Somewhere deep in space, in the cramped and dark corridors of an ancient starship, a group of space marines are making a last stand.
Completely and utterly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of their foes, the three remaining members of the squad stand their ground as their sergeant holds the line, his bolter chattering with a deafening roar. One by one, the charging genestealers are turned into a fine bloody mist, but far from home, these marines know their luck can’t last forever.
With a click, the sergeant’s bolter jams.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say it. The internet is wrong. There, I said it.
If for any reason my word is not enough, I’ll elaborate for you. Despite the rather harsh criticism from our friends over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I still think Space Hulk is actually a damned fine game. It perfectly recreates the 90’s board game without all the fuss of clipping together bits of cardboard scenery and painting tiny figurines. Is it perfect? No, far from it. But it’s fine, it’s acceptable, it does exactly what it sets out to do, and I’m happy to be playing it.
Let me get one thing straight from the off – don’t approach Space Hulk expecting the fast-paced, brutal experiences that Dawn of War and Space Marine have led us to expect from the 40k universe. Space Hulk is a slow-paced, tactical experience that will at times frustrate you with its dependency on sheer luck to see you through. You might have the finest tactical plan imaginable, but if the dice rolls don’t go your way, your marines will get taken apart before they can hail the emperor.
You can call Space Hulk unfair – you can call it many things, but you certainly can’t call it predictable. When your very success is dependent on the roll of a dice, you’ll curse the times things don’t go your way. However, when they go right – when every shot scores a hit and every charging beast is reduced to chunks of finest alien meat – you’ll relish every moment.
Anyone approaching Space Hulk fresh from the battle-lines of XCom, expecting to find unit customization and custom paint-jobs will find things somewhat disappointing. You fight each scenario with what you’re given, meaning there are times you’ll look at your armament and think ‘that’ll do nicely’, and times you’ll think ‘I’m sorry, you want me to do what?’ There’s no meta-game, no strategic decisions to be made outside of missions, just your squad thrust time and time again into absurd situations with little chance of success.
I’m also somewhat disappointed that there is also no way to customise the units’ appearance. Part of the appeal of Games Workshop has always been putting your own mark on your forces, but here you’re stuck with the blood red of the original Space Hulk canon. My garish pink and green space-marines from Dawn of War apparently have no place here, which is an awful shame.
At time of writing, Space Hulk does suffer from quite a few bugs. On several occasions I have been forced to restart a mission after the game forgot which side I was supposed to be playing as and just handed me control of the genestealer menace. However, since the game’s release numerous patches have already occurred, indicating that Full Control is not planning on just leaving Space Hulk out to pasture, but is committed to providing future support.
Space Hulk has its problems, but on the whole they are problems taken wholesale from the board game it originates from. In making Space Hulk, Full Control set out to make a faithful digital recreation of the old board game, and they’ve succeeded. Whilst many people will rue the lack of customisation, persistence and rogue-like aspects that made XCom such a success, here you’ll find a simpler experience that relishes in its own unpredictability.
Verdict – On target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on a copy provided by the developer. Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.