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Review: Space Hulk: Deathwing (PC) Revisiting the Olethros

Space Hulk: Deathwing is a first person shooter from Streum On. In this game, players will exterminate hordes of enemies as they explore and raid a massive celestial superstructure. They perform these tasks as members of the Deathwing, an elite squad of Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000 lore.

I have previously reviewed this title a while back. However, due to certain circumstances, I will be reviewing it again.

*Game key provided by publisher.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Story

The Olethros Space Hulk has drifted a little too close to a populated planet. As with many of these superstructures, Genestealers have overrun the place. This makes the Space Hulk a prime target for destruction, but there is a catch: a lost Dark Angels ship is among those that comprise the behemoth. In an effort to retrieve any important relics the vessel may contain, a squad of Deathwing Terminators spearhead a search a mission. In Space Hulk: Deathwing’s solo campaign, players act as the Librarian leading this team. While there is an interesting plot twist part way though, the story never really strays far from this premise.

As the protagonist is a psyker, he occasionally sees visions of the past while exploring the Olethros. These scenes hint at precious cargo while also showing the fate of former occupants. There are also a few logs that players can read throughout the ships which give a glimpse of life on those vessels. There is really not much to this aspect of the story, but it adds to the atmosphere.

Space Hulk: Deathwing - TICGN

Graphics

Genestealers in Space Hulk: Deathwing look exactly as they should. However, this can make it difficult to distinguish the different strains when they come charging at you en masse. Still, all xenos are there to be purged, so I suppose identifying them first is unnecessary. The Space Marine Terminators also adequately resemble the official designs.

The locations in the game only consist of those that once belonged to the Imperium of Man. This may disappoint fans of other Warhammer 40,000 races, but at least Imperial iconography has always looked cool. Players may find the remains of familiar machines among the decrepit Gothic and industrial architecture.

I experienced a few glitches during my time with the game. Every now and then, text would not show up during briefings, and at some point the bestiary stopped showing certain foes. There were also a few instances in which I was unable to take any action after a level loaded, forcing me to reload. Aside from this, the game seemed to run fine, though technical performance will vary from machine to machine.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Audio

Space Hulk: Deathwing does not use music during gameplay; its foreboding orchestral tracks only ever appear during cutscenes and menus. Without songs to distract the ear, it is easy to focus on the sound effects. Hearing the sound of Tyranids scurrying just out of sight or on the other side of a low ceiling can be rather unsettling. The distant creaking and rumbling of the run-down ships further adds to creepy atmosphere. These elite Space Marines may not be afraid, but it is likely the player will be. Players can also locate hidden collectibles by listening to them whisper unintelligibly in the protagonist’s mind.

This game features full voice acting. Most of the lines come from the briefings before missions. The protagonist’s squadmates will also chime in from time to time in addition to shouting generic battle phrases. Various pieces of equipment make verbal reports as well. None of these performances are particularly entertaining, but their roles do not require them to be. As with most aspects of the game’s presentation, the voice acting serves to make the experience more immersive.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Gameplay

In Space Hulk: Deathwing, players will spend most of their time shooting Genestealers. Though there are variants with access to projectiles, most of these foes focus on melee combat. As such, they will often rush at the protagonist’s squad in large numbers in hopes of overwhelming them. Thankfully, there is no end to how much ammunition these Space Marines have, though they will still need to reload.

Since the protagonist is a Librarian, they have access to a number of psychic powers in addition to Space Marine weaponry. As players go through the campaign, they will unlock additional abilities and loadouts. Furthermore, doing well in missions gives upgrade points for even more equipment and enhancements. However, many things acquired late in the game feel inferior to those that are available earlier. New powers may be stronger, but they hardly feel worth the longer cooldown times. Since the enemy’s primary forces love to swarm, fast fire rates tend to trump late game firepower.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Two Terminators join the protagonist in his mission. One is a heavy weapons specialist able to equip especially powerful weaponry. The other is an Apothecary who acts as the team’s medic. With a Narthecium in hand, the Apothecary can heal anyone on the team to full health, but only a few times in each mission. While each of these teammates have a single health bar, the player has multiple gauges that monitor various body parts. Limbs that receive too much damage become useless. Oddly enough, the head and body have separate gauges, so too many hits to one can cause death while the other is perfectly fine.

The AI for teammates seems somewhat stupid. They tend to stand in the worst possible place during a fight and typically take more damage than the player. They also have trouble with doors. I once ordered one to seal a door, thinking it would get him to move to my side. Instead, he locked himself out and began walking the long way around. Should either ally fall, the player can open a psygate to teleport back to base. This restores the team to fighting form and gives a chance to change equipment. Of course, there is a limit to how often a psygate can be used. They also reduce the overall score for a mission.

Upon completing the main scenario, players unlock bonus challenge missions. These have players revisiting past locations with new objectives and obstacles. Their inclusion gives gamers more content for their money, but they are not any more entertaining than the main scenario.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Multiplayer

The multiplayer in Space Hulk: Deathwing is mostly the same as the single player. Teams will take on the same missions as the campaign with many of the same mechanics. However, there is a class system in this mode that restricts weapon use. Furthermore, all enemies can appear in any map, making earlier challenges more difficult. While players do not have access to all the upgrades available in the main game, they may receive help from a fourth player, increasing the odds of success.

Unlike the other version of the campaign, an Apothecary’s ability to heal recharges over time in this mode. This is a welcome change considering how often the team will take damage. When players do die, they can redeploy if the team manages to stay alive long enough.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Space Hulk: Deathwing does not have any persistent aspects to its multiplayer. Players do receive experience for kills, but their level only remains for the duration of the mission. As they level up, they gain access to special perks and weapons depending on their class. However, turning on “Codex Rules” gives access to all perks right from the start.

Surprisingly, I was still able to find people in lobbies several months after launch. While the game’s online component is not exactly thriving, it seems players can still find others to play with throughout the day.

Space Hulk: Deathwing

Verdict

Space Hulk: Deathwing is competent, but not especially enthralling. The core gameplay works well enough, but it lacks something to make it feel special. The same can be said of its story. Still, the audio and visuals do a great job of creating a creepy atmosphere. Furthermore, the enemies and environments accurately resemble the source material. This is not something that every gamer will enjoy, but Warhammer 40,000 fans will likely enjoy being immersed in this world.

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