I'm a big fan of Warhammer 40K. I tend to eat up anything that involves pixel versions of Space Marines, Vindicare Assassins, Orks, Eldar and so on. I've played lots of 40K games including Dawn of War, Dawn of War 2 and especially the old classic Space Hulk remake for the 3DO. Yet I've always wanted something a bit more visceral and more hands on, something where I could play the Emperor's finest.
Well, now THQ have given that chance in spades. Not only with the imminent release of Space Marine but with Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team. It is a rather engaging third person isometric twin-stick shooter that serves as a prequel or aside to the events in Space Marine. The bottom line with Kill Team is that it's well worth the 800 microsoft points to purchase and unlocks a Power Sword for Space Marine if you finish a mission in the game.
Simply put...Orks are coming in a massive Ork Kruiser to smash a Space Marine Forge World, their home base for those of you who haven't a clue. A drop pod is sent to the ship and aboard it are two Space Marines. The finest warriors of a holy order of Battle Brothers to serve the Imperium of Man. They are tasked with the ship's destruction and they must fight through the belly of the beast, past thousands of Orks to wreak havoc.
It's a delightfully simple game, a twin-stick shooter that runs from an isometric 3d viewpoint. The left stick controls your movement; the right aims and fires the chosen weapon that you have equipped. The bumpers are assigned to special moves, grenades and so on. A lets you attack in melee. The controls are a breeze and extremely responsive allowing you to concentrate on the meat of the game, following your commander's objectives and putting an end to countless Ork lives with a spray of bullets or a swing of a power axe.
The objectives are quite fun and some of the missions mix things up with big boss fights, requiring a little thought and tactical planning. There are also power ups that can be activated in the game, only one of these can be active at once so it's best to think about the situation at hand. Do you want the quad fire or rapid fire...or perhaps you're being swarmed and 30 seconds of invulnerability is what the medic ordered? Need health quick, well that health restore power up would just about hit the spot!
You can choose from several Space Marine Chapters, picking from the likes of the Ultramarines, Blood Ravens and so on. They offer a cosmetic change only. You can choose from 4 Space Marine classes in Kill Team, these have various statistics that mean they're good in ranged or melee combat or a mix of both. They can be equipped with a few primary weapons and at least 2 unlockable perks, which are unlocked by killing lots of Orks and scoring high points in combat.
Perks are extra health, bonus special power and duration, extra grenade slots and so on. They run from bronze to gold and offer bigger bonuses to the Space Marine at the higher tier.
The 4 classes are:
The Sternguard Veteran: A ranged specialist can be equipped with the likes of a Heavy Bolter, Plasma Cannon and Missile Launcher. His special ability is focussed fire that lets a massive damaging stream of firepower loose upon his enemies.
The Vanguard Veteran: Up close and personal, equipped with the likes of the power sword, chainsword and so on. The Vanguard Veteran can also use a jump pack assault as his special ability.
The Librarian: A melee based character, with some ranged power, the Librarian is a powerful psychic and his special summons a psychic storm that can wreak havoc on his enemies. He can be equipped with the likes of the force sword and so on.
The classes all offer something different in terms of their weapons, base stats and potential to give different types of players a role in a battle. I really do like the Techmarine since the Melta is a formidable weapon and the turret is highly useful to protect your back as you take on waves and waves of tough Ork warriors.
The game uses reasonable checkpoints to keep track of progress and there aren't very many frustrating missions. You're scored at the end of a section and awarded a bonus score for a faster completion time. Missions can take 30 or so minutes to complete at first with your time lowering as you become more familiar with the way that KT works and plays.
There are also survival modes that pit you against waves of Orks outside of the main campaign.
Reminiscent of Dawn of War 2 in many ways, Kill Team is quickly recognisable to both fans of 40K and Dawn of War in general. The graphics have that perfect Games Workshop look and match the designs for the new figures quite well. They're bright and colourful which is a good change in an industry dominated by grim and grey space marines, brown and grey Gears, and other warriors from equally drab (but effective) colour schemes. The bottom line is that for a downloadable game, it's a nice looking package.
Once again the animations for the game are on a par with some of the ones in Dawn of War 2. They have kept the flavour of the 40K Universe alive and managed to provide a fun and frenetic experience that comes through in the animations. The Space Marines attack with a variety of weapons and the Orks are full of grotty character. Melee animations are quite nice and whilst they don't seem to impact as well as they could do, the slow-mo camera that sometimes triggers when you put down the last enemy in a wave provides a nice frame for the action and a satisfying capstone to the carnage.
There are lots of ancillary objects in the game that go boom, when the dakka starts flying. These explosions can have an effect on your health, or decimate the enemy around them sending Ork and Gretchins flying in a satisfying explosion of soaring bodies. Weapons like the missile launcher cause a lot of splash damage and are great for crowd control.
The AI is pretty good, the enemy will use various tactics and enemies like the Gretchin love to rush in and hack away at you, whilst the Ork ranged bad guys will pepper you with gunfire from a distance and move away if you try and get too close. In boss battles there are various attack patterns and the AI remains fairly smart throughout.
By now THQ and their various dev-teams have a wide library of Warhammer 40,000 sounds to draw from, these are all excellently implemented in Kill Team and the game sounds fantastic.
The soundtrack is militaristic and stirring, matching the on-screen carnage perfectly and providing a nice backdrop to hunt Orks to.
The game can be played offline couch-co-op with a friend, taking a different class to provide a second gun or ability in combat with the massed warriors of the enemy. In co-op mode the game allows you to revive a fallen comrade, share the effects of power ups by standing and fighting within a certain distance and pooling your scores at the end to help the primary player unlock more cool perks for both characters. The experience is a great one and highly recommended if you want an extra level of tactics since you can deploy perks that complement each other, and use the power ups intelligently to maximise your kill potential.
The sheer amounts of Orks upon screen in combat, the carnage, the attention to detail from the developer and the pure fun factor all add up to make this a great 800 point downloadable title. Having the Power Sword unlock for Space Marine is the cherry upon the really well designed and developed cake that is Kill Team. If you're looking for a good quality twin-stick shooter that's got 40K just right, then Kill Team is it.