Space Hulk: Deathwing originally released on PC way back in December of 2016. A cool concept that saw you and your terminator squad (played online or solo) take on Tyranids aboard a derelict Space Hulk, paying good attention to the aesthetics and lore of the Warhammer 40k universe. The game certainly had its selling points, however in many ways it also disappointed. Poor AI inhibited the game, particularly in single player, and while the gunplay was visceral and powerful, it was ultimately limited, and on release it was hampered with bugs and glitches.

To Streum On Studio’s credit however, they did work to patching and updating the game for those that became invested in the multiplayer, and, despite how long it has taken, this Enhanced Edition finds its way to PS4 along with a few new features and updates which current PC owners will get automatically. After playing the Enhanced Edition on PS4 (having previously reviewed the original PC version) I was pleasantly surprised by some of the new features, though in some areas it’s clear the game was never going to improve.

As already mentioned, Space Hulk: Deathwing takes place aboard a derelict Space Hulk. Space Hulks are giant masses of ruined ships, often of city sized proportions that float through space, some of which become home to unfriendly creatures. This one in particular has attracted Tyranid Genestealers, and they firmly stand in the way of you and your team of Space Marines as you attempt to search the Hulk for relics. You board the ship as a Librarian, along with two squad mates (of course, in multiplayer you can choose your class), and must delve deeper into the Hulk in search of your objective, while an ever growing danger (of which your Librarian can sense with his psychic abilities) becomes more present.

Your loadout consists of a choice of long range and/or melee weapons, ranging from bolter to chain gun, to power sword to hammer, each weapon has its uses and all pack a punch. You also choose from a few powers such as incineration, lighting, shockwave and so on – these being essential for getting out of tricky situations, but requiring a short recharge period after each use. As you progress through the levels you will earn points that you can invest in a skill tree, unlocking things such as passive improvements to your defense, and active skills like new powers.

In single player your squad can be commanded by a few simple instructions. You can order them to follow, attack, defend a point, and for the medic you can order them to heal. Unfortunately you will be needing to use this a lot, if not for yourself then for your two team mates, and this is an irritating consequence of the poor AI. Your team mates have difficulty staying out of fire and can quickly become overwhelmed if left unattended, resulting in a situation where, while still powerful assaulters, give the feeling that your engaged in an escort quest with them.

Of course this issue isn’t present in multiplayer, unless you have bad teammates, but for those who want to enjoy the game on their own, this is a frustration you will have to deal with. Having said that, I didn’t have as many issues with the AI struggling with doors as I did in the original PC version – when you try to close off the Tyranids my squads would sometimes walk through the door, getting trapped with the enemy I was trying to get away from – so perhaps the AI has been improved a little bit?

On that last subject, this tactical element is something the game has going for it. It may be simple, but the idea of being able to hack doors to open and lock them, providing new routes and blocking a direction of attack from your enemy was a cool touch to the corridor based combat. You are literally swarmed by Genestealers, and so when things get hectic, closing off a door can prove really useful. On the other side of this you have turrets that can be taken over or destroyed, though I found this to be more of an annoyance than anything else. There’s no safe way in single player to take over a turret as it leaves you open to attack on the ground, and if a turret is active anyway it needs to be destroyed else it does serious damage to you.

It’s basically due to annoyances like that and to the not so stellar AI (which extends to Tyranids getting stuck on things, so not just your team being a bit naff) that the original release was so disappointing. But where the game really did shine was in its meaty gunplay and aesthetic. They captured the grim-dark visual style of the 40K universe quite well, the Hulk being littered with crusty technology and the remains of the crew, and the stoic, humourless attitudes of our Deathwing squad in the little dialogue there is. Every weapon packs a punch and is satisfying to use. They aren’t always suitable, for example you need good accuracy to contend with the armed Genestealers (who are essentially humanoid), but a powerful, fast weapon to deal with the swarms of Genestealer brood; but with a reliable and evenly balanced squad in multiplayer you can have fun with your respective classes/loadouts by working as a team. In single player it is a little more difficult than that, but you do have the ability to warp back to your ship and change your loadout if need be (though these are limited in use).

In respect to all this and the base gameplay, the Enhanced Edition doesn’t really do much to change the experience – aside from bug fixes (you can read our original review here for more detail on the base game). But what it does do is add some new features. For starters we have some new enemy types which are thrown in from level one. Some are pretty intimidating, such as these self-exploding units that will all but destroy you if allowed to get close. It varies up the fighting to an extent, and while it makes the game more challenging from the get go, I find it a welcome addition, particularly having already played the game.

We also have a new character for multiplayer in the form of the Chaplain (or sort of, the Chaplain was already DLC as far as I can tell) who’s pretty cool – coming with a powerful mace and some unique abilities. There’s an improved arsenal of weapons overall and more customisation options, as well as persistent progression in levelling up – which was a problem the original release had, in that it essentially started you from scratch each new campaign. These might not sound like much on paper, but they add a lot more worth and, for lack of a better word, ‘point’ to playing through the game online.

But something that both solo and online players can enjoy are the new special missions. After completing a level you will unlock it for replay with special objectives. By this I don’t mean playing the level again with some secondary task, but that your main objective is different. For example, you are surrounded by Genestealers and must navigate your way to the extraction point. It sounds simple in concept, but with routes cut off and a constant threat of enemy attack, the mission turns into a deadly maze. The objectives are randomised, and so while the original game was criticised for being a bit repetitive, this mode is great for mixing things up – particularly if you fancy jumping in for a game that isn’t tied to the story or to a specific design.

While the core issues that held the game back are mostly still present, the Enhanced Edition does impress enough to warrant another chance I feel. Single player is the mode that benefits the least from this release, but even then this is the definitive version of the game for solo players, what with the special missions and new enemy types. For multiplayer there is more reason to jump back in, and even for those that held off on the original release, I would give this a stronger recommendation this time around. Unfortunately it is still difficult to recommend unless you have an active interest in the universe itself. There are plenty of better squad based multiplayer games than this, and there’s nothing that this offers other than its aesthetic that would be worth investing in over those other, better titles. But for those that enjoy the lore and want to experience a 40K game in this genre, then you aren’t going to find it elsewhere, and it’s not a bad game. It is enjoyable despite its missteps, and has improved beyond the original release, with Streum On Studios showing they are/were committed to Deathwing’s idea and supporting it post release.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29