Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC
Despite its popularity, Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 series has never really managed to successfully transform itself from an excellent table-top strategy war game to a meaningful video game. Space Hulk: Deathwing launched in 2016 attempting to achieve this goal, and while it perfectly nailed the Warhammer 40K feel, and took the series into the first-person genre, it was ultimately dogged by a monotonous story, atrocious level design, laughable AI and technical glitches.
Fast forward eighteen months and Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition represents not only the game’s debut on the PS4, but also a second chance for the developers Streum On Studio to showcase what they’ve been working on in order to improve the base game. However, as the saying goes, you can’t polish a turd, and unfortunately, many of the original’s flaws are still very much alive.
Most of the improvements in the Enhanced Edition focus on the multiplayer, progression systems and technical issues, so the story is pretty much the same. You play as a Librarian of the Dark Angels 1st company of Space Marines, and lead a team of deadly Terminators into a Space Hulk searching for secrets and artifacts hidden in an ancient Dark Angels’ ship. Unfortunately, during your mission, you’re attacked by a swarm of alien-like Genestealers hellbent on turning the Space Hulk into their nest.
The game follows a very simplistic mission-based structure where you’re tasked with completing certain objectives such as clearing out a nest of Genestealers, locating hidden artefacts or fixing broken systems on the ship, and it’s nothing but a lacklustre experience. Missions are unnecessarily drawn out, and often feel tiresome by the extremely poor level design. Every dark, dreary and grey corridor looks the same as the last, while you’re always waiting to blast your way through next horde of Genestealers as they pop out from every dull nook and crevice.
In the opening few levels, the combat feels genuinely quite enjoyable, but by the end of five-six hour story, this soon turns to boredom as you constantly rinse and repeat the same processes over and over again. Playing as a Terminator should make you feel like a badass, but you’re nothing but a slow punching bag. In addition to a melee weapon, you’re also equipped with a wide range of big guns and three unique Psy-attacks (magical lightning and fire attacks that can damage numerous enemies at once), all of which can be swapped out before a mission and during missions through PsyGates, which act as safe rooms where you and your team can heal and recover. Completing each mission unlocks new weapons and grants experience points which you can use to unlock further perks, a feature which is new for the Enhanced Edition. The Enhanced Edition also includes new armour and and weapon skills in addition to a new Chaplain support class.
Despite a surprisingly deep selection of weapons and upgrades, I never felt like a tank. Death happens quickly, especially if you’re caught in what feels like a never ending wave of Genestealer attacks. Even on the easiest difficulty, I only managed to take a couple of hits from the bigger enemies before falling in battle. The problem is also exacerbated by the the fact that most weapons suffer from extreme kick-back, which means aiming is non-existent, and only your Space Marine colleagues can heal you, and that doesn’t happen automatically. While you can control what actions your comrades perform through a fairly usable mini-wheel, too often I found myself managing their health at the expense of my own. What’s more, the AI had a tendency to ignore orders, preferring to get stuck in doorways or charge into Genestealer hordes. Thankfully, these problems can be rectified by playing online, and teaming up with human comrades (either with friends or randoms) makes Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition a far more enjoyable experience, especially if your teammates are competent. I was far more inclined to protect and assist human teammates, and when everything clicks, I found myself actually enjoying the experience.
If single player is more your thing and you’re not excited by the long, drawn-out story missions, the developers have introduced procedurally-generated Special Missions which are shorter challenge levels set within the main campaign’s environments. These Special Missions are the most exciting upgrade in this Enhanced Edition and offer plenty of replay value.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition is a upgraded version of an already average first-person shooter, and it shows here. While the game nails the dark, sci-fi feel of the Warhammer 40K series, and is stocked full of lore that fans of the series will love delving into, it still looks like a last-gen title, the voice acting is nothing short of atrocious, and it’s still plagued by unacceptable bugs. For starters, the loading screens take an age; I could literally break out the Warhammer 40K official rule book and master the rules of the tabletop game before any progress bar achieved 100%, a progress bar that appears every time you die! What’s more, during large open fire fights, the frame rate dropped to unplayable levels, while the game often froze for a couple of seconds as it loaded the next room!
As I’ve mentioned a few times, Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition has a few enjoyable moments, especially in multiplayer, but, despite a few graphical improvements, and some technical fixes, it does very little to improve on 2016’s original. Hardcore Warhammer 40K fans will appreciate the vast amount of lore throughout, while anyone looking for a FPS set within the 40K universe will find some enjoyment here. However, the game isn’t going to win any new fans, and while the developers’ passion for the series shines through, the game is simply a old, boring and downright lacklustre first-person experience.