Space Hulk is quite the dated brand name when you consider the declining community of board game players, and if you asked me last year around this time I would have said the video game scene wasn't looking much like a revival platform. There's nothing wrong with the community of players who enjoy the classic board games, nor is there anything wrong with brand name itself. It has a very cool concept; big bad-ass space marines decked out in huge armor suits and guns (sometimes swords and hammers) who make their way through tight corridors of abandoned ships with the mindset of wiping out a violent monster race of aliens known as Genestealers.
This worked out pretty well for the previous two Space Hulk games (Space Hulk and Space Hulk: Ascension) that were brought over to the PS4 from PC last year and in late 2016 as they were made in the format of the classic board games. The problem though was trying to convince newcomers to try out the universe with such high price tags. Granted, different publishers and different developers than the game in the spotlight here, but I'm trying to give you context regarding why you may not have heard about these games yet and why you should give them a try now with the release of Space Hulk: Deathwing.
You see, Space Hulk: Deathwing does not play like a board game. Some may cheer in this regard, while some may be turned off. That part will need to be decided by you. Imagine a really slow Doom and Alien: Isolation mixture. Doom in the sense that you are walking around absolutely melting everything is a sight with crazy science fiction weapons, and Alien in the sense that you literally have these aggressive aliens free running about trying to rip your head off. Not a perfect analogy, but hopefully it works. You have a solo and/or co-op campaign that stretches 9 Chapters long. It's the same campaign, just you can choose if you want help or not. It will take you over several hours to run through, and even longer as you begin to bump the difficulty up. It's advised to play on the easiest one of four difficulties as the game plays very different than most other first-person shooters.
For one, you are still in those giant war suits, so clunkiness while moving is a concern when in any combat. You won't survive by ducking and dodging around the rooms, and instead, you need to work from cover to cover as you watch your flanks. The only complaint I have with the actual gameplay is the sprinting. You have you hold down the analog stick to sprint instead of it being one click. The movement is already really slow, but when it makes sprinting (which is already unlimited) a chore, everything feels forced into a slow rhythm.
Character classes are an option to tinker with, and there is a great amount of customization as you progress and unlock new things for yourself. There are several character classes, each one with varying abilities such as teammate reviving and quicker hacking abilities to mention a few. Deeper than this though will be the weapon choices. Each class will have more than a couple of weapon options, and many of them overlap with other classes. You can use huge plasma firing canons, reliable and accurate at distance storm bolters, or you can get up close and personal with melee weapons and shields. All of which will offer pros and cons such as accuracy, recoil, penetration, fire rate, and overall damage output.
The ways to kill are many, but survivability can be difficult especially on harder difficulties. Most if not all characters have a form of self-healing, and if you are in a safe zone you can open a portal to take you back to your ship where you can loot back up and heal before returning to your assault on the Genestealer population. On the right side of the screen is a systems monitor. It will show you which armor piece is damaged or in critical condition. It's surprisingly easy to maintain good health on the easy difficulties but step into combat on the hardest and you'll unsurprisingly fid a couple of your parts in crit immediately. You'll feel almost forced to go with ranged weapons as you take on harder enemies since leaving cover for a couple of seconds can be game over.
When you feel like you've maybe exhausted yourself on the campaign, there are secret missions that you can dive into. There are 6 of them to be beaten, and make for a quality end-game experience. The campaign isn't award-worthy as it follows the typical Space Hulk stories of infiltrate abandoned spaceship that was once owned by the ancestors and annihilate the aliens inhabiting it, but it does the best job of portraying it in video games yet. I find myself replaying campaign missions more so than the secret missions because of this.
Sound and Graphics
There is voice acting to be found here, and for the most part, it does an incredibly good job at setting the tone. As you leave the tutorial level and begin the campaign, a cutscene plays out detailing the story. It sets the atmosphere as you are shown glimpses of the overrun space hulk that you will soon be bonding. The aliens inside are powerful, ruthless, and violent. The guns you equip yourself with will suffice though, and as soon as you pull the trigger on one of them you'll know the power they possess. They are a bit strange though as you won't find a typical shotgun, sniper, RPG, etc., but instead plasma cannons and assault rifles.
The atmosphere is created not by music, and in fact, the in-game music is far from memorable. Instead, the atmosphere is set and saturated with screams and growls from the alien monsters that inhabit the hulk. You'll soon recognize which ones make which particular noises as they close in on you, allowing you to better decide who you should focus fire on first.
Graphically the game is awesome. I reiterate that this is the best looking Space Hulk game from any developer yet. It does a real justice to the universe. It competes with AAA graphics but it does rely on contrast quite a bit. The game is taking place in a forgotten, lost, and overrun space hulk. There is alien goo everywhere, hardly any electricity, and it's in space. Of course, it will be dark, but part of me wishes I could take in more key features of the rooms I'm fighting in. I do like the way all the aliens and fellow crusaders light up in the dark when I unload a full clip of machine gun ammo though.
I like it a lot, but it could be better with a few adjustments. The Space Hulk universe is on true display here, and both newcomers and old-school board game vets will really feel invested into the lore and combat. It tries to retain a bit of the board game vibe with clunky and slow character movement which in retrospect it makes sense, but I feel as though this is the time to speed things up. The change to first-person is innovative for Space Hulk titles, but the developers could have embraced a lot of good things that this genre offers.
Quicker and more aggressive movement forward (especially toggle sprinting) would have done wonders. Overall, there is a lot of content to enjoy and it's extended with an account progression that sees you changing cosmetic items and testing the hardest difficulty. I love the price point at release ($40) which recognizes it has some shortcomings here and there but that in general, it's a great title.
|+ Experience Space Hulk in FPS style||+ Slow movements (No sprint toggle)|
|+ Decent Campaign enjoyable in single player or co-op||+ Co-op does not share the same solo account progression|
|+ Special missions to extend gameplay|
|+ Variety of customization and progression|