From Killhouse Games, the creators of the popular tactical turn based mobile game “Door Kickers”, comes “Door Kickers: Action Squad”. Although the names are similar, the two games are nothing alike, aside from them both involving Swat dudes, bad guys and doors.
Action Squad is a coop side scrolling shooter/ action game that will have you and a friend clearing one rectangular room after another, killing bad guys and releasing hostages along the way. When all hostages have been rescued and all bad guys are dead, you move on to the next stage, where you can buy upgrades for your character at the loadout menu, and do the same objectives all over again in another stack of rectangles, which doesn’t look all that different from the last one. There are a few special scenarios sprinkled in to break up the monotony, such as a bad guy that holds a hostage at gun point, a room where time slows down when you enter and you have a short time to assess the situation before acting (like Call Of Duty), or an occasional suicide bomber who might try to rush you. However, these changes didn’t happen often enough to hook me in.
From the game modes menu, you can choose one of three modes to play: classic mode, infinity tower mode, and zombie invasion mode. The three game modes are surprisingly similar, despite having very different descriptions. Classic mode is the main game, consisting of a wide selection of levels to kill bad guys and rescue hostages in. Zombie invasion mode is basically the same as classic mode, except occasionally, green portals will pop up, unleashing zombies into the level, and some hostages you release might turn into zombies and attack you. If you thought the main mode was repetitive enough, infinity tower mode will bring repetitiveness to new heights. This mode consists of a randomly generated tower of rectangles that is infinitely tall. Because of the random generation, these towers feel much more lifeless than the specially designed levels in classic mode. If you are unlucky, you can end up going from one identical room to another for several floors. Other times you are put in unfair situations, such as a suicide bomber running through the door you’ve just opened and killing you instantly without giving you a chance to defend yourself.
Despite all of this, Action Squad has many redeeming qualities. Regardless of how it may appear in the trailers, the gameplay itself consists of much more than mindless running and gunning. There are objects to take cover behind in the event of a prolonged shoot out, enemy patrol patterns to work around, automatic weapons that need to be fired in short bursts to maintain accuracy, and a variety of enemy types, each with their own behavioral patterns and deadly weapons to watch out for. Before breaching into a room, often it is crucial to take a moment to assess the situation, figure out the best point of entry, and breach at the right moment with the right gear to increase your chances of survival, and to ensure that you don’t kill any hostages nearby in the process.
There is a good roster of operatives that players can choose to play as, and each one has their own unique abilities and traits that are quite different from the others. For instance, there is the assaulter (a standard soldier who uses automatic rifles and can call in sniper support), a stealth commando (can pick locked doors and uses a short range suppressed machine pistol to dispose of enemies quietly), a cop in plain clothes who can dodge roll and shoot in both directions at once, and a recon guy who can detect enemies in dark rooms and buff damage output for all operatives, just to name a few. There are also a myriad of different gears, weapons and upgrades to unlock for every operative (such as flashbang grenades, door explosives, etc), and changing up your loadout can change your tactical approach considerably and keep things interesting.
The game can be played in two player coop (online or local) and single player. Although playing solo is perfectly doable and doesn’t feel overwhelming or awkward (like trying to play solo in Payday 2 for instance), playing with a buddy is definitely more fun, as two operatives can often compliment each other with their unique abilities, and difficult rooms can be breached from different entry points at once to get the drop on a particularly threatening enemy mob.
Door Kickers: Action Squad has some shortcomings in terms of repetitive level designs and a monontonous gameplay loop. But the combat, upgrade system, variety of characters, weapons, and gear will keep you coming back for those casual, short, gaming sessions, especially when you can play with a buddy.
- Operatives with unique skills to play as.
- Loads of weapons and gear to unlock.
- Banging rock and electronic music straight from the 80’s.
- Strategic and tactical sidescrolling action.
- Great coop fun.
- Samey level design.
- Game modes that feel similar.
Final score: 7 out of 10
Door Kickers: Action Squad is $14.99 on the Switch Eshop. Special thanks to Killhouse Games for providing a review copy of the game.