If there’s one game that sticks out in my memory as being underrated, it is Spacehulk: Deathwing – a first-person shooter that takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. In the 40k universe, a spacehulk is a derelict hunk of twisted metal that forms from abandoned spaceships that fuse together and are ejected from the warp back into normal space. Hidden inside these derelict craft can be forgotten technologies and other resources the imperium would want to recover. Often, they are infested with Tyranids, a horrifying race of xenomorph like aliens, demons, and other such horrors from the warp. Space Marine Terminator squads are typically sent to secure these relics. In Spacehulk: Deathwing players take the role of a Space Marine in a three-man Terminator unit.
There is no fear when you first enter the spacehulk. The heavy thud of the footsteps of your power armor echoes along the bulkheads. There is no pretense at stealth or surprise. There would be no need. One of the Terminators carries a hammer that looks over eight feet tall. Another wields a gun that’s almost as big. You feel like a giant. You feel like a god. The first few genestealers you dispatch reinforces this delusion. The dream of invincibility crumbles as you hear more coming, from behind, from above, clamoring through the ventilation shafts, pounding at doors you’ve sealed shut. The Tyranids burst through the hallways like water spewing from a broken pipe. The world flashes alight in brief, shocking bursts from heavy weapons as you clear each narrow hallway. As the ship opens up, you dream again of the narrow passageways, which served as a choke point to prevent the monsters from swarming from all sides. They skitter along the ceiling, and the walls, as your fellow terminators fire in all directions. As your squad progresses through the ship, the creatures get bigger, more numerous, more cunning.
Certain segments of the interior of the ship are reminiscent of gothic cathedrals. Ancient stone cherubs rest on pedestals, and stained-glass windows cast a pallid light onto the pillars, the archways, and the floor. Infused with this ancient architecture is the paradoxical contrast of the technology of a spacefaring civilization. The floors and bulkheads in hallways are lit by long strips of lights. Abandoned machines glow blue, white, and green. Banners hang from the walls with crosses and script written on the surface. There is no other game that better captures the atmosphere and complexity of the Warhammer universe.
Relics and weapons are hidden on the ship, and when found can be wielded – flaming swords, hammers, or fists that glow blue with power. Many of these items are hidden away off the beaten path, behind doors that can be hacked or broken down. Massive mini-guns and flame throwers that can fill a hallway with cleansing fire can be attached to your power armor. The larger melee weapons feel vastly inferior to the projectile weapons. If melee is the desired playstyle, the combination of a sword in the offhand and a heavy bolter in the main is a good option for combat versatility.
In the multiplayer variant, players have the option of playing as a variety of different classes. The apothecary heals other space marines. The assault and heavy weapon specialties have access to combat-oriented skills. The Librarian can wield powerful psychic abilities like shockwave or chain-lighting.
The player base has dwindled since launch, and when I tried to find a server, there were almost no other players queuing up. As a cooperative multiplayer game, Spacehulk: Deathwing is amazing, provided you have a group of dedicated friends to play with. In the absence of a squad, the single-payer game is fun, but the AI squadmates are difficult to control and are not nearly as capable at dispatching enemies as a non-AI player would be. Even still, I had a blast stomping through Deathwing’s various levels. But if you want to tackle the harder difficulties, I would leave that for a session with friends, unless you’re particularly masochistic.
The single player game features role-playing elements, with unlockable skills, but I found the weapons to be the real meat of the game’s progression system. The sheer variety of options given should provide multiple playstyles with a go-to weapon system to dispatch the hostile alien xenos. Deathwing is most similar to games like Left 4 Dead or Warhammer: Vermintide. Though it lacks depth compared to both of these cooperative shooters, it is still a great game, and I highly recommended it to fans of the genre. Spacehulk:Deathwing can be found on Steam for $39.99.