Space Hulk Review
A Hulk of a Game
Fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe will definitely take a liking to this PC adaptation of the tabletop board game. However, in my humble opinion, this should stay a board game. Space Hulk for the PC is a turn based strategy game that draws inspiration and level design directly from the board game. It makes the $100.00+ physical game into an affordable, digital version for all loyal fans. It doesn’t try to wow you with graphics, gameplay or sound, but definitely has all the depth of a decent strategy game embedded in its code.
The emperor’s finest men, the Space Marines, board a derelict ship that’s been floating aimlessly in space. However, once they board, the Space Marines run into the Genestealers of the Tyranid alien race. Now, you’re in close quarters combat with a clunky suit and few options. Your mission (which you have to accept) is to complete a series of assignments to eliminate the threat and get off the hulk of the ship.
Space Hulk is a PC game adaptation of the board game with the most recent edition being released in 2009. The hulk environment is well done with the glow of lights from above and some nice shadow on grates. It definitely accomplishes the feel of being in tight quarters with little light and little hope for moving down narrow pathways without difficulty. The Space Marines and the Genestealers look just like their board game counterpart pieces. Some of the details on the characters are virtually similar to the actual game, but in Space Hulk look pixelated, giving the game a dated feel to it.
Space Hulk takes directly from the board game, where your Space Marines have Action Points (AP) and a random amount of Command Points (CP) used to move and attack. You deploy your units to designated starting squares in any order you wish. Your job is to get from point A to point B while fending off the Genestealers who pour in from designated spawn points. The most frustrating part of the game and why I feel it should have remained a board game is the use of AP and CP. To simply turn your marine 180 degrees costs you 2 AP and then (if you want him to survive) you have to spend 2 AP to go into Overwatch which allows you to attack a Genestealer moving towards you (provided you’re facing it), and now you’re all out of AP unless you want to dip into your CP. But remember: you still have 3+ more marines to move. Your turn is limited to how many AP and CP you have (provided you haven’t used it all up already) and how you want to sacrifice your men, because you will make sacrifices. This aspect is great because it makes you think critically of where you want to place what units. Your units range from a Flame Thrower with crucial AoE’s and melee happy Sergeants. The animations of the characters moving square by square dams the games fluidity from a potential river into a lake. The controls are simple point-and-click’s designating where you want to move, but I had a few moments where my attack order was mistaken for an ‘about face.’ The HUD provides all vital information including what each player rolled on the dice; determining if an attack hits or misses. When going into an attack, a quick animation occurs showing you firing your weapon or a Genestealer mauling you. The same animation occurs over and over and the only differentiator is by whether blood appears or not. Tactical positioning of units and their capabilities make this a very good strategy game, but the fact that you might not roll the 6 you need to eliminate a closing Genestealer is a game of luck.
Space Hulk was announced in December of 2012 and slated for release in Fall 2013. It was released August 15 2013. That’s not really an issue and in fact could be viewed as a good thing, but I think issues may have arisen since they released it ahead of time. This is seen in the version update from 1.0.0 to 1.0.4 that occurred within 12 days. However that being said, it’s good to see that the team is hard at work fixing any and all issues that are found by gamers.
The story is to get off the ship. There isn’t really much more depth than that as you play through the missions. And why is one of your units stuck behind a jammed door? Who knows, but he’s there and now you have to save him. The environment and character design are well done but are tainted by small details that take you away from being immersed into the game. Space Hulk lost out on some attention to detail that would have been addressed given more time. The gameplay needs some fine-tuning and while the PC version embodies the essence of the successful board game, it does not embody the essence of a successful PC game.
SpawnFirst recommends you try a demo for yourself, or buy the game when it goes on sale. This is definitely a game that will be welcomed by Warhammer 40,000 fans, but when you get to the nuts and bolts of it, it’s a board game turned digital. This might be a turn-off to mainstream fans of the genre, definitely so if playing a digital board game was not what you were expecting going into it. But if you love all things Warhammer, give this little excursion a shot.