Reviews and studies of games in the interest of advancing our favorite entertainment medium.

Latest

Halo: Reach

Noble Team

Halo: Reach uses an arbitrary points system to reward you for completing games.  If you earn enough points you rank up and unlock more armor pieces that you can spend your points on.  So, in honor of this, I am going to do the same thing for this review.  The total score Bungie receives for Halo: Reach will be broken down into Game Completion, Performance Bonus, Commendations, Challenges and a randomly generated Jackpot Bonus.

Halo: Reach is unique in the series in that you play as a super-soldier Spartan trying to save the human race from annihilation at the hands of the evil alien alliance known as the Covenant… wait… that’s just like every other Halo game.  Well this time there’s a multi-colored cast of other spartans to trade snarky quips with your faceless persona.  And there’s no flood this time, but you get cool new armor abilities that almost make up for this.

For those who don’t know what Halo is all about, I’ll give you the run-down.  Humans have been colonizing the galaxy, they run into a religion-based alliance of aliens known as the Covenant that launch a holy war against the humans.  The Covenant vary in species, from the galactic noobs known as Grunts (which can’t do anything without their heads exploding in a burst of rainbow confetti), to the Elites (alien counterparts to the Spartans), to the Brutes (which I guess are some kind of space-gorilla).  The Covenant are more technologically advanced, so the humans develop the Spartan super-soldier to help fight them (basing much of the technology on the Elites).  You play as one of these Spartans, and you fight the Covenant, all over the place.  Forever.  At some point the humans stumble upon an ancient space station in the shape of a giant ring (hence the name: Halo) and they accidentally release the Flood (sort of a Space Zombie infection thing).  So when you are not fighting the Covenant, you are fighting the Flood.  Oh, and sometimes you fight other spartans, they kill you, and you get T-bagged.

I have a long history with Halo.  It’s sort of like that clingy girl I dated in high-school and I kept breaking up with her because she wants me to come by her place every night after work to watch boring tv sitcoms, but then when she’s gone I miss the good times when we actually had fun together, plus I find out that her little brother has an xbox, so I start to leave notes in her locker until I’m right back on the couch watching late-season x-files reruns again and listening to her complain about how much money I spend on video games.  I spent a lot of time playing the original Halo on the original Xbox via split-screen back in the day (you were looking at my screen again, weren’t you?!).  I spent too much time playing Halo 2, mostly because it was online, but also because it followed the successful sequel equation and it used a skill-based ranking system so that you could easily see how you measured up with complete strangers.  Upon meeting someone for the first time, such as a school teacher, police officer, or potential employer, I would politely ask them what their rank in Halo 2 was, and then I would scoff at their inadequacy because I was rank 33 and they were only rank 12.

Halo 3, kinda like last night, was sort of a blur.  It was the same game but much better graphics.  I suppose dual-wielding guns was fun (but apparently not fun enough to make it into Reach).  Halo: ODST was “meh”, didn’t play it that much, had better things to do.  I guess I couldn’t get over the fact that the ODST soldiers were technologically better than the Spartans.  And now we’re on Reach which is a step in the right direction for the series.  +2214 c’s for making another Halo game and tickling my nostalgia bone a little bit (that sounded dirty).

Rocket Man

"They wont be able to t-bag me up here!"

Halo: Reach takes place before the other Halo FPS games but there’s a few things about the continuity that are not explained.  First of all, who forgot about the Spartan Laser?  And the DMRs?  These weapons are all over the place in Reach, but the laser doesn’t “resurface” until Halo 3.  And the DMR is never seen again, until Halo 2 when the Battle Rifle shows up filling in as it’s spiritual successor.  I guess the guys that were assigned to load all the weapons ran out of time and had to leave all the lasers/dmrs behind… -50 c’s for incomplete continuity.

It is also suspicious that the Spartans in Halo:Reach are the most technologically advanced, despite being an older model of the armor.  So we are supposed to believe that a small flashlight on an extremely limited battery is BETTER than light amplification?  And what about the armor abilities?  I guess a Spartan doesn’t really need to run faster or have active camoflage available to use on a whim?  I’m not buying it.  -144 c’s for terrible continuity.

