Space Hulk Deathwing: Enhanced Edition – review

A lot of Warhammer videogames have been released over the years, with more soon to arrive. Space Hulk: Deathwing is theoretically one of the most accessible. A sci-fi FPS with loads of monsters to shoot. Who wouldn’t like that, right? Well, apart from people who don’t like sci-fi FPS games with monsters to shoot, we suppose.

Space Hulks have nothing to do with Marvel’s jolly green giant. ‘Space Hulk’ is a term in the Warhammer 40,000 universe for a damaged, abandoned metal mass (usually some sort of jolly big spaceship) drifting through space. Deathwing is the name of the “chapter” of the space marines that you and your buddies belong to. And finally, this is “Enhanced Edition” because it’s a tweaked version of a previously released game (now available on console for the first time). Okay, we all know where we stand with this one? Good.

The game takes place on board the eponymous hulk of the space persuasion, which your team has been sent to investigate. You shan’t get bored, as the aforementioned monsters are there in veritable swarms. As Warhammer vets will know, these are Genestealers, which appear in various shapes and sizes to keep you on your toes. It’s not a relentless barrage of cannon fodder, though; far from it.

There’s a distinctive mix of religious imagery and grimy sci-fi.

One thing this game does well is atmosphere. The mammoth spaceship is grimy, damaged, dark, and (so long as you don’t think about the lack of certain necessities) entirely believable. The controls meanwhile strike an enormously impressive balance between realistic sluggishness for hilariously bulky armour, and the smoothness necessary for enjoyable play. Movement is a little slow and slightly awkward, but this will (probably) never feel frustrating or unfair.

Offline, you are the leader of your little squad. You get to issue orders to your two buddies, although this doesn’t really go much further than ‘go here, stay there, follow me, OH MY GOD HEAL ME I’M NEARLY DEAD’. Although disappointing, that’s not much of an issue, as your AI teammates are extremely capable even when receiving no direction from you at all. You can also bring up a sort of tactical map to hack or disable any nearby turrets, but it’s very easy to forget the option is there – it’s rarely needed, and cumbersome to use.

The game’s core issue, which is one that this rejigged version has failed to address, is that things get very repetitive very quickly. It’s great that you have periods of peaceful exploration between bursts of aggressive enemies, but the whole experience simply looks and feels too similar throughout each and every mission. The lighting and design of the ship is largely homogenous from beginning to end, and combat never evolves or challenges you in new ways. It certainly doesn’t help that none of the weaponry available to you feels particularly powerful, and at least half of it handles identically.

If you let any of the things get this close, you’re in trouble.

Online play, which is by far the best way to play the game, remixes things a bit. It suffers slightly technically, but the benefits make this easy to ignore. There are up to four of you rather than three (and plenty of people seem to be playing), which automatically tips things a little more in your favour. It is also, as is always the way with co-op games, simply more fun to play with other people rather than AI. Voice chat doesn’t seem to be a thing, whether that’s good or bad we leave to you to decide.

Offline, you get a limited number of uses of the Psygate; a safe space your squad is transported to (after a countdown timer) where you are healed and can change gear. Online, there is no Psygate summoning, but a theoretically infinite number of respawns. When you die, you spectate on a lengthy timer (our longest being four minutes) or until the current wave of enemies is defeated. Then, you spawn into the safe space and can jump straight back into the game so long as at least one member of your squad is still alive. This makes the experience feel like much less of a chore… but ultimately doesn’t do anything about the lack of variety.

The below score assumes a strong interest in and knowledge of the world of Warhammer 40,000. If that’s not you, knock a mark off. The attention to detail means existing fans will enjoy exploring the world on their TV screen or monitor but the game behind it, while offering much to be admired, fails to capitalise on any of its ideas.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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