Kill Strain Preview – Duck, Duck, MUTANT! (PS4)

(Note: that the Kill Strain preview is based on an early alpha build of the game and many things may change in the final release.)

The term free-to-play is often enough to turn people away from a game very quickly, and perhaps you’ve already opted to stop reading this preview because I mentioned those very words. Free-to-play doesn’t have to mean lower quality though, and from my brief experience with Kill Strain, I was impressed by both the quality going into it and extremely fun concept behind it. 

Two human teams of five players each are pitted against each other, but there’s a wildcard thrown in the mix. A third team composed of two mutants are fighting to turn the humans in order to add to their ranks. The unique concept presents scenarios where you’ll be in the heat of battle with the enemy team and a mutant shows up. Do you stop your assault on the enemy player to fend off the mutant onslaught? Will the opposing team do the same, or will they continue to take you out?

This is even further complicated when you are turned into a mutant. You are now an enemy of your former allies. Do you attack them, and your old base, trying to turn them too? Or do you use your newly obtained mutant abilities to continue fighting your old foe? Watching the numbers on the side of the screen as the balance of power shifts can be nerve wracking, and fighting an enemy on two fronts adds a layer of strategy unlike most other competitive games. 


You Think the Humans Have It Easy?

Playing as a human during the matches I was able to play (due to random selection), I followed my team as we hauled canisters around the map. Getting these to a certain control point that could be controlled by either team enabled us to charge our MECs which we could each call down at any time to wreak havoc on the enemy base, whether we choose to fight the other human team, or venture north to take on the mutants. Player skills and weaponry differ depending on which character is chosen, and each seems like it will lend itself to unique strategies and play styles.

It may have just been the alpha build that I was playing, but I did find myself very confused early on as very little was explained about individual player skills, weapons, or even the ultimate goal of the match. I discovered a little bit through trial and error as I experimented, but with the limited number of matches I was able to play during the alpha, more of a tutorial before jumping into the match would have increased the amount of time I was able to let loose and have fun, as opposed to trying to figure out what I was doing. Again, this may have just been limited due to the alpha build, and even if not, there will be a lot more time to experiment in the final game.


The Life of a Mutant is a Hard Life Indeed

 I was never randomly selected to play as a mutant, and I guess I was just too good to get turned, so I never got the opportunity experience to experience that side of the game, but they have the ability to spread infection — known as the Strain — on the ground, which damages human players and offers special buffs to the mutant players, such as stealth and increased power. Perhaps next time I get the chance to try it out, I’ll offer myself up as a human sacrifice to see what the ugly side is all about. 

Kill Strain is described as an accessible MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) on consoles, with most MOBAs today being PC-based titles. The jump from PC has required them to make the genre more accessible than usual, but they promise it will retain the strategic backing the drives the genre. Having never played League of Legends, or other PC-based MOBAs myself, I can’t say how true to the genre it is, but what I was able to play was immense amounts of fun and something that I can’t wait to jump into with friends. And being free-to-play, it opens the availability to anyone that owns a PS4. It’s tough, and not impossible to play with random players, but I can see a team based effort going a long way in lifting up the experience.

Ah, and there’s that term again. Free-to-play. It remains to be seen how prevalent the paywalls are going to be and how balanced the game will be without paying money, but if it’s like many other F2P console games on the PS4, it shouldn’t cause that large of a gap between the freeloaders and the players who pay a little cash for the extras. While I’m typically not itching for F2P games, what I played of this one leaves me tentatively optimistic, and I honestly forgot about the fact that it will be free-to-play as I got swept up in the strategic, yet chaotic, 5 vs 5 vs 2 gameplay. Just remember that with the mutants on the prowl, it won’t stay 5 vs 5 vs 2 for long.

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