As always, a big shout out to Indigo Pearl who gave us the Xbox One code for this game!

Space Hulk: SMASH!

Warhammer 40K has always had a plethora of video games, but honestly, since Dawn of War (1 and maybe 2) there haven't been all that many which you could consider: good. Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor Martyr is an example of a good 40K game, and if you read our review of the first person Space Hulk game for the PC & PS4 you'll see that's an example of one of the 'vanilla' 40K games.

Talking of Space Hulk, this brings us right round to the topic at hand. Space Hulk: Tactics, which joins the long-line of Warhammer 40K games - and comes in on the 'good' end of the spectrum thankfully.

If you want to take anything away from our review right now: this is a game which is worth getting, is faithful to the board game (with addon mechanics which work), and has a lot of replay value since there are two campaigns (one for Terminators and one for Genestealers), Solo vs. AI mode, as well as an online competitive component, and wait for it, there's more: a map editor.

All Aboard the Hulk

Space Hulk: Tactics is Space Hulk done right, from an isometric fully animated 3d perspective, or a first person view. It's Space Hulk the digital board game, with all the bells and whistles you might expect from a lavish modern spin on the game. It loses nothing of the feel of Space Hulk (the board game) and gains a lot from the excellent atmosphere, tight claustrophobic corridors, and solid control scheme which means navigating the turn-based confines of the Hulk is easy and fun.

You pick from either Terminator Space Marines, of the Blood Angels Chapter or the Genestealers, which is a first for any Space Hulk game.

There's also a card system which we'll cover a little later on, this was something that I was initially quite sceptical on - but works really well in play and adds a variable tactical layer to the gameplay which enhances the game rather than outright ruins it. I have to note here, there are no micro-transactions with these cards either - so you get the whole deck from the get go.

The campaigns take place across a board-game style map, where you move your forces across the sectors and you'll encounter resources and things you can use to upgrade/customise your squads as well as set or random encounters which take place aboard all sorts of locations - including Eldar and Ork based maps.

The Terminator Campaign casts you as the Blood Angels Chapter, trying to save the Forge World of Gorgonum from the impact of a huge Hulk called: The Forsaken Doom. James Swallow (a guy who knows his stuff) penned the campaigns and there are multiple endings available as well as optional objectives. Terminators have to advance through the Forsaken Doom and achieve a number of objectives to progress to the next part of the mission.

The Genestealer Campaign allows you (for the first time) to take control of the enemy, and swarm across the map like a deadly tide. They appear as Auspex blips on Terminator sensors. The Genestealer Campaign reveals the history of the Forsaken Doom and showcases just how deadly these monsters are. The campaign lets you evolve the Genestealer forces over hundreds of years too, as time passes aboard the malign vessel.

Isometric or First Person Tactics

If you're familiar with isometric third person games, like XCOM, then Space Hulk: Tactics will be instantly recognisable. Many of the board game features and designs are here, and thanks to the game's solid tutorial modes you can dive in and play without the need for lengthy exposition or explanation. It's easy to pick up and play, but very tricky to master, just like the board game itself.

On the right hand side of the screen you'll see a lot of info and even a full run-down of the dice mechanics in play if you like.

You take turns, between your squad and the enemy. We started out as Terminators to get that 40K Space Marine feel as we explored the dark and terror-filled corridors of the first mission. You use Action Points for anything in Space Hulk: Tactics, moving, diagonal-moving, turning, and of course a variety of weapon actions and interactions.

It's all presented in the tutorial mission (which we suggest you play a few times) and once you get the hang of it you'll be able to have a lot of fun trying out different tactics. The Terminators need to get out from the area, and at least X must make it to the end zone. Where X = those Terminators who haven't been eliminated by the A.I. Genestealers.

You can freely switch between first and third person as you play, and the game has a variety of XCOM style cinematic cameras which kick in when something cool happens. Watching Genestealers shot down by Storm Bolters never gets old.

You have numerous units on your squad, in Terminator roster you have:

Apothecary: Can prevent the death of adjacent Terminators

Librarian: Area of Effect psychic, can unleash powers that can wipe out whole groups.

Sergeant: Leader unit which has gear that can help in close quarters vs. Genestealers.

Assault: First front line troops in any Terminator squad.

Heavy: They can wield the biggest and nastiest weapons.

On the Genestealer side there are:

A Broodlord: The most dangerous of the enemy units. Moves like the Flash, and hits as hard as a JCB armed with razor blades.

Bulwark: Slower, but harder to kill due to a reinforced carapace.

Genestealer: A basic unit, deadly, but weak to Terminators unless applied in packs/swarms.

Reapermorph: An assassin biomorph variant, able to move quickly, and hunt Terminators effectively.

Miasmic: A deadly mutant, who has gaseous pustules, can leave behind a poison cloud upon death.

Customisation is Key

The game features a lot of customisation; this includes your squads, with five unit types and Terminators sporting twelve weapons. That's a lot of custom options, not to mention the actual cosmetic customisation and colour schemes which you can use to make your squad a truly unique looking one.

There are four Space Marine Chapters, and each one of those has multiple customisation options and multiple unique cards. None of these are locked behind a paywall either.

Card Play

The cards add a unique and fun spin to the game, they can provide various bonuses, or they can be burnt for extra Action Points to turn the tide of battle in your favour. Or just get the heck out of the Hulk if you're in sight of the exit point. There's a lot of cards, and they'll boost rolls, or add bonuses or other effects.

The card system is simple, fair, and balanced.

A.I.

The A.I. knows its way around the various difficulty levels, it knows the board game's tactics and commands, and it knows how to best plan a good strategy. Expect a hard fight on the higher difficulty levels and even on the lowest, don't let down your guard.

Map Making

There's a map editor tool which comes with the game. It's the same one the developers used to make the skirmish maps, and has a lot of pieces/props/tile-sets. A whole review could be done about the tool, it's that versatile. It's easy to use, has a lot of features, and has a way to search for user created maps and even supports searching for favourite creators. It's easy to edit in 2d view, isometric mode, or even first person.

Seriously, give it a go.

Vs. Others

Not only can you play the skirmish mode vs the AI, but you can also play against other people online in various matches. You can pick from 4 Chapters of Space Marines, as well as the Genestealers and the online play supports ranked play and leaderboards.

We had a few matches and it was fun, but there's a lot more to it than that. You can also play any of the maps from the map editor in these matches too.

We had no issues to speak of and the whole thing ran perfectly fine.

Bringing 40K to life

The atmosphere is there, the visuals are solid, and the animations are beautifully done. It's a great looking game which manages to capture the feel of Warhammer 40K, and the incredible size of the Space Hulks themselves. What's more, it's the board game come to life with great graphics and animations, nice meaty kill cams and the entire 40K feel you'd want from a quality game for the IP.

The sound work is excellent, the voice work is decent, and the music is suitably 40K as well.

Any Issues?

None that we could detect: no crashes on our Xbox One X, or any weird graphical artefacts in third or first person. We had no issues with frame-rate drops, but since the game is turn-based there's not much stress being put on the engine.

All in all it was a flawless and fun experience.

Faithful Xeno Exterminator

It's nice to see a 40K game join a few others in the vaults of those games which get 40K right. The writing is spot on, the feel is spot on, and the fact that it feels like an evolved version of the board game is the cherry ontop of the icing in this case.

If you're a fan of Space Hulk, want a brand new, yet familiar take on the game - this is the one for you. There's a lot of replay here, and a lot of fun to be had.

It's time to kill those xenos and save that Forge World.

For the Emperor!