Warhammer 40k: Darktide Hands-on Preview – Vermintide but More

Unlike my earlier impressions piece of Warhammer 40k: Rogue Trader, where I openly admit I had little knowledge or expectations, this preview is slightly different. My knowledge of the Warhammer 40k universe still has the same limitations, though I at least knew some things about the game. The main thing I knew going in is that Warhammer 40k: Darktide is, essentially, Vermintide without the rats. At least, that's what I thought I knew.

While at Gamescom, I got hands-on with Warhammer 40k: Darktide. Were my initial thoughts correct? I will say yes, but that would be an overly simplistic description of the game because while there are undeniable similarities, this offers something that seems to rise above.

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Much like your other 4-player co-op titles (Left 4 Dead, Warhammer 4 Rats, Back 4 Blood), Warhammer 40k: Darktide puts you in the place of one character on a team of four. You'll start in one place, aim to get to the other, and along the way, you'll face a host of foes trying to tear you apart, limb from limb. So far, so much the same. The way Warhammer 40k: Darktide helps to differentiate itself is in the presentation and the way it feels.

During my hands-on with the game, I couldn't create a character as you will be able to do in the full release. Understandable, Fatshark wanted us all to get the most out of the fighting, so when I jumped in, it was with whatever character was tied to the PC. You see, four of us were playing. Two of us had two melee-focused characters, and two had two ranged ones. I ended up with the melee, but it didn't mean I didn't have some ranged weaponry at my disposal.

The character I had hands-on with had a reasonably sizable sledgehammer. Now, I'm not going to say that I was a melee character - I think I was; I also believe Fatshark told me that the account tied to the PC was a melee. With a big sledgehammer, I was wading through the masses with aplomb. It wasn't wholly unjustified aplomb; I did reasonably well and was able to protect and revive other players reasonably well. I only managed to fall behind and get lost a few times, too, which was not bad for me.

That's one thing I noticed while playing Warhammer 40k: Darktide; just how easy it is to get turned around. The map I played had a considerable amount of verticality, with rooms moving above each other. Still, due to the similar design, you're never entirely sure if you've been somewhere or not. When you add the sheer size and scale of the maps - if the one I was playing is representative of them all - you'll reasonably find yourself impressed. That's when the enemies start to swarm.

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As one could expect, Darktide'll sometimes filter you into arena-style areas; this is where the real meat of the combat starts. Hundreds upon hundreds of enemies swarm you and your team. Sometimes you're simply fighting them off, trying to survive. Other times, you have to collect power cores and put them in specific machines to let you progress, one person carrying the core while others strive to defend them. So far, so 4vsAI.

Let me be honest; it is all "so far, so 4vsAI". What matters here is that combat feels great. While swinging around my hammer, it felt like it had some heft. When I used my ability to create a bit of a shock blast, stunning enemies, it felt like I was doing that. Even when I pulled out my gun, taking shots from far away, it felt like the bullets had some weight. There's a heft to the combat that other titles can lack.

All of this is supported by a game that looks and sounds great. The cavernous areas suitably echo the approaching hordes of monstrosities and the sounds of combat. While some of the design has already led to me getting a little turned around - likely intentional - I can't help but praise the visuals. Everything looks so suitably vast and overwhelming, with the more minor details all present to add to the atmosphere and enemies that are appropriately gruesome; and gory when you happen to slaughter them.

Warhammer: Vermintide, and the second, were well-received titles. I would argue, with the advances made by Fatshark, and a setting that genuinely feels better for the game style, Warhammer 40k: Darktide could be the game that rises to the top in a type of game now arguably overused. Warhammer 40k: Darktide will release for PC on the 30th of November; check out every scrap of info we've gathered in our roundup post.

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