Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 26.10.2016

Review for Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide on PlayStation 4

If Battleborn and Evolve have taught us anything, it's that trying to sell a game that's primarily an online co-operative experience is likely to be an uphill struggle no matter how well polished the final product is. Gamers do enjoy a shared online experience, but in a post-Left 4 Dead era with a market steeped in team based co-op titles, it's tough for any of them to stand out and enjoy a level of sustained longevity. Hoping to buck that trend is Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide, a title very much cut from the same cloth as the aforementioned Left 4 Dead series that substitutes the undead with rats. Already a smash hit on the PC, developer Fat Shark has finally brought the Games Workshop franchise to the home consoles, which seems like the perfect fit for a networked ecosystem of rabid co-op gamers. Cubed3 jumps in and gets involved in some rodent rage!

There's an old adage about never being more than six feet away from a rat at any one time. In the Warhammer universe it's a statistic that has been reclaimed and flipped over by the omnipresent Skaven, an infestation of emboldened bipedal rat men that have taken advantage of the current situation and are seemingly intent on wiping out the last remnants of humanity. Taking place in and around the port city of Ubersreik during the throes of the End Times, a long prophesied prediction of cataclysmic proportions that foretold the violent end of the Warhammer universe. Up until this point, the Skaven have existed in the Under Empire, which, as the name suggests, is located deep underground, but the End Times are nigh. Everything is changing. The Vermintide is a very real and imminent threat. Five heroes band together and make the Red Moon Inn their base of operations to mount a series of attacks on the Skaven in a bid to reclaim the seemingly doomed Ubersreik. Musophobia sufferers might find it hard going…

While there is a total of five characters to choose from, Vermintide steers clear of employing a class-based system and instead offers a relatively balanced selection of heroes, all of which handle in a fairly similar fashion and are more than capable of administering first aid should it be required. Being a fairly melee-centric title, each protagonist has their own specialist weapon attributed to them as a primary, ranging from slice to bludgeon in capability. This is complimented by a secondary ranged weapon, most of which rely on depletable ammo, which, thankfully, can be found scattered in abundance about the land alongside other sundries such as first aid, bombs or speed/strength potions. It's well worth giving each hero a tryout, as knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses actually correlates well to differing play styles, making it a bit easier to focus on levelling up the equipment of a specific preferred character of choice. Teams tend to consist of four members, which leaves one hero going spare.

Screenshot for Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide on PlayStation 4

Victor the Witch Hunter starts off with a rapier and a brace of pistols that never seem to need reloading, while Kerillian, the Waywatcher, rocks a pair of Elven daggers in conjunction with a bow and arrow. Markus, a soldier of the Empire, favours a great sword and what looks like a portable cannon - slow to reload, but effective at close range against heavily armed Skaven. Short in stature and hard to hit, the Dwarf (admittedly my least favourite of the quintet) tends to use hand axes or hammers as his weapon of choice, heftily supported by a powerful Dwarven crossbow for long range damage. Last but not least is Sienna Fuegonasus, a Bright Wizard equipped with a mace that's perfect for damaging sweeps against the horde, coupled up with a staff that can fire anything from fireballs to lightning, depending on which variation is equipped. While the staff doesn't require any ammo to function, it will overheat with continued usage and failing to let it cool down will actually result in an explosion. Use responsibly, kids.

Of course, levelling up provides a new weapon with each increment met (character locked, of course), and successfully completing a mission also provides the opportunity to roll the dice for some loot, which usually tends to be a weapon or item of armour. Any loot surplus to requirements can be scrapped in the Forge and used to strengthen or enhance other items in the inventory.

The Skaven are a formidable foe that are as cunning as they are plentiful, and they will try to separate the party at every opportunity, consistently ambushing anybody foolish enough to run ahead of, or indeed, fall behind their team mates. While Left 4 Dead does seem to be the obvious comparison that gets constantly made, it probably doesn't help that Vermintide has, near enough, cloned the special infected that appear in the popular zombie shooter.

