Creating Enhanced Editions can be tricky business. For one, the question that always follows an announcement of an Enhanced Edition has to be, “What are you enhancing?”. Second, and this is typically where I my mind tends to head to first is the question of whether or not a game needs it? In the case of Streum On Studio’s Space Hulk: Deathwing, I have to confess that I missed the original Steam launch back in December of 2016. I did, however, follow the launch and subsequent reviews that followed. From everything I researched, the game had the right tone and feel but lacked depth and character development. Grab that coffee, kick back, and check out our Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition review for PS4.
After spending a week or so wading through endless hordes of the Genestealers and battling the forces of Chaos all while exploring the vast infrastructure of a Space Hulk, I’ve come to appreciate just how deep and rich the lore and setting of Warhammer 40K really is. But does this Enhanced Edition fix the issues that plague the original release? Does it flesh out what was arguably a shallow game and give real depth and character development?
Set in the dark, gothic sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40k, Space Hulk Deathwing sees players take on the role of one of the Deathwing Space Marines, the most feared group of Dark Angels in the Empire. Armed with an array of wonderfully destructive weapons and a mech-like suit of armor, you and your squad are tasked with exploring a massive, city like a debris field, comprised of discarded ships and the like. This Space Hulk holds a host of secrets and it is up to your squad to discover them.
The story of Deathwing is a pretty linear affair but is also one that does an excellent job of helping players understand what being a Space Marine for the empire is really like. I especially appreciated story delivery, most of which took place through a series of communications while you moved around each map with the occasional cutscene thrown in to help break up combat a bit. As someone who has never really picked up a 40k story or game, I felt that the story gave me just enough so as not to feel overwhelmed by all that was happening. That being said there was more than once during the playthrough where names were dropped that I simply know I missed the reference on. It’s not the end of the world by any stretch and I’m sure most of the additional lore is tucked away in the mix of data entries you collect while about the Space Hulk.
The visuals in Space Hulk are as wonderfully crafted as they are dark and menacing. This is by far one of my favorite aspects of the game and I found myself spending as much time simply wandering around, soaking in the setting as I did blasting endless hordes of baddies. Everything from lighting to layout seems to feed into the rich gothic setting and, when combined with some great ambient sounds, creates an exceptionally fun game to play through. Each level seems to unlock a different mix of features and setting but manages to make all of it work together in a logical way.
Combat in Deathwing is an interesting affair. Much of how you engage with enemies comes down to how you decide to build your Space Marine (more on that in a minute). If you are looking for a more aggressive tank and spank approach to combat there are plenty of options, from the Hammers and Shields to electricity infused claws, you’re free to slice and dice your way to victory. If you prefer to watch things explode into tiny bits you’ll be happy using some of the massive plasma infused grenade launcher. If you like to mow the enemy down in a hail of hot lead you’ll find a friend in the massive chain gun. There really are a lot of options for players to choose from.
The best part about the weapon options is how easily it is to switch between them. Between and even during missions, if you teleport back to base, you can swap out your loadout and try something new. It allows for a lot of tweaking and testing to find the best gun for the job at hand. The game also offers a series of unlockable power abilities from shockwaves pulses to chain lighting all of which add to the custom build and feel of your character.
Once a weapon is chosen, you’ll find yourself jumping into the action in a hulking set of armor. The dev team has done a great job at simulating what being strapped into said armor would feel like and this is where some players might find it difficult to adjust. Combat in Deathwing is slow, especially when using melee weapons. You really do feel the effects of being in the Space Marine armor and as a result, combat can feel a bit cumbersome at times. The reality is that if you’re trying to allow players to feel the weight of being a Space Marine this is the cost. Movement, as well, feels a bit hampered at times especially when trying to navigate tight spaces in the world.
All of this seems to be a deliberate choice of the developer and I commend them for it. They have done a great job of simulating life as a Space Marine in the 40k universe or at least what I imagine it would be like. You are a walking tank, for better or worse, and you hit like a truck. However, in the current culture of 360, no scopes and hopping multiplayer style tactics moving at the speed of a tank can be a bit of a turn off to a lot of people. So combat is a mixed bag really as it will appeal to a core group of Warhammer 40k players but may be a turn off to a more casual crowd.
Moving along I wanted to take a moment to talk about progression. From my understanding of the what has changed with the Enhanced Edition, progression has seen a huge overhaul. As someone who thrives on a solid progression system, I feel that Deathwing gets a solid B rating. Essentially it offers enough that I never felt like I was grinding my way through levels, but there were times where spending points didn’t feel like I was gaining anything of value.
The progression system is a series of three skill trees, each offering a different way of developing your character. One focuses primarily on powering up your squad. The second on your base damage and armor and the third on your special abilities. Spending points in one tree moves you towards a passive bonus for your team. The odd part is that if you are trying to diversify your build in any way you will end up spending points in a turn without really gaining any bonuses. Sure you are working towards something but it can be frustrating to feel like your not really gaining anything while completing levels. The system works but doesn’t always feel rewarding.
The AI in Space Hulk: Deathwing works pretty well for the most part. Although on occasion I did find my team getting stuck on the wrong side of a door I was trying to close and seal or refusing to move for cover when being blasted by I rocket turret. I never ran into a situation where these things caused a wipe but it did get to be a bit annoying. Thankfully you can order your team to do various actions and for the most time, I could navigate them where needed.
The newly added customization features are a nice way of adding some flavor and longevity to the title. Both weapons and armor can be cosmetically altered to really make you stand out as you wade through the countless corpse of your enemies. I tip my hat to the devs by not including a microtransaction system here as all aspects of customization are earned in-game.