Feeling proud is a nice sensation isn’t it? I’ve felt proud a number of times at this year’s Gamescom so far, marked first by an excellent McDonald’s choice (honey crisp chicken and bacon) on the first evening, followed by a doner kebab that put it to shame. And in a non-savoury twist, today it was being a member of the first squad to complete the Warhammer 40K: Darktide demo mission – the sweetest feeling of them all, and a perfect team-bonding exercise.
The bonus emotions? Surprise and… not being so surprised. Surprise that we’d accomplished such a feat, but not so much surprise in the game itself. It was, as expected, a good co-op FPS time! But a very familiar one.
In a roughly 40-minute play session, I partied up with two other journos and a very helpful dev, each of us picking one of the game’s characters. I opted for a bloke who hit things with a big sledgehammer, while the others took on a huge ogre-like lad called an Ogryn, a psychic spell-slinging fella, and your veteran soldier type. After readying up we were plopped into a mission reminiscent of the bowels of Ironforge, with its abundance of massive metal pipes and control panels sat on grating, and entered the fray.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to tell what the other characters brought to the table – and I promise this is not a slight on them, honest – as it wasn’t immediately obvious. I got the sense one of them was perhaps more melee-oriented, slashing foes an sawtoothed axe, but otherwise they did a lot of shooting and that was it, really. Perhaps the gap between classes could’ve been communicated a bit more clearly through callouts. But hey, there was great scripted dialogue between them as we progressed through the mission, with the Ogryn cutting straight to the point in a wonderful Northern accent so thick you could run across it without sinking.
“Weapon feel is absolutely on point here, which is important for a game that’s 99.9% about mowing down nasties.”
At least I’d chosen wisely, as I could clatter through hordes of baddies with a honkin’ great sledgehammer, either holding down attack for a longer, more powerful swing, or bonking it quickly over everyone’s skulls in a wack-a-mole fashion. The bonks were fantastic too, with weighty crunches and splashes of crimson to round them off. My ultimate ability upped the ante even further, charging my sledgehammer with electricity, so any smacks sent deadly packs of enemies flying with a surge of energy.
And for the occasional long-ranged skirmish, I’d switch over to an assault rifle and fire off some rounds. Again, firing off shots felt powerful; weapon feel is absolutely on point here, which is important for a game that’s 99.9% about mowing down nasties. Although, I’m unsure if gun feel and sumptuous sledgehammer smacks made up for a mission that hadn’t particularly pushed the warboat out, you know? It was as you’d expect from a game of this type, a la Vermintide or Left 4 Dead: find the switch, upload the data while fending off waves up the wazoo, carry three barrels while fending off more waves up more wazoos. Maybe missions later down the line mix things up considerably, or our demo was purposefully predictable to keep things simple at a big show and showcase the core of the game, but I was hoping for a touch more evidence that the wave-bashing genre had progressed a bit.
We all certainly had fun, though, especially as the mixture of enemies and the volume of waves were finely tuned to keep us consistently battered and bruised. Towering brutes staggered towards us rattling with armour, so we’d have to micro-manage our positioning to lead them away from the group, or a bulbous boss would come clattering down the stairs and we’d need to back away quickly to safe pastures. Sticking together is everything, and the game understands how to erode this glue.
So despite my lack of “woah!”, Warhammer 40K: Darktide proved to be a perfectly fun time. Not only did our team win, but we also came away with a sense of comradery and I think that says it all. Just don’t go thinking this is going to shake-up to the Vermintide formula. I reckon it’s more of an extension, if anything.
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