The most satisfying part of “Door Kickers” can come from watching, not playing. After carefully planning out a tight tactical assault on a house full of terrorists, it’s supremely satisfying watching a digital swat team execute those orders to perfection. Contrarily, few things can be as frustrating as a simple planning error resulting in the death of a hostage and 3 SWAT members. “Door Kickers” is a tightrope act between rogue-like frustration, and tactical fun. For the most part, the mission is a success. However, there are some casualties along the way.
The basic premise casts the player as the unseen commander of a SWAT team as they take on terrorists and common criminals. Players plan out their assault on enemies in varying ways. Patient people can spend an hour in the pause menu, finagling their plan down to the second. The more casual fan may choose the simple real time combat, however, this path is usually harder. Squads get special classes, weapons, gadgets, and more to help with their missions.
When a plan comes together, watching the replay is like watching an actual swat team operate.
The whole experience breaks down into part “Hotline Miami,” and part “Total War.” Death comes quick for both sides. A random guard with a shotgun can utterly screw a plan, just as a well timed flashbang can make one.
While the concept is great, the controls are less so. Simple commands aren’t explained, and the tactical aspect of it can get bogged down in confusion and clunkiness. One too many times squads perform actions wrong, leading to disaster. Another issue are the constant changing enemy placements. Variety can be a good thing, here, it’ll get you killed. The core mechanics thrive on strategy, but that strategy becomes a tad pointless if enemies are constantly starting in different spaces. Granted this is truer to life, but it sacrifices fun in exchange.
Another problem is the interface. When moving units, things quickly get clustered with all the white movement lines that end up along the map. For a game about precision, it’s an imprecise system.
All of this said, “Door Kickers” is a treat once it’s mastered. A neat feature is the replay system, utilized at the end of maps. Successful players can view a real-time replay of their successful assault. When a plan comes together, watching the replay is like watching an actual swat team operate. Fast, efficient, brutal, and pretty damn cool.
While the controls don’t always work, there are a few nice touches to the mechanics that dilute any frustration. Missions will always save the first few actions players take, such as peaking into doors or setting explosives. This little touch makes the gameplay a much speedier process.
Another well done aspect is the mission variety. New primary objectives are heaped on, with goals like rescuing a hostage, or collecting drug evidence before it’s destroyed. These usually add tension to the game, however, other new objectives only add annoyance. Some missions seem near impossible for to complete. After the sixth time a hostage has been killed without warning, the urge to play something else heightens.
It may sound like there are many problems with “Door Kickers,” and there are, but all of those gripes disappear after a stellar run though. Like completing a challenging section of “Super Mario,” knocking off the last terrorist is a rewarding experience. The difficulty is a callback to classic gaming, while not being too antiquated or dated.
Another harkening back to old school concepts can be found in the way the game explains its core mechanics. Most tips and tricks in “Door Kickers” are discovered through dumb mistakes a failure. Getting blasted with a shotgun repeatedly is a great teacher surprisingly. Adapt and survive. One area where the lack of explanation fails is in the customization. If a squadmate is injured or killed during a successful campaign mission, they remain that way for the rest of that campaign. It’s an important detail left to player to accidentally stumble upon.
Also not well explained is that the game chocked full of extras. Beyond single missions, there are the campaigns covering several maps, custom maps, squad unlocks, and easy mod support.