A Bolter from the Blue

Space Hulk: Deathwing Enhanced Edition is a tricky game to review for a fan of Warhammer 40K. There's part of me that's really impressed with the attention to detail, the design, the aesthetic and the feel of the game. Visually, it all looks as it should, the shambolic corrupt, and somewhat decadent universe of Warhammer 40K has been brought to life with a beautiful macabre attention to detail.

However, it is rather like cooking a restaurant quality dish for people to consume. You can nail the look, the composition, the aesthetic and all that - if you screw up one component then the dish can come rolling back.

This game is just that, behind the decent art and design execution is a game that has some rough edges and flaws that can't be ignored.

It's a PS4 exclusive title that is also on PC. It was coming to Xbox One (X) and I can't help feel that Sony's PS4 isn't the problem here. The developers cancelled development on the Xbox One and chose to focus on the PS4 solely. This was a smart move, since the game is badly optimized and stutters when moving through the depths of the Space Hulk, let alone if too much is going on at once.

Plenty of games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, and the most action packed AAA PS4 titles have zero issues with frame-stutter and wonkiness when there's a ton going on at once. Space Hulk: Deathwing slows down, jumps, jerks and stutters if there's too much happening.

It is a real shame too, because this game had the potential to be a really great WH40K game and one of the best ones yet. It misses the mark thanks to some glaring bugs, crashes and technical errors.

In the Grim Darkness of the Future there is only: LOADING...

The way that SH: Deathwing handles loading is rough, it takes a long time, and pre-patch (I haven't got one on the PS4 yet) the load times are long, irksome, and prone to actually crashing mid-load leaving you with an endless loading screen that never recovers. Three times this happened before I was able to return to my game. So try not to die, or you'll be treated to the same loading screen, the same rambling intro that's narrated at the start. Cool for the first few times, but it grates on you after the umpteenth time you've died (and you will on the harder difficulties).

Warning: there's also a glitch where the game will load in, you'll still be in a loading screen, and you'll die in that loading screen triggering, guess what, another load! I've had this happen, and I am not the only one.

The Emperor Protects, and also Saves, well, sort of.

If you're looking for a pick-up, play, put down and come back kind of game with SH: Deathwing. Nope, you're not going to get that experience here whatsoever - the game gives you 3 Psygates to use as specialized checkpoints. Your team is revived if they've been taken down, and any medical device charges are restored. There's also an auto-save created when you leave the gate.

The game auto-saves now and then, usually based on campaign milestones and checkpoints. So if you, like me, want to go wandering the Space Hulk and finding relics to gain more Fervour Points to spend on skills and upgrades and you die. Tough, you can lose hours of progress because you didn't trigger a specific save point as you play the Campaign or achieve an objective. In this modern design age where people don't have hours and hours to play, this is a glaring oversight and something that totally puts me off the game.

40K Campaign

Gav Thorpe's writing isn't the best here at all, he's good, but I'm kind of so-so on the campaign for the game. There's the usual 40K feel and aesthetic here in the telling. The intro is kind-of cool, and the Deathwing are badass as one might expect of the Sons of Caliban. But the whole thing feels disjointed, unpolished and ultimately falls flat.

Battle Bros

The game itself is a first person shooter, with team-based tactics. You play as a Deathwing Librarian, a psyker, one of the powerful chosen of the Chapter who can devastate enemies with their connection to the Warp. They can manifest lighting, fire, and a bunch of other psychic powers to rip the hordes of Genestealers apart. You and two other Battle Brothers of the Dark Angels Chapter of Space Marines are thrown into a massive map against hordes of varied alien enemies.

You must achieve objectives and gain in power. Yet there's nothing really to work towards barring a few new skills, some new points here and there, and unlocking cosmetics that are so far away I never even managed to get one during my hours with the game.

There are commands that you can use in the game to order your team to advance, hold a position, and heal and so on.

You can unlock new weapons for you and your Battle Brothers, but know that if you choose the wrong weapon for a particular mission you can be pretty much screwed from the start.

You can hack turrets and take control of them, but so far it's been pretty useless. Things are either out of range, hidden, using cover or just not even spawned in when you do hack one. So you get shot by that turret yourself if there's no other enemies. I found it best to just destroy them as I saw them using the hacking module.

It's a decent first person shooter, team-based tactical shooter if nothing else. But it isn't anything more.

AIYour team is OK for the most part, and then they have a complete break-down in their pathfinding and then you get stuck somewhere where you really need their backup and they're no where to be found. Passable, but not the best.

Playing with Others

There's co-op for up to 4 people, it's pretty lack-lustre and it doesn't really work all the time due to network lag and frequent disconnects.

Extra Special Missions

There are randomly generated missions in the game you unlock per chapter, then you can play these and enjoy the frantic what comes next kind of gameplay.

The Pros and Cons of Deathwing

It's got the 40K atmosphere nailed to a T. It's got the sound, the sights, and the feel of 40K perfectly - but it's just let down massively by bugs, long loading times, horrible mission design and a lack-lustre campaign mode that not even the Emperor himself would condone. I feel it's a bit of a waste of old Gav's talents as a writer really and when you're dealing with a Librarian, the constant purge the xenos motivation comes across as a bit thin.

There needed to be something more to engage with in the game.

A wider range of multiplayer options and more robust single player, with a better designed unlock system for cosmetics and new equipment wouldn't have gone amiss.

It's a shame, but there's still hope for a good 40K game. This is just a vanilla one.

The biggest con for me are the loading times, the death during a loading screen, and frequent crashes that lock up the loading screen requiring a complete restart of the game. These are deal-breakers.

I'm not tagging it avoid though, because there's a fairly OK game in here. Just a bugged and broken one.