The latest entry in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is a first-person shooter, Space Hulk: Deathwing, developed by Streum on Studio. Games Workshop, the owner of the Warhammer license, is known for licensing the franchise to numerous developers. This, in turn, leads to multiple games in multiple genres. Some good, others not so much. Unfortunately, Space Hulk Deathwing falls into the latter category due to its graphical design and archaic gameplay decisions.
AN IMMERSIVE WORLD
Space Hulk actually starts out very intriguing. An old Space Hulk named “Olethros” by The Grandmaster of Deathwing has appeared in Imperial space. With it are alien Xenos and Tyranids that cause destruction to everything in their path. The voice acting by the Grandmaster is exceptionally done. Filled with gravitas and sternness, you actually become hyped up as the introduction cinematic plays. This is also accompanied by the in-game architecture of the Space Hulk you are tasked to cleanse of aliens. It is designed in a gothic way with high walls, arched ceilings and narrow hallways. This adds to the atmospheric feeling that is presented in the first few minutes of the shooter. It’s a world you want to explore and though it might look frightening and feel overwhelming you are eager to press on with your AI squadmates and the reassuring voice of your Grandmaster.
HELD BACK BY POOR CHOICES
Once the novelty wears off, its shortcomings are made apparent. As a first person team-shooter with AI companions, the player is tasked with leading their squad through the labyrinth of the Space Hulk, a giant space station that has been taken over by hostile aliens. Leading the squad effectively requires commands that will let your AI companions know what to do and where to go. Unlike Star Wars: Republic Commando, or Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas were squad commands are streamlined, Deathwing commands are clunky, unresponsive and hard to navigate. During swarms and areas where you have to give a specific command to progress, you and your companions will frustratingly die because you simply could not issue an order fast enough, or you issued the wrong order. Moments when you need healing or need to tell a Marine to barricade a door frustratingly turn into a total mess.
Deathwing still manages to be a good time in certain moments. Since your squad of Deathwings are tasked with discovering why the Space Hulk appears and why it is infested with aliens, there are moments when you are swarmed with the hostile Xenos and Tyranids. The swarms are tense with your three-man group fending off attacks from all sides and that tense feeling adds to the overall theme of the game: feeling outnumbered as who face impossible odds. Unfortunately frame rate issues arise when there are too many moving parts on the screen due to many particles effects from weapons fire, melee attacks and blood spatter I’d notice obvious drops from 60 fps to 30 fps. The game itself also seems to be outdated in the general look of the menu and character models. I understand the marines are mutated, hulking men in giant suits but they still look too robotic and stiff in everything they do. Even general conversations between each other are filled with boring one-liners like “Waypoint reached” or “It is done” and weapons, especially melee, don’t feel impactful. Other minor issues like long load times and saves being buggy add to the unsatisfying experience.
FINAL SAY SO
Space Hulk: Deathwing is, at first, a thrilling shooter that has potential. The voice acting in certain characters and the game’s architecture really immerse the player in the world they are exploring. Unfortunately, the good parts about it end early. Graphical and design issues prevent this first person shooter from being an enjoyable experience. If you are a fan of the Space Marines and their chapters in Warhammer Universe, you might enjoy this shooter. Yet, there are other Warhammer games from both Fantasy and 40,000 that are worth your time.