Space Hulk: Deathwing Review – For the Imperium!
As my brothers and I enter the halls of a long-lost Dark Angels ship our scanners ping signs of movement. No other member of the Deathwing chapter has made it this far in the space hulk. Therefore the degenerate xenos must be approaching. The filthy Genestealers have burdened us the moment we set foot upon the derelict. My brothers ready themselves, knowing the xenos they will rush us in overwhelming numbers. I prepare myself, readying my Hellfire bolter. From the darkness I see movement, I aim and fire. The lone bolt streaks through the air hitting it’s target. Instantly the flesh of the Genestealer melts due to the acid in the tip of the bolt, but that isn’t the end of the abomination’s suffering. The acid, upon contact with oxygen, erupts into flames further destroying the scum. I ready to fire again, that was just a grunt, there are more coming, most likely bigger ones. I stand with my brothers in an anxious waiting game. Anxiety not caused by fear, rather, caused by the want of our prey. These degenerate xenos are about to face the most terrifying force in the Galaxy, the might of the Lion, the Hand of the Emperor himself.
Space Hulk: Deathwing is a great game built on familiar foundations. Using a Left 4 Dead gameplay style you and a squad explore the titular Space Hulk. In the single player you have two other Dark Angels as your companions. One is a heavy class and the other is an apothecary, both having very different loadouts. The heavy focuses on high damage weapons with what seems like a lower armor trade-off, while the apothecary can heal and has thicker armor. The downside though is that you only get eight heals per life and the apothecary has weak fire power. In multiplayer there are 4 players and a fifth NPC Marine. In the multiplayer there are multiple playable classes: those being the Librarian, Apothecary, Tactical Terminator, Heavy, Assault, and the Interrogator-Chaplain. Each have their own abilities and loadouts, with plenty of unlockable buffs, armor types, gun paints and more. Where the game draws from L4D is how it is played. Space Hulk is a slow-paced FPS game where you are checking corners and mowing down hordes of enemies. The game features both melee and firearms to dispatch the xenos threat. Guns have weight and impact but also have the tendency to jam, making for more tactical planning during combat. One of my favorite weapons is the Hellfire, the acid tipped rounds that erupt into flames just devastate enemies, tuning them into mush. Melee is very powerful but has some drawbacks, the weapons hurt like hell, destroying even bigger enemies in one or two hits. The downside though is that you are completely exposed using them, so trying to punch or swing a sword while you are swarmed can lead to you taking a good deal of damage, which isn’t a huge problem in multiplayer due to two of the classes being able to heal/resurrect you, but in single player you have limited heals and enemies like to focus their attacks on you. So both aspects of combat are engaging but melee is definitely hampered in single player.
The story of the game is pretty light but has some pretty interesting bits of lore with those familiar with 40K and Horus Heresy. In the 39th millennium the ship Calaban’s Will was lost. Jump to the 41st millennium and the Deathwing Chapter of the Dark Angels have discovered a giant amalgam vessel that came out of warp, a space hulk. The Deathwing board the vessel, believing there may be artifacts of value on the space hulk, the Tyranids see little value in such things. Once aboard the Deathwing, lead by your character, a Librarian, find an ancient Dark Angel signal coming from the bowels of the ship. Exploring the space hulk the Deathwing find the long-lost Calaban’s Will integrated in the amalgam. Under orders from the commanding officer, the player and their squads primary goal becomes to secure the Calaban’s Will and retrieve whatever may be on the ship. With each mission the danger increases as new and more powerful Genestealers begin to attack your squad. Your commanding officer believes that Calaban’s Will can be saved, along with the prized artifacts on board. But time is running out, space hulks are mere cannon fodder that is sent behind the Tyranid fleet proper. Your squad must secure the ship, eliminate the threat, and extract before the brunt of the fleet arrives. May the Lion be with you.
The visual and sound elements of the game are fantastic, with a few minor technical issues. The game runs on the Unreal Engine 4 and that shows with detailed environments and great lighting. The atmosphere is dark, Gothic, and decrepit fitting the grimdark setting that is iconic to the Warhammer universe. The stone interiors of the ships fuse with giant holo-monitors, wires, and steel scaffolding, making it feel like exploring a castle smashed together with the future tech of a space ship. The visuals nail the setting, something Warhammer fans should enjoy. The sounds are on point, the boom of bolters, the sizzle of plasma cannons, the creak of the ship, the horrifying shrieks of the Genestealers. Those screams genuinely make me scared, especially the exploder types as their screams grow ever louder as they draw close to you. The only issues are relatively minor optimization issues that the devs seem dedicated on patching. Framerate stuttering is the only major issue that can hurt play. Every now and then the framerate will drop it about 25 fps but this smooths out quickly. As of now there have been several patches to stabilize the framerate, with more on the way. Secondly the load times are pretty long, sometimes up to a minute or longer. This isn’t awful but it can be annoying when going from mission to mission. Lastly, there are a few sound bugs where either the sound loops or the sound doesn’t play at all. These are small problems and the patch roll out seems intent to fix them, which is good to hear.
Space Hulk is a fun game with some flaws that can be fixed with a few tweaks. As a casual Warhammer fan I thoroughly enjoyed this game and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it more. At $40 the value is there and if you already owned the game on PC you’ll receive this upgrade for free. Even if you aren’t a Warhammer fan I highly suggest this game, especially if you need something to scratch the co-op itch. May you have the blessing of the Emperor.