Let it be known that while I am not as versed with the Warhammer universe as many of its fans, I am aware of it. I respect it as a piece of gaming history, both video games and board games. I’ve read hundreds of pages of its lore on the internet and I’ve even enjoyed several of its games, namely Warhammer 40K: Space Marine, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and the more recent Total War: Warhammer. That said when I heard about Space Hulk: Deathwing being developed as a first person shooter and based yet again the Warhammer universe, I was expecting more of what we got from Space Marines. Especially since the eventual sequel to that title was scrapped when THQ went belly up. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be as we received a beautiful looking title with severely marring issues.
Game Name: Space Hulk: Deathwing (Patch 1.06)
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Developer(s): Streum On Studio
Release Date: December 14, 2016
Before we get into this review, I want to apologize to our readers. I really wanted to get this review out sooner, yet I couldn’t do it. We pride ourselves here on providing top-notch reviews and the state of this game was simply terrible. That said, we wanted to wait and see if the developer could iron out any issues going forward and that sadly didn’t happen. Yes, while the game did get an update, it little to address the issues that plague the title. So here it is, our review post-patch.
If you’ve ever played any of the Warhammer 40K games or read any of the books, then you would be already familiar with some of the story that is told here. In Space Hulk: Deathwing, you play the role of a Librarian who is more concerned with fulfilling his duties by putting down hordes of enemies instead of dealing with books. This is, of course, Warhammer, so you shouldn’t expect anything less. A Terminator has to do what they do best, destroy anything in their path!
After playing other titles in the Warhammer series, I have to say that I wasn’t feeling the attention to the gameplay detail. I wanted to feel like I was this hulking death machine that kicked ass while chewing some bubble gum. These Space Marines aren’t some average joe with bulking muscles but instead are genetic freaks of nature that combine flesh and machine as one. We’re talking 600+ pounds of pure badass and to be honest, I didn’t feel like one. When I hit something with a melee attack, I expect to feel it, heck I expect whatever I hit to feel it. Instead, it’s more akin of a love tap at times. This also goes for the gunplay, which ultimately ends up more of a spray and pray vs strategic firing with the precision of a terminator unit. While I did enjoy ordering around my partners in crime, it soon became a chore, especially in the heat of combat. Which sadly required me to repeat certain sections as I had made a critical error that resulted in my brothers in arms to be overrun. I wish the AI was smart enough to deduce that if it sees me running the opposite way down the hallway, you should wondering why instead of sitting there. There’s definitely potential there, make no mistake. It’s just that in the current form the game is still very rough and I feel that perhaps a longer development cycle would have corrected this.
While there are several hitches with the single player game mode, it’s still enjoyable for what it provides. The nine missions are various and give you a perspective into the world of your character. The cutscenes are plentiful and do a good job of conveying the story and I did feel like the single player was definitely fleshed out and was what the developer was going for. Though unless you follow the Warhammer universe, you may get lost at times as they refer to the lore of the series. Fans will eat this stuff up, while newcomers may just simply scratch their heads and continue to play. If only your AI counterparts were just a tad smarter, this would have a nice squad based shooter instead of you barking orders at them. Don’t be like me and use them only for ammo or health, make them get out of the way and follow you. Unless you like having them die off and restarting. The title also incorporates an RPG-ish element as well. After every mission, you’re able to use points to upgrade your skills, so of which carry over to your squad. In addition, every completed mission provides some sort of reward in the form of gear that can be equipped by your or your squad, to be used in the next mission. Nothing too fancy and does add some variety to the game. Yet, for everything the game does well in the single player campaign, it comes down to being monotonous and repetitive. The action is few and far in-between, while you do more walking up and down corridors than anything. If it wasn’t for the performance issues, the combat would be more enjoyment and would have helped elevate the gameplay.
I also want to point out how exactly the save point works in the game, as I heard quite a few complaints about it. Sure, while I’d enjoy it to manually save, I feel that it would cheapen the experience. The game saves during the start and ending of a mission, when you read a console or when you open a Psy Gate that you can open using the preset key. Sure the Psy Gate isn’t instant but it still provides the ability to save.
