Krooz ‘Til You Snooze
Even with the closure of THQ Digital Studios Warrington in the UK, the company managed to crank out an appetizer to the upcoming third-person action game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. This sampling, called Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, is a twin-stick shooter/hack and slash that puts you in the boots of one of four Space Marines tasked with taking out an Ork Kroozer preparing to attack a Forge World. The gameplay is ultimately satisfying, with some RPG elements to add flavor, but a few irritating issues keep this game from standing out from the crowd.
The story itself is extremely straightforward—it’s basically a no-questions-asked, non-diplomatic strike on the Orks. After successfully completing a kamikaze smash into the side of the Ork vessel, you must tear it apart from the inside out, destroying critical systems like the engines and wiping out the Orks—and eventually Tyranids—onboard. There are five missions in total, which can be handled with only a few hours of work. After completing a level, you can return in Survival mode, which pits you against waves of enemies, trying to last for as many seconds as you can before you’re beaten down. Despite the abrupt campaign, the gameplay is consistently addictive, and you’ll likely find the urge to start the campaign again with a different hero.
There are four Space Marines to choose from, each with their own strengths and weakness and a unique special attack. The Librarian and Techmarine are the more well-rounded of the four, with the former having a slighter edge toward melee, and the latter toward ranged fire. The Vanguard Veteran is the close-combat damage-dealer, while the Sternguard Veteran wields the hulking, high-velocity ranged weapons.
Although the game offers no choice of difficulty level, players will find that some Marines fare better at solo attempts than others. When tackling the campaign cooperatively, the strategy is much more clear cut. The developers were keen on showcasing the overall value of playing with a friend at your side, so your venture into the Kroozer is far less suicidal with someone watching your back. Not only can you choose Space Marines who complement each other in battle, but when sticking close together, one player’s power-up will be shared with the other. These power-ups are fairly straightforward, but will greatly tip the scale in your favor, and are best kept in your sights for that critical moment in battle just before you are overwhelmed with enemies. These temporary boosts include: Multi-Fire (Double, Triple, and Quadruple) as well as Rapid Fire upgrades, Health Restore, Invulnerability, Power Shield, and Righteous Fury (which strengthens your melee attack). You’ll also pick up a handful of grenades here and there, which are handy to have when twenty to thirty Orks are bearing down on you and your special attack gauge is on empty. Thankfully, the meter fills up quickly, and you’ll always be looking for the flashing indicator beneath your hero’s feet letting you know it’s ready. From the Librarian’s Psychic Shockwave to the Techmarine’s Tarantula Turret, these will quickly become your best friends on the battlefield.
But the enemies keep coming, seemingly from every crack of the Kroozer, and sooner or later you’ll meet your demise, which brings me to my first complaint. While I initially found the inability to skip cutscenes only mildly annoying, after being cut down in the engine room for the umpteenth time, the wasted seconds listening to the same objective started driving me nuts. It eventually got to the point where I would press down on the B button as hard as possible, hoping the extra effort would somehow trigger the scene skip. (Don’t tell me you’ve never done this).
Less annoying, but still a blatant oversight on the development side, is the camera. The automatic angle changes do a good job of keeping the camera centered on the action, but this comes at the expense of enemies being hidden offscreen, forcing you to retreat from the threat while shooting blindly beyond the frame. But even keeping your aim is challenge, as you must constantly reposition the left analog on a target whenever the camera decides it wants a better angle. Subsequent playthroughs allowed me to anticipate the shifts, but a free-floating or character-locked camera would have been a better alternative.
Despite being a shooter at its core, THQ has added some nice RPG elements to Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. Granted, the customization is nothing profound, but it at least allows some simple retooling, which staying on top of becomes vital in later levels. Basically, you receive points for every kill (and environmental destruction), with specific multipliers for taking out entire swarms of enemies in a timely and/or skillful fashion. As you reach point milestones, specific weapon and perk upgrades will gain experience and unlock for use once the threshold is surpassed. The upgraded weapons are more powerful (and cooler looking), while the perks offer things like improved health, longer special attack duration, stronger range or melee attacks, more grenade slots, and others. You can only have two perks active at a time, but can change them at the loadout points sprinkled throughout the vessel.
If you sped through the campaign, cutting a swath of destruction through the Kroozer, you can always replay missions to search for the ten Aquila Collectables hidden in each level. However, your only reward for doing so is some concept art. Quite frankly, any gamer would have preferred a high-class weapon or special perk instead. The best treat comes after you complete your first mission, where you unlock an exclusive Power Sword for the upcoming Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.
I grow tired of saying this, yet it must be mentioned here nonetheless: the lack of an online multiplayer feature is inexcusable in this day and age. With Kill Team designed as a co-op romp (after all, “Team” is in the title), requiring the physical presence of that teammate should merely be a limitation of past decades. Yet many developers still haven’t realized that a game’s value is increased tenfold with an online inclusion. To stem the tide, a leaderboard for every mode and every character type is present.
The art design stays true to the tabletop game, thanks to a partnership with Games Workshop, and every character model looks like it was taken straight from a miniature. The color palette also fits the series universe, but that means the greens and metallics leave many other choices out of the picture. I also noticed some frame rate drop when the screen was oversaturated with enemies, but the nice animations, both in the characters and the Kroozer itself, help keep the twin-stick controls up to snuff.
You would expect that tearing a spaceship apart would be a constant auditory experience. However, if you stand still for long enough, you’d swear the Kroozer was a ghost ship. Also, the codex describes Orks as having a preference for crude and noisy weapons, but the bland “Zap” sound effect from almost every gun seems like it was taken from the Buck Rogers universe. Of course, it’s hard to top the hilarity of Ork grunting and shouting in a video game, which this one has in spades.
Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team will undoubtedly be purchased by followers of the series, and maybe some twin-stick shooter fans, but few more. Nevertheless, the gameplay keeps the controller in your hand well after you’ve completed the campaign, and with each Space Marine requiring a different set of tactics to emerge victorious, you can’t help but want to try each one out. A little more meat would have made this game worth its ten-dollar price tag, but it’s still a fun diversion and a refresher to the series for those anxiously awaiting the launch of its big brother in just a couple months.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
A small selection of colors and not much variation in the scenery. But the models look authentic, and the animations are nicely done. 3.7 Control
Easy to pick up twin-stick controls and only a few buttons to worry about, which is a good thing considering you’ll be adjusting to the ever-shifting camera. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A mix of good and blahs. The fantasy/military music score fits nicely, but some effects just don’t pack a punch. 3.2 Play Value
Addictive gameplay, despite a short completion time. But the lack of online multiplayer is the real nasty culprit. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best