Space Hulk: Deathwing – First Impressions

Space Hulk: Deathwing – First Impressions
Space Hulk: Deathwing (PC [Reviewed], (PS4 & XBO in 2017))
Developer: Streum On Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Space Hulk: Deathwing is FPS set in the Warhammer 40k universe that can be played with online co-op, and as a single player campaign as well.

The campaign starts off well with some incredible voice acted dialog during the opening cutscene. It got me super pumped up to go on my first mission, and gave me high hopes for the rest of the story. You play as part of an elite squad of Space Marines from the Deathwing of the Dark Angels chapter. You are dispatched on missions to investigate Space Hulks that are swarming with enemies.

There are 5 different classes to choose from, and each class has its own guns and special abilities. There are 9 chapters to choose from, and each one can be played solo or in co-op. As you move from one objective to the next in each mission, you are swarmed by enemies from both close range and far.

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As you play in co-op matches, each character starts at level 1 every time, and as they get kills, they level up to unlock other abilities and/or different weapons specific to their class. The online co-op matches are hosted by other players, and can be played with 1-4 players. You can also turn on friendly fire in this mode. Although, I don’t think it’s a good idea when playing with random people.

In the single player campaign, you and your squad of AI companions complete the same missions that are available in the co-op. You’ll need to give your companions orders through the tactical menu to get them to do things for you, such as hacking or healing. I played the first two missions with the AI, and I found it frustrating. The AI is nowhere near as good as a player, and it can also be very dumb. For example: unless you command it to stay still, the AI will just walk in front of turrets, and take tons of damage for no reason. 

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Accessing the tactical menu breaks your combat grove. You can issue orders with the mouse, or with hotkeys. Either way, you’ll probably take damage needlessly while you stand there for a few seconds. I prefer using hotkeys, but they feel awkward (the keys to order the apothecary to heal himself or another AI requires you to move your hand across the keyboard to hit 9 or 0, and can’t be customized).

Pros:
  • ranged combat and abilities feels good to use
  • the online co-op has the potential to be enjoyable, and offer more some replay value
  • the progression system in the single player campaign is good, and let’s you customize your squad; there are also collectibles to be found in this mode
  • graphically the game looks great with excellent environments, and Terminators that look totally badass
  • incredible voice acting
  • music and sound effects are fine, and they don’t really stand out as being good or bad either way

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Cons:
  • melee attacks seem clunky and delayed, and not all that satisfying to use
  • the chapters seem to be the same each and every time as far as enemy spawns go, which can get dull after a while (more randomization is needed to keep things fresh and interesting)
  • the co-op since launch still encounters fatal errors (in every match I tried actually, so I wasn’t able to complete a single co-op match because of this.)
  • after crashing or disconnecting, you can’t always join back on the server you were on, or resume the play if you were hosting
  • performance is seriously lacking: when there are a lot of enemies on screen, there are frame drops are significant, and even with just some mobs, it’s still not possible to maintain a steady 60fps (Win10, i7-6700k, GTX 1070, 32GB RAM)
  • the AI can be very dumb sometimes, and you will need to micromanage them at times – having to open a tactical menu is disruptive to the combat
  • (nitpick) some of the keybindings are not customizable (i.e. the 9 & 0 to order the AI to heal), and are sometimes awkward and inconvenient to use; there is no controller support right now, but controller support will likely be implemented in the future before the game releases on console in early 2017
  • (nitpick) the zoom is a toggle only, as it feels cumbersome when enemies close in on you, and you can’t just quickly melee them (hopefully, they add a hold to zoom option)
  • (nitpick) landing close range or melees kill causes blood on screen that completely blocks your vision temporarily (blood splatter is good, but it should be toned down to just splash effects instead of total vision impairment)

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I played about 6 hours in the multiplayer beta, and roughly 3 hours since launch before I submitted a refunded request. 

Conclusion:

Space Hulk: Deathwing looks great, and certainly has potential, but it’s still got some of the issues that plagued the multiplayer beta. It’s extremely frustrating to experience fatal errors, or server disconnects while playing co-op. Being unable to rejoin the same game after crashing is a major issue. Playing with the AI is not as enjoyable as playing with real players either. Not to mention the poor optimization that the game currently suffers from. I hope they can address some of the problems this game has in a timely manner. Until then though, it’s probably a good idea to hold off for now.