Your New Hord-Shooter Obsession Just Landed on Xbox Game Pass
Face the horde.
In 2008, Left 4 Dead crafted an entirely new sub-genre of shooter, one focused on intense co-op gameplay that pitted players against wave after wave of enemies as they traverse levels. Countless titles have tried to recapture the essence of what made Left 4 Dead so special, but only a few have managed to really succeed. However, one of the best imitators just got added to Xbox Game Pass.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide isn’t perfect, but it does a fantastic job of evoking that same relentless intensity that makes a great horde shooter — as well as the grim aesthetic that defines the Warhammer franchise.
You’ll obviously get more mileage with Darktide if you’re familiar with Warhammer 40K, but it’s perfectly fine to jump in with this as your first game in the franchise. Darktide takes place on the industrial planet of Atoma Prime, casting you as an Inquisitorial Agent tasked with investigating a possible infiltration of Chaos, a collective of malevolent gods and entities that spread, well, chaos.
If none of the above is really resonating, don’t worry. The main narrative of Darktide mostly serves as a set-up for the game’s grimdark setting and mission structure, and it’s easily the least interesting aspect. Where the game shines, however, is in its minute-to-minute gameplay and character interactions.
Darktide is developed by Fatshark, the same studio behind the Vermintide games, and it bears a lot of similarities. Instead of pre-set characters, you have four classes to choose from: Veteran, Zealot, Ogryn, and Psyker. These classes all fulfill different roles. For example, Ogryn is a heavy melee tank while Psyker is a power-based class. However, there’s a deep level of customization in Darktide that really lets you fine-tune each class however you want.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide received a massive update at the beginning of October, which completely overhauls the class system and makes its skill trees much more robust and dynamic. Many of these changes let you lean even further into specific builds like a veteran kitted out for close-quarter shotgun combat.
This focus on builds integrally changes the Left 4 Dead-esque experience, making it more important than ever that you learn how to work as a team and how different classes might play off one another. Of course, the other reason teamwork is so vital is due to enemy design, and Darktide is a masterclass in that respect.
Darktide has over a dozen unique enemy types, and the varying difficulty can throw anything your way at any time, meaning you always need to be on your toes. There are five different difficulty levels to choose from, which scale things like enemy damage and the amount of spawns. From there, your character level factors into your own strength and abilities.
Past that, the random nature of enemy types means you might run into a surprise or two. For example, the chainsaw-wielding Mauler might disrupt your formation and force you to split up and fall back. Meanwhile, bosses like the Daemonhost can bring you to a screeching halt as you try to stealth around, lest you incur their sorcerous wrath.
There’s an ebb and flow to the encounters in Darktide, see-sawing between nail-biting adrenaline and quiet exploration. Interspersed in these changes are loads of little character interactions, like snippets of dialogue that add a lot to the characters and lore. There are, quite literally, thousands of lines, meaning you can play hundreds of matches and still hear new details or wrinkles.
This, combined with the way the game mixes up enemy placements and types, helps make each match feel different and distinct, something Left 4 Dead-style shooters sometimes struggle with. Even if the main story feels like it goes nowhere, there are still interesting backstories and personalities to discover for each character.
Since its launch in November 2022, Fatshark has been diligent about updating Darktide and listening to the community. A lot of the stingy progression has been ironed out with the class overhaul. The shooting and combat already felt fantastic, and now it has the systems in place to back that core gameplay up.
If the Warhammer series seems impenetrable to get into, Darktide is a great place to start because of the way it centers co-op. Whether you’ve got a squad ready to go or you’re jumping into matchmaking, Darktide is one of the tightest horde shooters in years, and it’ll likely only get even better over time.