Let’s start by saying what this game isn’t –
It’s not DOOM, it’s not COD or Overwatch, or Titanfall 2 or Destiny or any other fast-paced shooter. Yes, it has guns but if it wasn’t for the first-person-perspective – no one would ever draw this comparison.
It’s slow paced, clunky, contains fairly long load screens, scrappy static cutscenes, a fairly over-the-top line of voice acting and is in places pretty buggy. The graphics are passable, the sound OK, the animation not so much, the campaign only allows the carrying of 2 weapons, oh and it has multi-player which I haven’t even bothered with yet.
So that’s the end of the review then = it’s crap? Well, there is something else.
Confession time! I have never really been a ‘Warhammer’ fan, never played the board games, didn’t follow the novels. But I did experience Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels back in ’96 on PSx- which is longer than I care to think about – bear with me here.
The thing is, the experience remained, it stayed with me. It was just the same repeated gaming mechanic of traversing a massive, semi-derelict spaceship (space hulk) level with your AI controlled marines, who like you, wore the uber exaggerated – yet somehow cool – exoskeleton body armour suit; destroying waves of ‘gene-stealers’.
It had some tactics, you could improve in rank and increase the number of marines under your command, giving orders to position them and maintain control of small sections of the map as you made progress – trying to not get overrun while attempting to achieve whatever the objective at hand was.
The game had some quality you couldn’t put your joypad on, but it was definitely there and it couldn’t be confused for the AAA first-person games of the time, like Doom or Castle Wolfenstein – not if you played or watched someone play – somehow this Space Hulk title managed to carve out a different vibe of its own and that was part of its appeal.
It’s part of the appeal this time around too. I am not saying this out of a sense of nostalgia. There are certain games that while a little rough around the edges – do a good job of projecting their identity / core-design on the player. For Space Hulk Deathwing Enhanced Edition on PS4, I again find it holds something that’s difficult to describe.
It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of chai, but feeling like you are wearing the aforementioned body armour, experiencing restricted movement – both the intentional and the accidental, a horde of monsters entering a room that you thought you had cleared and sealed, but instead find yourself miming the line from the film Aliens, “…they’re in the vents!” before becoming overrun – this is where the game comes into its own for me!
It has tension but it’s never the ‘cue the cut-scene – show something that has moved or changed’ inspired tension – used extensively across the blanket of many horror games. It’s more a feeling of dread – which turns out can feel pretty good in a game – who knew?
This cloud of worry comes from the very sound and rational knowledge that you have only a limited number of saves during a mission, can only heal yourself and AI team-mates if your medic is still alive and even then he can only oblige 3 times between saves – die before you clear the level and its pretty much back to the drawing board. That dread also comes from the punishing difficulty of having the more heavily armoured foes and those Xenos which explode thrown in with the bullet-sponge types during those huge surges of baddies.
Maybe it’s not just the bullet-sponges that are soft, perhaps I’m giving Deathwing more than it deserves.
You’ll just have to accept I grant it a purge-ful, but respectable 7/10