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Space Hulk (Video Game)

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Space Hulk is a 1993 real-time tactical first-person shooter for the IBM PC and Amiga. It was developed and published by Electronic Arts, with support from Games Workshop. The game is a computer adaptation of the latter's 1989 board game of the same name set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Space Hulk was capable of playing digitised speech over the PC speaker, and was later followed by Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels in 1995. In the game, the player controls squads of armoured enhanced soldiers from the Deathwing Company of the Dark Angels Chapter of Space Marines in missions against extraterrestrial life like the Tyranid Genestealers aboard drifting derelict starships known as Space Hulks. The player can switch between squad members to control them in first-person, and also has a time-limited option to pause the action while continuing to issue commands. The frantic gameplay, monastic briefings, and scary atmosphere encouraged many reviewers to give Space Hulk positive ratings, but a few of them were very frustrated by its difficulty.

GameplayEdit

The game has the player managing up to two five-men squads on missions against alien creatures aboard derelict starships called Space Hulks. Tutorials, stand-alones and a campaign make up the 50 missions,[1] which include exterminations, object retrievals, and rearguard actions.[2] Briefings on the background and objectives, along with a small preview map are given before missions. The player can customise the squads' armaments with weapons such as close range Lightning Claws and devastating long range Assault Cannons for certain campaign missions.[3] Completing a campaign mission gains experience for the squad, allowing them to shoot and fight better on their own in future missions.[1]

The Planning Screen is where the strategic element of the game comes into play. The player uses the top-down maps to issue commands to the squad. Each Marine's first-person perspective can be monitored on the Terminator View Screen, and the player directly controls the Marine whose view is on the primary monitor.[3] The other squad members' perspectives are shown in the smaller secondary monitors, and the player's control over them is limited to weapons fire. The primary monitor's view, and hence direct control, can be swapped over to any Marine's. The Marines' default artificial intelligence are set to "overwatch" mode; they will automatically fire on any obstacles or enemies in front of them. There is an element of uncertainty as the Marines' primary long range weapon — the Storm Bolter — may jam on repeated firing, rendering the weapon useless until it is cleared.[3]

The game is played in real-time,[4] but the player can pause the game by entering "Freeze Time" (freeze-time), and continue to issue orders while there is still time running on the freeze-time timer. Once freeze-time is exited back into real-time, the squad executes their orders as their enemies move in. The freeze-time timer can be slowly accumulated up to a minute's worth by remaining in real-time. Fog of war is featured in the game. Unexplored areas are blacked out on the maps, and Genestealers out of the squad's sight are represented as blips; a lone blip can represent more than one Genestealer.[5] Genestealers spawn from marked entry points, and can only engage in hand-to-hand combat but move much more rapidly than the players' Marines.[3]

Plot and settingEdit

Set in the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe, the game's history states mankind was already able to cover vast distances of space in a short time via the warp, where extra-dimensional creatures exist.[6] These creatures invaded human space and conquered large territories. The strongest psyker, the eventual Emperor, drove them back, and with his armies forged the fragmented human territories into the Imperium of man 10,000 years ago. The game takes place in the grid-sectioned interiors of Space Hulks, humongous bulks of starships jumbled together, drifting in and out of warp space, and home to Genestealers.[2]

CharactersEdit

Main articles: Dark Angels and Genestealer
{C}The Dark Angels are one of the many chapters of Space Marines, genetically enhanced humans trained to fight for the human Imperium and its Emperor.[4] Wearing their toughest power armour, the Terminator suits, the veteran Deathwing company are able to withstand dangers of the Space Hulks, provide visual and audio feeds to their commanders, and go against the Genestealers,[7] four-armed horrors of teeth and claws easily tearing through the toughest of steel, which are almost impossible to defeat hand-to-hand.[8] The Genestealers lurk aboard Space Hulks, seeking to capture organisms for reproduction. Their captives' DNA are altered to ensure offsprings are Genestealer hybrids who can do likewise to other organisms, until the fourth generation hybrids which reproduce purestrain Genestealers. Gaming-wise, the Genestealers and Space Marines were designed to be assymetrical foes, in terms of range and speed.[9]

