Door Kickers is a pausable, real-time strategy game developed by the Romanian indie developer KillHouse Games. In top-down view, it puts you in charge of a SWAT team and lets you command it through missions of varying complexity. Whether you chose to go in with guns blazing, or chose the more sophisticated spy-camera, flash bang, three taps in the chest-way, is up to you.
While the sledge hammer and guns blazing-approach might be good enough to get your team unscathed through a mission, it’s more often than not the wrong way of maxing out the score you can achieve on each mission. In the classic Angry Birds style, you collect stars on each mission, with 3 being the maximum amount of stars you can get per mission. The stars you collect can then be used to upgrade your squad’s equipment and weaponry – and there are quite a lot to choose from: Primary weapons, secondary weapons, armor, support gear and utilities, everything from silenced pistols to assault rifles and breaching charges. That you need to collect stars to unlock new gear give you a great incentive to go back and retry missions you don’t already have a perfect score on. Maybe you also want to try some of the challenges Door Kickers gives you; like using a single plan or just one trooper to complete a mission. The game has virtually no loading time, which makes it very easy to retry a mission you’re not entirely happy with.
That Door Kickers is a pausable, real-time strategy game means that it is played in two modes: When the game is paused, you’re in planning mode. In this mode, you can plot paths for your officers to follow through a location and plan various actions they will take along the path. This can be to throw a flash grenade into a room before entering it, place a breaching charge, pick a lock, change from their primary weapon to their sidearm, or another action in a wide selection available to make sure the bad guys are handled in the most efficient way possible. When you unpause the game, all the planned actions are performed in real time. If you’re of the adventurous type, it’s also possible to play Door Kickers entirely in real-time, without pausing and entering planning mode, but keeping track of everything – squad members, hostiles, evidence, and hostages – in real-time isn’t exactly an easy task. Your squad members will automatically engage any hostiles they see, but that’s pretty much the only thing they will do on their own. Everything else is up to you to tell them.
As your squad levels up, you will also unlock new SWAT officer classes. You start out with only the most basic class, pointman, but will soon unlock more advanced classes, like assaulter, breacher, stealth and shield. The various classes can perform different tasks in your squad. The pointman, for instance is great for close quarters combat, while the assaulter – who is equipped with a semi-automatic rifle of your choice – is a better man for longer range combat. For a perfect score on a missions, you have to carefully pick and choose the right combination of officer classes to use in your squad.
Door Kickers comes with 6 campaigns – although you can’t play any of them until your squad has reached level 6 – 84 missions that can be used to take your squad to level 6 an beyond, a level editor you can use to create your own missions, and a mission generator that will generate a random mission based on a few different parameters like map size and opposition strength. To top everything off, there’s even Steam Workshop support, which currently sports more than 1,200 items ranging from new levels to new weapons and enemies.
There’s no actual tutorial in Door Kickers, just a few screens telling you how to play the game. Fortunately, this is not much of a problem as the first few missions you play though are pretty simple and you’ll learn everything you need on the job with a little trial and error. This makes the learning curve in Door Kickers exactly as steep as it should be. It also makes a lot of sense to lock the campaigns until the squad has reached level 6, because the missions would be a bit too hard for a rookie player.
The game also comes with Steam Cloud support, which is perhaps not the most important feature a game can have, but it sure is convenient. Door Kickers is not very demanding when it comes to hardware – the minimum requirement is an Intel Pentium IV 2.6 GHz or equivalent processor – which means you’re probably able to play it on pretty much every computer you have access to. The Steam Cloud support means that you can move your elite roster from computer to computer with the help of the in-ter-net. Many other games, like the AAA release Galactic Civilizations III, does not support Steam Cloud, but instead prioritize features like Steam Trading Cards. I love you Stardock, but some of your design decisions make absolutely no sense to me.
Door Kickers is a game with the potential to give you hours and hours of great fun. It’s easy to learn and rather easy to master, and the level editor, random mission generator and Steam Workshop support, you virtually have an endless supply of fresh missions and equipment available. I’m playing Door Kickers on Windows, but it’s also available on Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android. If you have the chance, getting the game on iOS or Android is probably not a bad idea. Door Kickers looks like something that’s great for a quick game on your favorite tablet whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Update 2016-02-23: While purchasing the Humble Indie Bundle 16, I got an extra copy of Door Kickers. If you by some freak accident happen to read this review, have a Steam account and want to play the game, just leave a comment (with your e-mail address) here and I’ll gift you the copy. Aaaaand it’s gone!