Space Hulk: Deathwing is a first person shooter developed by Streum On Studio with assistance from Cyanide. Set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe the game is based on the Space Hulk boardgame. This year we’ve had quite a few Warhammer based titles, Total Warhammer which is awesome and Eternal Crusade which isn’t great. How does Deathwing do?
The game has single player and cooperative which both share the same story. You and a group of other Space Marine Terminators move through a Space Hulk - a twisted combination of different derelict or lost space ships. You can pick from a range of authentic Warhammer classes, weapons and abilities. Missions are your typical ‘go here -> complete objective -> win -> repeat’.
Starting the first mission the first thing I noticed was the atmosphere has been nailed pretty well. I loved the Servo-skulls floating around examining the wreckage and feeling constantly on edge. The only thing missing was a sense of horror-fear in the situation - perhaps that’s fine, you are after-all a goddam Space Marine.
I soon discovered, after he died, that the heavy weapons teammate is pretty much useless unless given a melee weapon; disappointing given the range of weapons he can use. The other team mate is an Apothecary (healer). Your squad is ordered around using hotkeys or a circular command wheel. The command wheel is painful to use as it doesn’t react quite how you expect, almost like it has a massive dead zone. For the most part, you’ll have them follow you and won’t need to command them though.
Disappointedly, there are no AI teammates available in cooperative.
Having mastered these basics you progress by completing missions, upgrading your character and unlocking new weapons. All the weapons are a pleasure to use, I particularly liked the flame thrower. Melee is very good but not always fun to play as your screen is basically blood red for the duration of combat - there’s not much to it beyond mashing attack.
Combat is fun but spoiled in the single player by the nagging need to babysit your AI teammates so they don’t get killed. Your team mates are so so slow to react to enemies it’s cringe-worthy to watch. When attacked from behind, you literally have time to have a sip of tea before they do anything about it - if they do anything about it.
It would be nice if the combat feedback was improved. The worst example of this is when you’re running at a small alien wearing a robe as a 1+ ton Terminator and the alien just kind of trips backwards a little bit. There’s the similar issue with firearms, enemies just kind of stop and fall over to die.
I’m a big fan of Warhammer 40,000 lore and found the story, dialogue and cutscenes top notch.
Mechanics transferred from the board game haven’t been changed enough to translate well into a first person shooter. Enemies spawn from a small number of fixed points, like in the board game, which leads to enemies all running at you in a straight line down corridors. Doors, which can be blocked are rarely useful, they work in the board game because it’s turn based and you have time to block them. In this format the enemy are already upon you and probably dead by the time you get round to blocking a door. Turrets are pointless - they can’t be automated to fire on enemies. Manually controlling them leaves you vulnerable, when you can’t trust your AI teammates, and they don’t do enough damage to warrant the risk.
Nik and I played a couple of hours of cooperative which we both commented that we enjoyed it more than expected. Unfortunately at least one person always needs to go the Apothecary to stand a chance.
The graphics are good - I’m impressed with the “Warhammerness” of the game’s art. Unfortunately, due to the poor performance I ended up playing on low graphics to avoid sluggishness in combat. The audio is fantastic; the guns all sound awesome as do the enemies and atmospheric sounds. There’s some room for improvement in the directional audio field, it would have been nice to hear enemies moving around in vents adding to the atmosphere.
Deathwing is a bit buggy. I crashed to desktop once and one mission caused me a bunch of hassle because enemies I needed to kill couldn’t be found and I was on a timer.
Sadly I can’t quite recommend Space Hulk: Deathwing. It’s very close to being recommendable but needs more work.