Marcus Jones on January 5, 2017

Space Hulk: Deathwing Review

So, I'm not going to lie and say Warhammer 40k isn't the least bit convoluted and things make perfect sense. There's a vast, sprawling universe that's been around now for almost 30 years and a lot of different stories and retcons are out there. In Space Hulk: Deathwing, a group of space marines known as the Dark Angels, find what's called a space hulk floating aimlessly in space. It's this massive and twisted collection of ships that have fused together over countless millennia. One of the ships in there is related to the Dark Angels' history, which is somewhat shrouded in mystery with dark and threatening secrets to the rest of humanity. They want to get to that ship for more information and hopefully to clear up some of those said mysteries.

However, in those countless years, this grotesque alien race decided to move in and call the space hulk home. They are kind of like xenomorphs from Aliens in a sense; large, able to use humans as host, and are almost insectoid in appearance. They're a piece of a larger, more destructive alien race that consumes all living things it can that uses sheer numbers to overwhelm everything in their path. The same applies here: they don't like you moving around their ship and will stop at nothing to put an end to you and the rest of your squad.

The game is similar in feel to another Warhammer (Fantasy) title, End Times: Vermintide or even the popular Left 4 Dead series. Players take on the role of space marines fighting against waves upon waves of Genestealer swarms. Either in single-player or multiplayer, you and a squad of heavily armored space marines smash your way around the ship killing scores of butt-ugly aliens intent on flaying you alive.

It's a grand time!

Both game types follow the same story, though single-player offers much more insight and information into what is actually going on. In the single-player, you take over as a Librarian, a powerful psychic space marine capable of laying waste to his foes with lightning, fire, and more. With you are two additional squad mates: a medic (called an apothecary) and your support/heavy weapons marine. Each mission starts with a quick briefing on the overall objective and glimpse of the map before setting you off towards an objective point. Multiplayer operates similarly overall as well, but we experienced some issues with the game coordinating the objectives between players (Kevin couldn't see them in our multiplayer game at all). The key difference in multiplayer is players can choose their class, from Librarian, Medic, Support/Heavy Weapons, Tactical, and Assault. Tactical is focused on providing squad respawn bonuses, while Assault is directed solely at melee weaponry.

The game is a first-person shooter, but much slower than Left 4 Dead. The space marines are in heavy power armor and plod around. It's possible to sprint with the Shift key, but it's only for a short time. While moving around the ship, it's possible to lock doors by holding "E", or use the map to hack sentry turrets. I honestly didn't see much use in hacking, as they didn't change to support me automatically; instead, I just destroyed them time and time again. It is possible, however, to take them over and fire on enemies. The downside is you leave yourself vulnerable during this period.

Combat itself focuses on using the mouse buttons to zoom and fire or using "Q" to melee attack (the mouse handles melee attack for the Assault class as well). It's possible to parry enemy melee attacks using the Left Control key, but it's a bit awkward to handle. Class abilities are the number keys 1-4. Aside from the one awkward parry key placement, the controls feel fairly tight and like every first-person shooter, so it should be intuitive for most. It's also possible to change your weapon loadout, giving the game a constant source of freshness. Watching enemies cook via a flamer one level and then decimating them with an assault cannon next is a fun time.

The real drag in the game come from the wonky AI and some connection/gameplay issues. I felt like my AI squad mates in single-player were about one step away from being utterly useless. I struggled with them at times, issuing commands they'd follow - like locking themselves on the other side of the door with the enemy - or they'd let me sit there and take damage as I tried to hack turrets. I completed a couple of levels barely with one half-dead squad mate left. Similarly, the online portion suffers from some connection issues, plus like the problem mentioned above where I was only the able to see objectives. That one didn't make a ton of sense, but we soldiered on and just killed everything anyways.

Thankfully, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Following in the same vein as the board game; Deathwing uses dark, claustrophobic corridors and seedy underbellies of ships to really get you into the universe. Warhammer 40k is considered the "dark, grim future," where a bleak outlook is the most positive thing to expect. The architecture, design, all of it feels very gothic and dark, which Streum On Studio did an excellent job translating over. This was one of the first Warhammer 40k games (aside from 2011's Space Marine) that really captured the feel of the universe by transporting you right into the dirty middle of it.

Simply Put

Space Hulk: Deathwing is a solid title. It's got a fun cooperative mode and a decent single-player storyline on top of it. It just unfortunately suffers from some issues, like semi-useless teammates and random online disconnects. The collection of weapons and sheer feeling of power stomping around the darkened corners of the hulk are worth at least a look for fans of Warhammer 40k.

Note: The review for Space Hulk: Deathwing is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Space Hulk: Deathwing 7
Cooperative gameplay is fun (when it doesn't crash)
Adheres to the Warhammer 40k mythos
Not many games make you feel this powerful in a first person shooter
AI squadmates
Unoptimized and disappointing online experience