Warhammer 40,000 fans had seen some amazing titles over the past few years. But, is Space Hulk: Deathwing a highnote for the franchise or just another title that feels like a off-brand Genestealer copy? Read on to find out..
The Warhammer 40,000 (aka 40k) franchise has been a rich source for both its origin base in tabletop gaming, as well as PC/console titles over the past two and a half decades. As one of those folks who originally cut my teeth playing campaigns with my righteous based squad of do-gooders against the evil twisted Tyranid hordes with pen, paper, and painted miniatures, I have been (mostly) pleased with the electronic offerings of the franchise. However, my recent play through of Space Hulk: Deathwing left me feeling a little less confident in this title and franchise as a whole..
In Space Hulk: Deathwing, you play as a Librarian of the Dark Angels 1st Company of Space Marines, which are a elite group of general holy butt-kickers who fight for faith and glory in a hybrid high fantasy/sci-fi universe. For those uninitiated in the 40k Universe, a Space Hulk is a large derelict ship with gothic architecture made of steel, stone, and glass that has become infested with Xenos, which are a particularly nasty breed of genetically-designed evil that usually can only be handled with bullets, flame, and divine blades. At its heart, Deathwing is a 1st person shooter with light squad elements, similar to games such as the Left4Dead and Mass Effect franchises. Throughout the playtime of the game, You and your battle-brothers(aka: your AI squadmates) will cover various ground from the claustrophobic tunnels to the vast halls and cathedral-type gathering places. However, while your scenery maybe varied, the gameplay itself is not much to write home about. The AI tied to squad can be, at times incredibly dumb, as during my play through I commanded my squad member to close and lock a door behind us, wherein they decided to seal the door from the other side, forcing me to unlock said door to try once again. In addition, while the enemies are varied in this title, their behavior and actions show the threadbare AI once again, as they will storm your position, yet will block your path even after eliminating them once and for all. Add into a lack of a proper save system and the inability to swap weapons/powers on the fly in gameplay, as you will have to return to your ship via teleport known as a Psygate, it can make for frustrating gameplay. In addition, the game itself is painfully short with only nine missions, which I was able to complete in an afternoon.
While the gameplay did cause frustration with this title, the graphics themselves were actually done well for the limited pallet used. From the aforementioned dark, dank tunnel system to cathedral-like open spaces with stain-glass windows and carved stone, the scenery is both well designed and sets the dire gothic mood of the game well. The Genestealers themselves were both gruesome and inspired the level of dread one would experience from other sci-fi titles in the FPS genre. However, many times throughout the game, this reviewer experienced frustrating slowdowns w/ lower framerates pushing below 15 frames a second, even though the review system in question was well within the recommended standards for gameplay. In addition, there were a couple of times characters, both squadmates and enemies, would clip through each other, which caused frustration during one specifically heavy firefight moment in a later mission.
Audio design in this title was handled well for the genre. While the voice acting was not on celebrity par with more AAA titles today, it was decent and held the attention of this reviewer. Soundtrack did a decent job in setting the mood of each scene, sound FX did appear to be recycled quite a bit from mission to mission.
Space Hulk: Deathwing itself is a mixed bag of a title, as it appears to be a series of half-starts than a full race. While it strives to create a moody, foreboding environment for the FPS genre, it feels like this game is more of a sum of its parts. While the concept appears to be on target, the gameplay AI and issues with framerate did lessen the experience for this reviewer. Even with its flaws, It’s hard to dislike this title. Here’s hoping the developers will take another crack at this game with an eventual sequel and allow it to be fleshed out to its fullest potential with a longer campaign, better save options and the ability to swap gear on the fly.