I am a huge fan of the old Tom Clancy-titles, with my favourite series under that name being the Rainbow Six games. These are tactical shooters where you have to plan out every move carefully and always be on the lookout, since one shot can kill you. An unforgiving series that I have a huge amount of respect for, even with some poor entries. Despite how forceful and blunt Door Kickers might sound like, it actually follows a similar setup to Rainbow Six. However, instead of being a FPS with AI members to command, Door Kickers is an overhead tactical shooter where you plan out routes for your units to take. This sounds right up my ally, and I am excited to jump in and kick some doors!
Door Kickers is a mission structured strategy game, containing over 80 stages to tackle. Each of them will provide a full view of the area, with you deciding on how your SWAT team should proceed. The missions will differ in objectives, such as killing terrorists, arrest criminals, rescue hostages, and so on, making it important to plan your routes accordingly. Not to mention, one clean shot means death to anyone, creating a huge tension for the player. Since your units also can only make visible what is in their fields of vision, you have to take into consideration what you might be coming into contact with unplanned.
When a mission starts, you will have to plan out routes for your soldiers to take. To give some examples, this can include them to wait for a specific cue to take action, control where they aim as they move, and how to interact with doors, such as throwing flash bangs through them. This is all done through pausing and unpausing the game, making it easy to change plans on the fly with little to no hassle. All the stages are brutal with fierce and smart enemy AI, but Door Kickers is never unfair. It is a wonderful challenge where you will have to take many details into account, such as how loud your actions are and where you might want to take cover. You can even save routes for future references, which is fantastic for trying out different ideas or tweak old ones.
This makes Door Kickers exceedingly fun to play as you might get lucky with a good plan and some slight trial and error or will be using an hour to plan out the perfect route. Because of the tension and that you are always making some progress through deciphering what the best cause of actions might be, you never feel like you are in an unfair situation or unable to finish a mission. Although, there was one annoying habit my units had occasionally. Whenever I opened a door, my soldiers would at times walk in and out of them, leaving themselves open to enemy fire. This was a strange element, but a quick reroute always helped.
There is no wonder this title got released for phone devices, as it is not too complicated with setups or hotkeys, and even includes a tablet mode on PC. Everything is presented clearly and with ease, making the game easy to take in mission by mission. However, I do question why all the stages are unlocked from the start, despite that they clearly get progressively harder. I suppose it is nice to have the option to skip some levels and not get stuck on one, but it does feel strange to have this implemented when the challenge is so well made throughout.
Besides the main single player missions, there are a couple of campaigns you can take on after you have reached level six on your personal rank, getting higher ratings in missions or by doing some of the optional challenges, like beating a stage within a time limit. Death is permanent in these campaigns and are linearly structured, so every finished mission must be taken into consideration whether you are okay with the loss of units or if you should retry it. I really enjoy this, as the campaigns and missions are short enough to not become overwhelming, but still challenging to make sure the consequences feel severe and every victory satisfying.
Sadly, it is here where Door Kickers takes on a strange design-choice. Throughout the game, you get ranked on how well you did it in each mission, such as how many members were alive and the time it took to finish it. You can score up to three stars in each stage, but these also act as currency for equipment to purchase. That is right, every unit needs tools such as suits, firearms, utility pouches, and gears. This makes the game unnecessarily drag on with plenty of micromanagement for expensive items, and if that was not enough, your team can be huge with up to ten units to take into consideration.
The tedium does not stop here. Utilities for getting through areas like bolt cutters and breaching kits must be equipped, and you only level up and increase the stats of the soldiers you took with you on the mission. Yes, there are RPG elements here, with even skill points to acquire and be used for your team. Lastly: there are four other classes to unlock if your personal level increases, with only one class unlocked at the beginning of the game.
This makes Door Kickers become padded, as you will need to replay missions in order to level up multiple units and continue to the next stage. When a game is quite linear with its setup, it is strange to include RPG aspects that adds nothing to the customisation, but instead forces in repetition. For a title solely relying on careful planning and every hit counting, a more traditional unlocking of new gadgets by finishing levels progressively would have been a much better approach.
This is a huge shame, as the core gameplay and stages are fantastic. Door Kickers easily gives the player a mentality of “just one more try”, as you are always closer to figuring out what you did wrong and finally nail a mission perfectly. Unfortunately, the added grinding and tons of micromanagement, could have easily been scrapped, as they destroy the game’s structure. This damages a good chunk of the enjoyment to be had, but the rest of the package is still engaging, tense, and satisfying.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Nothing to see here
I might be harsh, but Door Kickers has flat and uninspired textures, and character models that are minimalistic and dull with choppy animations. This project is more reminiscent of an impressive flash game than anything else, with colours being few and washed out. The loading screens might be the worst part, with bland people trying to look dangerous. It is quite the ugly game to look at, but the nice details help, like how accurate the blood splatters are and environments giving hints on what happened in the different locations. There is also a healthy amount of varied areas to visit, such as rundown houses, hotels, airports, and more. Sadly, nothing is well made or personal.
The music focuses on psychedelic beats to make the player intense and ready for anything to come, but due to how the songs have low notes and are short, they become forgettable and repetitious. They are rather similar to tunes you probably have heard in any underwhelming action movie. Only two orchestral scores were solid, but the soundtrack was nothing to write home about overall. Thankfully, the rest of the audio is great, with strong voice actors issuing commands and the game providing effective sounds of firearms.
Presentation Score: 4/10
There is a good amount of content provided in this indie-title, with six campaigns and over 80 single missions to take on. If that was not enough, Door Kickers also includes plenty of more activities to partake in. Co-op missions for online gaming, a mission generator for random setups, the game is easy to mod, and best of all: you can edit and create your own missions with tons of tools to work around with. These can even be shared online, making there always be new stages to find. There is also an Iron Man mode, should you need a stronger challenge. Replaying the main missions and campaigns for better scores is still a hard sell due to the RPG elements forced in, but the rest will keep you coming back for more.
Extra Score: 8/10
If you do not mind the micromanagement and replaying stages, then the core gameplay and demanding missions will satisfy those looking for a solid strategy game. It is unfortunate that Door Kickers just does not stay focused on its stronger aspects, and instead tries to be complicated without adding to its main mechanics. The presentation can be best described as a forgettable and bland as well. Still, with the ability to create your own missions and generally tons of replay value, there are plenty of reasons to keep playing. Consider reporting for duty, and good luck!