For us, video games are something you do in the barracks when you run out of porn but still have beer. However, we know that gamer geeks lurk among us and will enjoy the rundown. Mad Duo
For every Call of Duty mega-franchise in video games, there are dozens of smaller, independent works. The game play in many of these is often just as good or even superior to what the big boys produce, but finding about them is much more difficult because they just don’t have PR team like games you find in Best Buy circulars.
Door Kickers (Killhouse Games) is just such a game. In it, you control a squad of SWAT team members tasked with breaking into a building and completing a mission, eliminating terrorists and/or rescuing hostages. The game takes a top-down approach; you select squad members, draw their movement paths, direct their actions, and they react to the unknown situations that crop up. It can be an intense, and occasionally frustrating, experience.
The game has two basic play modes: single mission and campaign. The single missions are stand alone and are basically training for your squad of men. As they make it through the missions, they earn experience that will increase their stats. You also earn stars that you can spend to unlock additional equipment for your team. As you and your team gain in experience, your options grow as well, new classes become available and you can customize the training your squad gets. So if you want to focus on pistols, for example, you can. You can go through the single missions as often as you want, gaining more XP each time. If you ever make it through all of them, you can build your own, download more from the internet, or let the random mission creator build some for you.
Once you’ve leveled your squad up, you’re ready to take on a campaign. In fact, the game locks the campaigns until you reach level 6, something that takes about fifteen single missions to accomplish. It’s a little annoying but the game wants to make sure you are ready for the big leagues. The campaigns are a series of connected missions that send your SWAT team after thugs, drug dealers, and terrorists, all with a story behind it. The biggest difference between the campaigns and the single missions are that in a single mission if one of your squad members is killed, they come right back for the next mission. In campaign mode, if they are killed, you won’t see them again for the rest of the campaign. The good news is that at the end of each mission, you have the option of replaying it until you get an outcome you like. But once you move forward anyone who is dead, is gone.
Game play is pretty intuitive. You have a bird’s-eye view of the building and surrounding areas. You place your troops in the staging area as you wish, armed and equipped from the choices you have, and from there it’s just a matter of drawing lines where you want them to go. The troops will follow that path and will engage anyone who’s armed and in their line of sight. At any time you can pause the game to issue new commands or change existing ones, or right click to bring up a menu with options like throwing a flash bang. You watch your troops execute your orders and step in when you need to.
As far as programming your squad goes, you can make it as complicated as you want. The game allows you to create up to four different go codes where your men will not execute your orders until the go code is called. Alternately, you can just click and drag in real time to guide someone along, or wait to see what’s behind the door before moving in. The choice is up to you.
There are a few negatives to the game. First, you have to purchase better equipment for your team with stars that are limited in supply. Basically, each time you finish a mission you get a rating of 0-3 stars and you bank those stars. If you replay the mission, you only score new stars; that is, if you had two stars and scored a third you’d only get to keep the extra star, so you will want to make your purchase decisions carefully.
Second, sometimes your troops are too focused on the dotted line you draw on the screen. If there’s a bad guy in their line of sight they’ll engage. But if the enemy is just out of LOS or jumps in and runs out, your SWAT member just keeps walking his line, ignoring the guy to his side. Clearing a room means that you have to tell him to look around; otherwise, that one corner he never looks into could be housing a punk with a MAC-10.
With the ability to replay any mission after you have finished it does give you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, although the game will move people around each time the map restarts to keep things fresh. The game has a ton of missions and the campaigns are great for ratcheting up the stress with its play-for-keeps style.
So if tactical squad games are interesting to you, Door Kickers is something you should check out. It’s a great feeling when you kick in the door, a wife-beater wearing punk is closing in on the hostage, and your pointman takes him out with his Colt M1911A1.
It’s currently on Steam for $30.
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About the Author: Erik Dewey is a prolific writer some of you may remember from a book often used for pre-deployment: the Big Book of Everything (which you can download here). Believe it or not Erik was the boss’s roommate in college and a source of much completely heterosexual torment (you might note that he actually graduated, something our editor did not). He teaches at a local college, is a recreational shooter and perhaps most importantly a fierce 80s metal fan. When not running assorted progeny to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or basketball he strives to make all his friends feel stupid by working on his Doctorate. His pulp fiction novels about the PMC Acute Operations are legendary in many homeless shelters, under at least one bridge and (probably) at his mom’s house. Those books include Mercenary Blues, Mercenary Rules and Mercenary Duels. He also co-edited Attack of the Zombie Hippies, a book Breach-Bang-Clear published a few years back to raise money for Independence Fund. Like so many of our minions, Erik is a former Boy Scout and unabashed, accomplished nerd who married above his station and will be really pissed when he sees which picture we used for his bio.