Video games are a great escape, which take us into worlds that we can affect with the press of a button. Sometimes it’s for good and, at others, it’s an evil conquest. However, one of the underlying truths is that we’re almost always playing as that one man army type of character, who is destined to save the world or stop the conflict. It’s an archetype that we’ve all become very familiar with in many forms of entertainment mediums and gaming is one that uses it the most.
The vast and popular table-top world of Warhammer is the latest to explore this within a digital confine, via Warhammer 40K: Kill Team for XBOX Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC. It’s a twin-stick shooter that knows what it is and delivers in spades, allowing gamers to feel like a god as they shoot or hack their way through thousands upon thousands of orcs. A symphony of blood, guts and explosions as nothing is spared from the ultimate destruction that your space marine creates. No matter which of the four characters you choose, one fact is for sure: you’ll be a force to be reckoned with and it’ll take a metric ton of the short green guys to take you down.
Kill Team is a game that is light on story and heavy on action. Its basic premise tells a story of a space marine who is tasked with boarding an enemy spaceship, in order to destroy it from the inside. The five included missions take you through different areas such as its chemical room, engine service area and its commander’s deck, each with tons of stuff to blow up and enemies to turn into puree. Within this campaign, you’re looking at approximately four hours of gameplay though it adds a lot of replay value by having four different playable characters who have their own stats, unlockable weapons/preferences and play styles.
At the beginning of each stage, players get the choice of which badass they would like to use as their on-screen avatar. There’s the librarian and his trusty sword, the big brute veteran with his emphasis on powerful bullets and two other variations of those two opposites. They play differently and force you to use different tactics, which keeps the game feeling fresh during a second or third go around. Staying far away and using bullets may be your schtick but, when you have to go up close and personal with an energy sword, it makes you think and act differently. Of course, as expected, it also adds some more risk.
Power-ups grant you new abilities, though there’s no large-scale bomb to take out all of the enemies on-screen, which can number around 25-30 at one time. They’re all grounded in genre tropes, including extra bullets, grenades and the ability to regenerate health for a brief period of time. Use them wisely and you should do quite well, though the game ramps up its difficulty quite a bit near the end. Adding onto this are character specific special moves which build up as you defeat orcs. It doesn’t take long to build them up and the resulting actions include a brutal release of energy, bullets that shoot at ten times the speed or a flying eviscerator.
Don’t take from this the impression that you’re just standing in a room, plowing through a bunch of baddies. There’s a decent amount of movement involved and objectives that need to be completed – whether it’s turning something on, protecting something or blowing up a control room. They all fit into the experience and provide secondary conflict, though most of the time the game resembles a mixture between Serious Sam and a dungeon crawler like Torchlight. It employs a strange mixture between chaos and method. Boss fights make an appearance at a couple of points during the ongoing conflict, with one being mediocre in design and the other (final) boss being a nice change of pace from the norm.
The aforementioned structure description does however come into play during the game’s additional survival missions. These brief challenges are unlocked by completing each level, as there’s one for each setting within the game’s ship location. Your task is simple: survive. As long as possible, with a limited amount of power-ups and a ton of incoming danger. Medals are awarded and leaderboards are constructed based on how well you do. They’re a lot of fun and very easy to go back to over and over again for short burst moments of chaotic enjoyment, though it must be said that they’re a tad on the easy side.
This was my first foray into the popular world of Warhammer and it really hooked me. Although the gameplay structure is inherently repetitive in its attack, rinse and repeat methodology, I had a blast playing through its five stages. Every new wave of attacking green monsters made me excited to think of whether I was going to take them out with a melee attack, an explosive, a power-up or my chosen warrior’s trusty turret gun. Using the left joystick to move and the right one to shoot, I plowed through them like butter, leaving a terrible mess behind. The whole time, I was having fun and enjoying the shoot first, ask no questions gameplay.
You must be thinking that there’s always a but when it comes to something that is discussed in a light like this, and you’re unfortunately right. Though Warhammer 40K: Kill Team is an enjoyable experience that allows for local co-operative play between two players, it doesn’t allow you to take the conquest online. I’m not sure why that decision was made, but it’s too bad because this is the type of game that screams for cyberspace multiplayer. Although it’s certainly disappointing, don’t make this a deterrent, because the experience is still really sound without it. Just invite a friend over and have a couple of drinks as you slay the orc horde.
Warhammer 40K: Kill Team isn’t a game that will blow you away technically, though it’s also not one that will disappoint in that regard. It’s a decent looking and pretty colourful, but far from unique game in terms of its visual style, art direction and fidelity. Think of it as a mix between a dark and dingy Diablo world and futuristic space marines, with all of the technological control boards included. The reason behind going with a basic look certainly must be attributed to the need for the game to run at a good and stable frame rate, which makes complete sense. With all of the chaotic action on-screen, I can’t say that I can remember the frame rate ever dropping. That’s pretty remarkable, thinking back.
Explosion fans will love the audio. It’s full of them. Most of the in-game sound comes from the actions of your avatar and his foes, but there’s also a manly narrator who gives you updated objectives. It all sounds nice and I don’t really have any complaints. For the type of game it is, the audio is very sufficient and does its job well. Its decent original score is just there to add the occasional ambience, as bullets flying and screaming orcs create the more oft-used audio symphony.
Upon going into this game, I had moderate expectations and the hope for a fun experience that I would want to go back to. Warhammer 40K: Space Marine delivered that and impressed me more than I was hoping for. Although its campaign is brief and the lack of online co-op is noticeable plus confusing, there’s a really good little game within its download file. If you’ve been hankering for a fun game to just sit back and enjoy, this is it. For ten dollars, you really cannot go wrong here. It’s a victory for the Kill Team.