Door Kickers PC Review
I’ve always been a big fan of games that allow you to go over the scenarios presented by each map and build a plan of attack around the possibilities, a plan which succeeds or fails on the merits of your ability to think strategically. There’s also something very appealing, at least to me, of ordering around various units as opposed to just controlling 1-3 characters (childhood power fantasies? Who knows). So when I heard about Door Kickers by Killhouse Games and its promise to put me in control of an expert SWAT team going through literally dozens of different missions, I was both intrigued and excited. I’m happy to report Door Kickers delivers both the micromanaging mania and the visceral thrill of a win in spades.
While there’s not a lot in the way of plot, the basic premise is simple to grasp: you’re in charge of an elite police squad who kick open doors and take out bad guys doing various bad things (they have hostages, they have drugs, they have a bomb, etc). You start off with a limited number of officers to choose from, whom you can even rename to give yourself a more personal connection to them and their lives. Before each mission, you’re able to customize many of these officer’s details: what guns they’re carrying, what they have in their pockets, their general routing, their primary objectives. You’re presented with a scenario and a blueprint of the building your team will be raiding, and using these and the previously mentioned resources, you’re expected to plan out each mission with the utmost of care. In Door Kickers, planning is the mother of victory.
But as in life as well as gaming, planning isn’t everything, and ultimately comes down to expecting the unexpected happening at any moment during a mission. Starting while paused, you’re allowed to see the mission play out from a top down view, tweaking paths and actions as you go, and watching the carnage ensue. Pausing and re-adjusting your tactics in-game is a delightful necessity, which adds to the drama and tension that Door Kickers offers by keeping you engaged throughout to make sure you don’t lose any hostages or top officers (‘and he was only 3 days from retirement!’). Individual Officers earn experience points, which of course levels them up. These officers also have the option of augmenting their skills using ‘doctrine points’ earned from each mission (which can also be used to level up weaponry). As you progress further into the game, the top dogs in your roster will become units that you depend on, and losing one of your heavy hitters during later maps can be an especially difficult set back.
The weapons upgrade system is fun and effective, with a vast array of real world guns and other toys to choose from and unlock. Be warned though: anytime you up your firepower, the enemy will get bigger boomsticks as well, so don’t expect to crush by simply hot-rodding your guns and grenades. Enemy AI on the whole is nice and solid, with a decent element of unpredictability added in for good measure. As in real life high-pressure situations, some ‘terrorists’ simply snap and set off the bomb, or kill the hostages, or start firing blindly for no reason. This very effectively adds to the dangerous feeling of each mission, giving you a big incentive to keep your eyes on the situation and tweak your ground tactics religiously. Ultimately you want to ensure the best outcome featuring the least amount of (friendly) bloodshed.
Visually Door Kickers isn’t a feast for the eyes but it’s no slouch either. Character animations and weapon effects are all nicely rendered. The maps are crisp and detailed, and they’re laid out in a way that feels very natural and realistic. I find there are a lot of games out there, across all genres, where not enough thought goes into floor plans, but all the locations in Door Kickers are smartly laid out in a way that makes them feel like they could actually be buildings in real life. Even the user generated maps (of which there are already hundreds) have an overall surprisingly professional feel to them, probably due to good design of the included mission builder. Said mission builder and user generated content allows for a near infinite amount of replay hours, which is a pretty cool feature as well.
Simply put, Door Kickers is a wonderful exercise in bloody minded fun that brings out the inner SWAT leader in all of us. The visuals are bouncingly pleasant, the sound’s on point, and the combination of micro-managerial strategizing and visceral tactics action is a real delight. This game does demand a decent amount of thought and concentration, but for this much enjoyment and countless theoretical replay hours I don’t mind putting on my thinking cap one bit.