Door Kickers: Action Squad Early Access Preview

A decent distraction at the moment, Door Kickers: Action Squad could have the foundation for some good side-scrolling action further down the line.

By Woozie, Posted 04 Dec 2017

Door Kickers currently boasts an Overwhelmingly Positive rating on Steam and there’s good reason for that. It’s a pretty cool mixture of real time strategy and tactics where planning incursions through levels of varying length and difficulty, watching them play out and eventually succeeding turned out to be a very satisfying endeavor. Departing from the original’s concept, yet taking place in the same Nowhere City USA, Door Kickers: Action Squad sees Bucharest-based studio KillHouse Games, alongside one man outfit PixelShard, try their hand at an action side-scrolling take on door kicking.

As expected, the first noticeable change lies in the game’s visuals where the top-down perspective of the previous title was replaced with a 2D view. The pixel art employed by Door Kickers: Action Squad makes it look livelier than Door Kickers, while not skipping on easy differentiation between background and foreground. Missions take place in a handful of urban locations including office buildings and underground bunkers, to a soundtrack, or rather just one song at the moment, that channels 80s synths and electric guitars, resulting in a small serving of musical awesomeness.

Door Kickers: Action Squad, Screenshot, Preview

Door Kickers: Action Squad currently comes with a choice of 3 classes, Assaulter, Breacher and Shield, each with their own weapons. The Assaulter prefers automatic firearms, the Breacher turns things into pixelated giblets using shotguns while the Shield surprises absolutely nobody in her preference for shields and pistols. Each class starts with one weapon unlocked, stars being required to get access to the other two available. Stars are gained at the end of successfully completed levels based on how many hostages your trigger-happy self didn’t murder performance. Weapon unlocks act on a per class basis, while equipment and gear unlocks are available for all classes once obtained. The equipment slot currently has body armor, a speed pouch for faster reloading and a +1 slot to gear, while the gear slot contains breaching charges alongside frag and flashbang grenades. In the case of the Shield trooper, the equipment slot has a selection of three shields.

If in the Assaulter’s case I saw little reason to go back to SMGs after unlocking the rifle, the other two classes have to take ammo and weapon abilities into consideration when choosing their weapon. The weapons have a good amount of punch to them, making it tempting to keep the finger on the trigger, or hammer away when using a pistol. I found little reason to replace the body armor as far as equipment goes and gear-wise, flashbangs definitely bring some useful utility to the table. It’s safe to say that the three classes feel different from each other, although I did find the Assaulter to be the most efficient of them, as his aimed shot is perfect at long range, with automatic spray doing the job close up. The Shield trooper felt fairly weird, given the sometimes strange damage distribution which tended to ignore the armor her shield provides. This was the case until I unlocked the Rifle Resistant shield, at which point she basically became a walking tank, unless I decide to carelessly stroll into a room with enemies on both sides.

Door Kickers: Action Squad, Screenshot, Preview

As you go about trying to save the day, knife-wielding enemies will charge at you, attempting to slash away at your health bar. Foes with rifles take aim from afar, delivering a powerful shot if not killed quickly enough. Certain baddies wield a one-shot machete, being joined by a couple more that carry weapons and have varying engagement ranges. They each have their own distinct models, as well. Killing foes fills a bar that allows players to refill armor, gear and health, obtain an extra life and access the ultimate ability. Currently, there’s just one, Sniper Support, with more on the way in future updates.  Sniper Support can be used to take out three random enemies, regardless of the floor they’re on as long as they’re in view.

The level design in Door Kickers: Action Squad is a little simplistic at the moment. Levels generally take place in buildings with multiple floors. Characters can only shoot in the direction they’re facing. The only way of potentially hitting someone above you is with stray bullets from the SMG (or rifle’s) recoil, although it’s neither reliable nor encouraged. Regardless if it’s a flimsy wooden door, or one that requires a bit of kicking to open, enemies very rarely react to anything outside of their room. This turns levels into a series of isolated rooms, reducing the amount of planning and decision required to overcome obstacles. After a couple of levels, enough to get a hang of what your character can do, you’ll most likely be caught in a loop of opening doors, using your weapon’s ability (which unless you’re using the Shield trooper, is a bullet that instakills one or two enemies), then shooting at whatever’s left. For the most part, standing makes sure that you won’t kill hostages. With infinite ammo on your side, longer rooms allow ability spamming to eliminate off-screen enemies that cannot react.

Door Kickers: Action Squad, Screenshot, Preview

Some rooms can be breached into, triggering a slow motion sequence that can cause a fleeting feeling of badassery as you quickly turn to dispatch enemies on both sides of the room. Later on, enemies start coming out of specific doors in the background. This can also happen behind your back, which can be surprising the first couple of times. It does, however, quickly fall prey to predictability. If up close, enemies can be kicked, for a brief stun, although the system feels a bit clumsy, often not registering kicks despite being very close to the foe.

Levels make use of different types of lighting. The majority of them alternate between lit and entirely dark rooms. The contents of the latter remains unknown until you’ve entered, alongside eliminating the option of using the Sniper Support ultimate. That’s one of the places where a flashbang comes in handy. Certain underground areas have limited light, with enemies being concealed by shadow. This was a very nice, and underused, touch. Indeed, the biggest current issue with Door Kickers: Action Squad is that it runs out of tricks a little too soon. If going through one door will get you killed, there’s an easily accessible window which removes any challenge. If you were surprised by an enemy coming from behind you, restarting the level is enough for that to not pose a problem.

The three mission types currently available in Door Kickers: Action Squad don’t feel that varied. Regardless if it’s killing all enemies, saving hostages or bomb defusal, they’re approached in the same fashion, since eliminating the opposition is required in every case. The latter two share the hostage element, with Bomb Defusal adding a set amount of time in which you need to reach and defuse the bomb. Since, currently, you can’t sprint, use shortcuts, or plan ahead in any way, you’ll walk peacefully through the building looking for the bomb that’s about to blow up in some two minutes, hoping that you’re moving in the right direction.

Door Kickers: Action Squad, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot

Its brief period of presence on Steam Early Access may factor into this, but Door Kickers: Action Squad has yet to decide what personality it wants to assume. It’s not sure whether it wants to play a stronger mayhem card or if it wants to offer a different perspective on Door Kickers’ tactical gameplay. If it’s the latter, the levels are a bit simplistic and, ultimately, restrictive in their take-the-door-or-the-window approach, where one is almost always better than the other. The available weapons are satisfying to use, while certain equipment and gear items come off as unnecessary. The little sense of danger there is can be easily circumvented by generously placed windows or, in the worst case, a basic restart. If it’s the mayhem direction it plans on going, then, while there’s a good amount of pixelated giblets left behind by shotgun shells, the pacing isn’t doing much for it.

What’s available so far is a decent four hour distraction, but isn’t particularly compelling for too long. It simply runs out of tricks a little too soon. With that in mind, the shooting has a good amount of punch to it and what’s on offer could be a foundation for some good side-scrolling action further down the line. As is the case with most Early Access titles, it all comes down to the content that’s to be added in the following months and, the developers have promised monthly updates. With the first of them scheduled for this December, you may want to keep an eye on Door Kickers: Action Squad.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): KillHouse Games
Developer(s): PixelShard, KillHouse Games
Genres: Action, Side-scroller
Themes: Indie, Old school
Release Date: 2017-11-17 (Early Access)

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