by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
What Is Your Life?
You know, I love the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k universes. I've never gotten into the tabletop game proper due to how expensive it can be, but I pretty much jump on any chance to play it in videogame form. Both for the original and the 40k spinoff, the quality of games has varied highly over the years. Because of that, I have tried to remain blind to news regarding Space Hulk: Deathwing so I could experience the game with as little baggage as possible.
Still, I'm surprised that 40k hasn't gotten more FPS love as the genre fits the universe like a glove. Before Space Hulk: Deathwing I could only think of Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior, and the most recent non-strategy game set in the universe that I can come up with is the third-person action title Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. With Space Hulk: Deathwing now released, I was eager to find out if it is a game that will wow long-time fans and novices looking to serve the Emperor, or if it will be more fodder for the slaughter.
What Is Your Fate?
In the darkness of space, desolate machinations of ships, asteroids and debris form to become one massive bodies that are called Space Hulks. One such Space Hulk drifts into the ever watchful eye of the Imperium. You lead the Terminators of squad Deathwing, a small cog in the system of the Space Marine chapter of the Death Angels. Outnumbered by the Tyranid Genestealer hordes, your three soldiers are on a mission to the darkest depths of the drifting, maze-like insanity of steel, stone, and circuitry to claim it and the artifacts within for your Emperor. Along the way, you will reveal the dark nature of its most hidden pasts.
What Is Your Fear?
For all intents and purposes, Space Hulk is a three player co-op first person shooter with RPG elements. It is best enjoyed with friends but able to stand on its own as a single player experience as well. It plays like a very alien version of Left 4 Dead with a setting that more than fits the 40k universe, often blurring the lines between technology and the occult.
I'm going to come out and say it - while it's not intended to be a horror title, it scared the hell out of me more than once in my time playing. Single player isn't as scary just because your AI team mates will usually start firing on enemies before you see them; but in multiplayer it's a completely different story. Much of the game plays out in tight, cramped hallways with medium or large rooms between them. In these cramped hallways things can become nightmarish quickly when all of a sudden the hordes are bearing down on you from both sides.
Just the other evening I was in a multiplayer match where one player was falling behind as we were making our way to a larger room with a hackable turret to set up a defensive play. He was being stubborn, trying to play hero as more and more of the Genestealers barreled down on him. As we locked the door (that he thankfully didn't try to bust down), his rage was replaced almost immediately by ensuing fear as he turned back to try to defend himself. That was a more than fitting punishment for his stubbornness, especially since a true servant of the Emperor knows no fear – or so they say. This was one of several moments where I felt intimidated by the foes we were up against. A small group of foes is little more than cannon fodder; an entire horde is a different story. And that's not even considering ranged enemies, and those strong enough to hold their own against a three man squad.
What Is Your Reward?
I was very worried that a cramped corridor shooter would lose some of the epic feeling that the 40k universe battles are known for. Would abandoning the widescale conflicts in favor of an interior room crawl leave one wanting? The only thing I really wanted was more Genestealers to kill. The single player and the multiplayer are both far from perfect, but very addicting. Full of action, and finding new artifacts along with leveling up does keep things interesting. That being said, at this time leveling does feel like it progresses far too quickly for the amount of abilities available, especially in multiplayer.
Running on the Unreal 4 Engine, it's no surprise the game looks good. Not great, mind you, it doesn't push the engine as far as it could go; BUT it does allow for an insane amount of action on screen at once, and if you're one of the people who can run it, it looks like a bloody river in motion. Let me rephrase that - it is shock and awe in a fiery wave of carnage and firepower.
I will point out that I said "if you're one of the people who can run it". While I personally had no problems on my rig, I do think it's important to note some of the people I played with, both friends and randoms, complained of framerate issues when things got heavy. As far as my friends are concerned, their rigs aren't trailing far behind mine. I'm hoping this is an issue that can be fixed with further optimization more people may enjoy it the way I have.
What Is Your Pledge?
Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by Space Hulk: Deathwing. From a gameplay perspective, what it does it does in better form than Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior by leaps and bounds. Space Hulk: Deathwing is another great step into bringing the entirety of the Warhammer franchise into a more mainstream popularity in videogames, and the game does it with a gory sense of style.
Intense close quarters combat, nails the 40k feel, lots of action on screen at once.
Leveling feels too quick