Oh bloody hell, another sodding Warhammer game! Look, I’ll be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest Left 4 Dead fan, I’ve played through each scenario three times at most, and once for the majority of them. That’s really about enough for me, I could never get into it, possibly because I only have one friend, luckily then, I managed to find him in order to play Left 4 Warhammer: RATMEN! or Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide as Fat Shark have named their latest Left 4 Dead aping, ratman smashing, magic slinging, flintlock pistol shooting venture. Are you with me so far? Good.
Ok, let’s begin with the bad, technically it’s very unstable. Yes this is the Beta, but supposedly the release is in 17 days (at the time of writing). Maybe the current Beta patch isn’t representative of the current in-house version. I hope not, because it’s a bit of a mess. The UI doesn’t scale to 4k properly, it sits in the middle of the screen as if a 1080p monitor somehow forced its way into your display in order to present the HUD, and ended up handling everything else instead. The game also runs terribly. It’s a pretty nice looking game, though it’s not Crysis 3 nice, or Metal Gear Solid 5 nice and nor does it even equate to a Witcher 3 level of aesthetic beauty either, so I struggle to see how the high settings can somehow bring my machine to its knees. Yes, I know it’s a Beta, but every time a game runs this poorly this close to release it’s basically irreparable before that date actually comes. I’ve NEVER seen a developer manage anything to the contrary, their endeavours always end up requiring numerous post-release patches, and it still never quite gets there. On the plus side though, the game looks perfectly acceptable on low settings and runs great there, so if you don’t really care for the bells and whistles and 4k, it’ll work fine. Now that the technical stuff is out of the way for the one person who gives a shit (me), let’s move onto the actual game itself.
Ultimately, it’s Left 4 Dead but Warhammer. There’s no way around it, that’s what it is, I cannot think of a core mechanic of the game that isn’t straight out of Turtle Rock’s co-op zombie slaughter fest, right down to healing friendlies or yourself with Medkits, along with the majority of the game’s Special Infected Ratmen. Though there’s no way around this, but it’s also not a problem as Left 4 Dead is good, I know it’s good despite not being a huge fan of it, and while the core mechanics are cut and dry, cut copy and paste, there’s a lot of differentiation in the setting, themes and other mechanics which really manages to set the two games apart.
Each of the five characters (yes, five) - though you can only have four at once - plays very differently, the variation and diversity here is in who you choose to play - and how you equip them (more on that below) - from The Stabby Elven rogue, the hardy Dwarven ranger, the pistoleering Witch Hunter, the heavy meleeing Mercenary to the surprisingly complex Fire Wizard. The patter between them all as they work their way through medieval city streets is another pleasant nod to Left 4 Dead, it’s very light on back story but you learn to like their quips, their back and forths and their general idle chatter with each other, you may even half expect the Witch Hunter to start talking about how much he loved Kiddieland when he was just an initiate, it’s all very charming, which seems to be par for the course for modern Warhammer game dialogue.
While so much of this game is right out of the Valve published co-op opus, there’s a great range of diversity in how you play and it can tend to feel a bit more like a traditional MMORPG party, some of the characters can bring a shield and literally tank some of the bigger enemies, the Wizard harms herself if she goes too crazy with magic, making her an interesting glass-canon type. Unsurprisingly, this is all tonnes more interesting than L4D’s Battle Rifle versus Combat Shotgun debate.
With that diversity of playing styles comes a fairly diverse set of scenarios (so far anyway, the Beta is only allowing players the first three). It’s not as diverse as Left 4 Dead 2, in fact every single one of them takes place at night, and the colour grading that provides makes it all feel a bit “Grimdark”, hopefully the other scenarios will add more variety as the last thing any Games Workshop product needs is to take it’s setting too seriously.
As mentioned above, you can equip your characters. You get some random loot for finishing a mission, this is improved depending on your difficulty and performance - supposedly, annoyingly, I have only ever gotten bows for the elf, despite never playing her but there’s something there if you like progression systems. Additional items are unlocked as you continue to play that will change the play style of the characters and this brings further diversity to the experience. There’s basically an MMORPG hidden in there, a somewhat basic one, but it’s there….but then what game doesn’t have that these days? On the subject of its MMO elements, it would’ve been nice to get a bit more character customisation. For all the lack of a shit I give about Borderlands 2, you could play the same character with the same gender and the same name, but at least you could’ve give them a new haircut. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but when a game is so clearly designed to have an RPG layer, a bit of customisation to give me some emotional investment would really help a lot.
I genuinely wish I liked Left 4 Dead more, because I think that it, with a side helping of fantasy combat would be right up my street. I had fun during the time I spent with Vermintide but I hit the same wall I did with Left 4 Dead, it feels like I’m repeating the same things over and over as there are so few scenarios to play through, there will eventually be thirteen, so it remains to be seen if they’ll be diverse enough to not feel quite so repetitious.
The bottom line though, I suppose, is if you like Left 4 Dead and want a bit more diversity then I can highly recommend it. If you like Left 4 Dead and Warhammer Fantasy then I think you’re going to shit yourself with glee. However, f you have no friends like me, then you’ll probably just want to avoid it. As a final aside though, it’s only £23 as opposed to the £30-40 bracket most PC games seem to now be in, so it might be worth a punt even if you’re not totally sold on the premise.