Thursday, 17 November 2016

Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide

It’s not often that a game simply takes the structure of an entire game, pivots it, and adds a new coat of paint to make something new and somehow keep everything that makes the original game fun still intact. If someone told me to give an elevator pitch for this game I would say “It’s essentially Left 4 Dead but in the Warhammer Universe” and I wouldn’t be doing the game a disservice. 

Developed by Fatshark and out now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a co-op melee/shooter where you assemble a team of four characters each with their own weapons to take on waves of massive bipedal rats called Skaven. If you’ve played the aforementioned Left 4 Dead, substitute zombies for massive rats and you pretty much know the bulk of the game. 

And that even carries over to the special rat types. There is a rat equivalent of a tank that looks like it got into a jar of steroids, one that lunges on top of you like a hunter, and one that pulls you away from the group like a smoker. This last one though is pretty gruesome as he literally leaves you to hang! It’s a pretty blatant copy of Left 4 Dead but honestly the design is sound and developers Fatshark have done an incredible job of recreating the fun that you had in Left 4 Dead. 

And that’s very important part: fun. This doesn’t feel like a copy and paste affair with poorly implemented combat and mechanics. I would go as far to say that some elements of the combat in Vermintide is superior to Left 4 Dead, particularly the melee combat. The melee combat here is incredibly fun and the feedback feels great. You don’t feel like you simply swipe through enemies as every impact is felt. If you are wielding a hammer, your character swings from above dropping it down onto a Skaven’s head, crushing it in the process. It’s gory, you can feel it, and it is immensely satisfying. 

There are only eight maps here but there are plenty of variables thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. Eventually, the maps just become backgrounds for the incredible slaughter on show as dozens of enemies rush at you as you and three friends unleash your own class weapons and thrown objects to lay waste to all the dirty scum trying to kill you. It’s a symphony of rat blood that is very hard to stop playing once it gets its claws into you. There is also a loot system handled through throwing die at the end of every run. You can find some throughout the level too that will also increase your chances of getting better loot. It’s just another wrinkle to keep you invested and it works well. 

There is one problem with this game though: The performance. Playing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, there are noticeable frame-drops, especially when there are a lot of enemies of the screen. It’s distracting and disappointing when they occur and it is almost a constant. There were also times when the game simply just crashed and threw me back to the system’s dashboard. It’s bound to be improved over time but it's present now and it very much puts a dampener on the entire experience. 

Other than that though, this is the best co-op First Person game since the Left 4 Dead series. It’s got its rough edges but the combat and variety to the different classes and unlocks means that there’s a lot more under the surface to enjoy. It’s not visually incredible as some textures just look downright bad but it’s almost flawless on a gameplay level. If you grab a few friends, jump online, and go through a few maps together, I’d be hard pressed to find many gaming experiences that I would consider better this year than that. 

Its WarHammer-Time. 4/5


Jason Redmond

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