Review: Door Kickers30 Jun 2015 0
Review: Door Kickers
Released 24 Jun 2015
Were, at this very moment, law enforcement to jimmy open my front door and flashbang my living room, they would not be met with force. They'd thunder into the confines of my home and find a man with sizzling corneas and ringing, blown-out ears, grinning and fumbling blindly with his iPad. I'd stand, trip over the table in front of me, apologise and reassure the burly officers that I'll come quietly, just as long as I can grab the charging cable. "Thing is almost flat," I would say meekly, ears still ringing.
"By the way, have you guys played Door Kickers?"
Leave politics at the door that is about to be kicked -- KillHouse Games' debut title has nothing to say about the spate of recent over-reaching and up-gunning by police departments in America and elsewhere. Door Kickers is a pausable realtime puzzle-strategy game; your role here is strictly tactical, not philosophical.
Door Kickers shucks the cruft of turns and time increments that, admittedly, I thought were lean enough concepts. Players guide their two-plus squaddies of law enforcement through all manner of environments, sweeping for tangos and generally doing what a SWAT team does. Door Kickers still has the trappings and heart of hyper-meticulous squad strategies like Frozen Synapse in plotting routes and vision vectors, but rather than fussing over granular operational minutiae, the game unfolds in a more rambunctious way.
Starting in an introductory set of levels with a two-man team, the initiation to the flashbang appreciation society is a gentle upward swing. Learning to drag out movement lines, holding on line nodes to lock in viewing angles, selecting whatever way you'd like to interact with a door; the early game does well to carefully increase the options without overwhelming the player. Soon, you'll be picking locks, calling on sniper support and synchronising multi-pronged breaches with go-codes. Once you've earned enough stars by completing these single scenario missions -- of which, there are a whopping seventy-eight -- the big campaigns become unlocked. The six discrete campaign packages feature a specific theme, ranging from your basic flat-sweeping perp-droppers to breaking up terrorist cells and even one I'm willing myself to believe is the Speed 2: Cruise Control game we never received [and didn't deserve --ed.]. I would call the fellow a bold-faced liar, were he to suggest Door Kickers suffers from a lack of content. There's also a sturdy mission generator to make legs even longer.
It's not just the sheer amount of levels, either. Each of the up-to-ten deployable officers, across the five distinct classes of Pointman, Assaulter, Breacher, Stealth and Shield, can use the currency of award stars to kit out and upgrade themselves. Primary and secondary firearms, flak vests, support and utility gear can all be switched out and accessorised as per play style or as situation demands. There's a veterancy carry-over, feeding into proficiency stats. The game even tracks, among other things, how many doors have been kicked by the officer in question. Riding atop the individual options is the Squad Doctrine Tree, which allow for holistic improvements and bonuses to the three main firearm categories in pistols, long-range weapons and shotguns. These range from improved accuracy to specificities like the ability to double-tap in close quarters.
There's a certain X-Comminess to each officer after you've spent some time keeping him in the line of duty, a vibe all the more illuminating when they cop, puns down on the ground, a few too many rounds at the hands of opponents. Thankfully, each level is so self-contained, such a tight terrarium of criminality, that punching reset is not only viable, but encouraged. You play Door Kickers for efficiency. Honing the breaching and clearing, the rescuing and the bomb defusing to a spin-shined polish as best you can, aiming for the lowest time and cleanest run.
This element is what really defines Door Kickers. The game has the peppy tempo of something far more arcade, reining it in with a clean array of tactical options and letting the player control the flow of time. No more turn commitments, where a five second block of fastidious planning can be crippled by an unanticipated contact. While that works for the Frozen Synapses and Breach and Clears of this world, being able to jam on the brakes the moment something turns south is by far my preference. Given the NPCs roaming in the fog of war aren't always where you encountered them during the last turn, Door Kickers throws off static puzzling for something more dynamic. Players can react accordingly to a fresh and scary burst of small arms fire thrown at them from the shadows. They can re-direct another fireteam around to deal with entrenched enemies, heaving flashbangs and peeping under doors with UDC4s for quick intel. Granted, not every encounter can be salvaged on the fly, but when it can, you feel many shades of Ding Chavez.
With a fitting, thrumming soundtrack, the likes you'd generally find in a tense Michael Mann film, and just the right level of police chatter, Door Kickers is the complete package. A breeze to control, exciting to play and to excessively replay, laden with tactical playgrounds. There are no caveats here; only doors. Knock gently with a SPAS-12.