This week, resident games geek Olivia Cottrell indulges her inner (and outer) nerd in the franchise that swallowed so many of our adolescent hours. And there’s no need to fork out for a new Codex…
Impossible Podcasts, I have a confession to make. My name is Olivia Cottrell, and I am a former Warhammer 40,000 tabletop gamer. Yes, some of my most formative years were spent hunched over tiny plastic figurines huffing more paint fumes than was probably good for me. I can tell you why painting an Ork vehicle red makes it go faster. I have read no less than five Dan Abnett books. I even, Emperor help me, know what a Krootox is. The Warhammer 40k universe, with its bold strokes of evil aliens versus grim (but noble) bald men lends itself exceptionally well to a certain style of tongue-in-cheek video gaming, and I was excited to revisit that world without accidentally gluing my hand to the table.
Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is an Xbox Live Arcade game intended to promote the upcoming Space Marine title. Like its big brother, Kill Team allows players to take on the role of a power-armoured space marine and plough through hordes of nasty aliens (Orks, in this case) using a variety of weapons. Players can pick one of four options: the Sternguard veteran, Vanguard veteran, (not sure what the difference between those two was. I think one had a jetpack), Techmarine and Librarian. The classes are pretty evenly balanced, with two specialised in ranged and two in melee, allowing for fun co-operative play if you can find a friend who also spent their teenage years stuck to small plastic men. Each class has weapons that you can upgrade, and these unlock easily after each level, reducing boring grinding. Weapon and health upgrades are also scattered liberally around the level, and seeking these out soon becomes a tactical necessity lest you become overwhelmed by enemies.
The game delights in throwing wave after wave of enemies at you, at one point using it to drive you back towards an objective. This can become exhausting, especially at higher levels when your weapons are upgraded enough to turn what should have been a challenging mob into a simple meat grinder. Furthermore, this lack of variation in the levels means that they can become boring after a few hours as fatigue sets in. Even your character’s special powers can become ineffective after waves and waves of enemies wear you down.
There is very little story here: however, it isn’t really needed. All that you need to know is that the Orks are bad and you have to stop their Kroozer (one of the most heinous Ork crimes is their appalling literacy) getting to a planet. You accomplish this by systematically destroying everything in sight. For a promotional arcade game, that’s fine. I would, however, have liked a little more voice acting or story points to add more flavour to the Kill Team characters. None of the space marines seemed to have any recorded lines, and it would have been nice for them to say something once or twice (even if it was just ‘For the Emperor!) to give them a little bit of personality beyond ‘generic space marine’. It’s especially a shame as the Warhammer 40k game universe is one of the goofiest this side of Team Fortress 2. The fight against the Ork warboss did have some unintentionally funny moments (‘he has a belly cannon!’) but it would have been great to have a few more. Design wise, the kroozer is interesting, with a patched-together feel that effectively communicates the make-do-and-mend spirit of the orks.
The graphics reminded me a little of World of Warcraft, with the same chunky feel that does not try to look more sophisticated and instead focuses on bold, effective design. This effectively emulates the look and feel of the tabletop game and allows the player to focus on what is important on the screen. However, the player does not have full control of the camera, which often led to frustrating moments when my character moved faster than the camera and ended up stuck on the bottom of the screen.
However, all in all this is a fun little game that effectively sets up the world of Space Marine and offers a few diverting hours ploughing through the Ork hordes- though I wouldn’t do it all in one sitting as mob fatigue sets in. Four characters plus unlockable survival missions adds some replay value, and achievement junkies can enjoy collecting the trophies hidden on each level. As a bonus, playing Kill Team unlocks a special power sword in Space Marine. As an appetiser to the main event, it does its job well enough, and is especially entertaining if you have someone else to play with you. Thanks to this game, I look forward to playing Space Marine when it comes out, and until then I suppose I’ll be practising my power sword skills on the bloodthirsty xenos hordes.
Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team was released on July 7, 2011 by THQ. It is available on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft points and will be added to the PlayStation Network soon. Space Marine comes out on September 6th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows.