You wouldn’t expect a game like Kill Strain from Sony San Diego Studio.
Up until now they are most widely known for the annual MLB games, so an odd combination of a MOBA and a twin-stick shooter doesn’t seem their style – but Kill Strain proves why you should never be presumptuous. Exclusive to Playstation 4, Kill Strain is currently in closed beta but you can sign yourself up for early access over on the Kill Strain website. But what is it and is it worth following?
The first thing you will immediately notice about Kill Strain is its team layouts; with three teams and each match beginning at 4v1v4, no other game is quite like it. The two teams of four are humans and the sole player is a mutant. While this immediately may sound like Evolve I would compare it more to the Infected game mode in the Halo series. You see, while each game begins with only a single mutant, that mutant can turn humans into mutants, and so can become a growing threat. This causes Kill Strain’s unique team sizes to not just be a gimmick that separates it from other games, but something that creates a fun and completely fresh experience like no other.
Human players can choose from one of nine different characters to play as, all of whom play rather differently and give the game an almost MOBA-like sense of teamwork. Each match begins as a seemingly normal team vs team game with human players competing over ARCC generators strewn across the map. As teams collect more ARCC, not only do they upgrade their defenses and ability to easily destroy the mutants strain, but they can transform into a MEC. MECs are very tough and powerful, well, mechs, which allow a human team to push forward into the enemy base and destroy their HQ.
However, as you may expect, the mutant team has easily the most fun and unique job to play. While they may begin as the underdog they have two special tricks up their sleeve: strain and converting humans. All mutant territory is covered in strain and new strain can be created by the mutants and destroyed by humans. While in areas that are covered in strain, mutants have increased movement speed, high health regeneration and most importantly, invisibility. As the two human teams continue to fight against each other and push up, the mutant can slowly creep up with strain and ambush firefight; mutants are stronger than the average human player and with the buffs gained from strain are an incredible danger.
This creates an interesting problem for the human teams: they can attempt to focus all their attention on the lone mutant, but this leaves themselves open to be attacked by the other team. If they split their attention the mutant has an easier time dealing with humans and can more easily convert human players to his side. Kill Strain is a push and pull game that is all about paying attention to what is happening on the map and knowing how to deal with it. And it is where Kill Strain triumphs – in the subtle complexities created by its unique team layouts.
“Kill Strain is a push and pull game all about paying attention to the map and knowing how to deal with it”
However, it is a beta and I need to underline that point as unlike many AAA games which decide to have glorified demos and label them betas, Kill Strain is actually a beta. There are many things which can be subject to change and most of the community – while very small – contribute to the forums – giving input and suggestions. And when I say the player base is small I mean very small: during my first session there was a maximum of 20 people online (according to the game) and it took me nearly 15 minutes to begin my first game.
Luckily I seemed to either be a natural or have beginner’s luck as I ended up winning with 13 kills and four deaths as the mutant team. This is however where a small secondary problem comes in. Like Evolve the mutant is much more fun to play, especially when starting as the single one, as they have unique abilities and playstyles right down to how their terrain works (strain). The problem being that, even more so than Evolve, you will rarely play the mutants from the beginning. And although being able to turn into a mutant does remedy some of this, I feel it may lead to some unfair play; in my second or third game one of my teammates died suspiciously early to the mutant and was turned – leaving us a player down.
I also saw one or two enemy players grow angry at our team in one of my later matches for “stealing” their win. We were both grinding down the weaker enemy base at the same time and, by chance, the game gave the win to us. But, like I said, Kill Strain is in beta and things are hopefully subject to change, which is a great thing because, even with some small annoyances, I still had a fun time with something I’ve never really seen before. Considering my most major problem was the small player base leading to long queue times there is no reason not to sign up and try it out!