Warhammer 40K: Darktide is really, actually coming out on September 13, making it one of the few next-gen Xbox exclusives that Series X owners have to look forward to this Fall. As such, it is quite likely to benefit from the extra attention from Xbox gamers starved for fresh content. After playing through one of this Warhammer-meets-Left-4-Dead mashup’s dozen four-player co-op missions, I’m pleased to report that Darktide looks set to be both worthy of that attention and approachable to players both familiar with and new to Warhammer, and/or anyone who’s played Vermintide 2.
The mission I played took 30 minutes to complete and was set in a tank factory, though the developers at Fatshark told me that most of the other missions are set in different areas of the hive, allowing for plenty of environmental variety. The fantasy-kissed steel-mill look served this stage well, though, thanks to impressive texture detail, distinct player character models, and a framerate that held 60 on the PC build I played even as hordes of monsters poured into the combat encounter.
I’m not kidding about distinct character models. Each player is unique; I tend to favor tanks in class-based games, so I felt right at home in the boots of the Ogryn, a hulking brute who literally towered over not just most of the bad guys, but also my fellow heroes as well. He wields a massive combat knife I used to cut down swathes of bad guys. I also used my Ogryn’s sheer bulk to shield my friends from the waves as they rushed us whenever I could, and his special move is a bull-rush whereby he sticks his arm out like a running back stiff-arming his way through a secondary, knocking any enemy in his path aside like a bowling pin. I tended to use this ability as a proactive offensive maneuver, but it would’ve also come in handy as a defensive tactic to charge over to a surrounded or downed ally to aid in their rescue.
But the Ogryn’s not limited to melee attacks. He’s also got the Warhammer equivalent of a riot shotgun. It fires normal shotgun blasts in its primary mode, but press the secondary attack button and it transforms – this takes a few seconds, so plan accordingly – and starts ripping off semi-auto shells. And each class has their own unique weapons and abilities. In fact, Fatshark told me that each class has 5-7 unique weapon types available to them in both melee and ranged flavors. You’ll earn new ones when you level up, though you can also purchase them with credits earned within the game. Each weapon has swappable parts, too, via a crafting system. And talent trees allow for character progression that carries over from match to match, giving you a reason to keep coming back for more of the procedurally generated combat scenarios within Darktide’s dozen missions.
Overall, combat was quite enjoyable. My teammates and I were repeatedly cautioned by the Fatshark developers to stick together, and it’s easy to see why. Not only can dozens of enemies come barreling out of nowhere at you at any moment, but occasionally larger, stronger, and tougher miniboss encounters do too. I saw a shielded Ogryn, who proved to be an effective counter to my slow, lumbering brute because I couldn’t get around to attack him from behind very quickly, and my combat knife just bounced off his massive shield when attempting to attack from the front. Only a grenade – which are few and far between but are scattered in the occasional ammo box around the level – could bring him down in a hurry. Meanwhile, mid-mission objectives, like having to power up reactor cores, freshened up the action by forcing you to stop, anchor down, and protect an objective while enemies swarmed at you. I appreciated the little minigames tied to these otherwise-rudimentary moments, as sometimes you’d have to do a quick icon-matching puzzle before you can proceed – all while you’re getting flanked from all sides.
Unfortunately Fatshark did tell me that there’s no cross-play at launch, so Xbox Series X and S players won’t be able to team up with their friends on PC. Perhaps that feature will be added in the future, but after a half-hour of diving headfirst into the four-player mayhem of Darktide, I have little doubt that Xbox fans won’t have any trouble finding a good match.
Source: IGN Video Games All