difficulty, you’re going to see a lot more Medics and Sharpshooters. You can literally die in two seconds, so the more enemies you can take down the better. A good lot of players that get up to that difficulty play Field Medic because they don’t have to rely on their teammates as much – you can heal yourself, and the healing mechanic is a rechargeable syringe.

Suicidal difficulty… I haven’t touched it. I’m not high enough level or skilled enough. Having multiple Perks in a Suicidal game will greatly increase your chances of actually winning, because at this point you’re going to need people to fill out their roles – Berserkers stand in front of the big enemies and soak up damage, Field Medics keep everyone going, Supports do a shitload of damage, etc. Having a lot of people of the same Perk will work against you because they all have their weak points. In Suicidal, those weak points will get your team killed. Period.

As a general guideline, you should be Level 2 in a perk before you start playing Normal, Level 4 before you start playing Hard, and Level 5 before you start playing Suicidal. The enemies might seem pretty easy in the early waves, and while the later waves might still be suicidal, The Patriarch (the ultimate boss of every round) is very unforgiving.

Cause of the Outbreak:

There’s none really given. A biotech firm was doing some stuff with blah blah virus blah blah mad scientist (The Patriarch) blah blah Britain’s fucked up with Zombies. It’s like a mishmash of Resident Evil and 28 Days Later, but the zombi- er, specimens are definitely slower.



Lemme give you a rundown of some of the baddies. KF has a greater variety of enemies than L4D, and they all feel very fleshed out.

Hey fatty fatty fatty fatty.

On the right, your standard Clots. WoW players would colorfully refer to these as “trash mobs”. Almost never a threat, but they come in huge numbers. On the left, a Bloat. If you’ve played Left4Dead, this is the boomer. He hits you with screen-obstructing bile that does damage over time. It doesn’t attract the enemies towards you, though, because the enemies are always heading towards your team at all times. This is definitely more of a “zombies come to you” game.

That is the cheesiest Halloween costume ever. Wait, is that a real chainsaw?

Jumping up in the air at me is a Crawler. Crawlers go low to the ground and tend to hop around. Most of the more intelligently-designed maps have vents or roofs where they will be jumping down on you from above. If they surround you, well… Starcraft players know what happens when a swarm of Zerglings surrounds a larger unit like a Dragoon or a Siege Tank.

Dead in the center is a Stalker. Stalkers can go invisible and only appear when they hit you. You will be very familiar with being surrounded with these… ladies? and frantically trying to shoot them as they rip out your guts.

And the big dude with a Chainsaw? That’s a Scrake. I don’t know where the name comes from. I’ve seen players refer to them as “ScRAPEs”. They are the third-toughest enemies in the game, as they can soak up a fair bit of damage. Once they rage out and rush you, they do not let up until one of you is dead.

Not pictured: Gorefasts (red, faster clots with swords for arms) and Sirens (Area of Effect damage that penetrates armor). I’m not gonna spend all day taking screenshots people. d:

You won’t understand the fear until you’ve played the game.

This is a Flesh Pound. The name and picture alone should let you know how irrevocably fucked you are when you come up against one of these.

When Flesh Pounds take damage, they rage out:

Oh shi-

This is where you should start unloading your gun into him.

Hug? (I have the feeling that this is going to be a recurring joke on VF…)

This is where you are screwed.

Flesh Pounds are like amped-up Scrakes. They can and have wiped out entire experienced teams just because they could not take it down fast enough.

The tried-and-true strategy for taking it out is to throw a ton of your grenades at it until it is dead. If this fails, the gunfire will take it out. Inexperienced players, however, will die many times at the, er, hands of this foe. Hell, even experienced players get trashed by a Flesh Pound now and again.

These guys aren’t really the stars of the show, though. That would be The Patriarch, and we’ll be covering him in a sec.

Odds of Survival: Low-Medium

Whether you ultimately live or die depends on three things – your skill, your Perks, and your teamwork. This becomes more and more evident as you go higher up in the difficulty levels. The enemies aren’t all that bad – it’s The Patriarch that does your poorly organized, underleveled team in at the end.

The Devilish Details:

“One in the pipe!” means a rocket is coming your way. “This is the end of you!” means he’s going to shred you with the minigun.

The Patriarch is the mad-scientist-turned-zombie-overlord that is ultimately going to fuck you up after 4, 7, or 10 waves of enemies (depending on the game length). He considers the specimens his children, and you’ve just taken down about 2,000 of them. (Yes, over 10 waves you can face around that many enemies.)

The Patriarch has three main attacks. His rocket launcher will drop a fully-armored, full-health player down to “walking corpse” with one direct hit. Glancing hits will still do a lot of damage. His minigun will absolutely fuck you up at 10 meters or closer, and do pittance damage at range.

The worst thing he can do, though, is his melee. When he hits you with melee, it will do a good chunk of damage and knock you back. After that, he’ll typically finish you off with the minigun. If you don’t have cover that you can get behind in under 1 second, you are dead. Throw all your grenades and do as much damage as you can before you die, because you will and you may as well help out your teammates.

