Co-op survival horror shooter Warhammer 40,000: Darktide isn’t for the faint of heart. Set in a sci-fi megacity infested with zombies and plague demons, the game’s multiplayer missions have you and three teammates carry out operations against the dark forces that occupy the grim metropolis. These range from recovering important materials to full-on assassinations.
As you skulk through ruined superstructures and cramped tunnels, you’ll be hounded on all sides by enemy soldiers, specialized elites, and even actual hounds as you attempt to put right the many wrongs that afflict Hive City Atoma. Constantly under pressure and forced to manage your dwindling resources, you’ll rarely be able to shake a creeping sense of dread - which makes it perfect for the Halloween season.
What’s more, Darktide is on Xbox Game Pass so you and your pals can dip in without breaking the bank. There’s even crossplay to help you out if you want to play across different platforms.
Step into Hive City Atoma for yourself, and you’ll soon find that the main prize for winning is staying alive. You’ll battle your way through unforgiving corridors, in order to survive, get your hands on more loot, and, possibly, another skill point, before being forced to go out again. This loop that Darktide missions perpetuate not only allows it to be enjoyed in easily digestible chunks but also offers a wide variety of bleak tasks to choose from to keep sessions fresh and entertaining - not unlike Diablo 4. Over the course of your missions, you’ll find yourself frantically hacking terminals, shutting off enemy propaganda signals, and powering up vital technological installations, all while under constant pressure.
Surrounded on all sides
What makes the best horror games stand out isn’t the quality of their jump scares, fun as they may be, instead, it's the cultivation of a sense of dread and unease - the consistent feeling that, at any moment, something bad might happen. That suspense and tension is something that Darktide offers in spades. Around every shadowy corner is the threat of another sinister cultist, ready to ambush you when your back is turned. Threats could come from any direction. A sniper could be perched on the ledge above you, while a trapper could be lurking in a nearby alleyway. No matter which of Darktide’s missions you’re attempting, you’ll always feel like an interloper walking a fine line, surrounded by threats that could lash out at any moment.
Survive long enough, and you’ll hear a harrowing screech in the distance, signaling an incoming horde of zombies. Though weak in small numbers, these walking corpses apply pressure by slowly whittling down your health and ammo as you endeavor to push forward toward your goal. Elite troops will wade in, too, demanding your attention as they turn their shotguns and miniguns upon you. With such pressure comes mistakes. You’ll miss parries and critical shots as panic starts to take root, making it easier for the zombie hordes to surround you. Should this pressure become too great, your allies will begin to drop, prompting you to make a choice: do you save them, or do you leave them to die?
Even should your friends be lucky enough to survive or be revived, the hordes of enemies do an excellent job of cutting you off from your teammates, rendering you isolated and vulnerable. Leaving your allies makes you weaker, but it’s often a necessity as you scramble to complete different objectives. This is because Darktide rewards players for sticking together.
The game’s four classes have their own suite of powerful aura abilities that are designed specifically to improve the fighting prowess of nearby allies. Whether you’re playing as the gun-toting Veteran, the hammer-welding Preacher, the spell-slinging Psyker, or the muscle-bound Ogryn, you’ll want to keep your allies nearby. Like a chisel piercing a rock face, powerful elites and boss monsters will do their best to break your team apart. Disruptive enemy attacks and varied mission objectives make the process of sticking together difficult - adding to the horror and the fun.
Darktide’s missions aren’t sprints, they’re marathons, often taking half an hour at a time. However, that satisfying feeling of successfully evacuating alongside your team after a horrific slog is well worth the effort. The relief is palpable.
World of darkness
Darktide’s sense of horror isn’t just limited to its upsetting disease-ridden enemies, or demanding missions - it drips from the game’s every pore.
Set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe, Darktide’s protagonists - cheerily named “the rejects” - have been pressed into the service of the tyrannical, authoritarian regime that rules the human interstellar empire. Even your home base, the deck of a sinister, gothic starship, is oozing with repressive darkness. Disquieting cyborg laborers swab the deck as ornate skulls line the walls - all while jackbooted soldiers look on, their expressions unreadable beneath their sinister helmets.
Even the tutorial is unsettling. Rather than teach you advanced techniques through a more typical conceit like a training ground, Darktide has you learn from a mind-invading psychic who lives inside some sort of goo pod. In the same way, should you want to change your appearance, you’ll need to employ the services of the barber-surgeon, whose grim collection of tools and implements will do little to put you at ease. Nothing about Darktide is comfortable.
This kind of horror isn’t for everyone, but, when combined with the more conventional zombie hordes and gangling abominations, it makes for a distinctive flavor of experience that you and your friends won’t soon forget. If you’re looking for a gripping co-op horror title to play this Halloween, Fatshark’s Darktide will give you exactly what you’re looking for.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.