As those who listen to the N4G Podcast know, I am a tabletop gamer as well as a video gamer. I’ve dabbled in collectible games, including Magic: the Gathering, Heroclix and, most recently, Monsterpocalypse, but never the storied (and expensive) worlds that Games Workshop has brought to countless gamers. Over the years, though, I’ve had the opportunity to experience Blood Bowl, Warhammer, and Warhammer 40K in digital entertainment, spanning a wide variety of genres. With the upcoming release of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, THQ has decided to give us an early look at the life in the 41st millennium with Kill Team.
For those new to the Warhammer 40K universe, Kill Team does a fantastic job of introducing everything you need to know about the setting. The dark fanatasy / sci-fi combination brings your Space Marines, genetically modified and armored like knights, into battle with Orks and the insectoid Tyrannid to destroy an Ork “Kroozer” before it can endanger an Imperial forge world (a planet devoted to the Imperium’s military industrial complex).
You’ll traverse the ship in five levels as one of four different Space Marines: The Sternguard Veteran, a ranged combat expert; The Vanguard Veteran, a melee combat prodigy; The Librarian, a psychic warrior that is more balanced, but leans toward melee combat; and the Techmarine, that is balanced opposite the Librarian, with a slight focus on ranged combat. Each class has access to a special power that operates on a recharge timer that can be accelerated by killing enemies. These are critical for making it through the game and include a psychic bomb for the Librarian and an invaluable turret for the Techmarine.
In addition to the four different classes, you can choose which chapter of space marine you want to be part of. For Warhammer 40K fans, this is pure fan service, allowing players to skin their Kill Team in the colors and emblems of their favorite faction. For the uninitiated, it’s largely cosmetic, though there is a brief description of each group.
Controls are very intuitive. Kill Team is, at its heart, a dual-stick shooter and a competent one, at that. Throw in a button for discharging your special ability, another for throwing grenades, the left trigger for short sprint bursts, and the A button for melee attacks, and you’ve got a very comfortable control scheme, even when the action gets thick with Ork blood.
You’ll also gather 8 different power-ups, of which you can use one at a time. However, if you are playing co-op (sadly limited to two-player local, only), as long as you and your partner are close to one another, you can share boosts. Some are defensive, like a shield or invulnerability. Others increase your firing speed or add a spread effect. Health boosts also occupy the boost slot, but as with other power-ups, it lasts a while. With the health boost active, if you take damage, it is quickly recovered. Each of the power-ups only lasts for a short time, but you’ll often have to make tough decisions about which to grab for the next firefight.
There are also 10 collectibles to find in each level hidden in destructible and explosive items. You’ve got unlimited ammunition, so it’s advisable to just keep firing.
As you play, you’ll earn experience points that are automatically attributed to specific upgrades. Reaching an upgrade station mid-level allows you to change to newly unlocked weapons, which are class-specific, and slot two enhancements that can boost maximum health, enhance ranged or melee damage, shorten the gap between special ability uses and prolong your use of power-ups. These upgrades are available in multiple tiers starting with 5% up to a maximum of 25%.
Each member of the Kill Team also earns bigger and better weapons. The melee-leaning members get new swords and the ranged aficionados earn better guns. The best part is that these upgrades are earned regardless of which marines are in play. This allows you to experiment with different classes in each level without having to go back to the beginning to level up that particular character.
As you progress through the campaign, you’ll also unlock survival missions that take place in arenas taken right from the story missions. These start easy enough, but your marine will quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t choose the proper weapons and perks for the designated class.
When it comes to presentation, Kill Team has the trappings of a retail release. Visually, the game captures the Warhammer 40K universe extremely well. The game runs without a hitch, using dynamic camera angles in a way that gives you the best perspective on the battlefield, while helping to build drama. As you mow down enemies, you’ll often get a slow motion view kills that are simply fun to participate in.
The voiced over codex entries are a nice touch, as many downloadable titles content themselves with text only. That same narrator guides your progress through the kroozer. The voice actor enhances the dark, visceral nature of the Warhammer setting. The sound effects, from the grunts, taunts and cackles of the orks to the thudding sound of your bolter rounds crashing into large, lumbering enemies, are appropriately weighty.
Warhammer 40K: Kill Team is a fantastic update to the classic twin-stick shooter formula. I would be thrilled to see either a more substantial retail release using this format or an online-enabled downloadable sequel. Kill Team is simple in its approach and, for that, ends up being pure fun, despite the length and lack of online cooperative play. As a precursor to this fall’s Space Marine, it does the job of building hype and introducing the Warhammer 40K license to those who haven’t yet experienced it. This is what arcade shooters are all about.
Review copy provided by publisher.