Impressions: Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team

By Alec Meer on May 27th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

I’ve spent a few hours with Kill Team, the in-theory co-op 40K arcade shooter released on 360 and PS3 in 2011, and which unexpectedly turned up on Steam last week.

There’s no ‘I’ in team, and there’s no ‘online co-op mode’ in Kill Team. Which is pretty crazy, as this was a game designed for online co-op. Seemingly rushed out on PC, the favourably received downloadable console game finds itself with barebones options and only shared-screen multiplayer. This is a damned shame, as Kill Team is/could have been such a good time.

It’s a cross between a twinstick shooter and a baby Diabolike, set in Games Workshop’s ultro-grimdark sci-fi setting. There’s not a lot to it: to some degree it’s the distillation of the Space Marine fantasy, which means burning the heretic by the dozen. You play as a little man with a little gun and a little sword (upgraded as you play), which you attack lots of little Orks and the like with. They die in huge numbers, you die only occasionally, and it feels pretty good.

It also feels pretty lonely. Perhaps I wouldn’t be saying that if I didn’t already know that this was designed as co-op game, but there is a certain emptiness to Kill Team as a solo affair. Environments are empty and repetitive, and I know that chuckling as a mate downed 12 Orks simultaneously or you rescued him from certain doom with a well-timed grenade would pep things up enormously. You can do that in the PC version, but only by having a chum come join you at your PC and plugging in an extra gamepad.


A short clip of me playing the first level.

There’s also the way the camera forbids and often seizes control, placing the game’s eye in such a way that’s ideal for keeping multiple players in view at all times but infuriating for a single Marine trying to trudge through dark corridors without getting the iron skull on his crotch caught on the edge of an ill-placed barrel. It’s often claustrophobic and often microscopic, and the mouse wheel’s only purpose is for the throwing of grenades.

Then again, the relatively rapid progression of unlocks and upgrades, gained purely by doling out death, is gently pleasing. Ooh, an improved sword or a 10% health bonus – I am the angel of marginally more death. It’s noisy and explosive and things die easily, so the compulsion to keep playing despite the hollow feeling and the excessively murky aesthetic is very much there.

Units and characters look great, of course, as they do in all latter-day Warhammer/40K games – I don’t know if there’s a pool of models developers are able to pull from somewhere, but it’s got that chunky, slightly cartoony Dawn of War look to it, and there’s something iconic to that.

Speaking of which, even if the absent online mode weren’t absent, it’s tricky to justify buying Kill Team over Dawn of War II: The Last Standalone, which does similar things for the same money. Sure, that’s an arena’n'wave-based game rather than a campaign but it’s got far more variety, it looks prettier and there are long-term goals. Plus there is an online mode – only an online mode in fact, so I guess Kill Team’s the one to go for if you do want to play solo.

I’m sure there isn’t a vast profit to be made from a PC re-release of a four-year-old good-but-not-great XBLA game, but on the other hand 40K does seem to be a license to print money and I wish a few funbucks could have been spared to add a few more graphical options (only resolution, maxed at 1080p, and Vsync are on offer) and add some online infrastructure.

Then again, I imagine that, had this happened a year ago, before Microsoft killed its PC gaming Frankenstein, Games For Windows Live would have been in there – so perhaps we should count our blessings.

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28 Comments »

  1. Senethro says:

    Ugh I just want the one by the Divine Cybermancy guys already

    • Bfox says:

      Good thing they just released some gameplay footage!

      • Volcanu says:

        Are you just being deliberately irritating or genuinely trying to mislead people? It SAYS its a L4D mod before you even play the video link…

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  2. Sigh says:

    That’s too bad about the PC port.

    Though if you can get a second person to play next to you this is where this game excels; in couch co-op. I actually played this with my wife when it came out for the PS3 on 2011. I was a little surprised but she loved tearing through the Ork hordes and we had a blast playing that game in the same room. My wife has no interest in Warhammer 40k but she loved this game (even wishing it was a bit longer) and she thought the Ork names were quite amusing: choppa boy, weird boy, etc.

    This game is definitely worth the asking price if you have a friend or partner that can play in the same room.

    • Snidesworth says:

      Agreed, co-op is what makes this game shine. Though I suspect you can pick this up for far less cashmonies on console. Probably marginally less pretty, but it’s not something you’ll be playing for ages.

    • Syra says:

      It’s the lack of *online* coop which rankles.

      From what I’ve heard this is a straight port from the xbox version, it has next to no optimisation, the resolutions don’t go 16:9 and the kb+m controls are laggy.

  3. RogueJello says:

    Played this on the XBox when it came out. Worth the $5, and played it single player. I think I’d wait for the next Steam sale to pick this one up, but it’s the mindless simple fun of a twinstick shooter.

  4. Keymonk says:

    Hear hear on the Last Standalone. It’s a very good small game, that more people should try out.

  5. almostDead says:

    Grumble fucking grumble, grumble, grumble.

    When will there be THE 40K game.

    • Syra says:

      Dawn of War 3?

      • Goateh says:

        Final Liberation 2 please!

        • darkshadow42 says:

          YES YES YES, Games Workshop please give this guy all of your money! FL actually got me into 40k epic. Alternatively please do a battle fleet gothic game that will also be awesome!

          • herschel says:

            Proper 40k games, that don´t mess up the fluff… Final Liberation, Chaos Gate… no more on this list.

          • Volcanu says:

            Ahhh, Chaos Gate…let me count the ways I love thee…

  6. Kefren says:

    I can see in the video that bodies disappear, that teleportation trick that occurs in modern games.
    (Goes back to playing Duke Nukem 3D and Doom).

    • MrUnimport says:

      If those are your standards for graphical bells and whistles, you must be floored upon discovering Kill Team’s real-time rendering of true 3D models from arbitrary angles.

      • Kefren says:

        Those are my standards for displaying the effects of my virtual carnage, and I’m standing by them!

  7. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    “Diabolike”

    So are you guys not allowed to write the name of that Blizzard game in your articles just like we aren’t allowed to write in our comments?*

    *If this has been fixed and I didn’t realize, forgive my nonsensical comment.

  8. KDR_11k says:

    I’m pretty sure the art is just mostly reused from DoW2, this was a pretty rushed game released as a tie-in for Space Marine back in the day.

    • Sarkhan Lol says:

      Art nothing, EVERYTHING in that game is recycled assets from DoW2, right down to the music. They’re not even subtle.

  9. Buffer117 says:

    I’ll get this on sale and it will go into my SteamOS category for games i’m saving for my couch box when Gabe finally lets me have one, the co-op split screen will be a boon then as it’s so hard to get local co-op games this day for couch co-op.

  10. fuggles says:

    In other news, Dow1 has just migrated multiplayer to steam over gamespy, but at the cost of lan play. Swings and roundabouts I guess. You never know, a balance patch may follow.

    10 years since Dow almost, yeesh.

  11. Phasma Felis says:

    When was it decided that, in addition to talking like soccer hooligans, orks should also have voices like soccer hooligans? Maybe it sounds perfectly natural to you Brits, but I still feel like Final Liberation’s Barry-White-gargling-gravel was the only right choice. It’s certainly my guideline for how to pronounce WAAAAAAGH.