Review: Space Hulk / Developer: Thomas Lund / Publisher: Full Control / Platform: PC Game / Release Date: Out Now
The board game Space Hulk is a strategy classic. Though it has been through three separate editions since its launch in 1989, the basic premise and game elements haven’t changed. This two-player game pitches the heavily armed and armoured Terminators against the fast yet lethal Genestealers in the confines of a derelict space ship. It easily evokes a mix of claustrophobia and violence, making it heavily reminiscent of the movie Aliens, especially when you consider that the alien Genestealers don’t have guns but are still fast and lethal. The adaptation to PC has been eagerly anticipated by many, especially as the actual board game seems to go out of print the minute they release a new edition.
The video game version of Space Hulk defaults to the Terminator side; you can only play the Genestealers in multiplayer or Hotseat mode. This adaptation emulates the original board game as much as possible; simulated dice are rolled for combat; movement and combat occurs by spending action or command points, of which you get a limited supply. You take it in turns to act; The Terminators do their thing, then the Genestealers and so on. They are twelve missions in total, and they mostly boil down to killing as many of the enemy as possible, and also getting to key points on the board without losing too many of your Terminators. The graphics are very pretty and the look and feel of the game is appropriately high-tech Gothic, just what you’d expect from one based on the Warhammer 40,000 game. It sounds great, it looks great, and the game itself was already a classic due to its clever design and easy play style.
Sadly, this release is flawed in some significant ways. For a start, there are plenty of minor glitches, from slow online multiplayer and enemies not disappearing when you shoot them to the game outright crashing. Sometimes, the mouse simply gets lost and you can’t navigate around the board easily. Worse than that, the game is unplayable in hot seat mode. Part of the charm of the board game is that the Genestealer player has a thing called ‘blips’. Like the scanners in the movie Aliens these blips represent a number of monsters. The Genestealer player knows how many creatures each blip is worth, but this information should be hidden from the Terminator player, allowing for bluffing. Sadly, in Hotseat mode, that information is right on the screen for both players to see, utterly negating a big part of the fun. It’s also slow; every time you move a Terminator, it plods slowly like the walking mini-tank it’s meant to be. But it’s just a little too slow, and after a while movement becomes a chore. Speaking of movement, this can be tricky at times and the movement interface is a little unreliable. This has been worked-around by introducing an ‘undo’ button, which also undoes combat actions (which would count as cheating in the board game), and takes more away from the game than it adds.
All the elements are here to make this a perfect adaptation of the board game, it’s just that it clearly needed a bit more quality testing. Though updates and patches are rolling out practically every day, it’s hard to deny that this is a good game buried under a pile of bad decisions that make it much less fun than it ought to be.