Thursday, 11 August 2011

Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team (PS3) Review

Over the years there have been many video games with the Warhammer logo slapped onto them, most notably the Dawn of War series. The vast majority of them have embraced the tactical nature of the table top game and have been RTS games, turn based strategies and similar genres. 
But once in a while amongst games like Chaos Gate and Final Liberation you’ll get the odd exception which allows a player to get into the meat of the 41st millennium’s grim dark battlefields.

The game today is one of those games, Kill Team, which is not only a straight forwards hack and slash but a call-back to a lot of the arcade style games on the original Playstation.

Background and Story:

With this being an arcade style game there’s a bare bones story to give you a reason to start shooting things. An Ork Waaagh! (a cross between a riot, crusade and a pub crawl) is approaching a vital Imperial world and a few space marines are sent to stop it. 
You play as an armoured hulking behemoth which dispenses death at anything in sight, and your friend plays something similar. Just around the corner from you are a few hundred thousand blood frenzied Orks carrying meat cleavers and hand cannons.

That’s about it. You board a ship, kill everything in sight because they’re your enemy and leave once you’re finished painting the walls red with their blood. There are some secondary objectives once in a while, but they almost always come down to “blow that shit up” meaning you’re occasionally destroying the ship rather than the Orks.

In typical Warhammer video game fashion there is a “surprise” enemy which rears its armoured head part way through, but it’s only there to give you something besides Orks to rip apart.

Graphics and Design:

"Bother Librarian, if you dare yell "You shall not pass!" one more time I shall personally execute you on charges of heresy!"

The graphics are far from being the best thing you’ll come across in a video game. They’re adequate and are on par with the stuff you’d see on Dawn of War II but that’s about it. 
Then again this adds to the game’s charm and helps it feel like more of a call back to old arcade shooters, it’s adequate and that’s all it needs to be.

What really makes the game look good is how the designers were able to balance the use of colour and darkness. Despite spending the entire game spiriting about a dimly lit Ork kroozer there’s never any point where the lack of light becomes a problem or becomes an eyesore.  The rust brown and bronze metal of the ship helps the bright green Orks and marines to stand out from the background, making them very visible to the player. 

Even in the darkest parts of the ramshackle hulk the occasional explosion of gore from punching an enemy’s face in or bursts of gunfire will constantly let you know where you are. And if for some reason you can’t see your guy, shooting everything in sight will solve all of your problems.

Despite this there is one problem which comes with the game’s design: the camera. It’s fixed in one place in irritating positions which fans of Diablo, Legacy of Kain Defiance or again old top down arcade shooters will be familiar with. Most of the time it's fine but there’s always those points where you’re squinting at the screen because the camera is several miles from where your marine in a full blown melee against mobs of bloodthirsty enemies. 

In some boss battles, unfortunately in the first one, it always seems to be pointing just the wrong way meaning you can be peppered by Orks lurking just off screen from you. Time and time again you’re going to witness the Emperor’s angels of death being more effectively killed by a drunkenly helmed camera than the ferocious enemies of humanity.

Speaking of humanity’s enemies; they’re what you’d expect them to be. The Orks look very brutish, they’re green and they rely upon waves of cannon fodder. Many of them look identical to one another but you’ll only have a few seconds to look at them properly before they die wallowing in their own gore. 
The Tyranids (the “surprise” enemy everyone was expecting to see) are exactly the same but that’s a bit more acceptable. Unlike the Orks the Tyranids mass produce their cannon fodder as mindless drones rather than individuals. In spite of this all of the bosses look the part, each of them standing out well from the legions of enemies the marines casually dispatch in the hundreds. They’re huge, unique and add a bit more variety by giving the players something new to kill.

The marines themselves look, well, like space marines. If you’ve played the Dawn of War games or seen any covers then you’ll know what they basically look like: skull faced armoured men with big pauldrons.
Despite this there is a good variety of different ones available. There are ones with bolters, ones with jetpacks, ones with bigger bolters, ones with robot arms and ones who kill people with their brains. Each of them has enough small details to give them their own individual appearance to prevent them looking like mass produced soldiers.

