For the most part, a general trend in the gaming industry had always been geared towards a greater degree of realism. The goal was to heighten the sense of immersiveness aimed to convince gamers that they’re participating in the actual experience and not some feeble simulacrum. However, there are also those titles which not only refuse to abandon their roots in other mediums, but they actually proudly flaunt the fact that they are actually a game, striving as best as they can to mimic the feeling, atmosphere, and gameplay of its source material. For those games and for that special breed of players that enjoy them, it’s actually a compliment when you say that they remind on, let’s say, a board game on which it’s based on.
Video game franchise which perfectly epitomizes this model is Warhammer 40,000 based on Games Workshop’s uber-popular tabletop wargame of the same name. Space Hulk: Tactics, a PC, PS4 and Xbox One tactical game by Cyanide, is an interesting hybrid of these two tendencies. On the one side, it’s a reverent adaptation of its prototype, implementing to the lore and game mechanics of Warhammer 40,000 into one of the most perfect recreations of tabletop games we’ve had the opportunity to sample so far. On the other, with it’s gorgeous graphics based on the Unreal engine, at the same realistic and fateful to the recognizable Warhammer 40k visual identity, Space Hulk: Tactics adds an option which will transport you into the FPS mode and put you directly in the bulky armor of a space marine or in slimy exoskeleton of one of its xenomorph opponents.
Just like in any other Warhammer 40k game, Space Hulk: Tactics is a dark and violent vision of the future where forces of Imperium of Man are constantly battling the forces of chaos and destruction. Of course, take this distinction with a grain of salt, since Warhammer 40,000 franchize always possessed an ample dose of particularly biting irony which successfully blurs imaginary borders between good and the bad guys. The volatile cosmic setting of Space Hulk: Tactics itself is extremely interesting even for the Warhammer 40,000 world which abounds in spectacular locations. The term Space Hulk actually refers to the colossal agglomeration of spaceships and other space refuse disrupted by warp and other powerful comical forces. Of course, although they are floating seemingly abandoned throughout the universe, these Space Hulks are actually more often than not veritable breeding grounds of Orcs, twisted chaos worshipers and different xenomorph alien races, particularly Genestealers which you’ll have the chance to meet and decimate up close and personal for the greater glory of the Emperor and humankind.
If Sci-fi movies had taught us anything it’s that when you’re traveling through space, it’s best to mind your own business and never, under no circumstances, answer distress calls. Unfortunately, the crew from your Space Marine Chapter had obviously never seen Alien, or they would never heed the call from Forge World Gorgonum about the minor inconvenience in the form of enormous Space Hulk rushing towards the planet. Since they’re already returning from some conflict, Space Marines aren’t at what you would call full strength. Nevertheless, they’ve decided to board the Space Hulk and blast it from within in order to save Gorgonum. Naturally, just so that it wouldn’t be too easy for our badass Space Marines, between them and their ultimate goal will be swarms of Genestelers and other vermin.
As in the tabletop version, here you also can choose between Space Marine Terminators and Genestelers, which means that there are actually two campaigns you can enjoy. In addition to the cosmetic and ideological differences, this decision will influence some combat parameters. For instance, Space Marines are hardier and more powerful, but Gigeresque Genestelers have speed and numbers on their side. The combat itself is based on action points which can be used for anything from a simple interaction with objects, through moving to massacre swarms of xenomorphs – of course, the same goes for Genestelers which will pay in kind for everything that you do. Watch out, though, because not all actions cost the same, so you’ll have to make a careful selection. That task is made additionally difficult because of the fact that you’ll have a limited time to perform your move.
This video game version of Space Hulk: Tactics also comes with a couple of interesting features. The first one is FPS view which will allow you to “possess” one of your units. However, although this change of perspective is visually stunning, allowing you to admire your environs in a completely new way, it’s no more than a mere curiosity, since its practical value in a cramped and claustrophobic setting of the Space Hulk will severely cripple your tactical abilities. Other new features worth mentioning are Command Cards which just might help you turn the outcome of the battle in your favor. You can only play one card per move and it will cost you some Command Points – however, that’s a more than fair tradeoff, since they will provide you with different boosts or can even be exchanged for additional Action Points which can be especially useful if you play as slow Space Marines.
Space Hulk: Tactics is a successful game in more ways than one. A fateful adaptation of beloved tabletop game done in the manner of X-com games, it will please fanatical tabletop gamers keen on veracity to the original, as well as those who don’t mind some innovations. Its tempo might on occasion feel a bit sluggish, but that’s just a consequence of a maze-like layout of its levels. In fact, this actually provides a lot of suspense, because you’ll never know what awaits you behind the next corner: a squad of trigger-happy Space Marines, or the swarm of frenzied Xenos?