Months of training have prepared you for this. You have all the gear, weapons, and teammates. Now you have to put your plan into action. Rush in too fast, and you get gunned down, it’s a failure, and you have to figure out how to go again. On the flip side, if you plan out what areas to breach, pick the right gear, and extract the hostages successfully, it will make the difference between a mission victory or a complete bloodbath.
Door Kickers Action Squad is a game that starts as one thing, but blows you away with different layers of depth that keep you drawn in. The game play draws you in, but the attention to detail and the wacky cast of characters keep you wanting to ignore your respawns and keep going again until the hostiles are cleared.
Right off the bat, I was taken to a menu with multiple options. There is the classic story mode, an infinite mode, and even a bonus zombie mode. In addition to these modes, the game also allows a level editor, encouraging players to make their own levels to challenge others to see how fast they can clear or get the highest score.
In order to fully evaluate this game, I played a little bit of each of the game modes, but I did focus more on the story mode. Zombie mode played like the main story mode, but the added twist of zombie portals was another monkey wrench besides the bad guys with guns trying to destroy you. Luckily, I was able to seal the zombie portals that spawned on different floors of a stage after I cleared the majority of the enemies in each room. It took me a couple of unsuccessful attempts to seal the portals before I found out using the basic action button sealed them.
The first thing I had to decide was which operative to take on a mission. Because I was playing this game solo (versus with a coop partner which would have made missions much easier to multitask), I focused on a couple of different operatives instead of all of them.
The available classes were Assaulter, Breacher, Shield, Recon, Agent Fergie, and Off-Duty Guy. Each operative was ranked by difficulty of use. For example, when I chose the Assaulter, it was ranked as “Easy” because of the high rate of fire it gave off against the bad guys and his ability to deal long range damage. The Breacher is specialised in C4 charges, which were a lot of fun to use. I will explain in more detail later my experience with the C4 charges and why they were extremely useful to have in my primary gear kit. The Shield class was handy if I wanted high defence, but the drawback was it didn’t deal enough damage and it was vulnerable to back attacks and melee charges.
The Recon operative focused on supporting the team’s attacks as well as being quick on the attack. Just like the Shield, it didn’t deal a lot of damage, which led me to reload often. As you level characters up, each of their abilities become more useful in the heat of combat. Agent Fergie is an FBI agent that specialises in dodge rolls as well as using double pistols. It’s a fun operative to try out for quick attacks, but unlocking more gear is probably better to make the most of her skill-set. Lastly, the Off-Duty Guy is a fun homage to that action hero that just can’t quit. Not only does this game have voice acting and unique personalities, but it balances it with the right amount of humour to a morbid situation of taking down bad guys, trying to minimise civilian losses, and disarming bombs while staying alive. The Off-Duty Guy became a favourite operative to me because his background is he just came back from vacation to help out, he appears to take down bad guys in his fashionable boxer pants, and his intro quip to start a mission expresses he knows what has to be done, yet he still hides a bit of resentment in his voice.
I spent the early part of the game levelling up all my characters and their abilities. As I finished each mission, I was graded based on a scale of three stars. Three stars was the highest rank I could score, and this was based on accuracy, speed of finishing the mission, minimal to no casualties taken from hostages, and number of enemies cleared. I learned later that as long as I finished a mission, I was going to get three stars as long as I didn’t get any hostages killed by the bad guys. With the stars I earned after each mission, I could level up my operative or squad abilities, or I could use them to unlock new gear.
The new gear or squad abilities could be used during missions. During a mission, if I successfully perform an action, such as taking down a group of bad guys or freeing some hostages safely, a bar on the top left corner of my screen filled up. At different thresholds I was able to activate special abilities or gear, such as a med kit, body armour, or even summoning a sniper team to take out three visible enemies in the entire stage.
Operative and Squad abilities affected different tiers of game play. If I levelled up my operative, that specific operative would be more effective and lethal in missions. This took effect by increasing their speed, reload time, damage to enemies, defence from assault or melee weapons, and ammo capacity. The squad related abilities were passive traits that affected the entire squad, such as firepower, holding more equipment, reloading, and other traits that were included with each individual operative.
I chose to level up most of the individual operatives first, such as Off-Duty Guy, Breacher, and Shield. I did run through the other classes, but honestly when you’ve progressed further into the game, it’s better to pick a couple of classes you like and max them out. That way, you know which ones you can go to on missions and go back later and use points to level up the other ones.
There are a couple of different mission types. They are eliminate all hostiles, save all hostages, and disable the bomb. Eliminating hostiles was simple as it’s a breach and clear mission, sometimes mixed with hostages to save. Save all hostages meant taking down all enemies in the area and releasing hostages safely. Lastly, disabling the bomb missions focused on a countdown timer with X amount of minutes, racing through the area to clear the bad guys, find the bomb, and picking up any hostages along the way. I found out through my first successful run of disabling the bomb that after you defuse the bomb, the timer stops and the mission continues until you either die or eliminate all the bad guys and rescue all hostages.
