r4ts 4 d4ys
HIGH The Warhammer setting is appealing.
LOW Getting swarmed and having NO idea what’s going on.
WTF What’s up with all the empty treasure chests?
When reviewing, I don’t often like to use one game to describe another. Doing so is a shortcut that doesn’t say enough, and isn’t helpful to people who haven’t played the game being used as reference. However, in rare instances, it’s nearly unavoidable.
Case in point, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide.
To people who’ve played Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2, feel free to skip the rest of this review because Vermintide is just a lesser version with a furry skin on top. I don’t say this because the games are similar, or because they have elements in common. No, I say this because it feels like the exact same game. It’s so close, in fact, that if someone had told me that Vermintide was actually a L4D2 mod, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second.
So, now that I’ve allowed myself the shortcut and L4D2 vets know all they need to know, what about everyone else?
Vermintide is a multiplayer-focused first-person shooter set in the Warhammer universe. I’m no expert on the worlds of Games Workshop, but familiarity with the lore is not required. The only thing a prospective player needs to know is that an army of ratmen are swarming a city, and the player is part of the group sent in to clean the place up.
There are five classes to choose from, but they all function more or less the same with each having a light, heavy and charged melee attack, a ranged attack, a dodge, and a push that shoves rats back.
To give credit where it’s due, Vermintide sports graphics that are a step above what I would expect from a budget-priced title. The medieval setting is appealing (if too drab-colored) and the number of enemies that can appear at once is truly shocking. Vermin tide indeed. In some ways, the game manages to punch above its weight.
Unfortunately, the things that the devs get right don’t outweigh the things that fail to shine.
After selecting a character, the player can either go online to join a game, start one for others to join, or sally forth accompanied by three bots. The group then proceeds through a level and kills roughly ten million rats before reaching the end.
It starts off promisingly enough, but my biggest problem with Vermintide is that it’s just not enjoyable to play. It’s boring. Taking on small numbers of rats is fine and gives players a chance to be a bit more strategic with combat, but things ramp up quickly and before long there are so many rats onscreen that it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on.
It’s visually impressive to see such huge numbers of enemies, but I often just pointed myself in a direction and mashed the attack button until things stopped moving. It doesn’t help that the attacks feel fairly weightless, as well — there’s never a devastating blow or a satisfying crunch, it’s just lightly whacking a lot of fodder mobs and the occasional ‘special’ rat.
Speaking of which, the tougher rats with deadlier abilities are carbon copies of the types found in (wait for it…) Left 4 Dead 2. There’s a huge tank rat, one that shoots poison, and one that chokes and incapacitates a teammate. The first time it struck, I thought it was a ‘smoker’ straight out of Valve’s game.
The ‘coincidences’ don’t end there. When walking through a level, the party’s banter fills in the characters. When players come across boxes of ammo or health packs, they call out and alert their teammates. With the sheer number of enemies and the way they swarm with brain-dead AI, the ratmen could easily pass as zombies if a player squints. It’s all too close for comfort and nothing is done better in Vermintide.
One area where it manages to differ from L4D2 is an upgrade system that incentivizes replaying levels in order to get better loot via random awards, but if the core action isn’t entertaining the first time through, the lure of possibly getting a slightly better sword is nowhere near enough to make me go back in and spend more time.
As far as the online functionality goes, I will say that it performs well. I played several matches with a full team of three random players (for a total of four) and never encountered any lag or difficulty with connections. If nothing else, I’m glad to see that the devs nailed this part since multiplayer is such a large part of the experience.
Overall, it’s more than a little eyebrow-raising to see how closely Vermintide has followed the template set by Valve, and disappointing to see that it hasn’t improved or advanced the precedent that was set — it’s just a not-as-good version with rodents in place of the undead.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Fatshark AB. It is currently available on PS4, XBO and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the game in online multiplayer mode and the campaign was not completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Intense Violence, Blood And Gore, and Alcohol Reference. The game is all about killing humanoid ratmen, and they’re frequently decapitated or have their limbs cut off with bloody sprays. The alcohol reference is due to the game’s hub being in a pub, it’s pretty minor.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: A horn sounds when a wave of rats is inbound, and there’s no visual cue to signal this. Incidental dialogue is subtitled, but the text size is small and it’s often hard to read during play. There are no subs during the pre-rendered cutscene at the game’s beginning.
Remappable Controls: This game offers a small number of preset controller configurations, but the controls are not fully remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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