Door Kickers Review
- Fun even when you die
- Incredibly easy controls
- Repeat playthrough appeal
- Challenging levels that take much thought and often repeated playthroughs
- May leave those looking for an easier ride floundering
Each mission in Door Kickers starts with a deployment phase. Within this phase, I see the target house as a set of blueprints, atop which I can change shooters’ equipment and starting positions. As missions become more complex, the deployment phase becomes where I make some of my most important decisions.
After the deployment screen, the mission begins with time paused. From the paused overview, I drag paths for officers to follow, change the direction they’re covering, and order them to breach a door. This simple array of options becomes a complicated choreography of death pretty fast. In later missions, my eight officers follow a dance routine with hundreds of steps, pauses, shooting angles, and go-codes. Giving these orders is straightforward and malleable, but the interface is missing some important functions. If I give two units overlapping paths (walking single-file next to a wall, for example), I don’t have any way of selecting one trail over another when I want to edit it. To work around this, I have my units walk behind and to the side of each other, but that’s frequently a poor decision, tactics-wise. With eight officers in a narrow hallway, it also gets downright silly.
Some of the other limitations of this system are simply built into the game engine: there’s no crouching or leaning, so the game’s combat takes place entirely on a two-dimensional plane with straight lines. It rarely feels as flat as it is, but there are occasions where I would love to stack a crouched unit under a standing unit, and these are the times when the game’s simulation feels almost like a puzzle game and least like a camera looking down on a real-life SWAT situation.
After learning the basic commands, which the early missions walkthrough gently, I set about trying to ace each of the 78 standalone missions, running them over and over again to correct my dumb mistakes. This takes hours and hours, and should I suddenly become talented at Door Kickers (unlikely), I’ll have a powerful map editor ready to create more. The Steam community is populating the integrated Workshop with almost 200 new scenarios, many of which are indistinguishable from the professional efforts. This is the game’s greatest strength: failure is instructive, puzzles are infinite, and restarting is effortless. In some ways the process of attacking a new map reminds me of debugging computer code: first, go here, then go here, then do this. Compile. Oops. Do it again.
Door Kickers is a flashy, interesting world full of seedy drug dens and cartel-owned mansions. Blood sprays and broken glass chart my violent progress through every level. And Door Kickers has an amazing sound design. The soundtrack is a little too wub-wub for my tastes, but I can’t deny that it runs perfectly underneath splintering doorframes and crackling submachine guns.
Door Kickers is the kind of game that wants to stick around, handing you an especially easy control system – a Flight Control like tracing system – but placing it in a world where you’re being shot at from all directions. Most states will require repeated playthroughs in order to come out on top, yet that’s in no way a chore, with Door Kickers serving uptight and tense action that entertains even when things go awry.