Taking the game online is a different experience that allows you and three others to play in missions, unlike the single player game. It’s more of an arcade-like experience, yet you lose elements from the main game. Gone are the voice overs, the RPG-ish elements, and even the cutscenes. I can understand why this was done, yet it comes away feeling like multiple was hobbled together instead of being planned out. That said, it’s a pale comparison to other titles that do this extremely well, including Vermintide, which I felt did it extremely well.
Graphically, this game looks amazing. Streum On Studio did a fantastic job with the visuals and it definitely shows. The design of the massive Space Hulk where the game takes place is, well, massive. They’ve created an environment that conveys just how huge these ships actually are and provided just the right amount of immersion. The insides are exceptionally well done and provide varied locations. At one point you’ll be sitting inside of an industrial looking area, then the next will be similar to the designs of a church/gothic looking area. The character models are also well done, as are their weapons and even the drones of enemies that you encounter in the game. There’s also plenty of touches that help to provide even more immersion, like shell casings being expended after firing a weapon.
The sounds effects, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. Some of the weapons, while looking superimposing simply fire with a undesired sound. It really put me off at times, especially when firing the Storm Bolter. Then you have the other side of things where you can literally feel the stomping of the characters in your group or the sounds of the enemy as they scamper in attempts to ambush you. This is apparent early on in the game, as you’ll come to a point where after taking out several masses of Genestealers, you’re told to hold a critical position. It was at this point where I was easily about to pinpoint where the enemy was coming from, which allowed me to confirm visuals on them.I was really impressed with the depth of sound when it came to this. Sadly, this alone adds to my disappointment with Space Hulk: Deathwing.
Truth be told, this review took longer than I wanted but for good reason. The technical state of the game was less than idea and that’s putting it frankly. Issues that I go into depth in the next paragraph were present and basically took away any enjoyment I had from the game. This, in turn, delayed my review as I waited for the first patch to be released, which came with patch 1.06. Sadly, after 2 hours of testing after the patch’s release, I didn’t see any changes in regards to the performance. So for the current status of the game, everything mentioned below still applies, at least for me. As always with any review and PC game, everyone’s configuration is different and your experience may vary.
At this point, I can not recommend anyone picking up Space Hulk: Deathwing, due to the performance issues. During my review, I had previously tested the title on several of my testing PCs and all of them provided the same results. Let’s just take the testing from my main PC, which sports an Intel i7-5820k, GTX 1080 and 32GB of DDR4. Throughout my gameplay sessions, the frame rate was all over the place. At various points, I was able to maintain 60fps, though that was with nothing actually happening. While traversing through the monstrous Space Hulk, the framerate dropped between 40-60fps, depending on what effects were in use at the time. I thought that was rather strange, especially since my PC isn’t exactly underpowered. At that point, I closed out the game to see if I was using the latest drivers and even stopped all unneeded services to make sure no background processes were causing the issue. Once this was all confirmed, I fired up the game again to only have the same thing happen again. To Streum On Studio’s credit, I will say that I did experience less of a performance hit on later levels, which makes this issue even more puzzling. To date, this is the only Unreal Engine 4 powered game that has such a degraded performance across multiple games.
Thankfully with the 1.06 patch, the bug that would crash your game during multiplayer sessions has been fixed.
*Space Hulk: Deathwing was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Sadly, despite Spacehulk: Deathwing possessing a great atmosphere, I can’t recommend the title. At least not in the current state of the game. The single player portion is standard flair that will only appeal to those who are fans of the Warhammer 40K universe. This goes double for the co-op. It’s a nice experience but it really doesn’t match up to what you find with single player campaign. The technical issues, which is my main concern with this title, simply robs you of any fun. With massive frame rate drops which can plummet on even the most powerful PCs, show the telltale sign of poor optimization. Bugs that can cause all sorts of odd things, including crashing your game also are rampant.
As someone who enjoyed the previous Warhammer game outings, I was really hoping this game would be even better. This game has some solid ideas and captures the feeling of a bleak world, which is what Warhammer ultimately is. Yet, the game would be benefited from some extended development time and if the developer listed to the feedback from the beta. If you’re looking for some Warhammer loving, I’d recommend checking out Warhammer: End Times -Vermintide for the multiplayer aspect or Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine for a much better performing single player experience.