My friends keep reminiscing about the days when we’d have a few drinks and play some old beat ‘em up like Hunter: The Reckoning. After playing THQ and Juice Games’ Warhammer 40, 000: Kill Team, I’m done reminiscing. Kill Team does the job right.
I admit that I’m not all too familiar with the Warhammer series. What I know about the story of the game is this: An ork kroozer (the use of the letter ‘K’ isn’t a typo) is flying through space on an invasion mission, and one or two genetically augmented space marines are sent to take it out piece by piece. A brief in-game cutscene has a Space Marine vessel slamming through the hull and onto a pack of orks who are standing around doing nothing. Before you can figure out what they were stupidly staring off into the distance at, you’re sent on several hours of shooting, detonating, and hacking apart a large cities’ worth of mostly-orks via a very well placed isometric camera angle.
The game controls simply. The right stick activates and directs the fire of whatever ranged weapon your marine has at his disposal. A single face button handles melee combat, while the triggers activate special abilities and a short sprint.
The mix of melee, ranged, and special abilities is spread out, according to play style, across four well-thought out classes of space marines, each with their own power that recharges with time and enemy kills. The sterngaurd veteran is focused on ranged combat, the vangaurd veteran is a primarily melee class, the techmarine is a balanced turret user, and the templar is a sword weilding psychic.
Although there’s no loot in Kill Team beyond the single timed use powerups, new weapons and equippable perks are awarded based on the total amount of score points accrued throughout the game’s mission and survival modes. This does a great job of freeing the players’ minds from the ‘search every corner/barrel’ mentality that hamstrings the pacing of so many other dungeon crawler beat ‘em ups.
The powerups and new weapons give a good feeling of progression that matches almost perfectly with the slightly above average difficulty curve in the game. However, playing on co-operative mode with both players kitted out with perks and even the default weapons is incredibly easy. The game not scaling the challenge to the amount of people in the game is a real shame because, on single player, the difficulty is a well-adjusted balance of challenge and empowerment.
Even in co-op — with hordes of enemies on screen, peppered with explosions and bolter rounds churning crowds into ragdolling bloody messes — the game performs beautifully. I never experienced any framerate drops and, thanks to a rich color pallet that makes all the character models pop, always knew what was going on and how to react.
The sound design of the game enriches the stoic ‘few against many’ 300-esque vibe of Kill Team (well, 300 with guns and power armor). Orchestral trumpets color the battle-hymn music that pulses beneath the metal-hitting-metal sounds of gunfire and the hauntingly primal ork screams. The hair on my back rose a few times and, after an all-nighter session with the five hour campaign, kept the battle cries of orks and the sportbike whine of chainswords echoing in my ears as I fell asleep.
There are quite a few bugs and quirks, however. I once ran through a wall and fell into a pit and died. Another instance had a friend of mine fall off of a ledge during a boss sequence and, instead of respawning near me, became stuck; because of that, we were unable to get to the next stage in the boss fight even if we reloaded a checkpoint.
The slightly drawn out explanatory in-game cutscenes that show your next objective are unskippable, which hurts repeated play throughs a bit. It’s also a bit of a let down that Kill Team’s co-op is offline only.
With the short length of the game and an advertisement at the game’s title card notifying players of Kill Team unlocking a weapon in THQ’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine game, it’s easy for skeptics to view Kill Team as a promotional cash-in tool. Should any of those skeptics choose to give Kill Team a chance and $10 of their money, they’ll find a vibrantly colored and badass little package that has its own soul apart from its larger Space Marine brother.