I can’t claim to have ever kicked a door down. It sounds like something only the toughest of grizzled superheroes would do, and if we slip back into reality for a second I’m almost certain it would hurt. Luckily you can supplement any physical pain for virtual satisfaction in Door Kickers, a game that really seems to have a vendetta against doors.
You assume command of a SWAT team, controlling each member simultaneously from a top down perspective. As each level starts, you’ll have the freedom to pick which of your guys you deploy, what gear they use, and where on the map they will spawn. There are a few notable differences on each gear load-out – lock picks and silenced weapons that allow stealth entry and shotgun wielding breach masters to name a few – but for the most part I never really had cause to dive into this feature. Because you’re given a set of predefined soldiers to pick from at the start of each level, I never felt the need to go in and play around with the gear of my pre-existing units. The ones I started with seemed to work just fine, and I would never have any issues coping without my stealth guys for a round of two if they had been killed in a previous mission.
Losing one of your own during an engagement is treated as little more than a minor inconvenience, which dampens the sense of risk as you plan out your path through each level. After a unit dies in a mission, their ‘slot’ is considered out of action for the duration of the next mission before being filled with a randomly generated new squad member. By doing this, the game makes you feel like the units at your disposal become expendable commodities rather than prized members of the team, and by having no incentives to keep your favourite soldiers alive, it becomes too easy to condemn a squad member to die for the sake of an easier outcome.
Controlling your squad is intuitive, and all but the most advanced actions are simple to execute by drawing out a path for each unit to take. To accompany this, the game sports a useful pause mechanic that allows you to freeze the live events of each level, giving you time to assess the situation and draw out your plan before the bullets fly. Along with controlling your positioning, you must also manage each unit’s line of sight, which becomes important in the later levels as a fog of war obscures any parts of the map that aren’t currently in your team’s cone of view. The way Door Kickers handles this is by allowing you to set a focus direction for your units, so they can strafe past corners and doorways whilst still being able to watch for incoming threats. It’s a simple mechanic that adds more depth to the proceedings, as an unaware squad member can easily be reduced to a chalk outline if they aren’t looking in the right direction.
Being a tactical game about putting your foot through various doors, I’d be remised if I didn’t talk about this mechanic. You will encounter a lot of doors, usually with a generous helping of armed thugs just waiting for someone to pay them a visit. When approaching a door you’re offered several options, and whilst I’ve yet to find one that simply lets me open the door with the handle, the choices are all tactically sound. The flash bang, for example, can be used to pacify any goons hiding around in the next room, allowing your guys to rush in and murder them before the tinnitus wears off.
The levels can come in a variety of flavours, from bomb disposal engagements to hostage rescue. It’s a good mix of objectives that you’d imagine the average SWAT team would be handling regularly, but after playing each objective type in succession only the bomb disposal and hostage execution missions seem to have you doing something other than murdering every bad guy in the building.
A good example of this are the hostage rescue missions which have you raid each level in search of a number of vulnerable civilians. Whilst there is an option to secure them and lead them outside to safety, the mission doesn’t end there. It doesn’t stop until you seek out and kill every last armed unit in the building, which just seems petty. Not content with foiling their plans of capturing innocents for ransom money, you then have to return to the house and make sure that they know you won by delivering a final burst of justice to their face.
Door Kickers is an honourable attempt to recapture the spirit of those old tactical squad games, so much so that I would be inclined to describe it as the illicit lovechild of the classic S.W.A.T games and the Commandos series. The controls are easy to grasp and offer the potential to set up an elaborate plan of attack when taking on each mission. Unfortunately, in its current state the individual units hold little worth, and the game doesn’t necessarily punish mistakes as much as it should. The AI does a good job in keeping you on your toes during each level, but there’s little incentive to craft a master plan and then execute it like a well oiled machine.
Note: Door Kickers is an Early Access title, and in its current state it is not feature complete. This review is of the game at the time dated, and both content and quality are subject to change.
This game was reviewed using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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