SWAT I Think: Door Kickers

During the making of this Wot I Think, 379 doors were unceremoniously breached, 546 flashbangs were artfully lobbed, 19 timebombs were hurriedly disarmed, 61 suspects were roughly handcuffed, 501 hostages were ingeniously liberated, 6362 hostiles were liberally ventilated, and 1 player was royally entertained.

That player is 97.24% certain you’ll enjoy Door Kickers. A top-down tactics diversion with Rainbow Six and Frozen Synapse echoes, KillHouse’s début project delivers its high risk, high bodycount combat action in brief bewitching bursts. Though successful raids can be over in less than sixty in-game seconds, they usually come at the end of long strings of SNAFUs…

13.47. ‘King Snake’ forgot to reload before entering lounge. Restart!
13.49. ‘Shaggy’ shot in the back while attempting to pick lock. Restart!
13.52. Hostage killed in crossfire. Restart!
13.55. Hostage killed in crossfire. Restart!
13.58. ‘Wraith’ surprised by thug exiting lavatory. Restart!
14.02. ‘Wraith’ surprised by thug exiting kitchen while waiting for thug to exit lavatory. Restart!
14.05. ‘Mozambique’ didn’t locate bomb in time. Restart!
14.08. ‘Benjamin Disraeli’s Toast Rack’ failed to notice shack had north-facing window. Restart!

You will fail frequently in DK.

The reason this plan wrecker rarely exasperates is that its failures tend to be educational and entertaining, its scenario spans short. Within a minute or two you’re back where you were when Gaffer failed to check the alcove or Doughnut accidentally blocked Tiggywinkle’s line-of-fire. Back with destination dots in slightly different places or go-codes slightly rejigged. If the cock-ups keep coming then that simply means it’s time to rethink weaponry, try a new class mix, or admit defeat (for now) and switch scenarios.

The men – and they are all men at present – that undertake the hostage rescues, tango culls, bomb hunts, and drugs busts are drawn from a 10-person roster. At the start, everyone on that roster is as green as green and restricted to the pistol-brandishing ‘pointman’ class. Mission successes swiftly unlock the remaining four classes (assaulter, breacher, stealth and shield) and steadily sharpen the reflexes and steady the sights of regularly picked personnel. Victories also generate the doctrine points needed to climb the squad-buffing doctrine tree, and the stars that pass as currency on the weapon/kit procurement screen.

Experienced operatives equipped with expensive unlocks like the SAR-18 Bullpup and Saiga 12K shotgun make formidable killing machines, but KillHouse’s feel for balance and respect for realism (the devs cut their teeth working on the Silent Hunter sub sim franchise) mean the spectre of failure is never far away in a DK mission. In theory it’s possible to attack the 76 scenarios in the single mission folder in any order. In reality, with higher numbered scenarios frequently infested with body-armour encased grenade hurlers and Kalashnikov wielders, it pays to start at the beginning.

Mission objectives and map styles don’t dictate tactics (scenarios can be tackled in countless different ways); they do, however, vigorously shape them. If you’ve got an imminent execution to interrupt or a ticking bomb to disarm, you probably don’t want your lads waddling around like Michelin Men in bulky heavyweight body armour. On large maps dominated by long streets or corridors, you’re likely to struggle without assault rifles and carbines. Tasked with extricating hostages from a tiny apartment? Maybe leave those unwieldy, indiscriminate shotguns in the van, and stick to pistols and stubby SMGs. Every weapon has been modelled with reality-based advantages and disadvantages making for some deliciously difficult pre-mission customisation sessions.

One of the most useful pieces of kit doesn’t hole hostiles, it exposes them. The spy camera – which annoyingly can’t be used for peeking round corners – means you open most doors fairly certain of what’s waiting for you on the other side.

Because arrest warrant subjects give themselves up when cornered, there seems to be no good reason to encumber operatives with another optional gadget, the taser, at present. Until the devs add a ‘No Martyrs’ mission type or let suspects slip to safety across map edges, I’ll continue to bulge my team’s utility pouches with flashbangs and breaching charges.

Added in the release version is a seventh mission type – the dope raid. Requiring both stealth and speed, these outings really kick-off once a team member has been spotted or a weapon discharged. At this point, suspects dash for nearby stashes and laptops and start destroying evidence. If your men don’t reach one or more of the relevant locations before the ‘percentage destroyed’ counters hit zero, the bust is considered a failure.

You’ll probably experience your first narcotics op while exploring another new feature – the campaigns. Three in number and comprised of sequences of up to 9 bespoke missions with occasional optional branches, these are in need of narrative grout at the moment (a deficiency KillHouse plan to rectify). With the odd recurring villain, and stories conveyed through briefings or cutscenes rather than hinted at in mission structures, they’d work far better. As it is, only the threat of being deprived of wounded officers for subsequent missions, differentiates sequence sorties from standalone ones.

