Kill Strain ReviewPrice:
Sony San Diego
You might not have heard of Kill Strain, a first-party exclusive that's currently available as a free-to-play title for Playstation Plus members ahead of its launch.
Unfortunately, while it's full of a lot of great ideas, the complete package fails to hit the mark in an already crowded genre.
Kill Strain is a console-friendly multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) primarily, taking elements from games like Defence of the Ancients or League of Legends and melting them down into something that feels akin to a twin stick shooter but with some extra abilities thrown into the mix.
The fun twist at the core of Kill Strain is its triple team mechanic. Blue and Gold team are both comprised of a trio of mercenaries, armed to the teeth and trying to destroy the other. Their gameplay is familiar if you've played any MOBA before: you fight over a symmetrical map trying to take down the enemy team's towers before they knock over yours.
It's the addition of the Strain team that makes everything exciting. The Strain team has just two players, but they're much more powerful than anyone else, turning invisible and regenerating health as soon as they're on home turf, an advantage they can maximise by dropping creepy plants into the dirt, spreading the Strain's influence and making them more of a threat. If they capture someone alone, they can drag their corpse back to one of the plants to convert them to the Strain's team. This means that eventually they can overrun all of the other teams with sheer force of numbers.
At this early stage, just before the game's full launch, most players don't seem to know how to convert players effectively, limiting the Strain's impact. Unfortunately, the Strain appear scary enough that both teams tend to take the fight directly to them first, so most games currently are devolving into a push to the north, eradicating the Strain entirely rather than duking it out between the mercenaries. This means that each match tends to feel similar with the individual skirmishes feeling like a dull exchange of blows until someone falls over. Combat feels fairly impactless, even when you're putting out plenty of damage.
This could just be a problem with the early game - although I've been able to play a couple of different characters, the mercenaries all feel quite similar. Some are a little stealthier, some can take more of a battering, but largely there's not that much depth. I haven't been able to play with all of the Strain characters yet, but largely their abilities all feel fairly homogeneous. Some characters can sprint and do damage as they do, some characters jump forwards but most of the skills involve some sort of AoE damage and their gun of choice.