I used to play Epic (which came in a boxed set called Space Marine that contained Eldar and Orks as well as Space Marines, just to confuse you) when I was a lot younger, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Warhammer 40k universe. I’m sure other people who grew up with excellent Games Workshop stuff know what I mean, generally when you mention games like Talisman, Space Marine, Hero Quest, Space Hulk, and Warhammer 40k itself, people get this wistful look in their eye. Their translation into computer games has been less of a success, but the excellent Dawn of War and its various expansions in the hands of developer, Relic, have proved that it is certainly possible.
Warhammer 40k – Kill Team, okay, totally just calling it Kill Team from now – is by the same developer and feels like something of a budget stop-gap measure until their big full-price release of Space Marine. It is retailing right now for $9.99, but I await the UK release since it seems to give you things in Space Marine, DLC-wise, and DLC is not cross-country compatible, so this is a first impression based off the excellent demo. Unlike Space Marine, Kill Team is a top-down shooter.
As a general rule, I dislike top-down shooters, they’re usually painfully over-rated, masochistic, retro, nonsense. There are advantages to top-down shooters though, for example, the camera is easier to program because it is usually not player controlled. To put it into perspective, the top-down shooter is the sort of thing people learning to make games start with. Partly because of this, Relic has concentrated on making it a very Warhammer 40k experience, everything is finely polished and tuned to this end, menus are clunky, and loud, and metal. Graphically, it isn’t hugely impressive, but it is colourful, functional, and faithful, above what I’d expect from this price-point. The voice-work is superb, especially everyone’s favourite, Da Orks, who are always wonderful in games like this, but the Space Marines are also very good, although I dislike the Space Marine operator-style narration.
The set-up for, at least the demo, is that you’re a Space Marine (or two Space Marines – what the game calls a Kill Team), who have boarded an Ork Vessal called a Kroozer. I didn’t think Orks had actual space-faring craft, I thought they rode space hulks or hollowed out asteroids, which they do as well it seems. Still, it’s nice to get to see the space-related stuff. Anyway you have boarded the Ork ship and need to disable and purge the craft. Plenty of help screens show you how the game is played, and even they have that wonderful clunky feel. It’s also quite nice that you get to pick from a selection of chapters (types of Space Marines), some of them the less used ones like the Salamanders as well as favourites like Relic’s in-house chapter, the Blood Ravens.
The full game promises Tyranids as well as Orks to fight.
Unfortunately, the demo came with no subtitles.
There is quite a surprising amount of character development, character’s weapons may be upgraded, for example, a Bolt Pistol to a Plasma Pistol, or from the Chain Gun to the Rocket Launcher. Yes, they’re usually just different tools for different jobs, but just go with it. Characters can also gain purity seals to give bonus’ like a little extra health, or the ability to stay in their special ability mode for longer periods. Those special abilities are things like mega-rapid fire, or the Librarian’s psychic explosion. Characters can also pick up grenades to give them an extra advantage. The in-game mechanic that allows you to download new weapon via a beacon does strike me as a bit silly though, but is easily forgiven.
Two player doesn’t change a lot about how the game works, with it mostly just being the same, but with someone else on your side, and no friendly fire. Not enough games are multiplayer on the same console, it’s a little saddening to see it mostly relegated to budget games (with a few notable exceptions of course).
Your normal game-play is split between close quarters and ranged combat, with characters specialising in one the other, how heavily depending on that particular Space Marine. There’s a sort of fluidity there, but you still have to stop shooting to swing your weapon even if they are held in different hands, perhaps just because it is a little simpler. Either one is fun, but I much preferred the fire-power of the Heavy Bolter than using a Bolt Pistol until they flood me and then falling back on the Librarian’s Power Sword.
If the game doesn’t become ultra difficult in the latter stages of the game, then it is well worth the purchase, doubly so if you are a fan or admirer of Games Workshop’s imaginative work.