• Space Hulk Deathwing: Enhanced Edition review by Rick Moscatello

    The Emperor is…pleased. Barely.

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    The Warhammer 40k universe is vast, so vast it makes all the Game of Thrones books put together look like a first grade reader. The “Space Hulk” part of that universe involves Space Marines, elite troops of the human Imperium, investigating Hulks, gargantuan space ships mystically stuck together through the Warp over the course of the last 40,000 years of human history. If that last bit doesn’t make much sense to you, no problem…just view Hulks as space dungeons being explored by adventurous super-soldiers, forget about the backstory, and you’re good to go.

    Space Marines of Warhammer 40k aren’t your typical marine. Oh, they’re gung ho enough, but they’re also genetically modified, born and bred to be hulking warriors of superhuman ability. Their space armor alone would crush a normal human who tried to wear it, and their space weapons likewise could hardly be used by any lesser being like you or me.

    They need awesome armor and weaponry, because they’re pitted against great swarms of horrific enemies on an hourly basis. The Deathwing chapter of Space Marines specializes in investigating Space Hulks, which are, of course, filled with Space Monsters. The primary monsters you’ll face are Genestealers (or “Xenos” as the Marines call them), which come in two forms. The mostly humanoid Genestealers carry weapons and happily shoot at you, while the monstrous forms (vaguely resembling the xenomorph alien from the Alien movies, but with variations in abilities) try to rush up and slash you. There is no negotiating with either form.

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    It takes time to get good at reading the maps.

    While the game is roughly a first person shooter, it’s not like any other. Space Marines don’t jump. Space Marines can only barely run, for short distances. You’re not alone against the murderous hordes, however, as you get two companions—you can play multiplayer, but the AI is adequate enough, more than willing to take orders, fighting and dying on the Emperor’s behalf. They’ll often give useful tactical advice, too, such as “kill without mercy” and similar tidbits of wisdom. Truth be told, my AI companions probably have some choice words regarding my own intelligence as I often got lost in the corridors of the Hulk, forcing backtracks and additional cultural exchanges with the Xenos.

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    Home sweet home. Such as it is.

    You play a Psyker Marine, which means you have psychic powers, mostly used to blast enemies, but also to let you (and survivors) portal home for healing and reinforcements, as well as resupply and re-equip (one of your companions is a healer, but he can run out of charges). This is the resource management aspect of the game, weighing the risk of using one of your limited portals too soon with the possible death for waiting too long.

    There’s something of a class system, but there’s not that much difference between classes—you’re a hulking marine in super-armor regardless of whatever class you play. There’s also a variety of space weapons, but for the most part you’ll pick a weapon you like and stick with it, as they’re reasonably balanced. That said, I suggest the 400-round autocannon, there really are LOTS of monsters to deal with here. There’s also an experience system, but it’s pretty meager, slowly granting small bonuses (eg, “Your companions get a 10% armor bonus”), or another Psyker ability granting you yet another way to blast monsters.

    For the most part, you and your marine brothers will enter the space hulk and complete missions, usually of the form “go to one spot and blast something.” After a few such goals, you’ll eventually, go home. While a little lean, these are fun and tense battles.

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    It's hard to take a screenshot doing this game justice.

    While I don’t normally care much about the artwork in games, this is the exception. These guys totally “get” the Warhammer 40k iconography, and the Hulk is extensively decorated with huge halls and immense statues, hinting of a glorious but very distant past. Granted, you often only have a few seconds to enjoy the view before yet another swarm of monsters converges on you but major kudos to the artists who put these maps together.

    Space Marines, space dungeons, space monsters, space weaponry…how about space treasure? Not so much, alas. There are space relics scattered around the maps for you to find, but they don’t generate benefit…you really just want to focus on completing your missions here.

    The “enhanced edition” offers a few extras, notably a new class, the Chaplain (with a built-in beatstick) and a random mission generator for the player who has already played the other missions to death. If you have the old version, this is a free (and worthy) upgrade.

    As a single player game, it lacks depth…I do wish there was some decent space treasure to find (Left 4 Dead, which this game sort-of resembles, does at least put some useful equipment to find). As it is, you’re just going wherever you’re told to go, and once you’ve blasted 10,000 or so Genestealers, it gets a little old. On the other hand, playing with friends in the same room (this is also a console game), I can see it being a hoot.

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    End game stats are always good to have. Yes, I suck.

    Overall, this a great game to catch on sale, and you have to get it if you’re into Warhammer 40k (especially if you’ve played the associated board game), but hard core FPS gamers probably won’t be too impressed.

    Overall Score: 82.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Space Hulk Deathwing: Enhanced Edition review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post