If you don't know who this is and what he's carrying then you're definitely playing the wrong game.

As well as the classes there’s several different chapters available to give more variety to the player’s character, each specialising in one class. The ever present Blood Ravens (red) and Ultramarines (blue), the best known ones, but there are also several of the underused chapters. 
The Imperial Fists (yellow), Salamanders (green), Blood Angels (a different red) and White Scars (white). These are mostly there to keep the fans of Warhammer happy, but they’re a nice addition to the game’s small details.


From the initial words of “hack and slash arcade game” you can already guess what sort of game play you’re going to encounter. Something similar to the Dynasty Warriors games and hundreds of quick video games you’d find in any arcade.

Despite this there is a bit of tactical thinking within gameplay. Each class has its own specific strengths and weaknesses which can be exploited or focused upon. The Sternguard Veteran carries cannons only slightly smaller than himself and can dish out horrendous damage at long range. This is at the expense of the ability to fight effectively in close combat. 
Another example is the Librarians who rely upon much more tactical thought than most classes. Running into combat with your sword will often result in a quick death while blowing chunks of enemies with his pistol to charge up your special meter and relying upon his psychic attacks yields much more positive results.

There are also a good number of upgrades and skills which can be picked up from level to level, allowing for some customisation of each marine and to tailor make them to a play style. There are a few extra weapons which can be picked up but there wasn’t enough effort put into differentiating them. 
The biggest difference you’re going to see in terms of weapons is between using the plasma cannon and heavy bolter with the Sternguard class. Mostly due to the former spitting glowing orbs of death rather than a storm of high explosive bullets.

The main flaw is actually the combat of Kill Team. Despite it being roughly four hours in length and the boundless fun found in turning Orks into red mist, the fighting becomes very repetitive. There isn’t enough variety of basic enemies and this significantly detracts from a lot of the replay value. Killing the same generic cannon fodder over and over again removes a lot of the sense of progress and fights begin to blur into one another.
What adds to the game's tedium is the similarities of each level. Okay, you’re on an Ork ship, fine, but unlike War for Cybertron, the universally metal environments never change between levels. The only time it really alters is one section with the Tyranids, but it’s simply not enough to give some variation between settings.

Some of the tedium can thankfully be alleviated with the thankful edition of multiplayer. Having someone to talk to and constantly fighting alongside really helps improve a great deal of the experience of playing the game. It also allows for much more class experimentation by seeing which combinations work best together and against which enemies.

Unfortunately even this has its flaws. While THQ was good enough to give a proper splitscreen multiplayer unlike many of today’s games, there’s no option for playing online. This means while you can have friends slaughtering greenskins along side you, they can’t do it from their own home and have to all meet up at the same console to join in. 
The lack of a deathmatch setting or area where you could go into duels with other players is a serious mistake here an could have only improved upon the gameplay experience. But alas, there's no such option to kill your friends with high calibre weapons.

Probably the most irritating aspect of the whole game is how it seems to constantly pause to hold your hand. Every few minutes there would be a cut scene or voice over explaining the blindingly obvious and it constantly removes a lot of the immersion from playing it. It’s also annoying as all hell.


Kill Team is worth getting due to its very cheap price but it’s by no means a perfect game, even by the standards of arcade style mass combat. It’s fast, bloody and enjoyably violent, but also repetitive, tedious, short and with a camera trying to assassinate you.

If you’re going to get it at all then i’d suggest buying it for small gatherings of people. It was clearly intended for multiplayer and works best when you’ve got more than one person fighting the Orks. If you’re a Warhammer fan then definitely buy this one, especially if you’re going to get Space Marine. If you’re not then Castle Crashers would be a much better cheap multiplayer buy, which has most of Kill Team’s strengths while having next to none of its flaws.


Warhammer 40,000 and all related characters and media are owned by Games Workshop.
Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team was made by THQ.

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