Space Hulk is a turn-based strategy game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS3 and PS Vita. Space Hulk is based on the two player tabletop board game by Games Workshop which was originally released in 1989 set within the Warhammer 40,000 universe and was in fact Games Workshop’s third board game to receive the videogame adaptation treatment after HeroQuest and Space Crusade. There have been many Warhammer related games over the years most noticeably the third-person action adventure of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PS3, but Space Hulk games are rare having originated in 1993 with the first-person Space Hulk which released on Amiga 500 and DOS, followed by a first-person sequel in 1995 sub-titled Vengeance of the Blood Angels which released on 3DO and a year later on PS1, Sega Saturn, DOS and Windows, although this Space Hulk is the first to attempt a true adaptation of the board game and in doing so cannot be directly compared to the two previous games due to their difference in direction and pacing.
The story revolves around Space Marines also known as Terminators as they look to reclaim their honour after previously losing a battle with the Genestealers as they failed to capture a Space Hulk by battling large hordes of vicious aliens known as Genestealers in a spaceship which is otherwise deserted other than for their presence, therefore the Space Marines aim is to cleanse the ship before it crash lands on a planet where the bloodlust of the Genestealers could harm a civilian population.
There are six campaigns including mission structures comprising of multiple levels with such variation in mission objectives as killing a certain number of Genestealers, guiding as many Terminators to safety and survival as possible, destroying jammed doors, providing teleportation devices to members of your team, destroying specific targets and much more besides which are all expertly announced on the mission briefing area prior to beginning each level.
Combat is turn-based with Action Points used per turn to perform such actions as moving, opening or closing doors, shooting and attacking enemies when in close assault, although the cost of AP depends upon the type of movement such as moving forwards costs 1 AP and moving backwards costs 2 AP, while there are a variety of other moves including overwatch for Terminators armed with a storm bolter or assault cannon can spend 2 AP to fire at Genestealers that move within their line of sight with every Space Marine having a total of 4 AP to utilise per turn and between 1 to 6 Command Points are received at the start of every turn which can be used as Action Points are by allowing Terminators to move further through additional squares.
There is a wide variety of weaponry for the Terminators to utilise in their battle against the Genestealers including the commonly equipped rapid fire storm bolter, although there is a possibility of the weapon becoming jammed when fired in overwatch; assault cannons are heavy weapons with limited ammo and a high reloading cost of 4 AP; a heavy flamer is capable of simultaneously incinerating multiple Genestealers from up to 12 squares away; a power sword is a rare weapon only awarded to Terminators who have proven themselves in battle to be worthy of carrying such a weapon and is capable of parrying a front facing enemy attack, therefore forcing enemies to re-roll their highest scoring dice. There are also melee weapons such as a powerfist and the more damaging chainfist which can carve through bulkheads and closed doors and can deal damage to a Genestealer in a close assault scenario; a thunder hammer unleashes a blast of energy capable of crushing the strongest of enemies which also provides a +1 modifier to a Terminator’s close assault dice when engaged in a fight with an enemy to his front; a Librarian’s force axe allows their psychic energy to be channelled during close combat and results in PSI points potentially being used for the Librarian’s dice roll in close assault; alongside further melee weaponry.
The character design has some variation spanning five sets of characters as they have their own armour or colour as well as their own attacks or expertise including Terminators who are ready for battle with Tactical Dreadnought Armour and firepower, while Sergeants bring their experience to the table as they issue commands and Librarians bring psychic abilities to the battle. Genestealers are the major threat to the Terminators as they are extremely quick and are capable of penetrating the strongest armour and Broodlords are the scariest of Genestealers as they possess greater aggression and intelligence as well as being immune to flame and psychic attacks by Terminators.
The environment design is rather appropriate to the story and unfolding scenario as it is set within a claustrophobic derelict spaceship, although there are some intricate elements to the surroundings such as broken doors which cannot be opened but can be destroyed by Terminators, ladders which can be climbed that connect two levels of some missions together, air ducts that only Genestealers can enter which the Terminators can see the entrances for but have no line of sight to accurately aim an attack into the air duct and bulkhead doors that are armour reinforced doors which are there to seal off areas of the ship, although only Terminators can seal or destroy bulkhead doors.
The PS3 and Vita release of Space Hulk is actually the Ultimate Pack edition which released on Steam including such additional content as the Defilement of Honour Campaign, Harbinger of Torment Campaign, Sword of Halcyon Campaign, Space Wolves Chapter, Behemoth Skin and Kraken Skin which rather impressively totals around $40 of content.
