Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide
DEVELOPER Fatshark PUBLISHER Games Workshop WEBSITE www.vermintide.com
Imitation is allegedly the sincerest form of flattery, but if someone copied almost everything we did while dressed in a giant rat costume, it probably wouldn’t be particularly endearing. Such is the case with Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide, a game that doesn’t so much borrow the structure and systems of Left 4 Dead as claim squatters’ rights to them.
Set in the classic Warhammer universe – specifically the gothic city of Ubersreik – it teams you up with three other players, tasking you with fending off hordes of rodent-like Skaven as you navigate the city’s twisting streets, completing various objectives to hold back the eponymous Vermintide. To survive, you must work together, watching each other’s backs as you hack and shoot your way through the Skaven. A game is lost if all four players are incapacitated.
The similarities between Vermintide and Left 4 Dead are many and specific. Controlling Vermintide’s action is an AI director, which determines where and when enemies spawn. Sometimes it triggers swarms of Skaven that attempt to overwhelm you through sheer numbers. At other times, it dispatches a range of specialised Skaven such as the Ratling Gunner, who suppresses your team with heavy machine-gun fire, or the Packmaster, who grabs unsuspecting players with a choking snare before dragging them into a corner to hang them on a pole. Alongside their two weapons, players can use healing items and throw explosives. Missions then conclude with a survival sequence in which players battle a particularly large horde of Skaven, before rushing to a nearby cart to escape.
The extent of Vermintide’s copycatting is frankly vulgar, although there are a few differences. For example, your chosen character affects your available loadout – some characters emphasise two-handed weapons, while others are happier with a one-handed weapon and a shield. New weapons and items can also be unlocked by performing well, adding a sense of progression to the proceedings.
Vermintide is also much bigger than Left 4 Dead, including 13 campaign missions and multiple smaller sidequests. However, it lacks the quality of Turtle Rocks’ masterpiece. The environments, while well designed, are spoiled by dark, murky textures that make every mission feel depressingly similar. The missions themselves are simply too long with no opportunity to save progress during them. There’s no bot support either, and the game requires four players in order to work, which can result in lengthy wait times for a game.
Then, when you’re in the game, the characters are too large and too slow, while combat is lightweight and spongy, as if all the weapons are made out of bread. There are exceptions, such as the Witch Hunter’s Zweihander and flintlock pistols, which feel sufficiently lethal, but they’re exceptions. In the end, Vermintide feels like a supermarket value product. It will satisfy your coop shooter needs for a while, but you can’t help yearning for the real thing.