Review: Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
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Title: Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (13.19 GB)
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Fatshark
Developer: Fatshark
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
It is highly recommended that you make sure that your copy of the game is updated as this review is based on a patched copy. Prior to the patch, there were some issues that would have greatly affected the score.

Gameplay:
It’s rare these days to see a good co-op centric game. Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide (henceforth referred to simply as Vermintide, because “damn, that’s a long title”) is one of those rare games that encourages partnering up with your friends in order to take on an evil horde of enemies across a fantasy adventure. And for the most part it achieves a decent level of fun in its attempt.

There’s an unmistakable taste of Dungeons & Dragons here, not only in setting, but also in the choice of characters you are given when you begin your game. These are all named characters, so you cannot create your own hero. The benefit of this is that your characters appear to have history with each other and often talk to each other as you embark on different missions.

“Missions” is how progression in Vermintide is achieved. There is no open world or map selection screen. Instead your team takes on various missions that move the narrative forward. After choosing your character, which can be later changed if you so desire, you are taken to a tavern. This serves as your base of operation and central hub.

You can replenish your ammo, upgrade your weapons, and choose upgrades for your characters. A map in the center of the room allows you to enter the mission selection screen where you can opt to play alone or invite friends to join your quest.

Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide_20161010223638

Playing alone is absolutely possible in Vermintide. The game compensates by adding relatively competent NPCs to aid you. I have to say, the AI controlling your partners is pretty smart as I often found myself completely overwhelmed, only to have them sweep in, take out the enemy, and heal me.

Because the characters you control are named, you eventually get to know who is who, and when one of them requires help, you can hear them ask for it. They’ll also recommend tactics such as “You really should heal yourself”.

Despite the campaign being about murdering hundreds and hundreds of enemy fodder, there are various instances when you will be entrusted with accomplishing tasks that depend greatly on the co-op nature of the game.

… more to strive for …
I also found this represents the better moments in the story. You might be asked to load up a cart with food while the enemy is trying to thwart you. This is when team tactics and planning come into play, and it is also where the game shines the most.

Like most fantasy adventure games, Vermintide rewards you with exploration and mission-completion by littering the environment with chests that contain items to keep you alive. Victory rewards you with new weapons and armor.

What would a game like this be without the ability to level your character? Weapons can be dismantled for components to use in the upgrading or creation of better ones, giving you more to strive for than merely completing the story.

Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide_20161010225217

Speaking of story, don’t expect a Dragon Age or Witcher narrative. It’s simply not there, and that’s okay. This is not that type of game. You are here to defeat evil. The dialogue will give you some insight into the characters and it contains some laughable moments. Otherwise, most of your story will be told by your own exploits.

One minor gripe would be that I wish the game had a third-person view of the action. I understand that this is not what the developer was aiming for, but sometimes the action is so feverishly chaotic that I couldn’t tell if I was swinging at the enemy or at a wall.

While shooting projectiles is completely doable in first-person mode, sword swinging is a lot more complicated. You have no reference as to what’s around you and enemies can get so close that they block your entire view of the environment.

… watching the other players battling enemies was almost cinematic …
Visuals:
This is a pretty attractive game, particularly in the lighting department. The fantasy setting in the world of Warhammer is pretty dark and takes place in filth-ridden streets and dark alleys. This requires some atmospheric lighting and appropriate texturing in order to engross you in this less-than-favorable environment.

There are times when the entire screen is filled with hordes of enemies, who look great themselves, and very little hit is taken on gameplay. Granted, because the entire game is played in first person, it is difficult to see where the hell you’re going at times. But this adds to the chaos, and there are a few ways to clear a path through nasty rat people so you don’t remain lost in the madness for long.

Stylistically, Vermintide maintains a consistent look throughout. Even the character designs reflect the lived-in style. I found that watching the other players battling enemies was almost cinematic, and made partaking in the battle all the more thrilling.

Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide_20161010193347

Audio:
Dialogue plays a major role in in the game. Not only does it give you some insight into the relationship between the characters, it’s also crucial to survival at times. Hearing your comrade call for help is the first step to your own survival.

There are assassin enemies that wrangle your friends up and try to take them away. If you don’t arrive on time to rescue them, they will be “kidnapped”. Similarly, if one of your comrades requires healing, they will gripe about it. You are fully capable of healing your friends, so the cooperative nature is greatly enhanced by the dialogue and sound design.

… the illusion of a horrific battle …
For example: the sound of a loud horn is an indicator that the enemy is amassing and preparing for a huge attack. At this point, it’s a great idea to pick a good location to make a stand. But even if you missed the sound of the horn, a friendly reminder from one of your team members, whether player controlled or NPC, is more than enough to prepare you.

Other sound choices involve the slicing and dicing that occurs when you are plowing through a horde of enemies. Blood splatter and bones cracking echo the visuals and really create the illusion of a horrific battle taking place.

Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide_20161010192552

Online/Multiplayer:
The final score would probably suffer a little if it wasn’t for the cooperative nature of the design. While I enjoyed playing through some of the missions with computer-controller companions, the few times I played online were indicators of this game’s strengths.

I would even venture to say that you might skip this game if you don’t have at least one person to team up with though the game will fill in the remaining slots with AI-controlled characters.

Not only does online play encourage dialogue between players, when planning the next steps in the campaign, it also adds to the partnering and dividing responsibilities as it pertains to tasks within a quest. For example, one or two players might be responsible for loading the sacks of food onto a cart, while the other two players keep the horde busy.

… insane action that requires communication and cooperation …
Traditional options for online play are offered here. You can start a private or public match, as well as jump straight into the action with “quick play”. All of the in-game options available when playing alone are available with real players. You can heal each other, for example.

This does not affect the game’s score, but I truly wish there was an option for split-screen co-op in this game, as it would be an absolute blast to play on the same couch.

Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide_20161010225136

Conclusion:
While it’s not perfect and it lacks the depth of other adventure games I have played in the past, coupled with some friends, Vermintide can really shine and provide that insane action that requires communication and cooperation.

Graphically it’s an attractive game, and the use of dialogue and sound drives home that you’re fighting an epic battle. Online works with no issues that I personally encountered. But online is also the game’s strength. So if you plan on playing this alone, temper your expectations. This one is meant to be played with friends.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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