Monday 12 February 2024

Door Kickers; Action Squad Review (Steam)

By Thomas G.J. Sharpe

Door Kickers: Action Squad is the arcade-y shoot-em-up sibling to Killhouse Games more serious Door Kickers. Lovingly fun, there is more depth than you might expect, but it is, in the end, a bit repetitive.

With vertical slices of apartments, bunkers, planes, trains, and offices, you play as one of a gang of action film stereotypes. There’s a brutal shotgun breacher, a Clarice Starling-esque Fed, wholesome hero assaulter, and on the far end of the silly scale, a boxer-shorted off-duty veteran. The parody is not as direct as Broforce but evokes a more general wash of bold 90’s and 00’s action movies.

As one might expect, you bust down doors and fulfil your against-the-odds missions which fall under a slim selection; hostage rescue, hostile elimination, arrest and bomb-defusal. Terrorists, kidnappers, bombers, bandana’d machete wielders, arsonists, and all manner of gunners stand in your way. The mode of play defined largely by your class and loadout selection.

You see, already, Action Squad is a bit more developed than other side-scrolling arcade shooters. Adding this mild range of customisation through gun choice, gear slots, “special ability”, and a simple skill tree, you have some degree of personalisation to the proceedings. The classes broadly represent difficulty, some are glass cannons, others rely on armour or gadgets to gain the upper hand. While there is only mild difference between the handling, the FBI agent who can roll, for example, was rendered unfun for me due to slightly clumsy animations and controls.

You get into a rhythm, perhaps taking the surprise-stealth approach with the Recon guy to surgically pick off targets around hostages. Take the Breacher and his chainsaw to indiscriminate elimination stages. Don’t expect too much by the way of AI. This plays very close to heist classic Bonanza Bros, wandering back and forth. This can lead to some frustrating moments, for example trying to bait thick hostiles that you must squish under elevators.

Despite the repetition, and rather short-lived character upgrade tree, there is something fantastically engaging about Action Squad. It’s quick to get you in and out if you fail, feedback from the visuals and sound is immediate and vivid. The ant-farm levels are cartoonish and simple, but evocative, the animations get a lot of mileage out of few frames and pixels. The design is tongue-in-cheek from top to bottom, and it makes up for the relative repetition, if it grabs you.

I found myself coming back to this for a couple of blasts at a level for a while. The music got caught in my head, which is always a sign that they need more tracks, and/or those tracks are cracking. I must note that I have not had the chance to sample the multi-player option. Further, despite there being some user-made levels on the Steam Workshop, nothing really grabbed my attention, but there is some legacy for the game there.

As a fan of Door Kickers (the serious, macho, CQT one), I am glad there is this lighter take on the SWAT subject. It doesn’t quite have the out-and-out hilarity of Not A Hero, but is arguably as competent as an arcade shooter.


No comments:

Post a Comment