Space Hulk Review

Space Hulk Review

By | Aug 31, 2013

I once even spent a hot summer afternoon playing the Space Hulk card game (not the classic board game) and discovering that there wasn’t all that much to it. The Tyranid Genestealers are fed into the playing area, and you try to kill them by repeatedly using the same one or two abilities. It’s not a game of rich tactical dilemmas, but it didn’t really need to be. It’s flavor, atmosphere, and an unprecedented lack of shame that make the Warhammer 40K universe so great. So the very faithful adaptation of that game to a turn-based tactical PC game, as you might expect, results in gameplay that’s a little too thin.

Space Hulk is basically WH40K-meets-Aliens, but it fails to really make the most of that concept. The Blood Angels chapter of the Space Marines is sent to cleanse a Tyranid Genestealer-infested starship, the space hulk. Trouble is, the Blood Angels are kind of dumb: they sent a squad of bulky Terminators into a spaceship full of corridors so narrow that only a single Terminator can get through at a time. These beefy bastards are so wide, in fact, they can’t fire their guns past each other, so only the guys in front and back can engage. Good thing they’re also incredibly slow, using two of their action points (of only four per turn) just to turn themselves 180 degrees. Congratulations, Space Marines, you’ve thrown away your only advantage over fast-charging, melee-killing Genestealers: massed firepower!

That’s not a deal breaker if you’re onboard with this theme. Space Hulk nails the overwrought seriousness of the Space Marines and the deep, abiding menace of exploring a Genestealer-infested starship. Each squad member has beautifully customized armor, and the audio and voice acting are very good, though I felt like bolters firing in a confined metal passageways should be a little more dramatic than they are here.

The art is generally attractive, although one section of the Space Hulk looks like almost every other. It’s the animations that are seriously lacking – and that’s a problem, because you’ll see Genestealers getting gunned down the exact same half-dozen ways over and over again in a single game, and horrifying moments like a Blood Angel getting eviscerated by Genestealer claws are wasted. On the other hand, I loved the touch of an “armor cam” in the upper right showing the grainy, pixelated view of each Terminator as he moves through the starship.

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