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Door Kickers: Action Squad

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-1Door Kickers: Action Squad has turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. With the original game being a much slower-paced, tactics-heavy experience, this arcade-styled spin off has shaped up to be a very nice stab at doing something a little bit different.

In the game, players will have five sets of 12 missions, with each set having its own theme. This includes going up against organized gangs, radical terrorists, cartels, and the like. With that, players will choose which squad member they wish to use. From here they proceed to infiltrate whatever house, apartment block, or other nefarious facility that these evildoers happen to be evil-doing in.

Busting down doors and capping criminals is the name of the game. It’s oh so very satisfying to burst into a room full of crooks and gun them down before they realize what’s happening. Even better is that there are five different characters to play as while doing this. First there is the Assault who uses a semi-automatic rifle. He has the most accuracy out of everyone in the squad. However, it’s not advised to just lay on the trigger. His gun does have a decent amount of recoil. Doing that will result in him spraying bullets everywhere as he loses control of his gun. Just a quick pop-pop-pop is all that is needed, then wait a moment before firing again. That’s the way to keep his aim on point.

Next there is the Breacher. This is a no nonsense, shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy. His weapon of choice is a shotgun, and he likes nothing better than to kick in some doors, and mow down whatever baddie he finds on the other side. His guns are quite powerful and can take down multiple enemies in one shot at close range.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-2Almost acting as a counterpoint to the Breacher is the Shield. She carries a large, heavy shield that protects her from incoming fire while shooting back with her trusty pistol. She takes a slow and steady approach to clearing rooms. Her shield is pretty heavy after all. While it reduces its user’s speed, it more than makes up for this with the added protection. She still needs to be careful though, because despite being able to block bullets, the Shield is extremely vulnerable to melee attacks. As such, she needs to prioritize particularly stabby enemies before they get too close to her.

Taking an even more cautious approach to things is Recon, who relies more on stealth to get around. Several of his guns have suppressors on them so as not to draw unwanted attention. He also has devices that help him to see what is happening in locked rooms. This allows players to see its layout and what sort of enemies are in it. He is very squishy compared to other members of the squad, though. As such, the element of surprise is of the utmost importance in taking down criminals before they all gang up on him.

Finally, there is Agent Fergie from the FBI. She’s an extremely aggressive character to play as. Armed with a pistol as well as knives, she’s the only member of the squad with both ranged and melee weapons. She can take a bit of a beating, but needs to get in fast and dispatch of enemies ASAP in order to survive. Agent Fergie is much better suited to people who want to play with the pedal to the metal and be a lean, mean killing machine.

Those wishing to take this approach, may want to wait for subsequent playthroughs of each mission, after they’ve had a chance to familiarize themselves with the stages. This is because despite all the crooks players will need to put bullets in, there are also a lot of hostages on most of the stages. If players aren’t careful of where they’re shooting, or are not cognizant of which criminals don’t care about their hostages well-being, then there may be a bunch of dead hostages by the end of the stage. This is bad because then the player won’t get a three out three star rating at the end of the level, and who doesn’t want a three star rating? Stars can be used to unlock new weapons and items. This stuff is important! There’s probably some moral argument in there for saving hostages as well, but come on! Power-ups!

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-3With that, despite the strong action elements in Door Kickers: Action Squad, it still tries to stay somewhat close to its more tactical roots. A lot of times, players can see in surrounding rooms before busting down a door, so judgement calls need to be made. Would it be best to coax enemies away from hostages? Are there any highly explosive substances around, and if there are should they be avoided or taken advantage of? Are there particularly troublesome enemies in there? Should a sniper strike be called in? It’s not just wanton death and destruction. A certain amount of planning is still often required.

Players even need to consider resource management. The last thing someone wants is to be caught reloading while several enemies are bearing down on them. Also, whenever an enemy is killed or a hostage is rescued, a meter at the top left of the screen fills a little bit. The more full it becomes, the more options the player has for calling in useful items. Cheaper items include body armor. A little farther up is health packs, followed by extra lives. Then there are special moves at the high end of the meter. Most players have overlapping specials to a degree with the ability to choose between a couple while selecting loadouts at the start of a stage. These include the aforementioned sniper strike, while some people get access to small automatic weapons, and Agent Fergie gets a particularly badass special.

It’s important to manage this meter because it’s not uncommon to completely fill it up, so the player needs find ways to use some of it so that they aren’t just rescuing hostage and killing baddies without receiving the benefit of more meter. Doing otherwise is basically leaving money on the table so to speak. So, at the end of the day, there’s still a lot to think about while playing this game.

Action Squad is also pretty challenging. Early on there is mostly cannon fodder that is simple enough to deal with. As the game progresses, though, there are particularly violent enemies that won’t hesitate to use hostages as shields or perform reprisal killings if pushed into a corner. These guys are tough to deal with for players who want to minimize civilian casualties.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-4Then there are the worryingly large enemies that one can tell mean trouble. These guys have large clubs, flamethrowers, and the like combined with body armor and large hit point pools that guarantee they’ll be a huge pain to take down. By the time players get to latter levels, they’ll also have to deal with mad bombers that have explosives all over the place rigged up to a remote control. These guys are especially troublesome. Sometimes they’ll have bombs strapped to hostages. If you shoot these crooks, they’ll try to detonate their explosives with their dying breath. Fun times!

So, the game gradually becomes more difficult the further along one gets. However, there are some slight spikes in this later in the game. At that point, some particularly tough enemies get dropped on the player with significantly greater firepower and body armor.

Thankfully, the game provides two-player coop (both local and online). So, if things are starting to get dicey, players can bring someone else along to help. This makes taking down baddies all the more exciting while opening the door to interesting combinations of characters that can play off of each other’s strengths.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-5Unfortunately, despite all of these criminals to shoot, tactics to use, and squad members to play as, there isn’t much in the way of mission variety. The vast majority of the time players’ main objective will be to rescue hostages. A distant second to this are kill missions. Here all one has to do is slaughter every crook in the building, due process be damned. After that there is the occasional bomb disposal mission, and these are actually quite intense. Then once in a blue moon players will be asked to arrest a person of interest. These individuals must be taken alive. So, in terms of objectives that will be presented to players, there isn’t a whole lot on the table. Thankfully this lack of variety is overshadowed by all of the good things that have been mentioned up to this point in the article.

Aesthetically, the game went with a 2D pixelated look. It won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but there is a decent enough amount of detail to the levels. Rooms are well furnished and buildings set the tone for each stage. Enemies are easily distinguishable and have a bit of personality to them. Meanwhile, Action Squad’s soundtrack feels like something straight out of a 1980s police TV program. A lot of the game’s music would be right at home in something like Miami Vice. The pieces are well put together and add to the excitement. Also, they are regularly rotated while playing so as not to wear out their welcome.

Action Squad is a spin off that no one asked for but it sure is nice that it came along. Who would have thought that its developers would come along with an action packed, arcade-y reinterpretation of their tactical strategy game? It really does a wonderful job of capturing the thoughtfulness of its predecessor.  Meanwhile it injects a more cavalier, guns blazing attitude that both fans of action and strategy games can enjoy.

Door Kickers: Action Squad is currently available for Windows on Steam.