But I suppose you could argue that these are improvements to gameplay, and I would have to agree with you, because making a prequel less fun for the sake of continuity is just stupid (if you don’t believe me just ask George Lucas).  +202 c’s for ignoring continuity for the sake of making a good game.

Light amplification

What's more advanced? Light amplification or...

Flashlight

Flashlight with rechargeable battery.

So what makes Halo Reach worth playing?  Well it’s a solid First Person Shooter that has a more traditional feel since it avoids the common chest-high-cover and aim-down-sights mechanics that plague modern shooters (+100 c’s).  The singleplayer campaign is an adequate length (+100 c’s), but the plot is booring and irrelevant.  I’m still not sure what happened and I really couldn’t care less about the supporting cast (-200 c’s for being too confusing to be bothered with).  Also there’s a terribly lonely hole in my heart in the shape of the flood, one of the coolest things about every other halo game (-1000 c’s for failing to work those Space Zombies in somehow).  However the game ends with the alleged death of your hero, and just about everyone dies.  I’m a big fan of tragedies, so +1500 c’s for being “edgy”.

The multiplayer game is well balanced.  There’s dozens of game types and the professionally made maps are very well designed.  The weapons, vehicles, and armor abilities all go together to make for an interesting rock/paper/scissors dynamic that is critical to good multiplayer gameplay.  +2000 c’s for maintaining a tradition of good multiplayer.

Multiplayer gameplay

But despite all of their best efforts to make a good multiplayer experience, the people that play halo will still do their best to ruin it for you.  There are plenty of mature players out there, but they are few and far between.  The majority fall into one or more of the following catagories:

  1. Mic-abusers.  Shouting profanities into their mic like a drunken sailor with terrets syndrome.  Or just playing their music and setting the mic into the speaker (which simply creates a lot of feedback and noise because the mics suck).  Offenders can be muted, so this is a minor and temporary annoyance. -2 c’s because it sucks but what can you do about it.
  2. T-baggers.  Almost every player online will come and hump the leg of your corpse after you’ve died.  It doesn’t matter if they killed you or not.  Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they’re on the same team as you or not!  One time I became one with my shotgun and cleared out 4 guys in the enemy base only to have the 5th guy kill me with a grenade and a 6th guy that didn’t have anything to do with my death came and humped my leg.  Gee, you sure showed me!  -1000 c’s for T-bagging me 30 times in an online multiplayer match.  Although it is really funny when a T-bagger get’s shot in the head mid-bagging, so +100 c’s for making me laugh.
  3. Weapon and vehicle brats.  At the start of every game there’s a mad dash as you race your team mates for your favorite weapon or vehicle.  Your spawn location is somewhat random so nobody has any advantage over anyone else, unless you’ve got experience and skill racing to that particular assett.  But this isn’t enough for some people, and if you beat them to it, they will let you know their displeasure by at least shooting you, if not throwing grenades and/or quitting the game entirely.  This is particularly annoying if it’s a vehicle because they take damage and one grenade is enough to seriously screw up your shiny new tank.  Thus you are going to have a significantly reduced lifespan in that vehicle all because some brat lost the race.  -681 c’s for failing to find a way to avoid this in every Halo game you’ve ever made.
  4. Accidental Betrayal Booting.  If you kill your own team it’s called a betrayal.  When you betray somebody, there’s a random chance that they will be given the option to either forgive you or boot you from the game forever.  Most people, if given the chance, will choose to boot.  Strangely enough if you betray someone on purpose they will rarely be given the chance to boot.  If you obviously betray someone on accident (like they chase your grenade into the enemy base) then they are almost always given the chance to boot.  -320 c’s for having an inconsistent and non-democratic system for handling team-killers.
  5. Quitting.  I believe this is the worst thing about Halo Reach.  Often, soon after a game starts, someone will quit.  Wether it’s because they didn’t get the map/gametype they wanted, they didn’t get the vehicle/weapon they wanted, their team wasn’t obviously going to win, or perhaps their friend sent them a game invite, someone almost always will quit in the first 30 seconds of gameplay.  That’s it.  The rest of the game one team is short a player or two because nobody can join in the middle of a game and, in objective game types, that team will probably lose.  Bungie was even aware that this might be a problem because they try to punish people for quitting games.  If you quit games you are not eligible for the higher credit Jackpots at the end of games.  If you quit too many games then they can temporarily ban your account.  This is unacceptable!  DO NOT EVER PUNISH YOUR PLAYERS FOR YOUR LACK OF WISDOM!  If people really want to quit, let them AND let other players join mid-game to take their place.  -3000 c’s because quitters suck, but the way Bungie handled it just adds to the problem.
Multiplayer Lobby

"Is this the lobby?" For every 10 minute multiplayer game, you'll spend 5 minutes waiting for it to start.

