Pixel Shard / Kill House Games (studio)
22 October 2019 (released)
04 November 2019
Yet another action packed pixel game comes out this week but instead of battling aliens on a distant planet or going to hell to punch Satan in the face, we’re instead taken into the gritty world of swat team enforcement. Now swat games were a big thing many years ago and within recent years have slowly crawled back onto the market. Mainly due to how immersive and gripping the gameplay can be, mainly with other people. Action Squad follows in the similar vein of BroForce but decides to change up the gameplay in few key areas.
Does it work? Let’s find out.
So there’s no actual story to Action Squad: Door Kickers but then that’s really no problem. You play as a member of an elite team that tackles a number of highly dangerous situations, mainly hostage situations and taking out big crime bosses. That’s really the core of the “story” mode summed up in a nutshell. Everything taking place is a basic concept of cops vs criminals and while a story to connect the events could’ve been neat, it’s not at all necessary. However it would’ve been neat for the developers to craft more interesting situations or enemy factions. What we mainly get are pretty bog standard mission descriptions of hostages being taken at a nearby nightclub, warehouse, office building and usually it’s a bunch of basic bad guys in white vests and shaved heads.
You do get more advanced enemies and some hint of different factions but they feel more random for the most part. Or they’re just pretty simple and not so inventive. A game like Not a Hero managed to create a number of enemy factions, each having a unique identity and persona that could be seen (and laughed at while shooting). Here they’re just stock bad guys and it would’ve been great to have Satan worshippers, angry millennials or even pirates (like Treasure Island type or modern day ones).
But the tactical gameplay is really the meat of Door Kickers and it does excel in delivering engaging and tactical over the top action. You pick a member of this elite action squad from an impressive line-up that includes Assault, Breacher, Shield, Agent and even a random off duty cop. Each character have their own weapons, gear, special abilities and overall strengths and weaknesses which impact each mission in some unique ways. Playing a different character in the same mission can result in any number of outcomes happening due to their abilities and also due to the multiple paths you can take.
I will say that each level is crafted with care (for the most part) that allows players to traverse, plan and attack and with a nice line up of characters, each level can be approached in a number of different ways.
Gunplay / action is solid thanks again to the large roster of weapons, gear and the level design. With the core of the gameplay’s intensity being linked to the interesting mechanic of kicking doors in. You see, many of the rooms in a level will be blacked out and the only means to find out what’s behind door number one is to kick it in. Plays well into the tactical and team elements as you have to work together, pick the right gear and plan out your next move in order to survive.
The door kicking, ranking up your favourite character to unlock new gear/weapons allowing you to deal with every situation in a number of different ways is pretty enthralling. For example you can have your Breacher blast open a door and kill the enemies close by, while your shield guy can walk in during the confusion and take out the rest with minimal danger. It’s amazing how intense each door kicking can be and partnering up with the right player, picking the gear and planning out your attack makes for some intense encounters.
The only big problems with Door Kickers are the difficulty spike for single player and the slow progression in unlocking gear and new weapons. Single player is extremely tough as one small mistake can ensure your visit to the morgue in a body bag. Door Kickers relies on the co-op element to enhance the simple mechanics into so much more and ensure the tactical gameplay is not watered down or completely redundant at times. Enemies don’t hold back and in some levels, they’re positioning is extremely in considerate. That sounds a little odd, but when you have a bunch of enemies at the top of a ladder and no means of using an advantage and no backup, it can be tedious. Especially when your starting out and have little or no gear to pick from.
Thankfully you can progress to other missions and other chapters but completing a handful of missions in the previous chapters. But progression to unlock new gear and weapons can be slow even when co-op is involved.
Along with the main campaign there’s also two other modes. Something that is expected is a zombie’s mode which is just the main campaign with random zombies appearing at certain moments. Players have to carry out the main missions and deal with closing the gateways which the zombies come through. It’s nothing exciting and the inclusion of zombies in this manner just feels random and a little clumsy. The other is an endless mode where players will need to traverse a tower block, filled to the brim with enemies and all manner of dangers. Going up each floor increases the level of danger by increasing enemy count and producing new and tougher enemies. This is best done through co-op as you’ll need all the backup you can get and all the gear you can carry. It’s again nothing special but more of a challenge with better pacing and being a true test of skill.
Door Kickers is still an extremely fun game that relishes in tactical co-op gameplay and effectively enhances simple mechanics to create an intense and gripping pixel art action shooter. It may not have the big budget of Rainbow Six: Siege but it still holds an impressive edge and compelling gameplay for you and a buddy.
++ Intense and fun tactical gameplay
+ Co-op is very engaging
+ Kicking doors is fun!
- Lack of interesting environments and factions
- Zombies mode feels a little random and clumsy
Xbox One review codes were provided for the purpose of this review.