03 September 2013

Space Hulk 2013 PC version review

I never got to play the original Space Hulk boardgame, and I didn't buy the limited re-release a back a few years ago either. I know what the game is about, and know it's game mechanics - to be honest it never seemed really that exciting to me. And as I got the first release of Incursion a few years ago the added details such as battle cards and fully customizable forces for both players was a lot more appealing than having one player play the fun stuff and one player shuffling about Gene Stealer cannon fodder.

But as Space Hulk was released a few days ago in its latest incarnation for PC (weirdly I didn't hear about it until the release) I thought I would give it a shot. After all, the last couple of GW branded PC games had been ranging from decent to really good. I'm also happy that turn based games have made a small comeback, with Blood Bowl, X-com, Shadowrun etc.

I was looking forward to something along the lines of Blood Bowl, lots of game modes, perhaps even a map editor. Sadly I was disappointed and the content is very limited. A 3 mission tutorial campaign and a regular campaign mode that is barely 12 missions long. There is a lot left to be desired, the camera angles are quite annoying, the graphics looks as if they belong in the original WH40k: Dawn of War game - very dated and not suited for the many close up shots that the "action camera" provides when something is killed.

I'm usually not a person demanding good graphics, but I think that more effort could have been put into the modeling of both Terminators and Genestealers. The environments, while boring as hell are at least better looking than the characters. It is however a game that is very dark and filled with blackness, it's dark in a very boring way and much could have been done to add to the isolated feeling by having some kind of headlights on the Terminator suits guide the way and make the immediate area to the front a bit more illuminated. The action shots are really poor, and again look like they belong in Dawn of War 1, every time a Terminator or Genestealer is killed the camera zooms in to some kind of 1st/3rd person view to show the results which are really lame. And while Genestealer bodies remain on the floor where you killed them (for the most part) there is nothing that shows the carnage of a Gatling gun or flamethrower, no Genestealers shot to pieces, no torn up Terminators, no flames licking the walls of a tunnel that you have just incinerated or tiny fires after the main fire has died down.

There could have been a LOT of detail added to the combat that would have improved the overall feel of the gameplay.

My next big complaint and main source of frustration is the control system. You will soon realize that your main enemy isn't the endless stream of Genestealers but accidently moving your terminators so they burn through the command and action points available and end their movement staring into the wall of a dead end.... You guide your soldiers by clicking on an area on the map and then drag the mouse to pick the facing direction. The problem is that the game all too often has a messed up sense of direction and it all too often happens that it registers something that wasn't meant to happen and start moving your guys without you being able to do anything about it. There is no confirm movement button, or any delay between the desired destination and the starting of movement in this game. You also can't abort movement once it begins.

This is not made easier for you to stand when the movement of your Terminators is one slow step at a time to the sound of their steel boots on the steel floor "Clonk-clonk-clonk-clonk" and then stopping dead before making a turn action "clonk.....clonk-clonk..... clonk-clonk-clonk". After a while this sound becomes Chinese water torture

Another thing that feels really cheap is the lack of music score or ambient soundtrack, it's just dead silence and the sound of moving Terminators. Surely there could have been some kind of soundtrack providing tension and feelings of complete isolation - and increase anxiety as Genestealers move towards you and your bullets fail to hit them. But no, there is nothing...

There are also no cut-scenes except for a poor one at the start of the game, and it's hard to even find a fraction of a story in this campaign. I know it is made of a boardgame, but please... something more than the constipated and goofy sounding narrator that describes the mission objectives (probably the most stupid sounding voice acting and narrative content I have seen in a game for a very long time). The drivel he spouts sounds like really bad Wh40k fan fiction that takes itself way too seriously and fails to deliver anything that could match the expectations of such "hard ass" presentation.

The core gameplay, when you take away everything else, is OK. There is nothing wrong with it. It's just that the context and the whole presentation being so dreadfully boring, dull and ugly that it's hard to justify a purchase at full price when there are indie-games that you can play in your browser that provide you with the same gameplay for free.

Space Hulk simply fails to deliver. I guess if you are a big fan then this is a fan service aimed at you. But this is nowhere close to being even having the same quality gameplay and content of Blood Bowl which provides a TON of replay value with its content and various game modes and of course 2-player mode over internet. Playing Space Hulk with a friend will be a coin toss to see who gets to suffer for one game before you swap sides.

5/10 for regular gamers, I imagine the score being a bit higher if you are a diehard Space Hulk fan. This truly is a cash grab product.

3 comments:

  1. That sounds just like what I expected it to be, poorly prepared GW branded gaming. Given how much background that is available in the GW universe I never cease to be amazed at how under utilised it is.

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  2. Classic GW. Chuck a half-baked product out there and hope the saps snap it up.

    Great review - I will avoid like the plague.

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  3. It's not entirely GW's fault. The company that is responsible for it, Meridian4 has generally only made lukewarm titles. The most comparable would probably be Frontline Tactics, which I got bored with after a week.

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