Killing Floor: Incursion Review

Nearly two years since its commercial release, and despite a plethora of modest but enjoyable games and the introduction of the stellar Touch controllers, the Oculus Rift is still bereft of a true killer app. Arizona Sunshine, which takes zombie killing into the bright light of day, is one of the better shooters. When a new Killing Floor game was announced for Oculus, there was hope that the popular wave-based survival horror franchise would translate well into VR, taking zombie killing back into the cover of darkness where it belongs.

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Killing Floor: Incursion is a single-player--or two person co-op-- shooter that definitely nails the creepy atmosphere and jump scares of the two prior Killing Floor games. Although it scales back the length and complexity -- this is a four level game that lasts less than five hours, for $40 -- Incursion does a pretty good job of making a case for its jump to VR. It controls well, with snappy teleportation and a decent heft to its various pistols, shotguns, knives, machetes, zombie limbs and other weapons. There is a nice, visceral and satisfying feel to dispatching a Zed (i.e.zombie) that has popped up inches from your face, whether that means a well-placed headshot or a gory limb-sundering with a long, sharp blade. 

Gamers have performed those actions thousands of times in games like Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, or other Killing Floor titles, of course, but VR and the excellent Touch controllers make the experience feel significantly more terrifying and immersive. As a whole, Incursion's collection of zombies and grotesque critters are not terribly tactical in their thinking, being brain-dead and all, so Incursion makes up for a lack of monster smarts by quantity, aggressiveness, speed and the cover of darkness. Unfortunately, one of Incursion's frustrations is that enemies too often pop up directly behind the player. And although the game's teleportation movement system is ideal for zipping across the landscape, it isn't ideally suited for close range, precise encounters. Those with the stomach for it can opt for free movement instead.

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The game's four, somewhat sprawling levels are subdivided into bite-size checkpoints, and there is a variety of environments to explore. But the limitations of the Rift's display are apparent in an overall lack of really crisp detail and texture, well disguised by lighting effects and shadow. This becomes more noticeable during down time, when the player has some breathing room between enemy encounters and is trying to explore or hunt for puzzle items. There are few Oculus Rift games -- including Incursion -- that come anywhere near the graphical richness of recent console or PC action games or shooters. The hardware is still too limited. There are fewer issues on the audio side, which is generally excellent and helps provide much-needed positional orientation to enemy location and movement in the 360 degree environment. And, it can be super creepy.

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Killing Floor: Incursion is a bit more story-driven than the other games in the franchise and happily, all the gore and violence is countered by a sense of ironic humor, largely in the form of the companion voice that guides the player and comments on the action. A shortcut for doling out back story and leading the player forward, the snarky companion voice/mentor is a device that is relied on by a few too many games. But in a game like Incursion, with few characters, it's a natural way to move the plot along and add a bit of meta-commentary. 

Only a couple of years ago, VR was touted as the next revolution in gaming, but the furor has been replaced by the reality that this generation of hardware is never going to break through to real mainstream acceptance, PlayStation VR possibly excepted. Between the cost, the ongoing issues with motion sickness and movement, the weight and awkwardness of the headset and the limitations of its display, the Oculus Rift remains a niche product with a relatively small install base. Given the financial risk for developing for the platform, It's natural that most games have been ports, copycat variations or VR iterations of familiar genres which absolutely fill a need for content-hungry players but do little to advance the notion of VR as a revelatory, essential experience. Too many VR games are safe, overly familiar releases that would be pretty forgettable in any other context. 

This is, at least, partly true of Incursion as well, which despite its excellent use of VR, is still a pretty familiar-feeling product. Ultimately, Killing Floor: Incursion is an atmosphere-and-action-heavy game, so most of its flaws will be subsumed by the moment-to-moment need to survive the next wave of enemies or to solve the puzzle that opens the next area. Relative to the short, demo-like products that continue to populate the Oculus store, Killing Floor: Incursion feels substantial. If this genre is your jam, and you have the Touch controllers, you won't be disappointed.