Warhammer fans are still anxiously awaiting the release of Relic Entertainment’s Space Marine, the next big video game installment in the Warhammer 40,000 series. Don’t fret fans, you only have a little over a month to go. While you wait though, THQ hopes that they can hold you over during the final stretch before the game’s release with a side title exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade: Warhammer 40K: Kill Team.
Although the world of Warhammer may paint a picture of something incredibly deep, especially with its legacy of tabletop and RTS style games, Kill Team is anything but. This game is simple and straightforward: if it moves or is combustible, shoot it. Players choose one of of four classes based on their weapons of choice: Librarian, Techmarine, Vanguard Veteran, and Sternguard. Although there are minor cosmetic differences between the characters and different weapons available to each, they all play effectively the same way, though they have some individual benefits based on their equipped weapons.
The game plays very much like a modern day twin stick shooter where you move your character using the left analog stick and shoot with the right. While you have the ability to shoot in virtually any direction, the aiming mechanics feel a lot more rigid than many are used to in other games within the genre. Sometimes it will get very difficult to pinpoint that one remaining enemy at a distance just by using your right stick; you will have to learn to adjust your physical placement as well in order to hit all of your desired targets. At first, this was very annoying but it sort of makes sense when you consider the fact that you are controlling what is basically a man within a miniature tank-like armor, so I would imagine that they would have difficulty using pinpoint accuracy.
In addition to shooting everything that moves with the right stick, the game also gives you a few other abilities such as a melee attack, grenades, and a special weapon. Grenades can be picked up alongside the game’s numerous power ups and perform admirably, but melee attacks and the special attacks are what can really set the characters apart. Each character has a unique attack for each of these categories; while the Sternguard Veteran and Techmarine have lackluster melee attacks which are really nothing more than glorified rifle-butts, their special maneuvers are especially effective in taking out hordes of enemies. Their standard guns are also quote admirable for clearing out the battlefield as well. Conversely, the Librarian and the Vanguard have super effective melee attacks thanks to the fact that they can be equipped with a small variety of swords and battle axes. This makes both of them more effective in close range battle, even against mobs. Depending on your preferred play style, you will gravitate to one group or the other.
The duality of the character styles plays into the games focus on being a cooperative multiplayer game. Kill Team is meant to be played with 2 players working together to cut through the waves of orcs. Unfortunately, the development team elected to offer offline cooperative play as the only multiplayer option. If you don’t have someone else within your household to play with, you really cannot get the most out of this game. I cannot fathom any reasonable explanation as to why online coop was not included; don’t get me wrong, the game is an absolute blast and I adore it, but it could have been absolutely great if players simply had the ability to play online with a friend.
As I have said, the game and its action are pretty much straight forward. There are 5 straight forward missions that will challenge you to basically make your way from point A to point B while surviving seemingly endless waves of enemies. The game throws various objectives at you which really never evolves beyond either taking out a targeted group of enemies, planting explosives, or triggering some sort of environmental mechanism. Yes, it is a bit repetitive, but it is all presented within a gameplay experience which has a fun factor that is through the roof. The name of this game is fun, and it does “fun” better than it does anything else. It is a good thing that the game is that way too as it is designed for you to come back and play again and again.
Team Kill offers players a wide variety of unlockables that can be obtained by killing more and more enemies time and time again. As you rack up your cumulative score, which is tracked within the game’s stat system, you will be given new and improved power ups and weapons, as well as entries into the game’s narrated codex which teaches you about the world of Warhammer 40K. I am a “completionist” and games like this just “call” to me; I love this sort of game. In addition to the unlockable content, players are also challenged to find 10 hidden Space Marine emblems throughout each level, which again gives you reason to go back and play it just “one more time” if you are so inclined. Not only are their unlockables for this game, but Kill Team also gives players a chance to earn a bonus weapon in the upcoming console release of Space Marine. Successfully completing one of the game’s campaign missions will award players with a special power sword in the game when it launches this September. Sure, this is nothing more than a marketing ploy but it serves as one more little reasons for fans to check it out and one more thing for people like me to “collect”.
After you have completed the campaign of the game, which will take only a couple of hours, players are also given a chance to show their stuff in a survival mode. Each stage that you clear in the campaign will be unlocked in the survival; just like the campaign, this mode can be played either alone or with a friend as you strive to last as long as possible against endless waves of enemies who increase in both number and size. This mode in particular gets very hard, very quick. If you are an Xbox Live Gold member, you can share and compare your scores with friends online, but once again, you won’t be able to play with them.
There are a few issues to be had with Kill Team. First off, as I previously mentioned, where in the world is the online coop? This game just begs for the feature and it honestly feels like “less” of a game without it. The game also experiences some frame rate hiccups and periods of slowdown during some of the more intense explosions, which occur rather frequently. Thankfully, it isn’t anything that truly hinders the experience, but it is definitely noticeable. I would have liked to have seen the environments be a little more diverse as all five levels look and feel the same. Luckily, this is overshadowed by the insane fun that you will be having as you blast through enemies in an all-so-gory fashion.
Despite its simplicity and rough edges, Kill Team is a lot of fun. I have said it before, and I will say it again: this game’s strength is its fun factor. There isn’t any complication to any of the mechanics presented to the player(s); the game is just an open canvas to create chaos and nonstop action. If you like to shoot things endlessly, especially with a (local) friend, Kill Team will be an absolute blast. The game reminds me a lot of cooperative arcade shooters of the past such as Smash TV and Total Carnage; if you enjoyed those games then you will absolutely love Kill Team.