There’s a number of weapons in multiplayer that are just about useless.  These should’ve been replaced with other more useful weapons:

  • The Focus Rifle is supposed to be the Covenants version of the Sniper Rifle except that it fires an energy beam that you have to continually hit the target with for several seconds.  It’s less like sniping and more like playing that carnival game where you shoot the clown in the mouth with a squirt gun to fill up your baloon.
  • The Assault Rifle is your default weapon in most game types.  It only works at short range, and a full clip is just barely enough to kill one opponent.  If you’re close enough to use an Assault Rifle, just go in for the melee attack.  The only time the Assault Rifle is effective is when there are 2-3 people focusing their fire on one target.
  • The Plasma Repeater and the Plasma Rifle are Covenant versions of the Assault Rifle.  The Plasma Repeater fires faster but will overheat faster.  So why does it need to exist?  What role does it fill that hasn’t already been filled by the Plasma Rifle for every other Halo game ever made?
  • Grenades suck.  When a grenade goes off under someone’s feet they should die but they don’t.  Can someone explain this to me?
  • Why can’t we use the Target Locater in multiplayer?  It would be awesome to put an artillery strike on an enemy base before rushing in to grab the flag.

-1200 c’s total for having some of the most useless weapons in any multiplayer game ever.

Facepalm

"Why didn't I think of this sooner?!"

Theatre and Forge are some kind of divinely inspired idea (for console games).  Theatre let’s you go back and watch previously played games that you’ve saved onto your hard drive.  You can even watch the action from other player’s point of views, or from an entirely free camera.  Did you suddenly explode and couldn’t figure out why?  Go back and watch that part to see just how they got you.  You can even record short film clips so that you can impress your mom with how many noobs you t-bagged.  You can also take screenshots and upload them to the interwebs (although this uploading feature is broken for a lot of people, including myself, and Bungie’s official response is, “well it SHOULD work”).  Sans large feature-breaking bugs, theatre should be standard in any game that wants to consider itself “Triple A”. +4500 c’s for completing my “Raise the Bar” challenge.

Forge is a sort of level editing function within the game.  From the console’s point of view, it’s a limitless sandbox of possibilities.  From a PC gamer’s point of view it’s a horribly limited and clunky imitation of the dev tools that get released with almost every PC game within the last 15 years  (or Gary’s Mod).  Forge gives you a relatively large variety of walls, blocks, ramps, bridges, man-cannons, weapons, vehicles and decorations that you can populate any of the game’s maps with.  Each item has a quantity limit, and each item costs a certain dollar amount.  You are not spending real money on it, you get a certain budget that you can spend on a map.  I think this is their way of keeping the resources within a reasonable limit, although why they couldn’t just say it that way is beyond me.  So Forge is impressive for those that are easily impressed.  +2000 c’s for trying to make console games more like PC games (for a change).

Forge's tools

A "wide" range of walls, buildings, vehicles and weapons are at your disposal.

Overhang map

You can make new maps.

Nobody steps on a church in my town!

Or make something unbelievably awesome.

I have a lot of complaints about the game, and some of them are so severe that I’m tempted to put Halo away forever.  Yet I continue to play the game and, usually, I have some fun.  Sometimes I go off on some kind of spectacular killing spree or I help my team pull victory out of impossible odds and everyone yells beligerently into their mics.  This feeling of power is hard-earned but very rewarding.  But if you don’t have friends around to gaze awe-struck at your Kill-to-Death ratio then it doesn’t feel so good.  Bottom line is that if I wasn’t playing this game with my friends every week I would probably be playing something else.

