Being an OG from the Rainbow Six games from the mid-90s, the idea of taking the planning phase and turn it into a fully fledge game in its own right seemed more than obvious and I’ve been craving a similar experience for more than a decade. Unfortunately- The simplistic, mobile-focused controls of the original Door Kickers made the game a huge pain to control that I couldn’t ignore after a couple of hours. It’s potential lost in my unending Steam library shelves. Fast forward a couple of years, and for some unexplained reason I found myself enjoying Door Kickers more than ever.Never again to be annoyed by the clunky controls. I can’t really put into words why that happenned. In all honesty, I suspect my gaming sensibilities have been changing since I started to dwelve more and more into the overly clunky, barely readable and borlerline insulting UIs of some wargames of yore.
I now ask you to re-direct your attention to the videogame that is solely responsible for reviving the door-hinges repair market. In fact, the game is quite paradoxal as I intentionally started to avoid all kind of wooden ingresses in this new title, simply because there’s a lot more choice in how to handle each scenario, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In Door Kickers 2 the player is asked to exchange a SWAT van for an IFV and the crime-infested urban environments for the terrorist-ridden hamlets and villages of fictional Nowheraki (get it? Nowhere…), Middle East.
A lot of things set Door Kickers 2 appart from its predecessor. On the surface- the new facewash is definately more than welcome. The relatively small and greyish environments of the original DK give away to the new, larger and more colourful ones set in the Eastern deserts. The iteration also abandons the strictly 2D sprites in favour of fully 3D rendered environments, all the while maintaining the top-down perspective. This allows for more detailed packed maps and intricate human models. If you’re anything like me and love every bit of eye candy you can get, then watching the little, small models of the weapons change with each attatchment the player slaps on then you’re in for a treat. Looking behind the curtains, what free-flowing-top-down-strategy-affictionados will find is a profoundly expanded formula within familiar molds. Allow me.
In essence, missions usually go down one of two roads: either eliminating all hostiles in a given area or rescuing captives. It’s the amount of choice in how the player can tackle any mission that brings that special shimmer into DK2. The original classes have now been adapted for counter-insurgency operations with the very specific Pointman and Stealth ones from the original being totally absent. Accounted for are the Assault, Support, Marksman and the Grenadier. If their names don’t give away their roles, then allow me to explain. Assault personnel are versatile and well rounded, able to carry powerful assault rifles or silenced gofasters like the MP5. Essentially, they will compose the backbone of your forces and will act as the do-it-all default choice for almost every mission. However, some wide streets and alleys proved too much for my assault henchmen and required some more lead downrange. That’s where the specialized Support units come in with their light machine-guns to surpress and pin-down the enemy and allow for your other units to maneuvre. Distant engagements will also occur and this will require some overwatch on the part of your Marksman, whose job is pretty much self explanatory. Last but not least is the Grenadier, and being completely honest with you, I haven’t found it a great use for it across all my missions in the game. Unlike the original DK, a lot of DK2 maps feature civilians so avoiding grenade launchers is a priority.
Of course, each class is nothing without its equipment. The early access version of DK2 pales in comparisson to the amount of gear the original entry packed when it came out, but I guess that’s to be expect for the time being. To get the biggest thing out of the way, by the time I’m writting this review there’s only one armour choice and it’s clearly indicated by the devs that it’s something they will adress rather soon and smuggly tell you to trust your tactics, not your armour. Okay, chill! Other than that what you expect is here, the usual assortment of lead-spitting M14s, other M’s and SCARs and everything in between, at the moment I count 17 main weapons, 7 side arms and 10 pieces of equipment ranging from fragmentation grenades, flashbangs, dynamic hammers and my favourite: wall breaching charges. Lovely enough, this time around each weapon can be equipped with attachments such as optics or different types of bullets. I’m sure future updates will bring more arsenal into the equation.
There’s no campaign yet, but the game already features 35 very intricate and well designed scenarios ranging from small houses hostage rescues to embassies, factories, supermarkets, entire neighborhoods and even a bazaar. The larger the missions the more interesting they appear to me, as the sheer amount of liberty the player is given to engage each scenario is just baffling and I’ve found myself replaying missions time and time again with new gear, always finding different new ways to fill my uniform with 3 star chest candy. This is mainly due to the new wall breaching mechanism which, as the name implies will allow you to poke man size holes in any wall, creating new firing angles and new dynamic entry avenues to exploit. In some more risky moments when my crew was heavily injured, I foundly remember setting up 3 wall charges and have one operative rushing through the door after all exploded as to deny the enemy any kind of respite. With 4 new opening the whole thing took less than 1 second to come to an abrupt end with 2 enemies being killed with the blast and the last one, absolutely stunned by the explosions around ended up being shot without ever realizing what happenned. By the moment the 4th member blasted through the door the mission complete screen was already popping up. These eureka moments come often as you find yourself having to improvise a lot with the equipment you have left. I was fortunate enough to still have the three wall charges but if I, for some reason had none, my choice would be to either slap some smaller breaching charges on the door and blow it off it’s hinges. Stunning anyone in the way and opening up the room for a classical off-the-books room clearing. With the Silence is Golden update the game added silent weapons that exponencially ramp up the complexity available in how to tackle each mission. I found myself using a regular 4 man squad crashing down the main entrance of a compound and 2 artful, sly and conniving soldiers carrying MP5s equipped with silencers going around the back taking down unsuspecting foes. DK2 also added a new mechanic called “Go Silent” that orders your soldiers to hold their fire unless fired back or given direct order to. This small touche gives micro-managers just that little edge in the fine-tunning control department the original DK was lacking; as your operatives were extremely trigger happy, even when the situation asked for discretion. This hush control helps a lot in hostage rescue missions, buying you precious time before everything goes Charlie Foxtrot and the enemy runs to kill the captives, perhaps when they arrive to do so, the hostages might have already been gone, taken by the confidential few.