Screenshot for Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide on PlayStation 4

For example, the musclebound, ground-shaking Rat Ogre is the equivalent of the L4D Tank, as both pack a powerful punch and require a lot of team firepower to take down. Left 4 Dead's Smoker has a Skaven equivalent in the form of the Packmaster that strangulates, while dragging its target out of the fray by their neck, requiring a rescuer to step in for survival. The Hunter from L4D that used to pounce on unsuspecting victims and claw away at them until they died (or were rescued) makes an appearance in the form of the Gutter Runner, which has seemingly been armed with Freddie Krueger's claws in this instance. Poison Wind Globadier's carry grenades of toxic gas that they continually hurl at the squad, and will actually explode in a dramatic, poisonous fashion when taken out, so it makes sense to keep them at a distance, much like L4D's Spitter, in fact. There are a few additional Skaven in the mix, too. The Ratling Gunner picks a target and locks on to them until dealt with. There are also the heavily armoured Storm Vermin that march around in packs and take repeated headshots or charged melees to take down.

The console version features 18 huge levels of rodent bashing fun that are split between three campaign acts, as well as all the PC DLC released to date. Much like Left 4 Dead, each mission takes place on a sprawling map with multiple routes, choke points, randomised pickups and an adaptive enemy AI, which means no two games are the same. In terms of narrative, it acts merely as a binding strand as each chapter is self contained and can be played out of sequence without suffering any continuation issues. There's usually a core objective at the heart of each mission, which can range from anything along the lines of obtaining food from an overrun market to infiltrating a Skaven nest to destroy their weapon caches, or even just hitting the docks to salvage barrels of explosives for future use. Success for each mission is dependent on reaching an extraction point and occasionally surviving long enough to jump into the slow moving rescue vehicle when it arrives, although, unlike Left 4 Dead, there are no checkpoints. Should the whole team die, then it's classed as a failure, and the entire mission needs to be started over again, although, obviously, downs can still be revived, so as long as one team member survives there is still hope.

Screenshot for Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide on PlayStation 4

The End Times - Vermintide is very much geared towards team play and operates a drop in/drop out system for the matchmaking, which, on the whole, works pretty rapidly. There are AI controlled bots that will step in for any participants that drop out, and, if required, they can actually be employed to fill all the squad vacancies for those feeling a bit antisocial. For the most part, the bots do a pretty good job and stick close, group up and revive when necessary, but they're far from perfect. Occasionally they'll just leave you there to die, mercilessly clawed to death by a gang of Skaven, which wouldn't be so bad in itself if their silhouettes didn't reveal they were located ten yards away, motionless, all stood in the exact same spot looking like a totem pole. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between, but there's definite room for improvement. Choosing to play at a higher skill level also turns on friendly fire, which can be a real nightmare when fighting off a swarm in close proximity to the squad... as if it wasn't tough enough.

Graphically, Fat Shark has done a great job in creating a dank, oppressive world packed with detail and intricate level design. It very much has that Games Workshop/Warhammer aesthetic stamp all over it, which is reflected in every aspect from the weaponry to the character models. Similarly, the audio work is spot on, with great environment effects that really add to the immersion. Skaven can be heard lurking in the near vicinity despite not being seen, which creates a palpable sense of tension that, more often than not, signifies an attack is imminent. The voice acting for each character is also worthy of note, as the team constantly chats with each other with requests for help, warnings, heads up on the location of nearby medical supplies and contextual advice relative to the task at hand, which comes in handy for those that don't like getting on the mic with strangers. Being a Games Workshop title also confirms the presence of at least one Cockney accent, although, in fairness, it'd be weird if there wasn't one.

Screenshot for Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Given the inexplicable yet continued absence of Left 4 Dead in this current console cycle, Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide steps up to fill that festering void with gusto. Granted, it doesn't stray too far from the zombie slaying blueprint laid out by its undead inspiration, but given that it's one of the better co-op experiences currently available, it's easily forgivable. With that said, it would be hard to recommend this to any non-PS Plus/Xbox Live subscribers, as ignoring its online social aspects pretty much flies against its raison d'etre. The thin narrative and occasionally iffy AI of the bots just don't come close to replacing the sheer joy of surviving a vicious onslaught of Skaven with a well co-ordinated bunch of mates (or strangers, for that matter).

Developer

Fatshark

Publisher

Fatshark AB

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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