POST GAME REPORT:

Game Completion: +1920 c’s

Performance Bonus: -1900 c’s

Commendations: +1500 c’s

Challenges: +4500 c’s

Random Bonus: +79 c’s

TOTAL: +6099 cookies!

Good job Bungie!  Only 113,901 more cookies before you rank up to Sergeant Master Gunnery Commander Captain 3rd Class and unlock the B.A.G. knee pads for your spartan!

BTW:  I heard an uncomfirmed rumor about the next Bungie game.  Since Bungie has passed the Halo torch on to 343 Industries, Bungie’s next game will be called T-bagger evolved (working title) and it will be the bee’s knees.  You get 1 point each time you t-bag someone, 5 points each time you t-bag someone you did not kill, and 10 points each time you t-bag someone on your team that you did kill.  There’s even a T-bag launcher that rapidly fires self propelled bags of Chamomile!  Pre-order your copy now!

Advertisements

Left 4 Dead 2

Fun 4 almost the whole family 2

Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) is a first person shooter about 4 people that are surviving the zombie apocalypse (and not the name of a droid in Star Wars).  You take control of one of these 4 people and have 2 work as a team 2 continue remaining among the living.  What makes it so different from other zombie survival games is teamwork.  One person on their own, no matter how skilled they are, has a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving long enough to be rescued at the end of each campaign.  Of course, each rescue is only temporary as something goes wrong (such as your helicopter pilot turning into a zombie) and you’ve got 2 fight your way 2 the next rescue attempt.

As you traverse through the post-apocalyptic waste-land of new orleans you will find the occasional zombie wandering about waiting for you 2 blast them with a shotgun.  If they see you then they will come running, and if they catch you they will… kick you… wait what?!  What kind of zombies want 2 kick your brains?  I thought it was EAT your brains… oh well.  The action really heats up when a swarm comes.  Every couple of minutes you will hear the zombie’s theme song and then a horde of zombies will come pouring out of a nearby room, other side of a bush, or out of the nearest Arby’s and come running at you by the dozen.  You and your team have 2 hose them down with lead in a gloriously violent fashion while watching eachother’s backs (it’s a lot harder 2 kill the zombies surrounding you then it is 4 someone else 2 shoot them off your back).

2 spice it up, there are super-zombies known as special infected.  These re-animated Walmart customers have a variety of abilities that can seriously ruin the survivors’ day.  Most of them specialize in capturing a survivor in some way, like the Smoker’s ability 2 grab a survivor from a distance with his Gene Simons tongue and pull them 2 him, or the Charger’s ability to… uh… Charge into a survivor and carry them away from the others.  Once captured, a survivor is helpless and will continue 2 take damage until they are either killed, or freed by one of the other survivors.  Also, if a survivor takes enough damage, they become “incapacitated” where they lay on the ground crying because they can only use their pistols from down there until another survivor comes 2 pick them up.  This is how the teamwork really comes into play.

You might've thought that these are some of the Special Infected. You'd be wrong, I took this pic at Walmart.

The singleplayer experience works almost exactly like the multiplayer, but the multiplayer is a bazillion times more fun, so go out and make some friends first.  If you are so socially akward that you can’t do this, then the other survivors and special infected will be controlled by the computer’s predictable AI and you will find the game frustrating 2 no end.  The AI, while decent by modern game AI standards, is incredibly stupid and it will often walk away from a captured survivor 2 go use a health kit on a different, slightly damaged survivor that was not in danger of being kicked 2 death by zombies (and when someone else is healing you, neither one of you can move, so the captured survivor is extra-screwed).

Don't let the girl stand behind you with a shotgun. (Am I right fellas!?)

One thing I really want 2 point out is that L4D2 is a great example of how 2 make a successful game sequel.  Take your original game, fix some of the biggest problems and add some new/interesting content.  A.k.a. familiar but better.  But when L4D2 was coming out, a lot of people were upset that it was being released as a sequel.  They felt that L4D2 should have been an expansion pack because it was basically the same game.  Ok, so the game uses the same graphics engine and the same basic gameplay, but that’s where the similarities get left 4 dead (wakka wakka wakka!).

