Space Hulk: Deathwing is the highly anticipated first-person shooter based in the Warhammer 40k universe. Players join their Chapter Brothers and take on hoards of Genestealers.
Warhammer 40k first-person-shooters are in short supply, but Streum On Studio has stepped in to fill the gap with Space Hulk: Deathwing. Based on the popular Games Workshop board game, Space Hulk, Deathwing puts players in control of a Librarian of the Dark Angels in a Left 4 Dead style swarm survival setting.
The game offers both single-player and co-op modes, though I found the single player to be somewhat lacking. More often than not I would find the AI more than incompetent; ignoring the vast waves of enemies in front whiles seemingly enjoying the bloody decor of the interior of the ship. With no backup to speak of, I found the single player campaign to be boring and repetitive. A jumbled mess of walk here, shoot that, die there. Deathwing is really not a single-player experience, and I feel that this aspect could have been cut from the game entirely with little to no impact. The online co-op mode of the game, while better, unfortunately, is far from perfect.
Playing with friends is the best way forward. You can chat, you can plan and you can work together. Each Librarian has a specific role to play, and each player really needs to stick to this in order for you to succeed. Fail, and you’re all sent right back to the very beginning of the mission. Regardless of how far through you’ve progressed. And really, this was the first warning flag that something wasn’t quite right with Space Hulk: Deathwing. There are no checkpoints in the game. Yes, this adds a sense of desperation to the survival aspect, but at what cost? There are only so many times you can walk the same section of corridor before going stir crazy.
In addition, there is no loot system. No way to upgrade your Librarian. Starting a new mission starts you from scratch, meaning any abilities that you learned during your last run are completely lost and need to be earned again. The in-game skill tree, while varied between each type of Space Marine, offers little in the way of overall progression. It’s incredibly frustrating, and one of the game’s biggest flaws in my opinion.
With this being said, however, the damage system works well. Taking too many hits to a single limb will render it inoperable. The hud will flag which parts of the power suit is more damaged and you’ll eventually notice a decrease in functionality. Only a blast with the healing gun from a medic will restore the suite to its optimum state.
As with any game, losing is a natural part of progression. As a gamer, we strive to keep going to overcome the obstacles in front of us. In Deathwing, however, I found that dying was somewhat of an annoyance that actually put me off from playing. Having slowly trudged halfway through a mission, ending the lives of many a Tyranid, it is not uncommon to find yourself cut down by the endless swarms. Respawning has a timer, around the 80-second mark I noted, which during this time your Chapter Brothers must survive on their own. If and when the remainder of your team bite the proverbial bullet; the mission starts from the very beginning. No do overs, just a straight restart. Not only is this incredibly frustrating but I found it quite tedious.
Graphically, Deathwing is beautiful, in a grimdark kind of way. The attention to detail and gore is spot on with the Librarians looking as intimidating as you’d expect. The Space Hulks themselves – the massive derelict ships you find yourself inside – are littered with winding corridors filled with skulls, steam and blood. Eviscerating the Genestealers is morbidly fantastic with limbs detaching from bodies and ominous squelching sounds when your character walks over a corpse.
Interestingly enough, many players have experienced issues with the game’s performance. Voicing their opinions on Steam as well as various forums; I have to admit I encountered no major issues with the framerate, rendering or controls (though I was disappointed to find that controller support was not fully implemented). I found occasionally the game would stutter during gameplay, but nothing that would impact my experience dramatically. My main issue, however, was the online play. On a number of occasions I would be disconnected from my multiplayer partner or simply it would not connect me to him at all. We both found the online system to be clunky and overall unfinished; something that I hope is fixed as soon as possible. The online portion of the game is really where this game shines.
Space Hulk: Deathwing is something of a bitter-sweet experience. While it is clear Streum On Studio have done justice to the source material and the universe the game is based, the way it is presented needs a lot of work. Apart from the aforementioned issues with online connectivity and a decent looting system Deathwing does play well. With a group of friends its great to mow down hordes of Tyranids while yielding weaponry straight from the 40K universe. With an update or two, and the addition of some form of progression system, I think it could be one of my favourite multiplayer titles of 2016.