Game: "Door Kickers: Action Squad"
System: PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Other

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 9/20/2018

I might have seen fit to overlook the Door Kickers franchise because the best strategy I can muster in a video game is to hide behind a wall when guys are shooting at me. Action Squad has shown me that this is a brand that has some legs as you and a buddy foreswear any preconceived notions of realism and learn to love sprite-based carnage with just enough of a SWAT coating to make you think you'd enjoy a career in law enforcement.

The game's 60 missions come in four flavors, though what it boils down to is what particular twist is put on killing all the bad guys. Most of the missions involve rescuing hostages, but losing hostages or killing them yourself doesn't prevent you from completing the mission (though oddly, killing a crime lord instead of arresting him will end the mission). And if you're not into perfection, you'll still want to preserve those hostages because each rescued hostage adds points to a special meter that lets you call in powerups within the mission, from the mundane armor bonus to borrowing a shotgun that shoots fiery buckshot!

By and large, the missions can be seen less as individual challenges and more as a refining process. At first any class will do for barging into a room and spraying the bad guys with bullets, maybe clipping a hostage or two in the process. You might start with the Assaulter class for his access to the most damaging automatic weaponry, and why wouldn't you? Even among classes that specialize in defensive tactics there isn't much room for subtly. You can march through most of the first chapter without breaking a sweat.

But soon, you'll want a bit more nuance than being able to fire a single, deadly shot every few seconds. Maybe the Breacher for quickly clearing out rooms positively swimming with bad guys. Or maybe you stick with the Shield for obvious reasons, and for her ability to shoot well over the heads of those pesky hostages. I ultimately settled on Agent Fergie for her ability to shoot faster and more accurately than any other class, but each one has some hook for gaining the upper hand on the veritable army of thugs in each mission.

At its best, the game presents you with a series of small challenges as you decide the best way to handle each room in a given mission, especially those later ones where they introduce some cautious (and aggravating) hostage takers. The rest of the time, you are more or less railroaded into entering a room and facing whatever comes along head on because there is literally no way around it. This gets to be more annoying in the late game stages where enemies have deadly rifles and can be alerted to your presence before you can see them.

Since hostage killing isn't a deal-breaker, and since you can use your saved-up points to buy extra lives in each mission, the challenge comes from trying to get a perfect three stars in every mission. Apart from a feeling of accomplishment, those stars let you purchase more weapons and SWAT-themed equipment like vests and flashbangs. Completionists will need to ace every level to unlock everything, but it's typically easy enough to unlock a set of tools that works best for your particular playstyle. I would argue that the breacher charges aren't all that useful since kicking down a door will stun enemies long enough for you to shoot them, but even the situational tools like that can be effective if you're getting hung up at a particular spot.

Online coop is pretty dead at the moment, but this is the sort of game that was made for the couch. The downside of bringing a partner is you have to split your special points, but on the other hand having a second gun simultaneously spraying each new room tends to make combat almost trivially easy. Once you've got a handle on opening fire at the same time, the main challenge becomes staying friends after your buddy caps a hostage two-thirds of the way into a level and costs you that third star.

The little frustrations I had with the game were all pushed aside thanks in large part to the soundtrack. Sweet, sweet synths will be squealing as you unleash your force excessively on all of crime-dom's myriad peckerwoods, with a little guitar and drums to fill things out. I think I made it maybe three days into playing the game before I had to buy it and send it to my phone.

My only major complaint is that I want more. You can burn through the game's 60 missions in about 8 hours, and while it's a truly wonderful 8 hours, you'll still wish there were more thugs to waste. The game would also benefit from some truly difficult missions, at least beyond the difficulty of trying to rescue one particular hostage from a hostage taker that seems to always have the upper hand.

But even if this is all we hear from the Action Squad and the franchise goes back to being a SWAT tactics game, man what a ride!

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

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