Publisher: THQ / Developer: THQ Digital Studios Warrington / Price: $10 / ESRB: Teen (Violence, Blood) / Played On: Xbox 360
I’m not quite sure of the point of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. It’s clearly a dual-stick shooter with some action bits bolted on that serves as a promotional tool for Space Marine, the upcoming console game in the same universe. It’s clearly a game designed for co-op as it features four distinct character classes, a progression system, and achievements tied to playing with a friend. Why, then, is it missing so many critical elements for games made in the 21st Century?
As I said, Kill Team plays like a dual-stick shooter featuring the burly armored heroes of the Warhammer 40K universe. There’s a melee button for close-quarters chopping, as well as the ability to perform a class-specific special move. The game makes a big effort to reward you with points for killing lots of enemies in quick succession or by destroying the explosive canisters scattered around the stages. These points unlock perks for your marines, which can increase their health, damage, and so forth.
So what you get here is pretty straightforward. The action is fast and violent; waves of Ork hordes explode into clouds of blood as you mow them down. Between the bouts of frenetic fighting, you move through the game’s large, well-designed levels achieving multi-tiered mission objectives (like destroying the Ork Kroozer’s propulsion systems by sabotaging various components of the ship, for example).
It’s fun and snackable; each stage is about an hour in length, and once you beat the game, you can come back with the other marine classes.
Sadly, we’re missing a piece of this puzzle. Kill Team is very clearly a co-op title, allowing you to shoot it up with a friend through the entire game. And while I’m lucky enough to have real friends who enjoy the Warhammer franchise, Kill Team has no online co-op. Let me say that again: no online co-op. This is a game that is difficulty balanced for two players, and yet features no online functionality. This is a game exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade, at least right now, and you can’t play with anyone on the service.
It’s questionable at best, downright disappointing at worst, given the focus of the gameplay. I can’t conceive of why this decision was made, but when all is said and done, the biggest ding against Kill Team is this major omission.
The main campaign has you taking down the Ork Kroozer about to assault the space marine Forge World. The campaign lasts about four to six hours, which you can then replay as different classes in an attempt to find all the collectibles items that unlock concept art and increase your top score. It is rather refreshing to see an Xbox Live Arcade game play up to the traditional score-based attacks of old school arcades, something that has been a bit sparse among all the artful indie games.
I do have one major gripe, a complaint that I feel very strongly about, and I address this one to all developers out there, not just the recently shuttered THQ Warrington: NO MORE UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES. Many of the checkpoints in Kill Team are absolute bullshit, usually occurring right before a needlessly long pan and zoom on your objective that you can’t skip. Because the game is incredibly challenging while playing solo, you die a lot. That means you end up watching certain cutscenes over and over. This kind of thing needs to stop.
Kill Team also features a survival mode, which takes key locations from the campaign and forces you to fight off wave after wave of enemies, clocking how long you can last. It’s fun for a bit, but ultimately a throwaway considering the locations aren’t new, and there isn’t much strategy beyond grabbing weapon power-ups at the right time.
If you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40K property, you’ll find a day of solid fun in Kill Team. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but progressing through the game is fun and challenging. I still can’t for the life of me figure out why there’s no online co-op, because partner play is where it truly shines. Still, it’s enjoyable at its core, and hardcore leaderboard ninjas will enjoy the score attack aspects of the various marine classes. It’s a shame it was released in such a crowded downloadable game window, as it’s an enjoyable diversion for the price.