For a game that has as many intricacies as Space Hulk; it is certainly well mapped to the DualShock 3 controller and Vita with the DualShock 3 control scheme consisting of pressing X to perform actions such as attacking and selecting a tile for the Terminator to move to; pressing triangle to deploy or end turn; pressing O to undo a turn; pressing L1 or R1 to select a Terminator from the available team; pressing L2 or R2 to rotate the camera by 45 degrees to the left or right respectively; pressing up or down on the d-pad to zoom in or out; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to select which tile to move to; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera around the surrounding environments; and pressing start to display the menu. There is no vibration from the DualShock 3 controller which is surprising as it could have been utilised to create further tension by vibrating when Genestealers are in close proximity to a Terminator or alternatively when a Genestealer is attacking a Terminator. The Vita’s control scheme is much the same as the DualShock 3 controller, although touch screen and rear touch pad support are introduced in the absence of L2 and R2 buttons.
Graphically, Space Hulk is presented from an isometric perspective which can be zoomed in for a closer view of the action, while a small window in the top-right corner shows the surrounding environments, allies and enemies from the first-person viewpoint of the Terminator you are controlling in that given moment which is all quite impressive with some nice intricate details for the characters, environments and weaponry with mostly fluent animations and movement and it must be stated that the Vita release achieves the same qualities as the PS3 release.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, campaign menus, hotseat menu, librarium menus, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick. The background of the menu screens set the tone as a banner represents your team in the foreground as asteroids pass by in the distance.
Adrian Ulvsgärd provides amazing character voice-overs that are reminiscent of James Earl Jones especially during mission briefings, while Rasmus Hartvig Boye and Steve Cowell provide further elements of the audio and voice-overs, alongside sound effects including atmospheric creaking from the ship, weapons being fired and sounds whenever a Terminator, tile or attack has been selected which are perfectly complimented by climactic music.
The trophy list includes 31 trophies with 10 bronze trophies, 15 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. The easiest trophy has to be The Emperors Finest bronze trophy for customizing your banner from the Librarium menu, while there are some trophies that are capable of being earned naturally such as the Breacher bronze trophy for destroying 20 doors with a chainfist and The Emperor Protects bronze trophy for surviving 15 close combat encounters. The hardest trophies have to be the Stand Together or Fall Alone bronze trophy for exiting the map with at least 7 marines in the Regroup mission after they have all been brought into play and the Stand Against the Tide silver trophy for not letting any Terminators die during the Defend mission due to having to maintain the parameters of the trophies within two of the longest missions in the game, alongside the Gold Medal for the Emperor and Saguinius gold trophy for finishing the Sin of Damnation campaign on hard. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 40 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, normal and hard with each step up having layered introductions of new elements such as easy difficulty having easier close combat against Genestealers, no bolter jams and is the only difficulty to not allow trophies to be earned, although the normal difficulty plays more akin to the board game and the hard difficulty allows only a maximum of 4 command points and enforces a timer per turn for the Space Marines, although it must be said that the missions which require every Terminator to survive are sometimes too hard to accomplish regardless of which difficulty level is chosen.
The PS3 version of Space Hulk contains a local multiplayer component which reflects the single player gameplay perfectly as one player is assigned to play as the Terminators and the second player plays as the Genestealers by taking turns in levels from the first three campaigns which are automatically unlocked, therefore providing access to levels which have to be unlocked when playing the single player campaign which is a nice touch to enhance the multiplayer by providing more variation to the immediately accessible mission objectives.
The Vita version replicates the PS3 versions’ multiplayer with a pass the Vita component, although the PS3 and Vita releases do not have online multiplayer which could have just used the same format as the local multiplayer via online servers, while there are also no online leaderboards which could have included such leaderboards as how many Genestealers have been killed and how many Terminators have survived as well as the number of missions, levels and mission objectives completed including the figures from those that have been replayed.
The replayability stems from the inclusion of all downloadable content from the Steam release which increases not only the content but also the value in addition to the dozens of missions, levels and mission objectives from the six campaigns, while three difficulty levels and customisable banners which are unlocked by progressing through levels are nice touches, alongside the local competitive multiplayer provides a further experience that will keep bringing players back for more.
Overall, if you want an accurate representation of the board game in videogame form, then Space Hulk is a game that you cannot refuse due to its faithful approach to the slower pacing, back story and precision rules of the board game coupled with the atmosphere you would anticipate from such environments and scenarios.
Developer: Full Control
Publisher: Full Control
Original Release Date: August 15, 2013
Platforms: PS3 (Reviewed), PS Vita, PC, Wii U
ESRB Rating: M – Mature