War Tapes Jake Tucker kicks in a few doors20 May 2015 0
War Tapes is an almost monthly column by Jake Tucker which looks at some of the finest strategy games of years gone by. This month we pop a spy camera under the door to look at Killhouse Studio’s Door Kicker. Flash Out!
With the increasing militarization of the American police playing out in the real world right now, recommending a strategy game in which you play as the police is almost controversial, if not a little crass. To not acknowledge this fetishisation of police in videogames while talking about a game in which an American S.W.A.T team executes high risk warrants with military grade hardware seems dishonest somehow. The fact this is done while units wear balaclavas with skulls painted on is gratuitous.
As an entertainment product Door Kickers succeeds on many levels, but with current events being as they are I’m starting to find the theme slightly troubling.
What Is Door Kickers?
Getting off my political soapbox, Door Kickers is a game about failure. I wrote recently about how Frozen Synapse was an iteration of Rainbow Six’s whiteboard planning stage made real. Door Kickers keeps this top down viewpoint but shows us the other side of close quarters battle: a messy enclosed struggle full of noise and violence. What qualifies as a failure? If I complete the mission but my most experienced officer is killed, have I failed? What about one of the (more) expendable rookies? You’re going to fail a lot in the early missions, poor planning or just an officer looking the wrong way will make you reach for the restart button several times. Plans will become increasingly revised until you sail through the mission to success.
The game plays out in real time, although you can pause it and issue new orders at any time. This means you can let the game play out if you’re waiting for a suspect to emerge from a barricaded room, but you can pause it to plan when you have to toss in flashbangs to turf them out.
There’s a heap of one-off missions to play, over 70 pre-designed and a random scenario generator that can produce any number of extra missions. There’s also 4 longer campaigns which introduce permadeath and build upon the persistence already in place: Officers that do well in missions will be promoted to have better skills. The stars you are awarded for your performance will allow you to purchase training upgrades that affect all of your officers in addition to permission to use different gadgets, armour types and guns.
I’m cheating a little in my column here in that Door Kickers only exited Steam’s Early Access program quite recently and is still being actively worked on. It’s really very good however and I pretty much just make up the rules here as I go along.
How Does It Play Now?
Controlling your team through a successful raid is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had recently. Whether you do this making the most of the detailed planning tools or manually take each of your troops through room after tense room, is up to you. Personally I tend to move all of my troops in real time and then pause for the breaches to make sure all the corners are covered and ploughing through a room is done with ruthless efficiency.
Interestingly this is the only game I’ve featured in War Tapes that’s still in active development. That means between you reading this and buying it things might change, which is not a thing I’m a fan of but for what it’s worth I’m very content with where it’s at right now and can recommend it on these strengths.
Don’t take my word for it though. Take my brutal unflinching shootouts. Here are a few different raids I’ve recorded for you, the game allows you to export these to video automatically so it’s cut out the pause time.
One feature I love is that the length of each weapon affects how quickly you can move it around in an enclosed space. The fact they’ve managed to accurately portray this in game is excellent and it means that I spend a bit of time looking at the layout of each map before choosing which weapons to send on a job.
Do you have a dual-core processor or better? You’ll be fine. It’s a new game so it has the full selection of modcons which can be added or scaled back depending on how much visual fanciness you want.
If you have a laptop, take these words under advisement. Older laptops may struggle to run Door Kickers. I’d probably recommend using a mouse too as touchpads could make it difficult to click responsively: admittedly frequent use of the pause button could get you around this.
Steam Workshop support. You can double click on anything you want here and it’ll just appear in your game next time you load it up. It doesn’t get simpler.
You want maps? I’ve enjoyed Cabin Fever but this recreation of the Swat 4 level: Food Wall Restaurant is my favourite Door Kickers workshop level. I also have a thing for Planes. Blame Rainbow Six: Raven Shield for letting me assault one as a youngster. Flight Cancelled is nice. You can raid the Simpsons at 742 Evergreen Terrace, or try out a recreation of a Hitman Blood Money level with Sluggers Hole.
But if you want to venture away from the Workshop, why not try this Rainbow Six total conversion mod that I enjoyed?
In particular I’d like to highlight the work done by modder Red Panda. He brings a mountain of new weapons, new maps and news sounds. In addition to a couple of usability tweaks and fixes you might find a use for. Find them here.
Is It For Me?
If you enjoy top down tactics games, this is the best of the bunch right now.
However that theme is jarring. If the idea of it puts you on edge then please do avoid it. I’ve managed to enjoy myself regardless but it’s worth considering because it’s the only thing that stops me giving this my total recommendation. Cops shouldn’t have skulls spraypainted on their balaclavas.