Price: £49.99 Developer: Streum On Studio Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Version Reviewed: PC
If you've encountered any Warhammer 40K lore - read one of the books, played the tabletop game or one of the many excellent video games set in the Warhammer 40K universe - you can probably conjure up a clear image of what a Plasma Cannon actually is. You might have it down perfectly: Maybe you remember every exhaust vent, the golden wings on each side of the barrel, or maybe just the blue top glowing softly as balls of plasma crump like God nailing Cthulhu with a chair shot to finish a no-holds-barred wrestling match.
It's a glorious sound. Yet, in the world of Space Hulk: Deathwing, your plasma balls don't crump. They barely even sizzle; they just chunk enemy Genestealers with a muted crack, capable of wiping out waves of enemies, but with a whimper, not a bang. The same is true with Storm Bolters. A Storm Bolter, for the uninitiated, is a rough approximation of a double-barrelled assault rifle fitted with a box magazine that spews exploding bullets ahead of you. It is, by every standard we can apply to it here on earth, a godless killing machine. In Space Hulk: Deathwing, however, the weapon feels nearly mundane, despite its impact on the denizens you're fighting in the bowels of the ship.
This mundane feeling is the game's biggest flaw: the act of taking these incredible Terminator Space Marines, towering at seven feet tall, and their conflict against a horde of enemies that are 90 percent composed of bladed limbs and chattering teeth and normalising it, making it feel wearying, nearly humdrum.
Space Hulk: Deathwing owes a debt in part to both Left 4 Dead and Warhammer: Vermintide. The last-stand defences and desperate attempts to survive against all odds are reminiscent of tense moments in those games, but the biggest debt Space Hulk: Deathwing owes is to Aliens. Space Hulk itself was a board game that itself took inspiration from Aliens, remixing the setting to let players play out the story of probably-doomed Terminator Space Marines trying to survive against ravenous Tyranid Genestealers, but with this live game, they double down on the inspiration.
You'll see a Genestealer before you fight one, see them skittering over pipes before a set-piece pits you against dozens of them all at once. After this, they'll try to ambush you in just about every way they can, crawling down walls towards you or clawing their way out of vents. It's not just the Genestealers you'll fight, as you also put rounds into cast of other enemies, but you're mostly here for the main event. The single-player campaign stars you as a Librarian Terminator, more interested in powerful Psyker abilities than overdue books, and you and two of your Space Marine buddies are journeying deep into a derelict vessel – a Space Hulk, in fact – while taking down Tyranids and slowly gaining progression via a light RPG system.