Kill Team Review: Great Expectations
Ever had something start small and just escalate completely beyond your control? Something similar happened to me last night when I arrived home from work and decided to download the 'Kill Team' Arcade Game from Xbox Live.
'Kill Team' is the prologue to THQ and Relic's upcoming AAA title 'Space Marine.' Weighing in at 800 MS points (about $10) the cost is about average for XBL arcade library but delivers above average bang-for-your-buck. You control a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes as he boards an Ork Kill Kruzer and attempts to disassemble it via the blood and guts of every man, woman and Ork on board. It's a grisly hack-and-slash affair whose simple gameplay is augmented beautifully by an expansive three-dimensional environment. A selection of classes (Librarian, Techmarine, Sternguard and Vanguard Veteran) offer variety as well replayability.
The narrative is a robust coagulation of mindless violence and Warhammer 40,000-style grimdark. Controls are minimalistic but rather than making the game stale the simplistic gameplay affords the campaign an easy flow and makes it approachable to anyone with two thumbs rather than just the gaming elite. Actions and obstacles are repetitive to a large degree but this is more due to the game's unapologetic love of brutality rather than a lack of alternative content.
There are issues with the title despite how unexpectedly fun it turned out to be. Some models had pathfinding issues that led them to wander in circles - particularly near cutscenes. And since we're on the subject this game has too many cutscenes in light of the steep difficulty spikes that players will face during certain missions meaning you'll have to watch those 5-10 seconds of animation over and over again. The class system fails (or succeeds depending on how you look at it) to give the player an all-around skill set so if you're a shooty marine on a melee mission... good luck. These problems made the game frustrating in the way that side scrolling action-shooters have always been frustrating. It's all part of that nostalgic charm I suppose but I could do with a more innovative way to extend a game's longevity.
One thing that surfaces again and again throughout the campaign is just how immersed the design studio is in the 40k lore. The opening cinematic features a Caestus Assault Ram (from Forgeworld) and a BFG Kill Kruzer. There are constant nods and tips of the hat to the franchise's origins such as the in-game interchangeability of the Ork Burnaz and Lootaz (because they come from the same box, get it?).
This is what makes the wait for 'Space Marine' even more exciting. Knowing that the Relic team has mastered the 40k sub-culture in such a total way that even their innovations feel like they belonged there all along. This is a development studio that knows their fan-base and they're got in on display in every frame. They heard all the nerds wondering "can anyone get 40k right in a video game?" and they're answer is 'Kill Team.' If you're a fan of the 40k mythos this game was made for you.