Over the past few years, the already rich universe of Warhammer 40K has grown even more thanks to the shepherding of Canadian developer Relic and publisher THQ. An entirely new chapter of Space Marines, the Blood Ravens, were founded and given a history within the confines of the Dawn of War series, and the history seems set to expand even further with Space Marine. As a kind of precursor to the events that will unfold with Captain Titus, Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team provides a quick, fun couch co-op experience for fans that are seeking to spend a little more time within the 40,000 universe.
The game starts with a small elite force of Space Marines, known as a “kill team” (we have game title, folks!), crashing their way into an Ork Kroozer that is heading towards a forge world in order to assault it. You and your couch buddy are tasked with proceeding through the five sections of the Kroozer, taking out specific targets like the Kroozer’s engines, its power cores, and assault ships. Progressing through these areas means fending off hordes of Orks (and sometimes Tyranids), yet Kill Team forgoes the usual “shoot everything” mechanic of twin-stick shooters for the lesser known “shoot almost everything, and melee the rest” one.
Each of the four Space Marine types (the Sternguard Veteran, Techmarine, Librarian, or the Vanguard Veteran) from which you and your co-op partner can select for a mission, strikes some balance between ranged and melee combat. The Sternguard, for example, uses big guns to get the job done while the Librarian uses a sword and a pistol as his weapons of choice. In addition to shooting and fighting, each Space Marine has his own special ability to help out the team when the horde gets to be a bit too much, such as temporarily increasing his rate of fire, deploying a turret, or unleashing a psychic storm. While four may not seem like a lot, there is enough difference between each of these marines that finding just the right one for you and your partner is easy enough.
In addition to selecting a Space Marine, players may select from a series of “perks” that enhance the marine’s abilities, such as increasing ranged damage, health, or the damage of the marine’s special power. These perks, along with additional weapons for each marine, are unlocked by killing gobs of Orks, so there’s definitely a little bit of a “loot whore” mechanic at play in the game, too. These perks and weapons aren’t necessarily fixed, either, as upgrade beacons scattered throughout the levels allow players to change the equipment being used in order to respond to the situation at hand. Once your marines are outfitted for a mission, your purification in the name of the Emperor may commence.
Each level usually starts with the disembodied voice of your commander giving you instructions about what you have to take out next, and then come the swarms of Orks. You and your battle brother will lay down righteous fury upon them with the right-stick or A button to melee, and even augment your killing potential with the power-ups that are dropped throughout the missions, which can restore health, increase your rate of fire, or make you invincible for a limited amount of time. A player can only have one such power-up at any given time, but staying close to your co-op partner provides both players with its benefits. Should a marine fall during the course of his duties, the surviving marine may revive him, or, if the fallen marine cannot be reached, just wait a few seconds for him to be auto-revived.
While playing through the levels with a friend and slaying foes in the name of the Emperor is extremely satisfying, Kill Team is not without its flaws. From a strictly co-op perspective, the second player cannot earn any achievements, nor is their progress saved. Thus, if he or she wanted to hop on later and play solo to earn some of those achievements, he or she would have to start all over from the beginning. Additionally, the lack of an online co-op option limits much of the game’s replayability.
There is a survival mode, where players fend off hordes of Orks for as long as possible, but this is a game that feels like it’s meant to be played co-operatively and cutting out the potential to do so with a broader set of gamers is rather incredible. If you do play single player, be forewarned that picking one of the more melee heavy classes will make things more difficult. This is still a twin-stick shooter at heart and defeating many of the enemies/destroying the objectives means having to shoot them, a rather difficult task for one that places more emphasis on the sword than the gun.
At the $10 price point, Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team is a good buy. The mechanics work well, the combat/gameplay is satisfying, and spending more time in the 40K universe is always a good thing. You will definitely have fun carving a path through the Ork horde with a friend, and unlocking new toys for you both to use. However, it is a game that also feels like it got pushed through a bit too quickly in order to capitalize on a bigger release yet to come.