Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Andy King2
Review: Door Kickers (Alpha 7)
I don’t usually review Early Access or Alpha/Beta games (nor do I know of many people who do either). This is because so much can change (for better or worse) between releases. However with Door Kickers by KillHouse Games I decided to make an exception – as it’s that good!
As some one that grew up playing on PC, my brother and friends would often while away many weekends drinking elaborate alcoholic concoctions, eating spicy Indian food and playing tactical shooters all linked up over a LAN. Sure we played a lot of Quake, but when (the late) great Tom Clancy and RedStorm Entertainment released the very first Rainbow Six we were smitten (and very drunk). We latched on and it took over our waking and sleeping moments. The original Rainbow Six was, I believe, the first tactical shooter of it’s kind and it was brutal. 1-shot 1-kill allowed no room for error as you navigated houses and embassies disarming bombs, saving hostages and of course killing tangos. At the start of each round, your team would choose an equipment set-up (something silent or for close quarters etc.), map out a route and set way points for your AI squad mates to take. When an incursion was executed well all of your soldiers came back alive, all the bad guys would be dead and the hostages would be re-united with their love ones. When it went wrong, it would go very wrong. The Rainbow Six games continued for a few years and we also had Irrational Games’ excellent SWAT 4, but then… nothing. All of a sudden RedStorm were no more and we had the still fun but not the same 1st/3rd person ‘shooters’ of Rainbow Six Vegas and the later Ghost Recon games. Gone were the danger and planning. In with the oh so familiar regenerating health bar. Jumping forward many years the LAN parties have dried up (mainly due to the stupidly fast internet speeds) but the need for a thoughtful tactical game hasn’t. In stomps Door Kickers. A distilled take on what a tactical shooter is all about.
The essence of the game is that you take control of a team of troops via a 2D top down view as you take them through varying terrorist transgressions. Like an evil version of Through the Keyhole, in these buildings and behind these doors (and covered by the fog of war and line of sight) are the enemy – and these chaps are the best of the worst. They’re packing and not afraid to hurt you and prevent you from completing your objective. The player will set way points for each unit in frozen planning time (telling them to look in certain directions or strafing if instructed) to an area and then can be told to perform an action (such as stack up against a door, open it and throw a flashbang through). Once time is released by a hit of the space bar, the squad will set off to succeed spectacularly or to meet a claret coloured ending via a hail of bullets not unlike a scene from Robocop. Thankfully this planning mode can be accessed easily and used (in my case often) to take stock of the always changing situation, allowing you to adjust new way points or cover corridors and rooms (or back up a squad that has been diminished in numbers thanks to a misstep earlier in the level). This input is very simple (dragging a mouse) but exceedingly difficult to master.
At your disposal are an array of weapons and tactics, special ones if you will. As well as hot lead, players can utilise fibre optic cameras to see under doors, various flash grenades or the more brutal door charges for the ultimate shock and awe. As you progress other elements come in to play, such as hostages or doors that need to be crowbar’d or blasted with a shotgun, which give you even more decisions to make on what the best/safest approach is.
To keep things interesting those burly weapon carrying blokes react dynamically to your breaches, listening for the carnage that often goes hand-in-hand with your entrance, by being ballsy and beginning to patrol or come find you. This can be particular funny when using a scope to spy under a door only for a shotgun toting goon to open it finding your face to his groin. As well as this ever changing map, if you fail and try the level again the AI will often change positions – thus ensuring Door Kickers scores high on the replay-ability scale.
Graphically Door Kickers isn’t going to need an SLI set-up, but what it does have is polished and bug free – which is particularly impressive for an alpha. I’ve yet to encounter a single issue with the game. No enemies spinning around in circles or hostages exploding (other than by my own hand) so Door Kickers is quite a remarkable alpha in that regard. Sound and music are equally inoffensive. Voice work is suitably gruff and appropriate. Bangs, screams, crunches and explosions resonate with the required gusto to ensure it has your attention at all times.
Other functions in the game like replays allow you to dissect or relive those glorious perfect/botched hostage rescues, a random mission generator if you want to mix-up the game style for maps you’ve already played, and finally Door Kickers comes bundled with a very simple (but effective) map creator/editor letting you make and share your own missions with friends or the ever growing community of fans.
With further promised additions of classes, campaigns, new weapons, kits and maps (maybe even multiplayer) coming in future alpha updates, Door Kickers is only going to grow in complexity and fun.
In conclusion, any form of entertainment no matter the medium, that makes me want to go away to do research to improve understanding of its premise I feel is a winner. I’ve watched around 6-hours of NatGeo’s Close Quarters Battles now and this has really helped my gameplay in Door Kickers to no end. The downside is that when I walk into my living room I skirt around the outside and look for the choke points.
“Bang, you’re dead” my wife says jumping out from behind the sofa. “Man down”.
If you’re interested to know more about Door Kickers, I’ve managed to secure some time for a Q&A with the KillHouse Games team. Check out our exclusive Q&A here!
Summary: Only you can decide if your team are a crack super squad or crap fodder bullet sponges. No pressure. Plenty of bang for your buck will keep you coming back for more.