It’s no surprise that a difficulty called ‘Hell On Earth’ turned out to be an extremely challenging undertaking; an undertaking that seemed as though the earth had—for the duration of four co-op waves—become a fiery inferno of death and despair.
I felt it. My teammates felt it. My controller felt it, although my guess is it eventually became immune to the beatings it took throughout our three weeks of failed attempt after failed attempt.
Killing Floor 2 popped up as a free PS Plus game back in June. The plan was to casually check it out, expectations being no different from most other unknown PS Plus downloads; probably an okay hold-over game to test-drive leisurely in between more anticipated titles.
This was not the case. Four of us started playing non-stop for about a month or so, eventually dissolving down to two of us. The repetition may have run its course for the others but for the two of us remaining our appetite for undead slaughtering grew and grew.
We had bested the more casual difficulties, most recently the ‘Suicidal’ mode which offered a subtle spike in difficulty compared to the Hard mode that preceded it. That was right around when we lost the others. I still can’t tell whether I’m mad at them for throwing in the towel, or incredibly jealous of what they–unbeknownst to them–were walking away from.
One night my friend who stuck around (we’ll call him Bob) sent me a screenshot of his trophy list for Killing Floor 2, revealing that we were both only one trophy from getting to platinum. Knowing this made it difficult to ignore. Little did we know that—what seemed like just a small step away from that shiny blue trophy—would be a treacherous mountain that few on Playstation 4 seem to have managed to climb.
I didn’t get much sleep those few weeks and Bob reported the same. Any sense of hope began rapidly deteriorating with each passing day. It became harder and harder to stay optimistic; perhaps tonight was not the night again and this will remain a vicious, never-ending cycle of chasing something that never intended for us to catch it.
Bob and I started an e-mail chain as a way to share any helpful info we came across while we weren’t playing. Looking back, even when we weren’t playing Killing Floor 2 we were kind of still playing Killing Floor 2.
There were some levels that seemed to have glitches where if you crouch in a certain area you can’t be damaged. While tempting given the amount of times we failed, we were not at all interested in the illegitimacy of glitches.
The way the co-op mode works is you can choose from either four, seven or ten waves. Because we aren’t lunatics, we chose four waves. Throughout our journey we realized there was never a sense of gradual progression when it came to this difficulty; we either got real close or we didn’t. That was the most frustrating part. Some nights we would try ten or fifteen times, other nights once or twice was the most our patience could handle.
The more we tried, the more we seemed to run into people trying to accomplish the same task. One particular level (The Prison) seemed to reveal itself as the best chance for us to succeed. There’s an area in the exterior section of the level that conveniently funnels enemies through a mostly linear path, providing better cover and fewer chances for players to be swarmed. Getting swarmed is not good. Even with this strategy, it was still extremely difficult.
We began to realize our success was predicated solely on whether or not the random people we were matched with knew of this safe area, or were just running around killing things aimlessly. In ‘Hell On Earth,’ running around killing things aimlessly will not work.
There was no way to decipher what stage in their journey of misery these other people were. Some of them may just have started trying that night, others potentially in the same boat as us; weeks in and still nothing to show for it other than perpetuating hand-cramps and major loss of sanity, defeat after soul-crushing defeat. I’m still surprised my controller made it out of this alive.
Success came at around 1 a.m. on a Tuesday morning after Bob and I failed for what seemed like a million times in a row. The prison level was ingrained into our memories. It was as if we were watching the same movie over and over again; a movie about two guys with a confusing thirst for being killed repeatedly by hordes of zombies.
Part of me wanted to turn the game off and never try again, the other part wished to never sign off until we beat it. Bob managed to talk me into the latter—because I am weak—and somehow everything clicked.
A minute or two before the first wave started Bob noticed three of the other six people in our party had the platinum trophy. This was good news. Somehow one of those three people also turned out to be a Berserker class, a class we discovered is practically a necessity for a team looking to beat ‘Hell On Earth.’
Bob and I didn’t say a word to each other after confirming this, we were too afraid any premature cheerleading would turn our hopes to mush. We pushed forward.
Wave one went down without a hitch. Waves two and three went so smoothly I double-checked the difficulty on the options menu to confirm we’re on the right setting. Wave four is always the wave with the highest likelihood of getting swarmed but our berserker—a mostly melee class and my new personal hero—seemed to handle the influx of enemies mostly by himself, using nothing but a samurai sword.
We continued through to the boss round in similar fashion; Bob and I carrying our weight but riding mostly on the coat-tails of our Adonis berserker. We beat it. We finally beat it. I thought we would yell and shout in celebration, but all we could really manage to say was an unenthusiastic “finally.”
We haven’t touched the game again since beating ‘Hell On Earth’ and odds are we never will. My entire being hopes there will be no Killing Floor 3.