Door Kickers is the thinking man’s Rainbow Six. There are plenty of first-person shooters about breaking down doors and storming into rooms while someone shouts “GO! GO! GO!”, but Door Kickers approaches CQC (Close-Quarters Combat) from a very different angle; a top-down one in fact.
This time, you’re not the guy pulling the trigger, you’re the man with the plan. Every mission is presented to you as a top-down, 2D floor plan, and your job is to micro-manage your SWAT team by using the mouse to draw out what paths you want each trooper to take through the level, much like drawing a route through a maze, if the maze had terrorists, hostages and bombs dotted around it.
It’s a beautifully simple system that makes the game extremely accessible to new players, with only a couple of minutes needed to learn the basics.
But the tactics go deeper than just telling people where to go; when you draw a path through a door, you’ll be given options as to how your trooper will enter the room.
You can keep things quick and simple by having him/her simply kick it down, or you could be smart and use a flashbang grenade or breaching charge to briefly stun any hostiles inside, allowing your troopers to charge in and clear the room before the enemies have a chance to return fire.
The amount of tactical freedom you’re given means plans can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, and being able to pause the game at any time means you can stop and adapt your plan as the action unfolds, so you always feel in control of the situation.
The downside of Door Kickers fixation on micro-management is that the game’s difficulty depends largely on how much time you spend perfecting your plans.
Sloppy planning leads to unchecked corners and blind spots, which will swiftly turn into dead or injured troopers. Creating a thoroughly watertight strategy isn’t unreasonably difficult, just unreasonably time-consuming, and after a while, you’ll start to yearn for a way to combine multiple instructions into one command.
Missions are over very quickly, with the longest being around 3 minutes and a couple can be done in as little as 6 seconds, but the ratio of time spent planning to real-time gameplay is around 10:1, so if you want to do enough micro-managing to create that perfect plan, you may find yourself spending upwards of 30 minutes planning a mission that takes just 2 or 3 minutes to play out.
Thankfully, replays of all your missions are saved, and you can jump in at any point in the replay and pick up from that point, so you won’t have to spend another half hour clearing that embassy just cos you messed up the last room.
This makes Door Kickers feel much more like a puzzle game than an action game. You can give your troopers orders in real time, but the speed at which the missions unfold means you’ll always feel several steps behind the action.
The game may give the impression of being a fast-paced real-time strategy in its trailers, but constantly pausing to plan your next move means Door Kickers plays more like a game of chess than a game of StarCraft.
But if the slow pace doesn’t turn you off, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. The game’s 100+ levels are nicely detailed, so combat takes place in a variety of locations such as offices, garages, houses and supermarkets rather than just different configurations of empty, featureless rooms. There aren’t any multi-story buildings, but it took me a long time to even notice that.
There’s no story here whatsoever, just a collection of individual missions with no narrative connecting them, but the types of missions you’re given are reasonably varied. Some simply ask you to eliminate all hostiles, while others challenge you to rescue hostages or VIPs, or defuse a timed bomb.
Your troopers themselves however, do stay consistent. You can name each member of your 10-man squad, assign them to 1 of 5 classes and customize their gear to your liking. You can upgrade your squads abilities and unlock new gear, but it’s a very shallow system and feels like an afterthought. Even what’s there won’t alter your play style in any way, as most of the upgrades only improve your troopers accuracy.
Even if you manage to master every mission, Door Kickers has a random mission generator and a built-in level editor for you to create your own maps. You can even download missions that other players have created, giving Door Kickers unlimited replay value.
Too Long; Didn’t Read: If you’re into CQC, but first-person shooters haven’t been scratching that itch, then you’ll wonder where Door Kickers has been all your life. It’s supremely easy to learn, but time-consuming to master, and although your troopers utter dependence on you can frustrate at times, at least when your plan does come together, you’ll know it was all your own work.