A whole new campaign, featuring better/more original level designs that feature different times of day instead of wandering through the same night-time forest over and over.  New characters with newer personalities.  A bigger variety of guns.  The addition of much-needed melee weapons such as guitars, baseball bats, chainsaws and more.  And a few new, and very fun, special infected.  Yes, I would say this qualifies as a sequel.

But I think that a lot of these people have been mislead into thinking that a sequel needs 2 look noticeably better.  But games are 2 the point now that the only way 2 look better is 2 look more “realistic”, and this is not the same thing.  That’s a whole different can of worms though, so I’ll get into that later.  The important thing is that you should feel good about shelling out full price monies 4 this kind of game even if it is similar 2 the original.  Of course now, at the time of this writing, the game has been out quite a while and you should be able to pick up a copy for a fraction of the cost.

First time a horde of zombies came running at me I knew this was the last game I would ever need.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a great party game.  It really shines when you have exactly 8 people playing (no more and no less) and you play one of the competitive game types like Vs. or Scavenge.  In these game types, 4 of you are going 2 be the survivors, and 4 of you are going 2 be the special infected.  Vs. works just like the campaign, where the survivors are trying 2 make it from point A to B, and the zombies are trying 2 make the survivors dead.  The survivors are awarded points based upon how far they make it, and then the teams switch (so the survivors are now the special infected and visa versa) so now the team that was previously the special infected are now the survivors and they have 2 try and do better than the other team did.  Make sense?  Good.  I especially enjoy playing as the Special Infected.  Your life is often short lived, but it’s all kinds of fun 2 set up some kind of sneaky ambush, coordinating your attacks with the other special infected, and causing all hell 2 break loose for the survivors.

There are a few issues with the ingame server selection.  Mostly these are due 2 the fact that you can not pick your server through the ingame menu (the method most people prefer).  Every now and then, someone will join our game that we do not know (through no fault of their own).  We don’t have anything against the person, but we’re playing a game with only family and friends and we don’t want random people playing with us.  So we vote 2 kick them from the game, they take it personally and blow up the microphone with profanity for the 5 seconds before the boot takes effect.  Then they usually find your server again through the Steam server list so that they can come back and continue ruining your game.

The other issue with the game picking your server is that sometimes it decides 2 put you on a server owned by a clan.  If somebody comes by from that clan and doesn’t like being booted, they’ll go find a server admin 2 come in and kick you all from the server mid-game.  This has only happened 2 me once or twice, but it sucks just the same.

Basically, if you like blasting zombies, you’ll love this game.  If you don’t have family and/or friends that share your love of blasting zombies then you are not going to enjoy it as much, or as long, as someone who does.

Here’s a pro tip 4 playing multiplayer in the same room as other people (a.k.a. Tardageddon):  If you are on the Special Infected team, and you spawn in as a Jockey, it’s a lot of fun 2 talk 2 the person you are riding as you force them into unpleasant locations.  “Hey Melvin, how’s it goin?!  Have you seen the tiles they used in these bathrooms?!  Oh they’re to DIE for!  C’mon, I wanna show you the bathroom!”.

Hey Ellis! I'm gonna take Rochelle to the store. Want me to get you somethin?

Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team

Kill Team Box Art

Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is THQ’s latest release based on the increasingly popular Warhammer 40,000 franchise.  It seems to serve as an appetizer to get console gamers excited about the pending Space Marine release (which is coming in just a few weeks from the time of this writing). Kill Team is an arcade-style shoot-em-up that uses similar gameplay mechanics to old-school games such as SMASH TV and Total Carnage.  The player(s) view the action from above, moving their Space Marine with the left analog stick and directing gunfire with the right analog stick.  Ammo is unlimited and the body-count is high enough to make Left 4 Dead players blush.  There’s plenty of things to blow up and a good variety of power ups like Triple Shot and Rapid Fire to keep the action “over-the-top”.  Unfortunately Kill Team is only available for download on the Xbox 360 and PS3, but before you PC gamers start feeling shafted just remember that the consoles didn’t get any of the Dawn of War games and this is a way for THQ to spread the love (a.k.a. shafting) around.

Total Carnage

They just don't make games like they used to... or do they?

