Space Hulk: Deathwing is something I mentioned a while back. Originally appearing on PC at the end of 2016 it just recently landed on PS4 in its new ‘Enhanced Edition’ (which is a free update for those that have the PC edition). Streum On Studio spent the last year or so working on the game for this new edition.
The game does a pretty good job of translating the board game into an FPS, clanking around claustrophobic tunnels as a space marine terminator wondering where a threat is going to appear from is undeniably appealing. The campaign has your squad from the Dark Angels Deathwing Company (lead by your terminator psyker librarian) charged with investigating a vast hulk that has appeared that dates back to the Age of Heresy.
One thing that’s definitely clear is this is aimed squarely at 40K fans, anyone not at least somewhat familiar with the source material will be pretty much lost and not understand any of the things that are casually mentioned in the story with no context.
There’s definitely a cathartic appeal to unleashing an onslaught of storm bolter fire on a swarm of genestealers (for the unitiated that’s four armed predatory aliens, two of those arms have vicious razor sharp claws that can carve through armour like a hot knife through butter). Along with a variety of ranged weapons you also have a melee attack, with a variety of melee weapons available. Although melee is more of a last ditch desperation move. The maps, which mark out objectives and points of interest, could almost be straight out of the mission book for the board game.
One of the neat touches is being able to change weapons in the middle of a level by using a Psigate. Psigates are portals to your ship which not only allow you to change your weapons but also heal the squad, revive fallen comrades, and act as save points. They must be used sparingly though as there’s a limited amount per level.
The voice acting is pretty standard for a 40K game, it definitely has that unintentionally comical feel to it, a bit like RSC types are having a bit of fun inbetween shows.
For all it does a pretty good job of faithfully recreating the look and atmosphere of the source material this has numerous problems. One of them being that there seems to be a general lack of polish over all, especially for game that’s had an extra year or so of work on it. The constant gloom whilst atmospheric essentially masks the lack of detailed character models for the enemy which becomes rather apparent in one of the rare well lit areas.
Others problems include the A.I of your squad. Which isn’t that great. Despite one of your squad members being the medic of the group they will never heal themselves or another squad member without being prompted. This means a squad member can be on death’s door and unless the healer is prompted they’ll just die. Sometimes a squad member will just stand there whilst being attacked.
This A.I is compounded by the fiddly menu system used to issue orders to squad members.
There’s been much fanfare about the customisation of armour, weapons and character classes available but this is only available via the multiplayer. Which really highlights a major problem with FPS games in general, those not interested in the multiplayer are basically missing out on the ability customise their character. By trying to cater to both solo players and multiplayer fans developers are basically burning both due to the limitations this places on development time.
Combat is often chaotic, which is expected, but to the point that the game can start to chug a little when there are too many enemies in an area. Speaking of enemies there isn’t that much in the way of variety here. Given that there are potentially dozens of enemy types to choose from in the The Great Devourer’s bioforms, that’s with omitting things like traitor space marines, it’s disappointing that the approach here is fairly limited.
Being a space marine terminator librarian should feel empowering but Psyker powers, which should be awe inspiring, have little actual impact in game and their graphical representation is underwhelming to say the least. There’s a general lack of area effect weapons, with the exception of the Heavy Flamer, which means it’s very easy to be overwhelmed. The omission of weapons like the Cyclone missile launcher and the powerfist with grenade launcher seems a bit odd really.
Another unavoidable aspect is how 3 missions in things start to get somewhat tedious due to the constant repetition and general lack of variety. Things soon become much more like an endless grind as you plod from one point of the map to another. Load times can be tiresome whether it’s loading a game or starting a new level and the game has a strange screen ratio, which means option decriptions can often disappear from the edge of the screen and there doesn’t seem to be a way to change this.
40K isn’t exactly known for its nuance but it definitely seems like there could’ve been an attempt at a more engaging campaign here. Your squad are particularly lacking in personality. This means its hard to get engaged in the proceedings despite the rudimentary attempts at adding skill trees.
There are a lot of 40K games but the vast majority of them are distinctly average at best. There’s the idea of a good game here but it’s lost somewhere. I don’t think the problem lies in the concept but rather in the execution. Over 20 years have passed since Vengeance of the Blood Angels appeared on the Playstation and yet despite definitely being more visually impressive this suffers from many of the same problems.