Dan Dimitrescu & chums plan to develop the campaign system further over the coming year. Sequences that change depending on ongoing results (currently, mission failures damage your overall score but don’t impact progress), missions that happen simultaneously (squad stalwarts can’t be everywhere at once), more campaigns, random campaigns… it sounds like there’s some fantastic stuff on the way.

Bolstered by the campaign content, DK’s mission count is now approaching 100. With hostiles usually assigned several possible spawn points (randomly selected on each playthrough) that’s a lot of potential replayability. It’s likely to be a while before you reach for the mission generator – a natty device that quickly fabricates entirely new missions using existing maps or simple randomly-walled kill houses. Specify desired map size and level of opposition, then jab a button, and there, waiting for you, is a ‘clear hostiles’, ‘hostage rescue’, ‘bomb defusal’, ‘stop execution’, ‘protect VIP’, ‘arrest warrant’ or ‘dope raid’ you definitely won’t have played before.

Another source of new challenges is Steam Workshop. The game’s bundled level editor is totally idiot-proof (see above for proof) and has already inspired some cracking community cartography. Architects that want interesting ground and floor patterns must add them using imported background bitmaps (texture brushes are still to be implemented) but everything else is just a click or drag away.

KillHouse’s own map makers and set dressers have been creating tango topping venues for almost two years. They’re getting rather good at it now. The anonymous apartments and hotel rooms that dominated early builds have been replaced by a panoply of care-worn workplaces and lived-in living spaces. Houses, flats, cabins, warehouses, restaurants, shops, schools, hospitals, police, fire and subway stations… those pesky gangsters and terrorists get everywhere.

You’re rarely too busy contemplating LoS angles, to absorb a little of the ambience. Law men scurry through hissing rain; they’re serenaded by distant gull cries, dog barks and sirens. Boots creak floorboards and pause next to burbling TVs and flyblown rubbish bins. Law breakers perish amongst pizza boxes, bomb making tools, and half-finished patience games.

Until yesterday, one thing you couldn’t do on any map was drag a destination dot up or down a flight of stairs. The new multi-storey locations mainly grace the campaign, and – thanks to a slightly unpredictable teleport effect near transition locations – feel like a work-in-progress. Engine limitations mean, even when stairs are present, firefights never involve multiple map levels.

On the subject of engine limitations, here’s some other things your men can’t do at present:

  • Lean
  • Crouch
  • Push, destroy, or clamber over furniture
  • Peer or fire under vehicles
  • Lob grenades over vehicles
  • Engage in melee
  • Shoot through doors and other thin barriers

KillHouse are exploring the possibility of switching to full 3D characters which would allow a little more flexibility. Hopefully, sophistication can be added without over-complicating the pleasingly lightweight and logical order system currently in place. The top-down view combined with the elegant path scribing and action queueing system  mean manoeuvres are effortless to choreograph and situations easy to read. Thanks to robust friendly AI and a Rogue Spear-style planning capability, it’s possible to secure objectives without lifting a finger during missions.

Although on the dev’s wishlist, we’re unlikely to be playing adversarial and co-op multiplayer before next summer. Technical challenges and higher priority work like campaign and AI improvements, will see to that. If the Romanians can train their radicals, robbers and renegades to be a little warier of corpse heaps while they’re busy teaching them how to surrender, draw concealed sidearms, and pick up nearby weapons, then all the better.

Offering fresh, friendly, and (sometimes) fiendishly difficult combat choreography at a very reasonable price (£12 to £15 depending where you look) Door Kickers is a game that will fill a five minute play gap as effectively as a five hour one. If you like your puzzles pausable and plausable, your firefights fierce and your tactical options abundant, this is sure to be one of the best things you buy this year.

Door Kickers is out now.


  1. Zankman says:

    That “things your men can’t do” list sounds… Eh, disappointing?

    Anywho, does anyone recall little (freeware? Or just Alpha?) mutlyplayer tactical FPS where both teams spend some time making a entry/defense plan and then play it out versus each-other? It had simplistic graphics and was, obviously, showcased on this website.

    • eggy toast says:

      You are probably thinking of Frozen Synapse which was mentioned at the top of the article.

      • Zankman says:

        Tactical *FPS*, bro!

        As the other guy said, Due Process.

        No problem, though!

    • Malleus says:

      I think you’re looking for Due Process.

      • Ibed says:

        Yup. Interestingly enough, it’s apparently backed by the Indie Fund, but I couldn’t find anything about it on the IF website.

      • Zankman says:

        Nice, thanks!

    • Kelron says:

      Not sure its disappointing, some of that stuff would overcomplicate the game. One of the things I love about this is how easy it is to get to grips with the interface and have your men do what you want.

