Space Hulk takes place deep in space, and 6 centuries after the year 996.M40. Inspired and developed to follow the classic board game, and set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, you must take control of a crew, comprised of massively sized space warriors, and cleanse an abandoned ship of alien beings. Played out in turn-based strategy fashion, you can play the many missions within the campaign or battle it out in co-op versus with a friend. The game is both developed and published by Hoplite Research, and you can buy the game on Steam for $24.99, Nintendo WiiU for $29.99, or PlayStation Store for $39.99.
The story is incredibly vague and lacking. The set-up for everything is told through a minor cutscene (last a couple minutes) that plays immediately after loading the game up. In the year 996.M40, One thousand Blood Angels were deployed to an unnamed space hulk in the Secoris System. Shortly after confirming alien contact, radio communications of "brother down," and "squad is broke," echo the corridors of the ship. Quickly dwindled down to 50 remaining survivors still fighting to the death, and clear inevitable annihilation, the story fades to narration 6 centuries later.
The emperor has gifted the Blood Angel organization a chance to redeem their legacy of the loss that occurred at the space hulk after space scans yielded information the same ship, now referred to as Sin of Damnation, has neared their home planet. Low-frequency scans have shown that the ship is completely infested with aliens known as Genestealers. The cutscene offers a little more hype by talking up the crew you'll be commanding, but this is where it stops telling the story.
While the story could have provided a better explanation of the backstories involved with who the Blood Angels are, the influence Genestealers have on the universe, or even prior encounters between the two in order to build more tension, the game gives smaller stories throughout the mission briefings when playing Campaign. There are 5 different chapters not counting the introduction act for beginners which is called "Boarding the Sin of Damnation." The other chapters (Sin of Damnation, Messenger of Purgatory, Swod of Halcyon, Defilement of Honour, and Fangs of Fenris), are comprised of a handful of missions, some as many as 12. The pre-mission briefing aforementioned, will narrate the purpose of the missions, as well as narrate a strategic understanding of the map layouts and mission objectives.
When in the game, and after deploying your crew of Blood Angels to their respected starting positions (sometimes in a bunched up line, and sometimes spread apart), you'll dive into a turn-based game of traversing the corridors and wiping out the Genestealers. As the soldiers are extremely bulky, and the corridors are only big enough allow one to move at a time, strategy as to who will take the lead in any given direction is crucial since some missions require you to keep a specific one alive, or conserve special ammo for a mission objective needing to be destroyed. Each player move, you'll be able to give a set of commands to each soldier.
Soldiers are given a starting allotment of 4 Action-Points to use but this can be quickly spent on menial movements (1 point to move forward, 1 point to turn around, 2 to move backwards, 2 to stand as overwatch, 2 for a guard). This slows the game down slightly but stays true to the tradition that which the game is built on. Overwatch allows the soldier to open fire on Genestealers that enter their line of sight outside of the players turn, while guard allows them a greater chance to survive an attack. You can combine movements in a single turn, but after reaching the maximum Action-Points for the soldier, you must use Command-Points (team allotted points that randomize between 1-6 points every turn).
When attacking and defending, a roll of the dice will determine the chances of a successful encounter, and can be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen. If you miss your target the first time but immediately attack again, the soldier can be granted Sustained Fire, adding a point to hitting the target. Sustained Fire will remain so long as the soldier does not make any other movements. Similarly, the guns can jam on you, even during the Genestealers' turn.
Saving an Action-Point can resolve this issue even outside of the player's turn. There are other movement options that will play into strategy as the game progresses such as "move and fire", shooting up or down ladders, opening and sealing doors, and passing objects interest. Enemies are shown as glowing red circles in the shadow (the number of them in the pack is unknown until the enter explored tiles and become visible to you.
The controls are somewhat complicated at first but easy to learn, with every possible action being explained somehow on the screen with small text. There is no form of character progressions, so the concepts learned from the beginning will be all you need as you play the game. A few forms of difficulties allow for greater tests on strategic capabilities; but even on the normal difficulty, I found myself having to restart many levels because of my soldiers was killed. There is an option to make the movements and animations play faster, which is much appreciated, but doing so ruins any chance of enjoying the body cams display in the top right corner during turns.
There is not much diversity in regards to the characters or, even more so, the enemy. While the Blood Angels all have their own personal names like Brother Terminator Zael, these defenders of humanity fall into the categories of basic Terminators, Sergeants (although there is only two in the game: Sergeant Lorenzo and Sergeant Gideon), or Librarians (blue colored armor soldiers with multiple extra perks that make them powerful in combat).
Only two different species in this game are available for slaughtering. The primary enemy, Genestealers, who are fast, vicious, and run in packs for strength, and the Broodlords (ancient and stronger Genestealers). Broodlords will because the most threatening encounters as they have specific immunities to weapons like the flamethrower, and a greater chance to kill Blood Angels due to its extra dice rolling powers.
Sound and Graphics
The narration is very well spoken and scripted; it creates a sense of commanding strength through the talking of rescuing soldiers, obliterating Genestealers, and redeeming the Blood Angel legacy. Voice acting from the other characters is nearly nonexistent, and the Genestealers typically make the same battlecries and hissing noises. Gunshot and other weapon sound effects resonate through the metal built corridors of the spacecraft, sounding as fitting as they should. Ambient noises of the ship settling or old pipes knocking add a layer to the overall quality of sound.
Graphics look pretty good considering the game is a port from PC which released 3 years ago, but the way everything looks when the camera is in motion is miserable (so is the camera itself). When scrolling, the game becomes very blurry. Matching this with a slim corridor styled layout, you can easily get a headache. The camera sits at an awkward angle; it never lines up with the halls and is always looking from a corner, but can rotate to 4 different spots. You can also zoom in to watch right up on the soldiers, or zoom it out for a larger view of the areas.
The first thing to remember is that the game is strongly built on the board-game concepts. While it does offer tactical gameplay somewhat similar to games like the XCOM series (disregarding The Bureau title of course), which was my initial impression, it plays very differently. Casual fans may find this fun after grasping the controls and concepts within, but the main demographics of player base lies with those who have played, or are enthusiastic, about the classic board games.
The game runs smooth, but lacks diversity in the animations regarding combat, and I'm not entirely sure it's targeting any decent number of frames-per-second when the camera is scrolling across the maps. I would have liked to see more cutscenes made or perhaps some character development even if just personality through voice acting. It's a fun game when you work up the patience to learn it and experience what is has to offer.
|+ Multiplayer versus mode||– Rushed intro and lacks story outside of briefings|
|+ Accurate to classic Warhammer board-games||– No diversity in gameplay/animation presentations|
|+ Difficulty could mean for a good challenge||– Miserable camera|