If Door Kickers teaches you one thing, it’s that: variety is the spice of life, and Door Kickers has heaps and heaps of variety. Brought to us by In The Kill House, it’s a top-down RTS that lets you control an elite SWAT team in any situation you can think of. Featuring real world guns from pistols to shotguns and an array of toys to play with, including spy cameras, breaching charges and hidden snipers. You can rescue hostages, arrest targets or just “eliminate hostiles”. You can alter a soldiers class (automatic weapons, shotguns, stealth), their name, face, call sign and outfit. You can scout out rooms before entering, shoot through windows or draw enemies into the killing ground. There’s an impressive amount of variation to be had, each game mode requires a different mode of thinking, and you must adapt to survive. ‘Who Dares Wins’ is the motto of the SAS, but Door Kickers would have ‘Who Plans Wins’.
So how does ‘planning’ work and why is it a ‘top-down’ view? Well, before each level, you need to plot who goes where (after micromanaging their entire inventory) and what actions they do, being free to tinker to your heart’s content, hence the top down-view so you can easily see what’s going on. Once the level starts, your troops will do exactly what you command. Simple! But, the amount of detail you do in the planning stage before the level goes “live” will represent the missions’ success and speed, but always be prepared to improvise. Whilst you can map out every movement beforehand, you can still alter your troops as they move in real-time – or pause the game to make multiple adjustments at once. It’s a game mechanic that takes a while to get used to, but it works fantastically because you are outnumbered and outgunned, so your tactics become your secret weapon. Scout out the level, be patient, plan and then strike before they can react. Happily, when in the thick of it, your guys cannot shoot each other and will fire at any enemy they see, which is a good touch when you can’t directly see the firing arcs, only their field of view.
But don’t expect the AI to be as thick as two short planks. They’ll move towards sources of sound and commotion and even ambush you if you let your guard down. If you can see them, they can often see you and won’t hesitate to fill you full of lead or shrapnel. Whilst you can manage every detail initially, from their primary and secondary weapons to what they have in their pockets, once the level has started, you cannot alter the loadout.Thinking ahead is key. You have to plan for the best case scenario and the worst. If you’re down to your last guy, how will you complete the level? All your guys start out as rookies with average aim and fairly weak weapons, which you upgrade as you progress through the level reward system. But, as you upgrade, so do your foes, so you can never afford to get complacent. It sounds like a pain, but it isn’t – it’s actually strangely realistic.
We do have to redefine the “realism” of this game. Certainly, it is not sporting realistic graphics or sound effects although the chatter between your troops is realistic enough. The graphics are nice, mind, but it won’t make gaming rigs cry. The troops field of view is represented by a white light, that colours the area once they’ve seen it – unseen areas remain blue. You don’t know where hostiles are until you’ve seen them, and once they’ve disappeared, you’re in the dark again. It is realistic in the sense that, if you plan a mission half-heartedly or not at all, you’ll bumble into the situation and either get shot to bits or have your hostages killed. Or the target will escape. Or they’ll destroy the evidence, and then shoot you. In the real world, SWAT teams and the special forces require plans of attack and withdrawal, with a backup plan if they end up the creek without a paddle. Those that are wet behind the ears will not be as accurate as the veterans. You too must adopt this mindset.
Although the levels do have common overlaps, no two are identical, so you can never just rely on a handful of approaches. Take time to survey the building layouts and plan accordingly. You can afford to make mistakes early on (if you’re not playing in Double-XP Ironman mode) with the ability to restart missions, but only at the end of said mission. If one of your guys goes down and you move on, then he’s KIA and you’re down a gun dog. With a finite supply of men, you cannot afford to lose them, especially in the later campaign levels. You can afford to take risks, but don’t expect one man to do the work of two, let alone eight.
The margin for error becomes slim very quickly as the difficulty increases. As your guys level up, unlocking better weapons and improving their aim, so do your opponents. Whatever your guys can use, they can use too. Some levels can be a bit unfair. A simple hostage rescue in Campaign was ruined when one of the guys started throwing grenades and killed the hostages, either by accident or in spite. There’s no chance to replay levels in the campaign, unless you restart the entire campaign, which can be frustrating. During the hostage-rescue levels, the AI will execute hostages, sometimes without any prior warning. Most of the time, a path is mapped for the AI that’s off to shoot the poor sod so you can intercept, but if they’re in the same room, then you’ve had it, especially if you haven’t “seen” them. Sometimes they would be killed as you were nearing the completion of a level, which raised the stakes for you to be as swift as possible but it did become an annoyance when sprung unexpectedly. Other times they’d be caught in the crossfire, as they have no self-preservation instincts. This can be annoying, especially if you’re about to evacuate them, but then it falls back on your failing to secure the area.
Overall, this is a very addictive and hugely enjoyable game with heaps of replayability thanks to the level generator and level builder. The amount of detail that’s gone into muzzle flashes, bullet arcs and level detail is eye-catching, especially with such smooth animation from friend and foe alike. If you get bored with doing the campaign or single missions then you can generate your own to your heart’s content or use the random-level generator to surprise yourself. Want to recreate your favourite Hollywood film scenarios or make a stealth level to rival Splinter Cell? Then get stuck in!
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