Aside from those nasty bits, well… see the syringe on his right leg? He can heal back up to full health up to 3 times. There is actually an achievement (“Straight Rush”) for killing him before he has a chance to heal. I’ve done it once by stunning him with a shotgun and dropping 5 grenades on him. Oh, and he cloaks, too. When he needs to heal, he’ll cloak, run to a corner to inject himself, and summon some trash to back him up. He’ll also cloak (and increase his speed, too!) to run down one of your mates.

When he does run off to heal, Firebugs (who can light him on fire) and Commandos (who can see cloaked enemies at a certain distance) can help track him down. As soon as he appears, if you hit him hard he’ll kneel down. This is your chance to kill him before he even has a chance to heal. If you mess up, then he’ll cloak and try again. The strange combination of a Commando with a flamethrower does a decent job of tracking him down while he’s cloaked.

I knight thee… Sir Fugly Uglybutts.

As I said before, when he takes a lot of damage, The Patriarch kneels down and is vulnerable. This doesn’t necessarily signal that he’s running off to heal, but this does signal HIT HIM WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT.

Lower-level and new players will rely on the LAW (rocket launcher) to do the majority of damage to him, but as you get into the higher levels of perks (3+) you can do way more damage with your Perk’s respective weapons.

After you take him down, you’re treated to a slow-motion death scene that would fit right into an episode of Faces of Death:





Fuckin’ A. Screw Tanks in L4D – the first time you take down The Patriarch on Normal… nothing feels that awesome.

Wrapping It Up:

When I’m presented with a goal (collect trophies, level up characters, etc.) my OCD kicks in and I try to go all the way to a perfect game. GTA: San Andreas? I played Vigilante Missions for 3 hours in the Hunter (Apache Helicopter) to try to get my money to $999999etc., only to see the game add an extra digit. RPGs? I grind and try to go to Level 99, just because I can.

KF has that one “levelling stuff up” element that offers a modicum of replayability that, in my eyes, L4D just doesn’t have. The fact that the SDK has been out since the game’s launch (I believe) also means that there are a ton of great user maps out there, so it’s hard for the game to feel stale. The six Perks means that you can play the game basically six different ways.

KF is not without it’s downsides, though. The one guy who does all the male voice acting gets a little tiring after a while. (“Cover me, I’m reloading!” “I hate creepy-crawly things”, etc.) The Trader’s voiceovers are filled with so much sexual innuendo that The Todd would have a six hour erection just hearing one of them. (“Come get some big guns”, “I want you close to me, babe”, etc.)

A lot of maps have dark areas, and the only weapons with flashlights are the 9mm pistol (which everyone always has on them) and the shotgun. Granted, the Firebug makes his own light in a way, but the Sharpshooter, Berserker, Field Medic, and Commando are screwed for light unless they make use of either the 9mm or shotgun.

All in all, though, this game is really good, and at what Tripwire Interactive calls a “recession friendly price of $20”, it is worth absolutely every penny.

Lastly, a shameless plug. My gaming clan [AE] / AssEater is starting up a Killing Floor division and we are currently recruiting. Yes, that’s our name. We’ve had it for 14 years, and I believe at the beginning they had to have a disclaimer about it not being a porn site. If you’re looking to roll with an up-and-coming Killing Floor clan and get some good games going, then hit up the Join Form on our website.

What can we take away from Killing Floor should the dead rise?

Befriend all the gun enthusiasts that you can, and stay the hell outta London.

Reader Mail:

Voodoo Farming #5: The Zombie Survival Guide

schwal Says:
July 9th, 2009 at 3:54 am

Also worth a read is “World War Z, and oral history of the zombie war” also by Max Brooks. It is basicaly a bunch of interviews with survivors, and especaly cool in the audiobook version, with many well known actors as the inteviewees.

CAPTCHA: 64 vials. lets hope that number never goes down.

I’m reading it now, slowly. The 40 hours I’m pulling at work every week is really draining me every day. I wish I could say that it’s a full time job, but it’s only for 7-8 weeks. ):

So far it seems pretty interesting, and I enjoyed The Zombie Survival Guide, so I’m optimistic about it. I’ll be reviewing it in a future edition of VF.

Billy Says:
July 9th, 2009 at 9:38 am

What all of these fail to notice is one more type of zombie, a more likely type in fact, that would be much more difficult to kill than your standard brain zombie. The spine zombie. Most of your bodily actions that turn into instince ect, is in your spinal column, which is why if you cut a chickens head off it runs around for a while still. With that information, it stands to reason that a real zombie would probably have all of its motion put into is spine, and less into its brain, making them harder to kill with guns, and will catch most people by suprise as most people would base their stradegies off of old zombie movies.

For those kind of zombies, well… they would certainly be a lot harder to take down, I’ll give you that. I think the book would be significantly different if that were the case.

However, in the first part of the book, Max Brooks clearly states how zombies in his universe work. Destroying the brain is enough. Applying other possible zombie archetypes doesn’t really fit because they don’t work in his world. And if we ever did have a spine-zombie uprising, a lot of the tactics could be adapted from the book to fit it.

Thanks for reading guys. See you next week. What I’ll review, I don’t know. I’m thinking about doing a movie since I don’t want to just keep doing games again and again. I’d appreciate any recommendations for a good screenshot-taking program, because it is very much a pain in the butt to switch to a screenshot-friendly, slow playback mode for my movies/shows.


Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.