Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not.
By Adrian Forest on August 22, 2013 at 11:54 am
If you’re one of those who thought 2011’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine was just an amusingly honest title for a game featuring a generic bald space fighting guy, you’ve probably never heard of Space Hulk. So when I start talking about Terminators fighting Genestealers, you’re probably picturing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick fighting off aliens who want to steal their pants. And while I’d be all over a game about Arnies battling alien hordes after their denims, Space Hulk is not that game.
Terminators are hulking, heavily-armoured one-man battle-suits, and Genestealers are slavering alien beasts who want to rip open that armour and feast on the fleshy space marine inside. Space Hulk is all about the claustrophobia of being in a bulky armoured suit in the cramped corridors of a derelict spaceship, with only an unreliable storm bolter or a heavy flamer with only half a tank left, between you and whatever’s out there in the darkness.
What Space Hulk is, to be more precise, is one of Games Workshop’s best-loved board games, one that’s had several incarnations and variations over the years, from the first edition in 1989, to 1990’s Space Crusade, which readers of a certain age will share my fond nostalgia for, to the scandalously limited run of the lavishly-produced third edition in 2009. It’s also been the subject of several video game adaptations, of which Full Control’s is the latest, and arguably the most faithful to its board game roots.
This is exactly where Space Hulk excels, translating the board game directly to the PC, using the latest third edition rules. Every die roll is made just as it would be on the tabletop, but you also get to see your Terminators stomping down the halls and duking it out, as no static model ever could. You’ll agonise over how to spend action points, put your Terminators on overwatch to wait for their impending doom, and watch the scanner blips representing who knows how many Genestealers move inexorably toward you. Almost all of the scenarios and missions from the board game are replicated here, each of them adding a new twist to the basic gameplay concepts. It’s a near-perfect recreation of the board game’s rules and systems.
Unfortunately, this is also exactly the problem. The thing is, Space Hulk is what board gamers would call a beer’n’pretzels game, a silly knockabout thing to play with your mates. This means there’s a whole lot of randomness. I mean a *lot*. Your Terminators will die, a lot, just from a bad roll. On the tabletop, where it’s you and a friend leaning over every die roll, and you’re hoping that last guy makes his shot, that’s fun! But when it’s just you and a random number generator, it loses its appeal entirely. It seems unfair, and mean, and arbitrary when you feel like you did everything right. And most of the die rolls are automated anyway.
This is Space Hulk, the board game, warts and all. And honestly, when you take away the social element, the game system alone really isn’t very satisfying or fun to play.
- It’s Space Hulk! It’s a perfect recreation of the board game!
- It looks pretty great!
- It’s Space Hulk. It’s a perfect recreation of the board game. But it can’t recreate the board game experience.
Space Hulk is available for $29.99 on Steam.
This review copy supplied by the publisher.