    • thenevernow says:

      Don’t look at that list the wrong way. While there’s certainly room for improvement, the game is fun and engaging the way it is now. I have little interest for tactical shooters in general and I put down Frozen Synapse shortly after the tutorial, but this game is a little gem!

  2. WinTurkey says:

    Is this that game that was released for tablets as well? I heard it wasn’t very good.

    Or maybe that was Breach & Clear?

    • slerbal says:

      That was Breach & Clear. DoorKickers is really, really good and deficiently made for PC :)

    • Lusketrollet says:

      Is this that game that was released for tablets as well? I heard it wasn’t very good.


      Oh, wow.

    • Spoon Of Doom says:

      That was indeed Breach & Clear. Which wasn’t *too* bad, imho. Nothing special, but decent enough if you like this sort of turn based / pausable tactics kind of genre.

  3. mister_h says:

    I’ve been enjoying Breach and Clear on the PC… this seems up my alley, is this a better game?

    • Kharn says:

      I haven’t played Breach and Clear so I can’t compare them, but from the “IT’S AN EFFING TACTICAL SWAT GAME” point of view, the game is GREAT.

      I actually had 50+ hours while in Early Access and I didn’t touch the random map generator, the map editor, the multiple mods out there or even the pausable real time way to play. Just tons of sexy Rainbow Six Pre-Mission Plan: The Game.

      10/10, will kick again.

      • Hex says:

        Seconded. My experience is fully in-line with yours.

        Have also dabbled in Breach & Clear. It seems like a pretty solid addition to the genre, though I generally find myself playing Frozen Synapse or Door Kickers when I want to play this kind of game. The UI for Breach & Clear hasn’t grabbed me as well as the other options, so far.

  4. grom.5 says:

    Made me think of this

  5. ElDopa says:

    Is there no way to subdue enemies without killing them?

  6. slerbal says:

    DoorKickers is really very good. It is the closest I’ve seen a game get to SWAT 4 since… SWAT 4, and in some ways it is better. During Early Access they engaged with the player base in just the right way, i.e. they had a strong vision for the game but took onboard suggested tweaks and changes that would not harm that vision. I hope it does well as I would love them to add in MP eventually.

    Now it is released I can finally stop holding myself back from playing more than the odd mission and really get my teeth into it.

  7. skyturnedred says:

    That’s a lot of pictures.

  8. Maritz says:

    Ah great, I haven’t played this since a few builds back so it’ll be nice to get into this again. It was pretty good fun even without all the release features.

  9. Curratum says:

    This is literally the only Early Access game I purchased without regretting it later. Now that it’s out of EAccess, I can’t wait to play the new content in v1.0!

  10. Strangeblades says:

    S’wat do you really think Mr. Stone?

  11. SlimShanks says:

    I think that this game is a really great entry. Killhouse Games have kicked down the doors to greatness. I have been totally arrested playing this game, might have to police my copy .
    Fun and games aside, I must strongly protest the use of SNAFU as a noun, when it is in fact an adjective e.g. my life is SNAFU. I expect better mastery of acronyms from you, Mr. Stone!
    Also the game is nice.

    • jpm224 says:

      I’ve heard it used as both. Anyway. by definition, you can’t apply grammar rules to slang.

      • SlimShanks says:

        He might be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that the usage of SNAFU here makes no sense. It means Situation Normal All Fucked Up. You can’t do that repeatedly, nor can you SNAFU a person, place, or thing.

  12. BooleanBob says:

    “the bust is considered a failure.”

    This was originally “the bust is considered a bust”, right? I know an injudiciously-amended Tim Stonerism when I see one. (I think.)

  13. El_Emmental says:

    Argh, it looks lovely but the list of things-wot-you-cant-do is a big killjoy :s

    – Lean: not really vital, the tactical part is about timing and predicting, not aiming.

    Crouch: ouch, lots and lots of visual concealment and soft cover made completely impossible :C

    – Push, destroy, or clamber over furniture: would be fun with physics engine, but no really necessary imo.

    Peer or fire under vehicles: rather problematic, a lot of firefights between police forces and criminals involved shots under vehicles by cops, often resulting in a successful hit in the legs, tipping the balance in favor of the police. Not being able to spot from under the vehicle is also problematic

    – Lob grenades over vehicles: a situation where your troops are wounded because they couldn’t lob it will feel terribly silly.

    – Engage in melee: nah, a bit too cliche.

    Shoot through doors and other thin barriers: HNG nooooooooo! That’s the whole point of choosing higher caliber/muzzle velocity weapons and non-fragmenting cartridges when you want penetrating shots (against entrenched targets) – or purposely avoid such weapons and cartridges (preferring SMGs using 9mm/9mm Makarov) when you certainly don’t want penetrating shots (because of hostages or other agents in nearby rooms).