Purge the Xenos: Space Hulk Review

The latest incarnation of the Warhammer 40,000 based board game, Space Hulk, became available on Steam last week. ‘Board game’ is the operative phrase, because if you’re expecting fancy graphics and fast game play, you’re not going to get them. What you do get is a sleek version of the original board game where you lead your squad of Blood Angels through a derelict, alien-infested spaceship.

Fans of Warhammer 40,000 will know the Blood Angels well. You get to use their elite, the terminators. These are the universe’s ultimate badasses, all heavy armour and fury, and despite rumours about their blood-sucking habits, they don’t glitter in sunlight. You have lightning claws, thunder hammers, storm bolters, zappy power fists and an assault cannon that fires a hail of explosive death down any corridor that crawls with six-limbed nasties. That’s the best gear the Imperium of Man has to offer so fear not the alien. Only your armour is made entirely of wet tissue paper. And your storm bolters jam more often than they actually fire. And you’re all going to die in there.

So, what do you get for your money? It’s a turn by turn game based on action points. Each terminator gets four points to move, fire, open doors and so on. That’s not a lot when you consider the hordes of nasty aliens coming out of the god-damn walls, man, all pointy teeth and rippy claws. Fortunately, you have a pool of a few randomly generated action points to spend between your squad every turn to tip matters in your favour. You’ll mostly want these for clearing bolter jams in your overwatch phase.

There are three training missions and another twelve campaign missions. The goal is pretty simple: survive. Most follow the same premise of deploying your terminators and getting them to another area of the map. Master the tactical retreat and you’ve pretty much got this game nailed. It’s just a matter of covering your back. And your front. And your sides. And all of the above all over again just to be sure.

There’s every bit the claustrophobic atmosphere of the original board game. You pray to the Omnissiah every turn that your storm bolters remain clear because when those genestealers get up close, you’re all kinds of shredded. A loose story holds the missions together but nothing to get excited about. This isn’t an RPG. This is about survival and about splattering xenos filth up the walls of a spaceship.

It took me a week of casual gaming to get through all the missions. There are options for cross-device local play with friends or online with nerd-raging cage fighters from The Internet. Replay value remains to be seen although I can’t see it having as much as Space Marine or the Dawn of War games. That said, there are plenty of achievements to strive for if you’re into that kind of thing.

Overall, it’s not a bad way to spend your gaming cash. It’s tense, entertaining and there’s something intensely satisfying about the whine of that assault cannon.

 

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