(Fun fact: The description for this episode reads: ‘In this video I become the first person ever to compare Killing Floor 2 to Dungeons & Dragons’. Then the WWAUT goes live the next day and starts with: Last time around, we talked about the high level concept of what the Survivalist is: a high skill cap, jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none (or the bard for those of you who play those sorts of games… with “magic” and “dragons.” Guess the comparison was more mainstream than I thought!)
I was talking with someone on reddit and they wanted to know how Steam’s three biggest horde-based shooter franchises differed from each other. Being me, I gave them a very long in-depth answer that I realized would make a good article in itself. I chose to focus on “how are they different” instead of “which one does what better”. None of these comparisons are implying that one franchise is better than the other, they just establish their game’s distinct style and both are very fun. If I could get my Killing Floor 2 to locate servers again (browser is always empty even with no filters) I’d be playing both.
In Left 4 Dead, the players are on the offensive. You must push through waves of zombies, constantly entering new areas and with a final destination in mind. There are also objectives you’ll need to complete beyond killing zombies, such as silencing alarms and restarting generators. In Killing Floor the players are on the defensive. The Zeds come to you, and you can pick a location and camp there for the entire match if things don’t go south. In the main game mode there is no objective beyond killing every Zed in the current wave without dying. Payday the Heist offers a more hybrid playstyle, as the players are often forced to push into new areas or to reclaim objective spaces, but the overwhelming firepower of the police forces demand a defensive, cover-based approach neither zombie game really has. In addition, some heists come with a stealth-based playstyle that is completely absent in the other games.
In Left 4 Dead, healing is limited, and the survivors’ health is indication of how well they’re doing as a team. There are limited medkits/pills, and once those run out you’re SOL. Payday the Heist is even worse, with doctor bags being very limited and the most common way to regain health is reviving from bleedout. In Killing Floor, there’s a medic class constantly healing everyone, and everybody has regenerating syringes so health is far less of a limiting factor.
In Left 4 Dead, ammo tracking is a pretty minor part of the game. Most firearms come with very generous ammo reserves, you are constantly finding new guns on the ground (or bottomless ammo piles), and your secondary weapons have infinite ammo. Killing Floor firearms force you to be more aware of conserving ammunition through locating ammo pickups, choosing perk skills, and memorizing where certain firearms spawn on the map. Payday the Heist is the most focused on ammo reserves, as even with cops dropping ammo pickups and players bringing ammo bags, it’s not uncommon to be ammo-starved constantly throughout a heist.
In Left 4 Dead and Payday the Heist, many specials are incapacitators, meaning they can pin a survivor and essentially take that person out of play unless his teammates can free him. The specials also have very different playstyles and each harms the survivors in many different tactical ways. In Killing Floor, no zed comes with incapacitation (except VS Sirens) and most everything is simply trying to kill you through various flavors of melee (and sometimes ranged) damage.
L4D has far less variety of firearms, with every gun in the game being a rifle/SMG, a shotgun, or a pistol. L4D2’s Grenade Launcher is the only thing that really breaks the mold. In addition there are no classes or levelup mechanics. This means there’s only a few real loadouts and your playstyle is more determined by your use of throwables, how you use health items, and your positioning/map awareness. Killing Floor has WAY more guns available and they’re all sorts of different stuff, so your playstyle is extremely dependent on what perk you picked and what guns you buy. Payday the Heist has a very similar range of guns to L4D2, but the emphasis on ranged combat means it’s far more important to your playstyle what guns you chose. It’s levelup system is also less playstyle-related than Killing Floor‘s, with new levels unlocking better equipment instead of things like skills or abilities.
If you want literally everything within a single game, Payday 2 is definitely your best choice for your money. There are 55 heists and counting, almost every possible weapon under the sun, a very diverse system offering a huge selection of playstyles and team compositions, and the devs have proven capable of releasing lots of new content on a regular basis. Keep an eye out also for Overkill’s the Walking Dead, a game that’s scheduled for a 2017 release and promises next-gen Payday-style gameplay with zombies.