Despite being released just over two years ago, I've only recently got into playing Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide.
A co-op first-person action game - reminiscent of Valve's Left 4 Dead in many ways - it doesn't matter if you're a fan of Warhammer or not, Vermintide is chaotic fantasy multiplayer fun that doesn't let you go once it has its hooks in you. Xbox One owners don't need to take my word for it either, if you're a Gold subscriber you can get it for free this month, and it's just received a very nice Xbox One X update too.
Enough of me fawning over a game that came out over two years ago though - I'm here to tell you about something new. Fatshark recently let me loose with a short demo of Vermintide's upcoming sequel, and though it's lacking many of the game's tantalising features, it's left me more than impressed.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is due for release early next year, but I got to play through a chunk of one of the game's missions with two wonderfully unique characters: the Knight, Markus Kruber, armed with his mighty warhammer, and the Shade, Kerillian, wielding an ornate spear.
Playing as either character, what first struck me about Vermintide 2 is how beautiful it looks. The original was no slouch in the graphics department, but there are clear improvements in Vermintide 2's visuals. There are more effects and details lavishly applied to its environments, and character models have been noticeably improved too. It's a true feast for the eyes, and yet performance is still strong. Playing at 1080p with an NVIDIA 1060 6gb, I didn't experience any noticeable hiccups or slowdown even when things got hectic.
It's the moments in Vermintide when a horde bears down upon you that I enjoy playing it the most, and I was glad to find that Vermintide 2's hordes are equally as exhilarating. They're quite messy at times, sure, but then that's how melees go - they're just a mass of bodies doing the best they can to cut down the enemy without sustaining too much damage themselves. Of course, Markus Kruber is more suited to getting into the thick of the action, while Kerillian requires more tactical play, though both have their own ranged options to attack from afar when standing toe-to-toe isn't all that appealing.
Moving from a forest to the ruins of a ransacked town, I battled a range of enemies that required me to make full use of my repertoire of moves. Well armoured warriors stood guard at the town's entrance, their thunderous attacks breaking though my guard and forcing me to think on my feet. Then, after dealing with a troublesome rattling gunner, I moved from one smouldering building to another, tackling clanrats and marauders in close quarters. Heads were smashed, arms were removed and bodies were forcefully pushed from rooftops, and every minute of it was a riot.
The demo ended with what can only be described as a tense boss battle, which after dismembering a small army of Skaven and Chaos minions came as a welcome surprise. The towering gluttonous demon put up a good fight, but working in tandem with three computer controlled warriors it didn't take too long to bring it to its knees. A couple of incendiary grenades helped matters quite nicely too. And next? Well, I'll leave you to discover that for yourself, but let's just say that the demo ends at a point in which things look like they're going to get much more interesting.
While Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is due for release early next year, a playable beta will be available before then and I highly recommend that you jump at the chance to play it. Sign up for it now over on the Vermintide website. I've only played a limited 10 minute demo, but already Vermintide 2 has made a lasting impression on me. Promising to be bigger and better than its predecessor, it's now firmly on my radar of 2018 releases, and I just can't wait to get my hands bloody in its dark world.