I find that what I like most about the game is that it get’s out of it’s own way and let’s you have fun.  There are no deep plot twists, no memorable characters and no development of meaningful relationships over the course of the game, which is exactly as it should be.  Like a good action flick these things would only get in the way.

You get to choose from 4 different flavors of Space Marine with which to blast and hack your way through 5 levels of an Ork Kroozer; a fairly large Ork Space Ship.  You get to be either Shooty, Stabby, Very Shooty or Very Stabby.  That’s not their real names, of course, but those are their strengths, and the stats are inversely balanced (so Very Shooty is not very stabby at all, while normal Shooty is still a little bit stabby).  They each have a unique special ability related to their strengths, so Very Shooty’s ability makes him Extremely Shooty.  The ability recharges slowly over time, or quickly when you make things dead, so it always seems to be available when you need it most.

Invite a friend over or you're Kill Team is going to feel pretty lonely.

The fun is exponentially magnified if you can get another person to participate in the same-screen multiplayer.  I managed to trick my father into visiting for a few hours to try it out and we had a blast.  My father is really into gaming, but is not a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe (like me).  After playing through the whole game he still doesn’t know a bolter from a bidet, but that didn’t put a dent in the fun couple of hours we spent blasting our way through thousands of vile alien scum.

I am really disappointed that the multiplayer is limited to same-screen though.  I understand that playing the game with complete strangers would likely prove annoying as all hell as the stranger constantly “gauntlets” you (locking you in place by trying to run the opposite direction) but there’s some easy ways to solve this problem.  For example, player “A” is the host and player “B” joins his game.  If player A doesn’t like the way B is playing, he can boot ’em and someone else can join.  And player B can leave at any time if they don’t like player “A” hording all the powerups.  I guess that’s beside the point because  I wouldn’t really want to play this game with strangers anyways.  But I have several (meaning one) friends that are too far away to come visit and I would really enjoy playing this game with them.  A lot of games generate sales because people want to play them with their friends even if the game is not that great (pretty much the only reason I play HALO).  So even though the game costs a measely $10 US, and is well worth the cost, I am going to recommend that my friends come visit me to play the game rather than buy it for themselves.  Take that THQ!

The basic controls are perfectly simple for an action shooter, but the melee button seems deliberately mis-allocated to the “A” button instead of the Right Trigger (which is not used at all).  This is really annoying when you are playing as one of the melee-based Marines, and there’s no way to customize your controls to fix it.  It’s a step backwards in the evolution of gaming to force one control layout upon your players yet we see it in console games all the time.  Either that, or they’ll only give you 4-5 different button-layouts to choose from.  Complete customization is not that difficult to implement (the PC figured it out decades ago).  And no, you do not know better than the players, so quit acting like it!

A disturbing thing I noticed during the game is that your “Kill Team” is directed by a disembodied british voice with conveniently omniscient knowledge of your situation and surroundings.  I’m not sure if this is your commanding officer, your inner monologue, or if you’ve been possessed by a very polite demon, the game never explains it.  Whoever it’s supposed to be it ends up feeling like having a disembodied person watching you play who’s allready beaten the game several times and they can’t help but back-seat drive.  “The only way out of this room is with the cargo lift that will take you to the Warbosses over-sized gloating-room.  But you are going to need to supply it with power by sacrificing 1000 ork virgins while chanting “Hail Jes Goodwin” and then standing in the green circle while holding down the X button.”  Your back-seat driver tries really hard not to spoil any of the suprises for you, but he’s really bored watching you try and figure it out on your own.  It’s good in that this is an action game and the last thing you want your players to do in an action game is wander about like idiots trying to figure out what switch to blow up, but it makes the game extremely linear.  There’s even one level where the game has 4 branches from a hub.  There’s a key item needed to proceed to the next level at the end of one of the 4 branches and you gotta go fetch it.  But rather than letting you try these 4 branches in any order you wish, the british man forces you down them in a specific order and it shouldn’t be a suprise that the key is located at the end of path #4.  And if you play through the game again, you know where the key is, but you gotta humour the british man by going down each corridor in turn.  Fixing little things like this could’ve added to the replay value.

Kill Team

A swarm of orks race to see who can get a face full of plasma first.

