Advent Showdown Round 3 : Co-Op Xmas Events
Continuing on the Co-Op theme from last time out, heres a focus on co-op shooters. Theres lots and lots of these out there, and many of them are big budget AAA games like Borderlands, Left 4 Dead and Serious Sam. So how do I set these apart? Im going to focus on two Co-Op shooters that have recurring Christmas events, and aside from the obvious ones like Team Fortress 2, and leaving out MMOs which all have a holiday event of their own, theres two games out there that have been getting updates for quite some time, and both are well worth considering another look…
Todays participants are Killing Floor and PayDay 2!
Killing Floor has been around for a long long time, first as a mod on the unreal engine back in 2005, but built up such a fanbase that it was then released on Steam and retail in 2009. The idea is simple. You and a group of friends must each pick a role and clear the area of Zeds (basically zombies in all but name with various mutations and weapons attached to them ) and take down their leader, the patriarch. The Zed’s come in waves that slowly get harder to hold off and between each wave you can use the money you’ve earned in the wave to buy weapons, tools and armour to help your defence. If any of your teammates die, so long as someone survives they will all revive at the end of the wave…minus all their money and weapons, of course.
This simple formula is one of the reasons the game is still fun to play years later, that and all the updates developers Tripwire have added to the game, some free, some paid DLC. Weapons, player skins, Steam workshop support, voicepacks are just some of the additions, along with a levelling curve and a changeable difficulty level that can be put up ludicrously high. However the main thing I’m going to touch on here are the holiday themed maps.
Started in 2010, Tripwire released the ‘Santa’s Evil Lair’ map for Killing Floor, a map based around the idea of santas workshop being overrun by the Zeds with a brand new soundtrack, and the enemy models were changed to reflect gruesome variations on various holiday themes, some of which are simply terrifying when they charge you. There was also a player skin that was unlockable if you completed various new achievements in the map. The event was a massive hit with masses of new and returning players coming back to the game to try it out. The event went so well, that every year since Tripwire has added new content in the annual ‘Twisted Christmas’ event. Santa has gone back to his ice cave home, to the moon, and even to the gates of hell challenging players in what are generally harder maps than the original ones.
Killing Floor 2 is currently in the making and looks great, but the event is back again this year, and thanks to Tripwire’s updates while the gameplay does feel a little dated there’s always a new weapon or player skin to try out. Or you can just turn up the difficulty if you fancy a challenge. Whichever way you do it, its a great game to grab some friends and yell at each other over voice chat as you slowly fall to the massed gingerbread men and santas elves.
A more recent addition to the co-op genre, Payday 2, released in 2013 as the sequel to PayDay:The Heist, plays somewhat similar to Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. However instead of 4 players completing an objective and having to escape against a variety of zombies, the PayDay series pits 4 players against various police forces, completing various objectives like breaking into banks or stealing paintings from an art gallery, at which point you have to make your getaway with your loot. The loot counts towards a sort of level up system, unlocking better guns and equipment as you play for the class of your choice.
The thing that makes PayDay 2 such an effective co-op game is that you receive extra bonuses if you manage to complete a mission with maximum stealth, without alerting the city’s police department, which means avoiding cameras, stopping guards and civilians from calling the police, and not tripping any other kind of trap that will set the alarms off. This invariably ratchets the difficulty up a few levels as you have to plan and communicate well in advance and then execute perfectly to ensure you don’t get caught out by a peaky camera or guard. If you do get caught out, you have to prepare your defences for the oncoming siege as the various armed forces enter the fray to stop you from getting out with your ill gotten gains.
Typically a mission will start stealthy and then inevitably someone will trip a wire somewhere or a hostage will get away or something similar, and the rest of the mission plays out ‘loud’ with the law enforcers swarming you from all sides. Its at this point that the game feels a little Left 4 Dead, with the four of you somehow holding out against impossible odds and numbers versus a relentless swarm that gives you few pauses to catch your breath, before legging it to the escape route with your loot in tow and minibosses spawning to bring you down. While individual missions can get repetitive, repeat plays once you level up offer new ways to complete them, and luckily there’s a decent array of different missions on offer.
PayDay 2 is another game that’s been lavished with updates since release, some of it paid DLC in the form of weapons and skins but plenty of free additions like new heists, enemy types and even a new difficulty level. Last year a new Christmas heist was introduced, taking place around a small bank decked out with holiday decorations, and also introducing a chilling Santa mask, and theres a similar event this year.
Todays winner is….. PayDay 2!
A few years back during my love affair with the first few holiday maps, Killing Floor would have taken this easily as it was always my go-to game to get a few friends playing during the holidays for a few years, but sadly I feel the quality of the more recent maps has had nothing on the first two that were released. While the formula in Killing Floor is solid, its simplistic, and perhaps personally I feel I’ve had my fill of it until the sequel comes out, which feels somewhat unfair to write, considering how much fun the game is with a full team. Still, ultimately, the more organic play of PayDay 2 and its wide variety of mission types and objectives feels fresher and wins out. Last years bank heist added a few fun elements that kept you on your toes and I hope this year’s heist does the same.
Both games are available on Steam and can often be found discounted during the holiday sales.