StoryEdit

The campaign consists of a series of 21 missions, and is exposited by pre-mission briefings.[1] The game manual's prologue states the Dark Angels Chapter repelled a Genestealer incursion in the Tolevi System many centuries before the current events in the game.[10] One of their heroes and his men were aboard the invading Space Hulk, the Sin of Damnation, when it vanished into the Warp. The current campaign starts off with the player being sent to investigate a Dark Angels distress call from the Tolevi System. A nest of Genestealers is instead uncovered on the planet Ma’Caellia, and their Hive Mind has to be destroyed. However the Genestealers are too many, and the player is forced to execute a fighting withdrawal. As the infestation on the planet is wiped clear by Exterminatus with virus bombs, the Sin of Damnation enters the system, and the player is ordered to invade the Space Hulk. The player's squads destroy the Genestealers' gene banks, and their Patriarch. The ending has the player going deep into the Space Hulk to find out the source of the distress call.[10]

DevelopmentEdit

Games Workshop's Space Hulk, published in 1989, was their next board game to be converted to a computer game after 1992's Space Crusade. Work started in 1991 as Electronic Arts initiated and managed the project's development.[11] {C}Games Workshop was readily on hand to provide materials and answers for the development team to keep the game faithful to the Warhammer 40,000 background. The interiors of the Hulks were created by ray tracing rendered frames of the walls, passing much of the work to the computer.[12] This method cut down the time needed to introduce new sets of walls for the game from two weeks to twelve hours. The non-tutorial missions were taken from the board game and its Deathwing Campaign expansion set.[1] The team was also able to issue digitised speech over the PC speaker without a sound card.[13] The game's opening tune, "Get Out Of My Way" was played by British hard rock band D-Rok, with Brian May of Queen as a guest guitarist.[14] Nine new missions, new cinematic animations, along with new digitised sound effects and speech (which required a sound card) were added to the CD-ROM version of Space Hulk.[15] Unlike the IBM PC version, the Amiga version is not installable onto the hard drive, hence disk swapping was necessary to run the game.[2] The game was ported to the NEC PC-9801 in Japan by local game company Starcraft, and released on March 03, 1995.[16]

ReceptionEdit

Space Hulk reviews
Publication Score
Datormagazin
4 / 5[17]
Amiga Force
41%[18]
Amiga Format
78%[19]
Computer and Video Games
87%[20]
The One
91%[3]

Space Hulk was praised by several reviewers for its gameplay atmosphere. Amiga User International liked the heroism invoked by the monastic tone of the briefings and the Space Marines' organisation.[8] Even 11 years after game's release, PC Format ranked its voice acting as one of the best gaming atmospheres ever.[21] The dark graphics of long narrow corridors, coupled with the moody music, sets a claustrophobic tone, increasing tension.[2][22][1] This tense atmosphere coupled with engrossing gameplay, the realistic aliens and their excellent sound effects scared a few reviewers.[3][20] The tension was reported to be due to constant switching between real-time and freeze-time.[23] As the Genestealers were very much faster than the cumbersome Marines, the reviewer had to constantly switch between managing the squad in freeze-time and controlling individual Marines in real-time to ensure the squad is in good condition to complete the mission. Amiga Force, however, commented this "start-stoppy" gameplay breaks the flow of action. Amiga Computing reported Space Hulk stood out as a very deep game; players would have to pore through the manuals and tutorial missions to be able to handle the Genestealers.[7]

The enemy artificial intelligence (AI) were praised by many as excellent. Game Bytes claimed the Genestealers were able to take cover behind corners, and wait until they have backup before attacking.[4] They would also use decoys to lure the player into traps, and flank the squad from the sides or the rear.[18][22] Amiga Force, however, complained that the AI of Marines not under the player's direct control were terrible. When attacked from the side, they did not turn to meet the threat but died without reacting to it. It was also claimed the squad's aim and reactions were much worse than under the player's direct control. These factors contribute to what most reviewers have agreed to be a very difficult game. Amiga Computing reported the Genestealers were too quick until strategies were mastered to counter them.[7] Even with the "Freeze Time" feature, some of the missions were felt to be very difficult.[4] Amiga Force complained trying to co-ordinate five-men squads to fend off these quick enemies was just frustration in the making as one single mistake gets all of them wiped out in an instant.[18]

