Eisenhorn: Xenos – review

We’ve got some good news and some bad news about Eisenhorn: Xenos! The combat got better with a bit of polish! Unfortunately, it hasn’t improved in other areas. It’s not the most thrilling of experiences but it’s not a complete mess either. Some good writing and some… um… alright voice acting means it can be a pleasant experience; but unfortunately, it has bitten off far, far more than it can chew, making it woefully bad at times. If you read our preview then you might have seen this coming.

It’s a linear game but does hide a few chances of deviation. These are limited to the option of doing stealth rather than combat, which is actually also more profitable making it the best option every time. Earning more cash means you get to spend it on better upgrades… for the combat that you’ll be avoiding since you’ll only fight in the scripted bits. Not the greatest way of giving you choice but hey ho.

As we mentioned, combat has vastly improved. It’s not an Arkham game by any stretch of the imagination but it’s not without its merits. Ranged attacks are lacking in weight despite actually being essential and interestingly enough ammo is limited, forcing you to get up into melee much like 40K deserves. Attacking and parrying are on the same button press so it flowed really well into the noise of combat as we attacked, completed executions and parried between enemies. It’s good for what it is but only really with the faster weapons; Thunder Hammers – cool as they are – are cumbersome and don’t flow well with the combat. This was especially apparent when two enemies attacking at once got us caught in a cycle of parrying them and being blocked, over and over and over

Still, Chainswords and executions are pretty damn fun.

Stealth is, as we said, valid and also quite lenient. Not only is it the best choice of income, with you earning a pretty penny by going around stealth-killing everything, but it also feels well implemented compared to stealth in most other non-stealth games. It’s also not compulsory, so defaulting back to combat isn’t the end of the world. It’s lenient in the way that enemies might spot you but you still have a good window of opportunity to initiate a stealth kill. This involves flinging them over your shoulder and conking them on the noggin. So not exactly Sam Fisher but it gets the job done.

The story is enthralling as it’s taken directly from the Dan Abnett book, Xenos, which is pretty well loved. The animations, texture popping, and much of the audio and voice acting don’t add to this enthrallment but tend to subtract from it – especially in scenes which would otherwise be tense, powerful or any other number of emotions that are in the grimdark 40K universe. This does lead to something that’s quite opposite to the grim darkness in a few scenes and it’s not hard to see why.

Comedy is unintentional in many po-faced B-Movies, and some of Eisenhorn is exactly that. A torture scene full of lights that flash as you fade in and out of semi-consciousness is made to be ever so slightly funny, as your three torturers can’t stand still, occasionally floundering about like you’re at some incredibly unsuccessful nightclub. It’s bizarre and made even more ridiculous as one of the evil-doers sounds a little tipsy as he slightly slurs some words. Another scene has a large creature attacking you in quick-time events and scuttling around with all the menace of a 70s Dr Who prop.

Mark Strong (the strongest voice in this game, pun possibly intended) voices Eisenhorn and does a great job mostly; but the balancing of the voices and the rest of the audio is awful at times. We had to enable the subtitles a few times just to see what was being said because either the background noise made it difficult to decipher, or they trailed off into something almost inaudible. Animations also played a part in how the VO comes across, with some of the mouth movements being little more than a bit of flapping, and it’s clear the focus on Eisenhorn’s facial animations were the priority. This still occasionally leads to comedy though as some of Eisenhorn’s “powerful” dialogue comes with animations that’re hard to take seriously.

It’s not that much of a surprise that the game is at its strongest when you aren’t playing it. It’s not by any means dire in respect to combat but, as the writing is the only thing keeping it afloat, it does make sense that that’d really be the only reason to play through it. Whether or not this is a knock-on effect from the whole developing for PC and mobile side by side thing, we can’t be certain. But chances are that it is. Mobile games can be great and maybe the mobile version is, but the PC version isn’t all that.

If you think that you’ll enjoy the story of Eisenhorn Xenos through playing this, more so than the book or audiobook, then go ahead. We can’t fault you wanting some interactivity. Just be warned that as a game it’s mediocre thanks to everything that isn’t the story, or the environments – which are very 40K, and is the thing that Pixel Hero Games have really nailed.

critical score 5

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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