From the span of 40K inspired video games emerges Space Hulk: Deathwing, a title that’s put an intense tactical first-person shooter spin on the renowned tabletop game from Games Workshop. Space Hulk: Deathwing replaces turn-based strategy mechanics with fierce horde slaughtering action. The title originated on PC back in 2016 and has made it’s way to PlayStation 4 in the Enhanced Edition.
The game’s story is made up of nine chapters, following the story of the 1st company of Dark Angels, a marine chapter consisting of only Terminators. You play as a Librarian and must lead your company in navigating the barren remains of a space-vessel called a Space Hulk, in order to swiftly dispense of the alien threat that intends to nest there. The Dark Angels must tackle endless swarms of Genestealers (the game’s antagonists), as they compromise the Deathwing’s search for artifacts. As a branch of the Tyranid race, Genestealers lead attacks from Hive Fleets by brainwashing civilians on planets, dwindling numbers before an invasion occurs. In appearance, Genestealers (and Tyranids generally) share a comparable likeness with Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, featuring elongated skulls and all-round fearsome look. It’s the most ideal choice of enemy for amplifying Space Hulk: Deathwing’s atmospheric-horror experience.
If you are alien – there’s got to be some irony there – to the Warhammer 40k universe, have no fear for developers Streum On Studio/ Cyanide ease you in softly with a brief tutorial in the form of a series of test rooms. After some story insight, you’re able to acquaint yourself with the controls. Against what is presumably mindless units of Tech Thrall, you get a taste for your Bolter weapon and melee weapon options, varying psychic attacks and grow accustom to the general concept of the game. However, it’s best you savour the carefree aura of the tutorial as the game’s intensity shoots from 0-100 from the very moment you are cast into the dark desolate remains of the Space Hulk.
It’s clear the developers are adamant in establishing a solid tone for the game early on. The narrow walkways of the Space Hulk are all but shrouded in sheer darkness. A headlamp on your Terminator armour provides you with a scarce source of light as you negotiate the ship and press on with the chapters. As the light pierces through the blackness, it unveils the grotesque, bitty remains of marines that were ripped from their armour before becoming nid-chum. The maze of dingy, claustrophobic walkways feeding into enormous rooms riddled with all means of destruction, excel in generating an atmosphere of terror. Sadly, the same finesse isn’t exerted in the trashy graphics that the gloom fails to disguise. Obscured vision and mutilated-marines isn’t all that overwhelms this title with eeriness. The demonic cries of the xenos scum that echo through the remains of the cluster of ships you venture through is enough to send fear-induced chills up your spine. Anticipation is constantly on the climb in Space Hulk: Deathwing and it will be sure to evoke a much-needed sigh of relief when the Genestealers finally materialise from the shadows.
Fortunately, little time is left to dwell on the game’s poor graphical handiwork as your screen is overrun with heaps upon heaps of hungry alien mouths and vicious rending claws, all intending to make short work of you. Combat takes some getting used to and you’re bound to see numerous “You Are Dead” screens before you decipher the best way to tackle an oncoming screeching horde of nids – no you’ve not accidentally opened a review for a Souls game. The Bolter’s a handy weapon for thinning waves of enemies that funnel down the slender corridors of the ship at range. It’s also great for executing distant Genestealer Cults attempting to flank. When in close combat, a combination of melee weapon attacks and a selection of psychic attacks will provide ample crowd control, ensuring you do not meet an early demise. As you proceed further within the game, you will unlock a diverse arsenal of marine weapons to experiment with, including a flamethrower that’ll see the Genestealers turned to charred corpses in a flash.
Although Terminator armour is an asset in protecting you from the heinous claws of nid-spawn, it makes for a less fluent intense shooter experience. Traversing the game in hulking great armour plays just as you’d expect. Movement feels exceptionally sluggish and heavy, so much so that in between waves of enemies you’ll hear only the loud echoes of your footsteps as you drag your feet through the debris within the Space Hulk. However, the realism implemented in both manoeuvrability and appearance causes some issues in combat. The screen feels overly-clogged with both the armour itself and an over-elaborate HUD. This will likely cause you to turn to the traditional “spray and pray” technique as your line of sight is almost always obstructed in combat. Furthermore, although the A.I controlled members of your company that fight beside you can arguably hold their own as the enemy lay siege, they can feel incompetent at times as you throw healing commands upon their seemingly deaf ears using a wheel menu on screen. Seem’s their helmets are on too tight.
Space Hulk: Deathwing features only a brief story and once you’ve mastered the art of dispensing of the Genestealers, you’ll find yourself steaming through chapters at quite the pace. However, although the campaign harnesses a job lot of more enjoyable elements as stated prior, you can’t help feeling like you’re dragging your feet whinging “are we there yet?” through the last few chapters. Previously visited locations are regurgitated with new objectives towards of the end of the game, making already tedious gameplay even more monotonous. You’ll eventually find yourself intently watching the meter counter dwindle as you approach objectives, practically begging for the chapter to end. In light of this, you’re pointed to Space Hulk: Deathwing’s multiplayer for a more exhilarating experience, but even that has it’s fair share of issues. Although playing alongside others negates the A.I issues, you’ll find yourself joining an array missions half-way through. Yes, you’ll be reacquainted with that “You Are Dead” screen you’ll grow to detest as you are dropped into a horde of hungry Genestealers like a fish into a tank of sharks.
Space Hulk: Deathwing is a newfangled take on the 40k universe and it’s existing games but is simply full of untapped potential. The game provides fast-paced FPS fun that is staggered by poor implementation. This game’s appeal lies in it’s strong atmospheric-horror vibe that’s encompassed by insightful lore. It’s no doubt most ideal for further expanding the knowledge of experienced Warhammer veterans as opposed to intriguing newcomers. The game’s concept is brilliant and constitutes numerous intense moments in it’s campaign however, it isn’t a strong enough deterrent from what the game lacks elsewhere.
** A code was kindly provided by the developers/publishers for review purposes**