Despite having played literally thousands of video games in my life, I had not played Warhammer: Vermintide, so I was unprepared for how sweet its sequel is. In a way, my lack of preparation is appropriate to the theme of Warhammer: Vermintide II, in which a rodentine horde of rat men called the Skaven pop out of their hiding holes to wreak toothy, clawsy havoc on a medieval city that, frankly, has way too much other stuff to be dealing with right now.
Vermintide is a Left 4 Dead-like with a Diablo’s worth of loot. I’ve always admired what Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 accomplished. They were the modern, online, grown-up descendants of old arcade brawlers. For years, every time someone mentioned Left 4 Dead, I’d say, “Hey, there’s a sub-genre somebody’s got to do some more with.”
Vermintide absolutely is somebody (developer Fatshark) doing some more with the Left 4 Dead sub-genre. It’s got big, long, meaty, beautiful, elaborate levels that reward studious replay. It’s got randomised post-game loot. And it’s got all your modern esporty cooldowns on your battle actions. It’s both undeniably triple-A in its presentation and shockingly free of any nonsense.
Vermintide’s first-person melee is maybe the best I’ve ever played. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed close-range combat in first person quite as much as I enjoy swinging the dwarf Bardin Goreksson’s hammer. You can feel it crunch and stick against its exact point of contact with an enemy’s face, chest, shoulder, or leg. The enemy flinches and ragdoll-tumbles backward and downward at an angle perfectly matching the point of impact. It feels incredible. It ranks right up there with the Titan’s punch in Destiny, Namco’s 2004 Xbox game Breakdown, and Starbreeze’s The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (coincidentally also a 2004 Xbox game).
This first-person melee impressed me so much during this stream that I got the game on my own Steam account so I could enjoy swinging that hot Rathammer at home.
I’ll tell you two things: First, that I am much better at this game now than I was when I chucked myself into the deep end for this stream.
And second: I was wrong to play this game with a video game controller. No, to kill rats, you need...a mouse. You can only fight rodents with rodents. I should have known.
Anyway, watch this stream archive and you’ll hear me tell a story about the time I stepped on a rat at Union Square Station in Manhattan. I remember it like it was yesterday, which is confusing, because it was actually two weeks ago.