There’s a grassroots feel to Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition – as is the case for most of the games based on Games Workshop’s perennially popular Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game. Neither its developer, Streum On Studio nor its publisher, Focus Home Interactive are remotely fashionable, but they are clearly Warhammer 40,000 enthusiasts. And Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition is squarely aimed at an audience of devoted Warhammer 40,000 fans.
The game originally arrived on the PC at the end of 2016, but the Enhanced Edition sees its debut on the PlayStation 4, and the considerable extra bits and improvements that Streum On Studio and co-developer Cyanide have cooked up for the game since then have been retrofitted to the PC version—as a free update for existing owners of the game.
Deathwing is a first-person shooter and, thanks to its corridor-heavy, dimly-lit interior settings, a pretty retro-style one at that. Nevertheless, it sports a few interesting ideas. You play as a space marine, encased in a giant suit of armour that lends a near-mech feel to proceedings: you can run, but in a rather lumbering manner, and you can’t jump or climb ladders.
When you play the game in single-player mode, you’re given two space marine companions which you can order around. There’s a selection of big guns and ammo is unlimited, plus you get up to three psy-attacks (we started with a lightning-bolt that could damage several incoming enemies and a close-range blast that temporarily put nearby enemies own). Meanwhile, the left trigger controls a satisfying melee attack, and you can hack turrets and the like as long as you’re close enough to them on the map.
It feels very dated compared to modern technical tours de force like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
Story-wise, you and your marines are investigating a huge, abandoned hulk of a ship, in the middle of which is another ship from a long-bygone age which must be investigated. But first, you must clear the vast numbers of Tyranid Genestealers — many of which feel reminiscent of the xenomorphs from the Alien films — that have taken up residence in the hulk’s doomy depths.
You’re assigned tasks such as turning on generators to allow a bridgehead to be established, or clearing out nests of Genestealers; exploration is rewarded with artifacts. Much recourse to the map is required, and self-preservation (as well as keeping an eye on your colleagues’ health) is a priority, as you’re constantly assaulted by incoming waves of Genestealers, all clearly spawning from a single point.
Handily, you can open a portal that lets you step into a crypt to be healed and change your loadout, even in the heat of battle (although the portal takes a while to spawn). But you can only open a finite amount of those per chapter, so you tend to save them until you’re at death’s door. omewhat depressingly, the game encourages you to restart the level when you die, which is often your best move, especially if you’ve wasted a portal-heal early on.
Gameplay-wise, the single-player mode does feel like it belongs to a previous era of first-person shooters when open worlds were a pipedream. There’s a lot of tramping around corridors and shooting Xenos in the face, then tramping back around those same corridors to shoot some more. It’s pretty one-paced, by and large, save for the sequences when you’re beset by vast amounts of enemies and must survive for a certain amount of time.
Four-player co-operative mode provides some variety, feeling much more like a Horde mode-style survival game. One new addition for the Enhanced Edition is a set of randomly generated Special Missions, which offer plenty of replay value. There’s also a new class and lots of new weaponry.
While Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition is by no means a poor game, neither is it a very good one. In pure gameplay terms, it feels very dated compared to modern technical tours de force like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. However, for those who have heavily bought into the world of Warhammer 40,000, it offers plenty of authentic 40K action, putting you right in the thick of it, rather than – as is typical for Warhammer adaptations – looking down on the action from above. Even so, this is a title for 40K die-hards only.