Enemies also come in new variations with the main attraction here being those pesky suicide bombers rushing for your soldiers and exploding in the blink of an eye. While DK2 can be brutal most of the times, the enemy AI would fail resoundingly if asked to perform a Turing Test. The enemy units are just virtual meatbags with weapons that shoot back when they spot you. I’ve yet to see them intentionally hide when overwhelmed or try to surpress and flank the players. Sometimes, upon hearing the slightest of sounds 5 ou 6 will come rushing in a room only to be gunned down single file. I’ve seen some enemies hurling frags or rocket-propelling grenades, yet I’m to be impressed by their usage in a logical or sensible way. Let’s say 2 of your units just cleared a room and before moving on to the hallway an explosive is chucked in their direction, forcing them to dodge it and run back inside the room to avoid the blast, costing the player valuable time. I can also see how this could be damaging to the difficulty level in a game that’s already pretty unforgiving. The enemy might not be the sharpest tool in the box but it sure is a crack shot for the most part, which leads me to another important factor in this fantastic game: The movement and crucial FOV system.
The fine tunning allowed by the Silent mechanic is also extented to the new movement system. Soldiers are now able to rush across the map and duck behind cover, allowing you to safely(-ish) sustain and draw enemy fire without having your soldiers exposing themselves from the waist up and firing when not required. This new stance also allows for safe ‘nade-tossing. There’s barely anything that comes close to the satisfying feeling of accomplishment of simultaneously trowing 2 flashbangs and erupting from cover to lay down lead upon stunned enemies, ending an engagement with 0 casualities. This movement system is directed by dragging the path of your units across the map with the left-mouse-buttom while re-directing the right one will point out which axis your pixeltruppen will aim their weapons at. Every soldier has their own cone of vision (imagine Commandos) and will make contact and fire instantly upon any enemy they see. Sometimes even the most unsuspecting dark corner of a room will hide a dangerous AK-47 wielder that can kill one or more units without the player even noticing where the shots came from. To help you counter-act this enemy agression, amateur strategists can order their units to peak (break and jump) through windows, something I don’t recall being able to do in the first DK. This is just another layer of frosting in a very big tactical cake.
Door Kickers 2 just recently added a Mission Generator that will create an unending number of scenarios for players already done with the hand-crafted ones. So far, the scenarios devised by the alghorythm seem plausible. Maybe some more thinkering options would be of use to fully customize the user experience but only time will tell if that’s ever going to be added. Nevertheless, there’s already an inhumane amount of replayability here. DK2 also rocks a powerful and very simple mission editor that allows more imaginative armchair-generals to devise their own situations. I think it’s also fair to that that, with the future addition of the Steam Workshop, DK2 game can only get bigger and better with ingenious players stuffing new weapons and units, new scenarios and campaigns.
There are, however, 2 complaints I can’t help but write down. The first and most relevant is the need to create and save custom loadouts to equip your troops with. Due to the very nature of the game, in which the player will dabble and trifle with a wide variety of situations and equipments, the inability to create custom loadouts gets under my skin pretty fast, particulary if you’re going to try the same mission over and over again looking for those 3 perfect star ratings which will require trying a lot of different tactics. At the moment, the best DK2 does to minimize this frustration is to allow the copying and pasting of loadouts from one soldier to another. It’s something, I guess. The last complaint is that class skins still look pretty much alike given their camouflage look against the desert backdrop. Other than this, DK2 is my most played game from these first couple of week of 2021.
Overall, Door Kickers 2: Task Force North is a great game and a considerable improvement on what was the tried and true formula of the original. Is it worthy of your time and money? Of course, if you enjoy free-flow, top-down tactical engagements with somewhat realistic and brutal combat. If you’re looking for an in-depth, military grade simulation of desert warfare then Door Kickers 2 is not the game for that and some would be better served looking into Combat Mission: Shock Force 2. To kickstart 2021 in a good note I’m pleased to confirm that DK2 packs so much more potential than I’ve ever expected this simple game would be able to. A classic in the making.