Space Hulk: Deathwing

Factfile
Developed by: Streum On Studio / Cyanide
Published by: Focus Home Interactive
Released: 2018
Format played: PS4

Ruminations

Table top gamers will be well versed in the Warhammer 40,000 universe but for noobs like me, this represents my first foray into the world.

For my fellow uninitiated, Warhammer 40,000 is a sci-fi universe produced by Games Workshop. Starting out life as a table top, turn based wargame, it has expanded into novels, film and inevitably videogames.

Looking on from afar, the visuals of the universe had always held an appeal but I was put off by the turn based, RPG element of play. Colour me surprised then to find that Deathwing is an FPS, all but ditching the staples of the Warhammer genre, save for some progression of weapons et al. You take the role of a rather underwhelming sounding Librarian, tasked with infiltrating the titular Space Hulk, a dirty great ship that is infested with a collection of Genestealers and other assorted misfits. Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.

Gamplay

Now, I appreciate that I’m not a genre expert but I’m still a pretty seasoned FPS gamer. I’ve completed Half Life, I’ve blasted through Modern Warfare, I’ve battled through Halo 3 and I’ve tackled two Killzone games amongst others. Some will doubtless have greater experience than me but I feel suitably qualified to pass judgement. And in my considered opinion, this is bang average.

Let’s start with the positives. Your avatar is a hulking great brute. Seriously, he looks like the Terminator on steroids. And he comes packed with a personal arsenal of death, not to mention two brothers in arms, each equally tooled and who offer a personal health service, topping up both you and their comrade whenever your health runs low. Various weapon options are available, from the base machine gun to miniguns and other instruments of violence, plus you get to dual wield, your other hand swinging clunking fists of vengeance or swords that could circumcise a gnat.

Running low on health? Feel like a change of weapon? No problem. Whack that strange touchpad thing on the dualshock and you warp back to some portal where you can switch up your guns before heading back into the fray. Careful though, you only get a couple of chances to portal up so save them for when you’re in dire straits. And it’s not all guns and swords by the way. You also have some proper Emperor style hand electricity for those times when a bullet just isn’t deadly enough.

Without doubt then you come well tooled, which should make this a satisfying blaster. Added to this is the extensive world that already exists with its established mythology, characters and stories. It’s unfortunate then that it’s so dull to play.

I’m all for a bit of pacing in games. Goodness knows that you don’t have to dive straight in to a bullet fest every 5 seconds, some downtime between set pieces is often as satisfying as the blasting action itself. But I kid you not, I spent a good ten minutes of the first chapter wandering round empty corridors, looking for something to shoot. Ten minutes! And it wasn’t like I was lost or anything, the little on screen doohickey that leads you to the rough location of your destination sees to that. No, I was simply forced to stride around for some ‘atmosphere building.’

Then when the action did come, it all happened so fast that it passed in a blur, like a forgettable teenage fumble. I had expected to engage in tactical combat, perhaps taking higher ground, employing cover tactics or even attempting some stealth. Instead this felt more like a bullet hell type game. Enemies come at you in a relentless spawn. It is almost like an attempt to recreate the havoc of the Xenomorph attacks in Aliens but it turns into a drunken game of Operation Wolf as you swing your gun wildly around the screen, just hoping to hit something.

And it’s during these firefights that I started to question just what sort of elite soldiers these guys actually are. We’ve got all this tech and yet weapons remain based on the type of bullet-based guns we know today, complete with a need to reload and always in danger of overheating. Are we not better than this? Plus being a hulking great Terminator is all well and good but it limits the complexity of levels. See that interesting looking manhole over there that looks like it might lead to a hidden section? Yeah, well good luck because you can’t go through it. Instead you get to walk around a bunch of near identical looking corridors, waiting for the next batch of faceless goons to leap out at you.

And whilst we’re at it, for badass soldiers, my comrades aren’t half twitchy. At the first sight of a Genestealer one of the pair shrieks, ‘They are overwhelming us!’ Speak for yourself sweetheart, I’m doing just fine. In fact the speech and scripting throughout is awful. ‘We are the Emperor’s blade!’ bellows guy-out-of-Lord-of-the-Rings in one of the pre-level introduction screens, together with a bunch of other pompous baloney. Rather than dramatic and forceful, it all feels overblown and silly.

Those invested in the Warhammer world might find greater satisfaction but what I found unforgivable were the number of freezes and frame skips. Entering a new area, the game would visibly pause whilst it loaded in the next bit of action, something that would have grated in the 16-bit era but in this time of graphical horsepower simply comes across as sloppy.

But hey, who comes to an FPS to play it in single player? Well me as it goes, but there is an online component too. I dabbled but after wandering round the same boring corridors and getting blown to pieces in minutes, I quickly exited stage left.

Bottom Line

A large variety of weapons, a formidable protagonist and some excellent ambient sound cannot mask what is, underneath it all, a very dull shooter.

4/10

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