Back in the cartridge age of video game history, Games Workshop created a genre defining tabletop games. For almost 30 years Space Hulk has been a big part of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, one that is worthy of recognition. Over the years the video game translations have been a mixed bag. So, is this game worthy of the Emperor? Or is it an abomination that must be cleansed with holy fire?
Three Years after the PC release Fun Box Media has ported Space Hulk over to the PS3 and PS Vita. For those not familiar with the synopsis, a Space Hulk is a gigantic spaceship left derelict in space. Torn to pieces by the Warp: An analogous and turbulent dimension that is traversed to allow faster passage through the Universe. Due to the Warp’s unpredictable and corrupting nature many vessels have ended up merged, twisted, torn and left adrift through the dark depths of space. During their time in the dark dimension of chaos they may have become infested by various life forms that inhabit the Warp. Orks, Daemons and Chaos Marines. However, none are more feared than the Tyranids; an insidious collective that spread like a termite infestation within these intergalactic space cruisers. Although there is variety to the Tyranid army, in Space Hulk, as with the board game, you only face pure strain Genestealers. While you play as the Imperial heavy troopers, ‘Terminators’ specifically equipped with weapons to hold back the ‘Xeno’ hoards. Sent in to the most dangerous yet most vital of space hulk operations.
After getting hooked on Games Workshop through gateway games like Hero Quest and Space Crusade I eventually played Space Hulk. I played with the Second Edition Rules, though it appears the Video game uses rules from the newer editions, which is how it should be. The soundtrack is the same kind of thumping military operatic I have come to expect from the 40K games and it’s awesome as ever. You can choose from three missions off the bat, though picking the top one would be wisest as it’s a three-part tutorial. There are also three locked campaigns full of missions that can be unlocked through progress.
Start a mission and you will get to choose a basic line formation of troops. In later levels this becomes strategic. You can have a squad of five Terminators, some have heavy weapons and others are Commander units. Mobilizing these correctly even from the start is key to victory. As in most turn-based strategy games you have troop specific allotted AP (action points) and to make additional troops maneuvers you have CP (command points). CP varies at the start of every turn based on an RNG (random number generator) digital dice roll. However if it’s low you can reroll, which is advisable as every move counts.
The levels are generally a series of corridors leading to open areas with doorways that must be destroyed or opened and then there are the Genestealer access points. As stated earlier these are brutal creatures that are fast with deadly claws that tears through armour like it’s paper. Up close confrontations with these creatures even in Terminator Armour are almost doomed to failure. Long ranged defense is key to your squads survival against this Tyranid swarm. There are many corridors so placing Terminators at the top of bottlenecks is a good strategic move. Genestealers are faster, deadly in melee combat and come in high numbers.
You have to stem the tide if you wish to succeed in your mission. One of the best weapons for this is the heavy flamer, which has a plume effect, as was the case in the board game. Firing from two spaces away from a junction will ignite the all pathways leading away from the center. Likewise firing into a 3×3 room will torch the entire area. Though this would be way too overpowered if it didn’t have an ammo limit, so use it wisely. The direction your terminator is facing is important. It’s important to note every move, even just turning on the spot, costs 1 AP. All except walking backwards which costs 2 AP so remember to hold X and use the left analog sick to choose the way you want to end up facing. It is tricky, though fortunately if you ever make a bad move pressing the circle button will take that move back. However, you can only take back one move, so be sure to commit to any action before taking another.
The objectives to the mission are more than just fetch quests and there’s good variety on the whole. By the way they’re crafted I suspect they may be translated over from the actual board games themselves. The RNG does well for the most part though a Commander with a Powersword seems a little underpowered. Chancing close combat with this RNG that obviously favours the Genestealers formidable melee attacks is way too risky. As such he’s not much more than a basic Terminator with an alt skin. There are occasional missions with hero characters and they do have unique abilities though these are few and far between.
Unfortunately, while remaining faithful to the franchise they overlooked the community that follows it. Normally not have online features wouldn’t be too bad but for this game it’s a massive oversight. Yes, there’s a local multiplayer that works fine for the most part. However, even back in the day Citadel miniature games fans met up at Games Workshop stores to find new opponents. The modern equivalent of that would have been online multiplayer. Additionally, when fans ran out of official content for the game they made their own maps and challenges for each other. So for a game that sets it’s sights on being true to the franchise in every way this game is sorely lacking a level designer.
Ultimately, This is one of the Granddaddies of turn-based strategy in video game form. Great pains have to capture the aesthetics and incorporate the traditional board game rules. There is an essence of authenticity to this title that can’t be ignored. This really does appeal to a niche crowd that knows what to expect from a game like this. It’s an almost direct copy of the board game in every way. So if you want a faithful representation of the board game in video game form then this is worth picking up even if it severely lacks online community support.
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