XI
you are not logged in
Review

Space Hulk Review

Hull breach.

Based on the popular Games Workshop license, Space Hulk offers a unique twist on the conventional turn-based strategy formula. Set in the iconic sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40,000, the game – developed by Full Control and now arriving on PS3 and Vita – has players exploring a series of abandoned ships drifting through deep space.

As we know all too well, from films and games like Alien, Event Horizon, and Dead Space, when a huge interstellar vessel suddenly goes dark, nothing good can come of it. Thankfully, instead of a ragtag crew and rogue engineers, the immortal Emperor of Mankind has a detachment of elite killing machines at his disposal – the imposing Terminators.

Throughout the game, players will command a squad of these behemoths across a generous number of scenarios – many of which are adapted from the 1989 board game. Although some objectives will appear more than once during the campaign, each mission has its own unique layout as to avoid repetition.

The way in which these levels are constructed has a severe impact on gameplay. Where strategy games like XCOM and Wasteland 2 encourage players to utilise open areas, Space Hulk is the complete opposite. Instead, due to their hulking stature, Terminators are forced to patrol corridors in single file. Although each map boasts a handful of rooms and junctions, as a whole the game is made to feel claustrophobic. Not only does this tie in with the ruleset of the original board game, it also adds a degree of tension.

While in play, no matter what your current objective is, there’s likely to be danger ahead. Nested within each abandoned wreck are the Tyranid Genestealers, a skittering horde of xenos that skulk in the shadows. Although extremely vulnerable to ranged attacks, up close they can pose a real threat, tearing through even the toughest armour to devour their foes.

shulk2

As mentioned before, Space Hulk is a strictly turn-based affair. During the player’s turn they can move and attack with their Terminators while also using a spread of secondary abilities such as opening doors or assuming melee stance. These all consume action points, limiting the amount of actions a member of your squad can perform in one turn. Once locked in, the reins are then handed over to the AI, flooding the map with Genestealers.

Depending on which scenario you play will determine their number as well as where they spawn. For example, some missions will simply have you defending a choke point until a certain score of Tyranids are mown down. However, other, more complex, missions may have you stationing Terminators at entry points to stem the flow of incoming enemies.

During combat, everything comes down to dice throws, percentages, and positioning. Whether exchanging blows up-close or shooting from afar there is always an element of luck, adding an air of unpredictably to each expedition. Obviously, this can work against both sides – there will be times where a Terminator placed on overwatch can mow down an entire column of Genestealers and others where his weapon jams on the first shot.

Having originally launched for PC, Mac, and iOS back in 2013, there were always concerns that Space Hulk’s transition to the PlayStation 3 and Vita would be fraught with issues. Without a keyboard and mouse, Full Control has been forced to map the game’s various functions to both the DualShock 3 and Sony’s touch-enabled handheld.

Although serviceable, the modified control layout certainly takes some getting used to. I only had access to the Vita version of Space Hulk but it’s hard to imagine how the presence of two additional shoulder buttons would change much. If anything, the handheld port has an advantage over its console counterpart thanks to its front touch screen, allowing players to move, rotate, and target without having to grapple with the Vita’s thumbsticks. It has to be said, however, that this convenience is marred by shoddy implementation. Despite being ported over to a much smaller screen, Full Control has done little to accommodate. Whether performing actions in the field or tapping menu buttons, everything is scaled down to a size that demands the utmost finesse when using touch controls.

shulk1

In fact, Space Hulk shows the signs of a shoddy port throughout. Although no shortcuts have been taken in terms of actual game content, what’s there is very poorly optimised. Despite being a distinctly average looking game, even the most basic of animations and effects will bring the frame rate to a stagger. With each mission ranging anywhere between ten minutes and an hour in length, it can be a painful viewing experience made even worse by the overly long load times between stages.

What’s Good:

  • Clever adaptation of the board game.
  • Atmospheric.

What’s Bad:

  • Poor optimisation.
  • Awkward control scheme.
  • Dire framerate and loading issues.
  • Stodgy pacing.

Regrettably, similarities to the original board game and exceptionally rare moments of fun can’t save Space Hulk’s voyage onto Vita. Although somewhat functional it’s nowhere near the level of quality fans will have been expecting, especially given how long the port has been in development. In short, it feels utterly passionless and rushed with no real consideration for those who might actually buy it.

Score: 3/10

Version tested: PlayStation Vita

Read more: #
6 Comments
  1. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Oh man.. that’s such a shame, really wanted this to be good. Thanks for letting us know to avoid. :,o€

    Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 09:12.
  2. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    maybe something to pick up when it’s on sale then.

    still, it sounds like something i might like like.

    Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 09:36.
    • hazelam
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      i was just looking to see if there was a demo of the PC version to try, and look what i found.

      http://store.steampowered.com/sub/45516/

      the game and all the DLC for £2.99.

      or just the game for £1.89.

      a 90% discount.
      bargain.

      though the offer is only going to last about another 8 hours, so if you’re interested, you haven’t got long.

      Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 09:42.
      • Jim Hargreaves
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        If you’re mad about Space Hulk or the sci-fi strategy genre in general then it’s certainly worth a punt at that price.

        From what I’ve seen of the PC version it holds up far better than its Vita counterpart.

        Without its severe performance issues, the handheld port could have easily pushed a 5 or 6 out of 10.

        Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 11:23.
  3. PKMaxxx
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Oh dear. I think I’ll hold out for Xcom Vita. Assuming that’s still coming? It’s seems to have gone a bit quiet….

    Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 11:49.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      It’s never been announced so it can’t be “a bit quiet” :)

      Comment posted on 02/11/2015 at 16:22.