As you play the game you unlock more powerful weapons for each of the 4 different playable marine flavors, as well as “perks” that you can equip, such as +10% Health or +25% Ranged Damage.  The unlocked weapons are always more powerful and should always be used unless you are trying to go for the associated Achievement (or if you’re actually looking for a challenge).  The perks are a nice way to tailor your marine a little to your play style.  My only problem is that all of the unlocks seem arbitrary.  I couldn’t figure out why I unlocked whatever I did unlock, except just playing through the game once.  And you unlock weapons for marines that you’re not even playing with.  This is an area I wish THQ had spent a little more time on as it could’ve added some replayability.  Perks and weapons should be unlocked through certain in-game accomplishments that are relevent to the thing you are unlocking.  For example, kill 500 enemies without taking damage AND without using your special ability to unlock the Health +25% perk.  As it is, playing through the game once is enough to unlock everything, and additional playthroughs are only good for experimenting or trying to improve your score  (although you will never be in the top 10% of the leaderboards because you have a life).

Space Marine Librarian

The Librarian upgrades to a Force Sword or an... EPIC Force Sword? Is this the best you could come up with?!

There is one annoying “stay-on-the-narrow-walkway” part in the game.  I died here more times than in the rest of the game combined, and not because I lacked the necessary skill, but because the frustrating controls and camera angle are a much bigger obstacle than the challenge itself.  This occurs during a part where the detached voice in your head forces you to ignore common sense and has you detonate a couple of explosives at the end of a narrow-twisting walkway BEFORE you are clear of said walkway.  You are trying to outrun the explosion while being assaulted by aliens, the pit-of-death that you are trying to stay out of is only a slightly different color than the walkway itself, and the screen shakes violently from time to time just in case this wasn’t bad enough already.  And of course, thanks to the linear game design mentioned earlier, you can not avoid this by wisely waiting to detonate the explosives until a more appropriate time on future replays.

I have an unconfirmed suspicion that the game is recycling models from Dawn of War 2, and possibly the graphics engine.  I guess I can’t fault them too much for this since the tech and level of detail between the 2 games are on-par, and it only makes sense for THQ to get the most out of the artist’s hard work.  They’ve even SPOILER ALERT filled one level with Tyranids, and not just a few, but almost all of the ones featured in Dawn of War 2.  So if they’ve got Orks and Tyranids in Kill Team then why not include Eldar and Chaos Space Marines?  Everybody say it with me now:  Downloadable Content.  I’d bet a big bucket of fried shrimp that before the holiday we get a nice DLC mini-campaign add-on featuring one or both of these armies.  Very clever.  But even though I’ve already predicted it, I can’t hold it against them, and I’m already looking forward to it because I sold my soul to Games Workshop a long time ago.  Let me check something…

Carnifex in Kill Team

"Now where have I seen you before..."

Carnifex in Dawn of War 2

"... oh there you are in a better game!"

… ok, confirmed.  At least the Carnifex is EXACTLY the same (I can prove it if it’s not obvious enough for you).

There’s a strange feature that I think the game could’ve done without.  When you kill the last monster in a wave, the game goes into slow motion and zooms up close to the thing as it dies in a fountain of blood.  This must’ve been somebody’s pet idea that they put into the design document and couldn’t bear to part with.  I can see how it would be a good idea on paper but it just doesn’t translate into the final game very well.  The monster’s death animations are “ok” at best, and the model textures are a little out-dated, so this slow-mo-death-camera only serves to shine a spotlight on these shortfalls.  It’s like the tour bus slowing down to show you a homeless man relieving himself onto the street corner.Ork Shaman in Kill Team

This game is not going to advance the “Game is art” movement and probably wont win very many awards, though it is the prime candidate for Best Arcadey Shoot-em-up based on Warhammer 40,000 of the Year.  Most importantly Kill Team is just plain fun in a casual way.  You can actually pick it up, play it for 10 minutes, and put it back down.  It almost feels like it should’ve been released for the handheld market.  Fanboys are not going to want to miss it, and anyone that likes casual arcade violence will not be disappointed.

And thank you to IGN for most of the pretty pictures.  I hope to figure out a good way to take console screen captures of my own in the near future.