Game Bytes praised the game's graphics for its dark and forbidding hallways, detailed Marines, and disgusting Genestealer animation.[4] It also stated other games should follow Space Hulk in having recorded voices serving a functional purpose, such as warnings. Other reviewers have, however, pointed out the lack of variety in the game. There is only one enemy, the Genestealers, and all the mission environments were simply long corridors broken up by the occasional room.[18][23] The game is considered by several reviewers as one of the few Warhammer 40,000 computer games worth playing.[24][25][26][27] The One applauded Space Hulk as the most successful "board game to computer game" conversion retaining the essence of the board game's game play while dispensing with what most found as tedious dice-rolling and turn sequences. Game Byte lamented the failure to include a mission builder which was one of the endearing elements of the original board game.[4] The One and CU Amiga Magazine agreed Space Hulk is a good example for a perfect balance of strategy and action.[1] Amiga reviewers have unanimously complained that the difficulty coupled with the inability to install the game onto their hard drives have made the frequent disk swapping a very tedious process.[2][7]

External linksEdit

SourcesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Dillon, Tony (October 1993). "Space Hulk". CU Amiga Magazine: pp. 82–84. London, England: EMAP. Retrieved on 2007-12-04. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Mead, Rob (November 1993). "Game Review — Space Hulk". Amiga Format (52): pp. 70–71. Bath, England: Future Publishing. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Upchurch, David (October 1993). "Review — Space Hulk". The One (61): pp. 50–53. London, England: EMAP. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Dy, Bernard (July 1993). "Space Hulk from Electronic Arts". Game Bytes (12). 
  5. [1999-09-14] (2007-12-05) "Planning Screen — Planning Map", Space Hulk (Instruction manual), Electronic Arts, pp. 23. ISBN 1-55543-665-X. 
  6. [1999-09-14] (2007-12-05) "The Imperium", Space Hulk (The World of Space Hulk — Missions), Electronic Arts, pp. 2–4. ISBN 1-55543-665-X. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Clays, Simon (December 1993). "Space Hulk". Amiga Computing (68): pp. 130–131. Europress Impact. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 (December 1993) "Space Hulk". Amiga User International 7 (12): pp. 87. United Kingdom: Headway, Home & Law. 
  9. Bjork, Staffan; Jussi Holopainen (2004). "Patterns for Game Sessions", Patterns In Game Design. Charles River Media, 335. ISBN 1584503548. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 [1999-09-14] (2007-12-05) "Deathwing Campaign", Space Hulk (The World of Space Hulk — Missions), Electronic Arts, pp. 30–43. ISBN 1-55543-665-X. 
  11. [1999-09-14] (2007-12-05) "Artist's Biography — Nick Wilson", Space Hulk (Instruction manual), Electronic Arts, pp. 33. ISBN 1-55543-665-X. 
  12. [1999-09-14] (2007-12-05) "Artist's Biography — Andy Jones", Space Hulk (Instruction manual), Electronic Arts, pp. 34. ISBN 1-55543-665-X. 
  13. Azhar Mat Zin (aka Fable Fox) (August 2006). Save Game Hacking: The Legend of Kyrandia. Hugi Magazine 32. Hugi. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
  14. (December 12, 1992) "Rock N Blues Weekender". Kerrang! (422). London, England: EMAP. 
  15. Space Hulk. CDAccess.com (n.d.). Retrieved on 2007-12-08.
  16. PC-98x1 Gamelist (Japanese). PC-98x1 GameWorld (n.d.). Retrieved on 2007-12-04. “Starcraft (スタークラフト?), Space Hulk (スペース・ハルク?)
  17. Fröjdh, Göran (September 1993). "Space Hulk" (in Swedish). Datormagazin 1993 (16): pp. 66. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Osborne, Ian; Mark Smith (December 1993). "Reviews! — Space Hulk". Amiga Force (13): pp. 57. Europress Impact. 
  19. McGill, Steve (May 1996). "Re-releases — Space Hulk". Amiga Format (84): pp. 53. Bath, England: Future Publishing. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Skews, Rik (December 1993). "Reviews — Space Hulk". Computer and Video Games (145): pp. 35. London, England: Dennis Publishing. 
  21. Meer, Alan (October 2004). "Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War". PC Format (166). Bath, England: Future Publishing. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Broughton, Matt (March 1995). "Replays! — Space Hulk". The One (78): pp. 58. London, England: EMAP. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Tucker, Tim (November 1993). "Space Hulk". Amiga Power (31): pp. 82. Bath, England: Future Publishing. 
  24. Kieron Gillen (2004-09-24). Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Review. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
  25. Tom McNamara (2004-05-13). E3 2004: Warhammer 40k — Dawn of War. IGN. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
  26. Dave Alpern (2007-01-04). Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. GamerDad. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
  27. Greg Bemis (2004-01-13). 'Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior' (PS2) Review. G4tv.com. Retrieved on 2007-12-08.

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