Throughout the game play, I picked up a couple of tricks that led to me being more effective in combat. For example, if I was taking down hostiles and tried to spray fire with my assault rifle, the accuracy would decrease and I would be more likely to get shot up and have to respawn again. With a second try at assaulting the hostiles, I decided to control my shots and this allowed me to take them down with higher accuracy and precision. Another thing I would pick up is the signature melee attack. The main melee attack that this game revolved around was door kicking.
Door kicking is something that the developers pride themselves on and it has paid off. Not only is it a lot of fun to do against enemies, but there is something satisfying about kicking in a door, stunning a couple of enemies, and blasting them away to clear an area quickly. Something created as a novelty shouldn’t be this much fun, but the developers have executed it in a superior way that complements the fast pace action of each level.
The collection of these missions ended on the same path to finally get to the boss and arrest them. All of the other missions led to this, capturing the big prize at the end of the hallway. Just like the other missions, I picked an operative, began to clear each room as best I could, until I finally found a room with a specially designated target. After I blasted his bodyguards with my shotgun, I went up to the boss and arrested him. Thankfully, the game allowed me to go back through the area and free hostages, as long as I cleared it away from all the hostiles in the area. My victory was cut short as this was only chapter one of many.
The last mode I tried out was infinite mode. Infinite mode was a randomly generated building with a mix of different enemies and objectives, but the catch was regardless of how far you progressed in the game, it would throw in elite enemies, which have improved armour and dealt more damage. The only way you were able to unlock your equipment or power ups was through rescuing hostages. This made things challenging because you would have to scout out each room individually, subject to being ambushed at any second by various henchmen.
Door Kickers as a game is entertaining to play, but it also shines with the little details. Throughout each room that I cleared of henchmen, the designers made the environment come alive with things in the background moving, such as a turbine swirling around, rats scurrying beneath your boots, or even a computer terminal monitoring the entire compound. The developers could have stopped at just creating a static background environment to explore, but injecting these little details gives the entire level a personality that makes it a second character in itself.
In addition to the dynamic background, the soundtrack is something I want to give praise about. It had the traditional synth-wave beats of 80s films mixed with the action of a gritty cop film. Each stage that I started felt like episodes in a cop drama, cleaning up the streets one house at time. It was wonderful and it did immerse me into the environment to adapt to each situation. The music would pick up in tempo as bad guys were about to blast me to a billion pieces, ony to be left with disappointment if I miraculously dodged them in time to drop a breach charge as a parting gift.
With everything good I have to say about Door Kickers, there are a couple of things that I’d like to see in future sequels or expansions. I give thanks to my experience of figuring games out on the first two tries to quickly catch on how everything works, but if I was a brand new player to video games in general, I would complain the introduction level isn’t user friendly. A small tutorial would be helpful, explaining the dynamics of everything, such as weapons, using equipment, or figuring out what weapon would work best against each type of hostile.
Another thing that Door Kickers doesn’t land is the variety of missions. The three types of missions I listed, rescue hostages, disarm the bomb, and eliminate all hostiles are the extent of diversity the game has. Of course, the counter to this is the game also features a level creator mode that players from the community can submit their own custom missions for others to try. That is a nice touch to a game that sometimes is a journey of starting at the respawn over and over again.
Lastly, Door Kickers lacked a linear story throughout the game. Yes, the main objective of the game was to fight the baddies, free the hostages, and disarm a bomb or two in the way. It was disappointing that with the diverse and colourful cast of operatives I was able to command, they didn’t have story missions fleshing out their backstory. It isn’t a complete loss, but character development could have strengthened an already fun game experience.
Door Kickers has a lot of potential. It’s hard to believe a game that came out six years ago kept me as entertained as some of the big AAA games I still have yet to play. I was pleased to find out the developers are working on a sequel to Door Kickers, but it is themed around controlling a military squad in a made up country fighting terrorists. The perspective is from the “God” view vs. the side scroller action of this one. I’m excited to see where the developers push their game from here.
This game was a surprise for me. As soon as I found this on my list, I knew I had to give it a shot. I’d recommend this to anyone that wants a good coop game that hits you with some 80s action nostalgia. With the 3 different modes, different classes, and the community level building support, Door Kickers is a great way to spend a lost weekend fighting off the lock down of life we’ve all had to adapt to.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Door Kickers Action Squad Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
With the 3 different modes, different classes, and the community level building support, Door Kickers is a great way to spend a lost weekend fighting off the lock down of life we’ve all had to adapt to.